Thursday, June 20, 2013

Big Sur to Santa Cruz travels

June 15 - 20, 2013:

We went to the Gilroy farmers market next to the new library.  The farmers market was not too exciting, but the library was awesome. A local library can be a great place to hang out when RV'ing.  This one is near downtown, is huge and modern with a huge selection of magazines, DVD's, books and fast WiFi.  Then a ride over the Hecker Pass, the typical mountain pass road, to Watsonville.  The Pacific Ocean comes into view from the top of the Pass, quite an exciting view.  This area has weird weather conditions due to the cold ocean air and the coastal mountains that result almost daily in a layer of low clouds (they call it fog) and cold air. (It is not the sunny warm California that we expected).  We toured Watsonville for a while and then headed for the coast where we ended up in a huge traffic jam on route #1.  Totally by chance, (good move), we took an exit for Zmudowski State Beach to avoid the gridlock situation. The beach access road was unusual, it winded around the perimeter of acres and acres of strawberry and lettuce  fields, with swarms of farm laborers picking strawberries.  The beach was all natural, huge sand dunes, grasses and wild flowers, pelicans and sea gulls flying overhead.  We were freezing out there, it was low 60's, but regardless the high point of our day for sure. 

Fruit label mural in downtown Watsonville

Earthquake relief in Watsonville

Zmudowski Beach view

Huge sand dunes at the beach

View from the beach road

Lots of good mexican restaurants in Gilroy but for a change we decided to try the only Irish Pub Restaurant in town.  It didn't work out well, if in Gilroy stick to mexican !   

Friday night at Mom and Pop's Saloon in San Juan Bautista expecting something pretty lame.  I was surprised to see a row of motorcycles out front and then as I got closer I was even more surprised to see several bikers who appeared to be the real deal, (not the white collar guys, in their riding costumes and custom built bikes)  sporting their most intimidating "Hell's Angels", Demonic Souls and other such club jackets.  Inside it was a mix of bikers and latinos, hardly any english being spoken and there was a band (The Johnny Espenoza Band) made up 5 old dudes (close to my age) playing good mexican/latino music to an enthusiastic crowd who would dance to every song.  The crowd was rough looking, I felt out of place, had no idea what anyone was saying, but the music was good.  

I then went down the street to Daisy's Saloon where a band of young white guys were playing rock music.  It was quiet and boring, but it felt safer there and I got to see someone do a good deed.  Everywhere you go, if you watch and appreciate it, you will see random acts of kindness.  At Daisy's, a poor looking elderly flower lady came through trying to sell flowers.  The guy next to me, obviously a local, talked to her and feeling sorry for her bought a bunch of roses and then gave one to every women in the bar.  All the woman loved it, better than any pick up line, maybe he wasn't just being nice ? 

Fathers Day was spent quietly then an evening dinner at the "Le Jardin" in San Juan Bautista, french name for "The Garden" with real Mexican food.  The food was very good, not great, our waiter was terrible, but the outside patio setting and the incredible flower garden was truly "Great".  People come here just to wander around the flower garden, more like a botanical garden.

If ever in this area, a visit to the town of San Juan Bautista is highly recommended, it is a gem of a town.  

Another food recommendation in Gilroy, OD's restaurant for breakfast, not a fancy place, no trendy stuff, just good home cooking type breakfast dishes.  It is a Gilroy favorite.  

The Monterey coast is known as one of the most beautiful sea coasts in the country, it is a another must see when in this area.  It definitely lived up to all the hype.  We traveled as far south as Big Sur, in and out of the clouds and sun, it was a stunning ride.  There are many turnouts where you can pull over for photos and a few where there are trails down to the sea.  We stopped at one that was an incredible vista, then a trail down through a collage of brilliant wildflowers to the rocky beach.  Except for the wind and cold air it was perfect ! Then a lunch stop called "Rocky Point" near Carmel with a great views overlooking the ocean.

Wildflowers, deep blue water, sun and the fog

Another view

View across the road into the hills

Not bad down on the beach either !

Fog shrouded view

Bixby bridge north of Big Sur is a thrill

View from the "Rocky Point" restaurant

Along the route in Monterey, a stop was made in Castroville, the Artichoke center of the World.  A couple of interesting buildings and murals were located there and we even bought a artichoke.  Not sure what to do with it ?  Every town around here seems to be the capital or center for some kind of vegetable, but it is true, they grow massive quantities of it all here. 

Driving into Castroville

Castroville mural

Norma Jean (Marilyn Monroe) was a Castroville Artichoke
 queen before becoming famous, they still remember

The city of Santa Cruz has a vibrant downtown area filled with nice restaurants, pubs, shops, book stores, coffee shops.  We spent a couple hours roaming around and were very impressed, could easily spend a whole day right there.  After buying a few treats at Trader Joe's we then found our way to the Boardwalk area.  This is one of the few boardwalks on the west coast.  We weren't that impressed, we have been spoiled by the Jersey Shore boardwalks, there is no comparison.  It does have a famous old wooden roller coaster, "The Dipper" and a famous old carousel, but otherwise nothing special.  The fishing pier had many restaurants, but was pretty much just a smelly fishing pier.  We did see two Seals playing and a bunch of sleeping Sea Lions on a deck area there, they were a big attraction, trying to push each other into the water. On our way back to Gilroy, another traffic jam on Route 1, so we exited for a beach at Rio del Mar.   We walked to a pier which went out to an old Cement Ship, the "USS Palo Alta", built in 1919, then grounded there in 1929 as an amusement boat, then a fishing pier.  It was broken up in a storm and is now closed, but remains a fish reef and tourist attraction.

Mural in downtown Santa Cruz

Another Santa Cruz mural

Volleyball on the Santa Cruz beach

Santa Cruz beach

Sea Lions taking a snooze

The Seals playing at the Santa Cruz Pier

Santa Cruz was once a huge Ocean resort destination

The famous "Dipper" Roller Coaster

Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railroad at the beachfront

Beach at Rio del Mar

USS Palo Alta known as the Cement Ship

Electrical cabinet in downtown Santa Cruz

The Poet and the Patriot in Santa Cruz

That's all for now, take tuned for more,
Twinkles and Slick

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