September 17 – 22, 2009
Updated Oct. 23, 2009
About 85 photos mainly taken during the trip by
Betty Nolan are posted at www.ritzpix.com
in five separate albums under member name of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email
address. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
for instructions on how to access. The 20 photos taken by Betty Nolan at
By LEWIS NOLAN
Betty and I arose at
7 a.m. and had a good breakfast of eggs scrambled with cheese and ham and a bit
of fruit at the very nice Hampton Inn at
We wasted 15 minutes
when I misread the map and didn’t turn onto U.S. Highway 99 at the proper
point. Being Sunday and due to the popularity of
But in an annoying
and odd pattern and unlike other states we’ve driven through,
It took about three hours to get into Santa Cruz, where we were delayed by more than 1,200 runners competing in a major triathlon that had started with a long swim off the Municipal Pier adjacent to our hotel. The cycling and running segments of the race meandered and blocked traffic along West Cliff Drive and adjacent the coast and hills. The area is frequented by fitness enthusiasts who hoped to raise $50,000 from the event to benefit local groups.
My former swimming pool management partner, Bob Reid, and I had stayed at the Dream Inn to celebrate the end of the season at Sacramento’s Sutter Lawn Tennis Club where we worked back in the early 1960s. I had understood some millions of dollars had been spent fairly recently to completely remodel the hotel. But it wasn’t until Betty and I checked in that our unease about the quality of the lodgings disappeared. We have long enjoyed travel, but no longer seek to do it on the cheap and were prepared to walk away from our reservations if the Dream Inn wasn’t up to our par.
Our large room on the 3rd of 10 floors was ultra modern but comfortable, with a kingsize bed, fancy TV, walk-in shower and a small balcony overlooking the Cowell’s Beach beneath. Betty passed on lunch but I had a salad with a few, fresh shrimp at the hotel’s Aquarius Restaurant. After three hotel employees had used nearly identical language to gush recommendations for the restaurant, I should have been alerted to the probability of them being trained to build business. I understood the need for the staff push when charged $17 for a mediocre, smallish salad.
Looking out at a few swimmers (most wearing wet suits because of the chilly water (61 degrees according to a blackboard on the wharf) that flows down from Alaska with the Humboldt Current), half-century-old memories came back to me. I recalled one time when I was body surfing just off the beach (right below our room this trip) when a 4 or 5-foot wave dumped me on the beach of hard sand. I was rolled by the power of the breaking surf out-of-control for what seemed like a life-threatening distance. That happened when I was 19 or 20, but the fright still lingers. It shows that even an intercollegiate swimming team member like me at the time doesn’t have much of a chance against the fearsome power of the ocean.
Betty and I walked a
short distance from the hotel to the
Pete’s affluent family owned a vacation home a block or two from one of the nearby beaches. We’d stay there during our several trips a year. It was an idyllic life for a couple of young guys who hadn’t yet been introduced to the cruelty and meanness of the real world.
Pete’s big surfboard
and a couple of spares used by his two younger brothers and guests were stored in
the vacation home. Pete, a natural athlete who was proficient at surfing,
As noted earlier,
both of us entered the U.S. Marine Corps after college graduation. Pete was
Today, the Italian immigrant family of the Stagnaro Brothers operates not only the family fish market but also a popular seafood restaurant. It is located near the end of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, which juts out into the Pacific Ocean about one-half mile. There are several other restaurants and quick-service food outlets on the Wharf today, with a scattering of souvenir and beach shops as well as the town’s central lifeguard headquarters and a place to rent small boats.
A tourism brochure
claimed that the permanent population of Santa Cruz is now over 51,000, with
total population in the county of over 266,000. The once-popular nickname of
“Surf City” (lost in a trademark fight with another California beach town) and its
surfing popularity date to a 1912 visit by Olympian swimmer and legendary
surfer Duke Kahanamoku. I wish we had visited the
A short walk down
the beach from the
That day’s edition had a half-page of weather information for the area’s outdoor enthusiasts. Its Surf Forecast predicted waves 1-to-3 feet high with a swell at 10 seconds and water temperature of 61 degrees. The newspaper feature also listed the disgusting level of fecal coliform CFUs per 100 ml. for popular swimming beaches and surfing spots of Natural Bridges, Cowell Beach, Twin Lakes, Main Beach, Capitola Beach, Seacliff Beach, Rio del Mar and Pajaro Dunes.
Marc Rush, one of my
standout swim team members I coached at Sutter Lawn in the early 1960s, lived
with his very intelligent wife, Susan, in
Betty and I had an
excellent meal at Stagnaro’s that evening of fresh,
cooked crab for me and for Betty fresh, very large shrimp (called Prawns on the
West Coast) breaded with coconut and deep fried. The meal was heavenly. It was ably
served by a mature waitress named Pam, who told us she had been either visiting
or working in
It was dark and
We were also told that despite the temporary protection, local residents sometimes find the half-eaten carcasses of sea lions washed up on the beach. We could hear the animals – that used to give me a fright when they’d appear in the same wave I was trying to catch - barking at times like big dogs during the night.