Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pier 39

Our next stop was Pier 39 in the heart of the tourist area.  We drove around a little, but managed to score a free 2-hour parking spot only a couple of blocks away from our destination.  Cool.

As soon as you step onto the pier, you can hear the resident sea lions.  We can never get too much of these interesting creatures.

Arguments break out often, especially between the larger males.  This guy hopped up on the dock and immediately began rearranging the others.

He wasn't happy until he had them all lined up.  Do sea lions have OCD?

I wonder if the one with the loudest bark wins?

The victor was obviously very proud when his rival jumped off the dock.

You can also zoom in on Alcatraz from here.

After we had a bite to eat, we joined the multitude of people wandering the pier.  During our lunch, the skies finally cleared.

All we bought was food, but we did admire this two-tiered carousel.

San Francisco has lots of choices for public transportation, but I'm just not adept at figuring it out.  We did like these antique electric streetcars.

And, of course, it wouldn't be San Francisco without the iconic cable cars.

But if I had the nerve, this is the way I would go.  Doesn't this look like fun?

The problem is I would not want to go downhill on a Segway, so that leaves San Francisco out.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Coit Tower

I have to admit that I was kind of anxious about our day trip into San Francisco.  There's just so much traffic and I worried about where we would park to see the various things I had on my list.  Well, in general, it went very well and, luckily, Ron is a superb parallel parker.

Our first stop was Coit Tower, perched high atop Telegraph Hill.  I had read that the small parking lot is always full, so we decided to park close to the base of the hill and take the Filbert Steps.  Ron found a metered place not far from the steps. We deposited quite a few of our quarters and we were off.  (I think it was 7 minutes for a quarter.)

The steps (this is just the beginning of them) climbed right up the side of the hill, past houses where the residents must be in terrific shape.

We admired some beautifully landscaped yards.

Check out these roses.

I thought this painted wall was cute.

But I guess somebody didn't agree.

Built during the Great Depression in 1933, with money donated by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, the 210-foot tower resembles a fire hose nozzle.

Ms. Coit had a great affinity for the fire department and seems to have been an enthusiastic supporter.

Although she financed the tower, the fantastic murals inside were paid for with federal funds through the Public Works of Art Project, part of FDR's New Deal.  Twenty-five artists were paid about $1 per hour and, in just six months, created murals on 3,691 square feet of the tower's interior walls.

The theme of the murals is Life in California and each artist brought his or her own ideas and perspective to the project.  (There were 21 men and 4 women.)  I really like this 'Library' one.

This 'Around Town' one, had some disturbing aspects.

Especially the man being held up at gunpoint.

We could have spent all day just looking at the murals, but we paid our $5 (senior rate) and took the elevator to the top.  As you can see, it was a foggy morning, but isn't it always?

The 360-degree views are amazing.  There's Alcatraz in the distance.

I'm not sure why Christopher Columbus is in front of the tower.  It seems that a statue of a fireman would be more meaningful.

Then it was back to the car - a total of  442 steps from the base of the tower to street level. We counted on the way down.  Now that I read the AAA book a little more carefully, I think we should have taken the slightly less difficult Greenwich Steps up and the Filbert Steps down.  I would say, "Next time," but there's not going to be a next time.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Half Moon Bay

We decided that we wanted to continue hugging the coast and make a stop close enough to San Francisco for a day trip.  This pretty much limited us to Half Moon Bay State Beach.  Knowing how busy the state parks are in California, we knew that meant reservations.  So for only the second time in the 14 years I've been on the road (fulltime for 8 of those years), I made reservations.  I really resent paying a reservation fee for me to reserve a site using their automated computer system.  If I called and reserved with a live person, I could understand it.

Okay, off the soap box.  Here's the funny part.  Well, at least it's funny now.  We arrived at the entrance to the campground and checked the reservation board which said our site, number 4, was reserved by somebody else.  Imagine my reaction.  I already hated the fact that I had to make a reservation and they gave away my site to somebody else!

So we drove on in, found site number 4 and parked.  Ron figured if it came to a fight, he would send me out.  Happily, it didn't come to that because the list was actually there from the night before.

The sites are large and nicely spaced, but I'm sure glad we didn't spend extra for a site with a view.  It was pretty foggy the whole time we were there..

So off we went to see what we could see in the couple of hours remaining in the afternoon.  But first, I have to back up a little.  On our way to Half Moon Bay, we stopped to eat lunch at a viewpoint where we could see Pigeon Point lighthouse off in the distance.  We'll be seeing a lot of lighthouses on this trip, but I always like them.  I just wish they would paint them in more interesting ways, like they do some of the ones in the east.

North of Half Moon Bay, we stopped at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.  Obviously this guy didn't read the signs about not approaching the wildlife.

Zooming in, I thought this poor seal looked like he was dead, but hopefully he's just a sound sleeper.

A little farther north, we found the Point Montara lighthouse.  The lighthouse has quite a history, having served at Mayo Beach on Cape Cod, Massachusetts from 1881 to 1922.  It made its way 3000 miles, first to Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay, then Point Montara where it has been since 1928.

As a side note of interest, both Pigeon Point and Point Montara have been converted to hostels.  For about $25, you can stay in an 8-person dorm room in the light keeper's cottage.  They need to get those hostelers busy painting the lighthouse.

View of the coast from the lighthouse.

Next up, our day in San Francisco, which might take two or three posts.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


On our final day in Santa Cruz, besides stocking up on groceries (because we'll never see another grocery store), we drove to the tiny town of Felton.

My primary purpose was to get a picture of the narrow gauge stream engine that departs from Roaring Camp and makes a scenic run through the redwood trees.  We did a drive by and saw the stream engine warming up for its 11 o'clock run.  For awhile, the track parallels the road, so I picked a spot and settled in to wait.

I call this the train that never came.

I don't know what happened, but he never showed.  My guess is that the trip was canceled due to lack of riders.  After all, it was the day after Memorial Day.  I should have tried then.  Happily, they have a picture on the website that they invite you to download.  (I wouldn't want to do anything illegal.)

Isn't it cute?

Obviously I wasn't exactly in the perfect spot since I didn't have any redwoods in my picture.

How about a pea-type flower instead.

And Ron spotted the sign for Covered Bridge Road, so we took it and found the Felton Covered Bridge.  Built in 1892-1893, it was the only entrance into Felton for 45 years.  It was retired and became a pedestrian bridge in 1937.  After suffering severe winter storm damage in 1982, it was restored in 1987 using native materials and talent.

Here's what confused us, the sign said it's believed to be the tallest covered bridge in the country.  Well, it doesn't look that high above the water to me!  Finally, we realized they must mean the interior clearance.

You could drive a motorhome through it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

More Santa Cruz

So, as promised, we were up and moving the rig out of the Elks parking lot by 8am.  It was tough, but Ron managed to navigate around the five other cars in the lot.  Never fear, we had checked out the Moose who welcomed us for two more nights at $10 a night.  They were also having a Memorial Day barbecue, so we had a wonderful meal of spare ribs or steak, with too many sides to fit on a plate.

Continuing our tour of Santa Cruz, we traveled back to the beach and walked out on the pier.  It was a nice pier, but the highlight for us was the sea lions.  These two were trying their best to stay in the sun.

There were places where you could watch them under the pier while they rested on beams four feet above the water.

This is a terrible picture, but I wanted to show how high above the water they were.  Of course, the obvious question is, "How did they get there?"  Well, they jumped!  I didn't get a picture, but I saw one giant sea lion leap up and land the front part of his body on the cross piece, then use his flippers to maneuver the rest of his huge body onto the narrow platform.  And I saw another one, who was more svelte, leap completely over it.  It was cool.

Later in the day, we drove the scenic West Cliff Drive, stopping at various points.  I couldn't find any information on this pretty little lighthouse.

This spot seems to be a favorite for surfers, but looks dangerous to me with that big obstacle in the way.

There are a few natural bridges along the drive.  I liked the way this one showed up in the late afternoon light.

One last shot of the lighthouse and bridge.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Short Stops

We moved to the Watsonville Elks where we only stayed one night and it had nothing to do with the block party that blasted music for 6 hours.  Although it was very economical at $10 (dry camping), we couldn't find much to do.  We did have the best breakfast at the Red Apple Cafe.

We saw this remarkable man with five perfectly-trained dogs.  We watched him push himself down the sidewalk and cross at the crosswalk in front of us.  The dogs knew just where to turn and trotted along with no guidance from him.  They didn't pull or get tangled up, just moved along at a constant pace.  You probably had to be there, but we were both amazed.  I almost didn't get a picture, I was so stunned.

In fact the only thing we could find to do was visit the Elkhorn Estuary.  An estuary is a 'partly enclosed coastal body of brackish water' and an important environment for wildlife.

This is it.  Even I can't get excited about this place.

We saw one otter (I thought they were always in a group) and a group of duck, geese, or pelicans that were so far away that we couldn't identify them even with binoculars.   I'm sure it's better during migration times.

Then we moved another 18 miles to the Santa Cruz Elks, intending to stay a couple of days.  They have closed their RV area to build an Alzheimer care facility.  Certainly an impressive and worthwhile goal.  There were only two people there when we arrived who told us we were welcome to park in a corner of the lot for two nights.  Ron backed into the most inconspicuous corner right next to the dumpster.  Unfortunately, when the Exalted Ruler came by, she decided that we would be in the way for their Monday Memorial Day festivities.  We had arrived on Sunday and she did say we could stay that night as long as we were out by 8am.  Okay . . .

Not to let anything spoil our fun, and before she could change her mind, we took the car and headed for the Santa Cruz boardwalk.  Wow!  What a place!

They have a wooden roller coaster that was built in 1924.

Ron enjoyed his smoked turkey leg.

The place was absolutely packed, but the ride lines didn't seem too bad.

I liked the 'old' mill with rotating waterwheel at the log flume ride.

I never saw so many rides packed into such a small area.

The beach was pretty crowded too.  Of course, as I mentioned, it was Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

That's the Santa Cruz pier in the background, but that's another day.

When we left at 4:30 and began our half-mile trek back to the car, the people were still pouring in.

It was a fun time and took me back to annual trips to Wildwood in New Jersey.