Thursday, March 31, 2011

Santa Cruz Life

Yesterday we missed lunch at Duarte's (pro: Dew-Art, the "e" is silent) in Pescadero, today we see how one lives the good life in cold rainy Santa Cruz California. All it takes is a sense of adventure.The Pie Ranch wasn't around when Layne and I lived here years ago, but it's here on California Highway One today and it does good work giving at risk kids a taste of the farming life. They also sell home made food. They grow some lovely vegetables too. We bought strawberry preserve and a walnut pie. My wife loves pecan pie more than anything and this, they promised was as close as you can get and even better. They were right, by the way.For lunch we shared a rich delicious onion pie.It was this sign that sucked us in, just north of Ano Nuevo State Park. How can you not slow for pie?The central coast of California is a wild and wet place. There are hardly any all weather anchorages on this rocky coastline. Monterey was Spanish California's capital in the 17th century because Monterey Bay is one such place. Sailing a small boat up this coast in the teeth of northwest winds with huge seas was a cold hard overnight sail when I wanted to take my boat 70 miles to San Francisco.Somehow years ago they built a cement plant in Davenport, the only industry on this agricultural coast. They also built rail lines for two trains a day to the plant so you don't see trucks tearing up the highway.
This is not swimming country as the cold Alaska current sends water down from the far north and the waters year round are cold enough to give an unwary swimmer a heart attack.Santa Cruz county grows wines and wineries display their wares around town. My wife loves to taste wine and pack the bottles in bubble wrap and store them at home on Ramrod Key to drink and enjoy and think about where they came from.If we lived in Santa Cruz we could bring an empty bottle to Scones and buy a refill of their Hedgehog table wine. As it is Homeland Security won't allow us to carry a bottle as carry on. Just too risky in our risk averse fearful little world. I much prefer road trips to flying.
So much wine, so little time.My wife attended Duke University for a semester but came home to California to graduate from here. It was an alternative school that gave no grades, professors gave narrative evaluations of their students upon graduation. These days this is becoming a boring scientific place in pursuit of the practical. As proof they grade students now.It is a beautiful campus perched on a hill overlooking the city, growing year by year and sucking up more of the city's water and creating all sorts of development problems for a city that theoretically opposes unbridled development. The campus is exempt from city regulations.Set among the redwood trees the campus winds this way and that.It was Spring Break last week but these are serious students and they don't typically descend on the city below and drink themselves into oblivion.There is precious little team sports here either so I was never exposed to football mania and stuff like that, even though I was never a student here.They helped map the human genome here. That and water polo is their thing. And marine sciences.
California is broke but you wouldn't know it. They still fund things that garner them Nobel prizes and the like, at the UC system.The city on the hill overlooks the city of Santa Cruz set on the north shore of Monterey Bay. You can see why people who don't care for palm trees could argue this is a very beautiful place. It was 58 degrees when I took this picture. Warm by local standards.The mascot of the UC Santa Cruz campus is the banana slug, and it shows up everywhere. It's cute and they know it.The Cowell family foundation donated land to build the university on their former ranch. This barn is an historic ranch building. The idea was to make the seaside town a year round economic engine when tourists went home in September.Unfortunately this was the mid 60s and the campus became a hotbed of leftist revolutionary theory and the fuddy duddy city fathers lost control of their one horse city to the young graduates who came off the campus and wanted to create a Utopia by the sea.They succeeded for a while in their efforts to turn their backs on development and the growth paradigm. Then Silicon Valley came along over the hill in San Jose and brought huge wealth to buy out the lovely little seaside town. They turned the little hippie town with a university into a telecommuter's paradise with name brands and a reverence for the material over the spiritual.The debate continues, students bicycle, scientists drive foreign sports cars. Now it is the turn of the socialist-feminist city council to turn their backs on their beliefs and make compromises on box stores and housing costs and reducing bus service and all the things rich people don't really need.They do have a few palm trees in this frigid climate.
Hoodies are year round wear on the California coast.
I keep seeing similarities between Santa Cruz and Key West. Here's the local Fausto's Food Palace.They sell bumper stickers in Santa Cruz, not "One Human Family" but "Keep Santa Cruz Weird." I think that when you have to consciously work at keeping a community weird it's too late.