The "Skunk" and "Trees of Mystery"

Day 5 - "Santa Cruz to Home" - "Yummm, garlicky..."

Friday, April 2nd, 1999

Morning comes. Blurrily, we pack up and get into the car. We're only a few (okay, six to eight) hours away from home, so we decide to do some "crusin'" in 'Cruz first. Roaring Camp

First off, we take a little side trip five miles up the road to Felton. There's a couple of reasons for this: One slightly sensible and the other a little odd. The slightly sensible one is that the "Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad" is up there. This is a tourist re-creation of a logging railroad that runs through the local redwoods. They also run a train from there to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz during the summer. I road the "logging train" a couple of years ago when I was up in this area for Silicon (the most boring SF convention I've ever been to), but today we're just doing a "driveby" of the site. Where It Is

The second, slightly odd reason is that we need to stop at a store for sourdough bread (being comfortably north of the "Sourdough Line," we're stocking up) and thanks to that trip two years ago, I happen to know where the supermarket is in Felton. Okay, there's probably several in Santa Cruz, but I know where it is in Felton.

The road up - Graham Hill Road - seems pretty much like standard suburbia, maybe a little more sparsely homed than back in my neck of the woods, but still suburbia. Well, we tool by the railroad, stop at the store, and head back via a slightly different road - the 9.

This road looks totally different. This is your classic "deep in the woods" mountain road, winding through the dark shadows of the redwoods, with the rail line (the one they run the trains to Santa Cruz on in the summer) right next to you. Small cabins, campgrounds, massive redwoods, and all of it just a couple of miles from downtown Santa Cruz. The Boardwalk

One of those cities definitely on my "I Could Live There" list.

Soon we're back in Santa Cruz and heading for the Boardwalk. The city still has it's classic 20's/30's era Boardwalk, with an amusement park section, large game areas (video mostly, now), a pier with restaurants, and all that, right on Monterey Bay. Very cool, and it gets used a lot in movies (Lost Boys, fer example). Santa Cruz

Amongst the more touristy things, we're there to get Dee Dee a coffee fix. Ever since we got north of San Francisco, back on Monday, we've been in a land of wildly inadequate coffee (at least, according to Dee Dee. I don't drink the stuff: If it doesn't have sugar and carbonation, what's the point?) and by now she's seriously coffee-deficient.

But the Boardwalk has a nice little coffeeshop, and soon Dee Dee is in caffeine-heaven. Monterey Bay

Caffeinated, and with the day moving on, we head out of Santa Cruz and onto the 1. Half-an-hour later and we're entering the small town of Watsonville and getting onto the 152. You see, we're heading for Gilroy, garlic capital of the world, because we just can't pass through this area and not buy something garlic-related. It's the law.

Okay, so it's only a county ordinance, it's still the law...

Out of Watsonville, the 152 first tools through farm country then begins to climb up into a low range of mountains to the west of Gilroy. This is the home of "Mt. Madonna County Park" and - naturally enough - Mount Madonna. And darn it if we don't pass another "Madonna Inn" near the top of the pass.

Much less tacky than the one in San Luis Obispo. Much.

Over the mountains, we drop into Gilroy and then start keeping our eyes peeled for a roadside garlic stand. They're all over this area, what with that "Garlic Capital" theme and all...

...or rather, they're all over this area if you're on the 101. On the 152 we entered town on the west end and exited it on the east with nary a sign of a garlic stand. Finally, several miles east of town, as the 152 began its long climb up into the Coast Range mountains, we hit one - and immediately drool over all the garlic products. With great restraint, however, we only buy some garlic salsa and some hotsauce that we've only ever seen once before, in a restaurant in Mammoth, where we liked it very much.

We continue on the 152, heading for the San Joaquin Valley. As the 152 climbed up into the low hills, 'bout halfway to the 5, we passed the strangest collection of businesses I've seen in quite a while. Right in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest town 20 miles in any direction, is the minimall-like business empire of "Casa de Fruta".

Okay, the original "Casa de Fruta" shop I understand: There's nothing odd about a roadside produce stand out in farm country (ones running since 1908 are more rare, but what the hey). And the "Casa de Fruta Restaurant" sorta fits into the food theme, fine.. Casa de Fruta logo

But when you get to the "Casa de Fruta Motel," you begin to strain the concept. I have never needed to spend overnight at a fruit stand, but apparently someone does. Add in a "Casa de Fruta Resort" and you're beginning to just get silly. You're in the middle of a very boring nowhere, with the only attraction being the 152 and the fruit stand, you don't need a resort. Look, snow on Tehachapis

And when you add in the "Casa de Fruta Automobile Dealership" I just throw up my hands. There's only so far you can run with a theme and this is much farther than that. Throw in a "Casa de fruta Road" to set them all on and I begin to make groaning sounds.

Anywho, we pass the whole affair by and continue eastwards. Soon we pass some enormous reservoirs (built for the California Aqueduct), then drop down into the San Joaquin Valley and onto the 5. Tejon Pass Ahead!

At this point, all memory of the trip blurs into the boring haze of multiple previous passes up and down the scenery-deficient 5. We stop at the occasional reststop. We have tacos at a truckstop just north of the Tejon Pass, we push the gas pedal down as far as it will go to make the trip as short as possible. And a few mind-numbing hours later, we're pulling into Pasadena and heading up the street to home...

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