America Through My Eyes-Santa Cruz
Telugu original : K.Geeta
English translation: Jagaddhatri
July 4th is US Independence day, along with weekend and Monday we had three days vacation. So planned to spend two days in and around at Santa Cruz. It’s only 40 miles from Mountain View, we need not make a night stay if we go in the morning can return by evening but wanna stay and watch the beauty of the sea at night. Santa Cruz is a sea city, how can we resist enjoying the beautiful waves in the night!
And Mystery Spot is also in my list to visit. We ate a little and packed some foodstuff and started off. While we are checking up the list of our packing, Varu asks “have you packed Maggie for me?”
“That was the first thing I packed, by the way why had we named this girl Varudhuni, we should have named her Maggie,” said Satya. Varu is good at everything but for eating. She never ate anything except Maggie in an outing. I think she’s a bit better now after four years. Luckily I have an electric stove and cooker, it’s a must for me to carry it everywhere, as we were new to the US and could not adjust with the food outside.
On the way to Santa Cruz from our place, the mountain road begins as soon as we pass the freeway of ten miles. Redwood trees on both sides of the path, and every five minutes there is a snaky curve on the road. The redwood trees are so tall and seem to be conversing with the clouds. They look like tall pillars installed and the roots and the top are not found at all. The car is running fast crossing the Bear Creek and Scotts Valley. It was thrilling and scaring having a fast ride on the mountain road for the first time. ‘Hey, this is jaarubilla (children’s slide)’ Varu is cheering from the back seat. She is feeling like we are sliding on a slide.
As per the law here, children under 12 years are not allowed to sit in the front. They have to sit as per their weight in the car seat assigned for them. In the beginning, I felt bad leaving my child alone in her seat, but it’s a rule and we will be fined if the seat belt is not secure. Because of this rule, the cars cannot be overcrowded like in India. I laughed to myself remembering how kids and elders, nearly ten crammed in a small Santro car in India.
Nearing to Mystery Spot the road is more intense into the dense forest around. It was serene all around and a small ray of light from the dense trees with entwined creepers. The wind was damn cool if we slid down the window. Ticket for each person is 6$, parking 5 $. We got to walk above on the footpath amidst trees. A batch of 20 people are allowed once, we got our turn after one hour.
It was when amma was here we could not get tickets till the evening batch. To avoid this online booking facility is there. From June to August it is warm here (can go out without sweater). This is the most outing time for people and the weekends are packed at this place.
By the way, the Mystery Point is a wooden house, built in a haphazard manner without any plan. The building is based on the rocks below without any leveling. The person standing at the door looks slanting aside like the inclined Pisa tour to the person before him.
In the first room, there is a picture of ball rolling upwards. And in the second room, the floor is so slanted and it is difficult to stand. There are small ladders to crawl up. Everything is an optical illusion. That’s a thrilling experience, where everything looks topsy turvy. We dunno whether it is really the magnetic effect or the illusion. They say many reasons for that.
“Some speculate that cones of metal were secretly brought here and buried in our earth as guidance systems for their spacecraft. Some think that it is, in fact, the spacecraft itself buried deep within the ground. Other theories include carbon dioxide permeating from the earth, a hole in the ozone layer, a magma vortex, the highest dielectric bio-cosmic radiation known anywhere in the world, and radiesthesia. Whatever the cause is, it remains a mystery. ”
Though the guide is going on, my mind is working on, if all is true or not.
Outside the house another surprise awaits us. Five or six people of different heights from shorter to taller ones and another row of reverse order must stand on a piece of wood, and surprisingly the shortest one will look equal the height of the tall one.
Beach and boardwalk
We made our stay in a nearby hotel to the boardwalk. Dumping our luggage, we ran to the seashore. The sea is seen after crossing the buildings and rides. A cool breeze was blowing by the time we reached, we could not take even a step and because of Varu’s annoying we returned. We thought of coming back tonight, meanwhile walked along to see the downtown.
We had a parking problem again. Our car suddenly stopped near the parking. We were almost horrified when the cars at the back were blowing horns. We are new to the place and driving here, rules are very strict and we don’t find mechanics anywhere like in India. Luckily car started in five minutes (of course after coming home it charged us invest a thousand dollars). We came back to the hotel not halting at any place, postponing all plans for the next day. Gave up wish of watching the beauty of the sea at night!
Early morning we set off for a walk on the beach. It was a cloudy morn and the sea was rough as though it would rain. None to be seen on the shore, except a few seagulls and us. Though it was very cold I wanted to walk bear foot on the wet stands. We could hardly walk ten feet a severe pain shot up in my feet. I could guess it is because of the unbearable cold. The pain did not reduce until I soaked my feet in hot water for half an hour.
It is the oldest and largest beach amusement park on the west coast of the United States. Almost half a mile away on the scenic beach, there are a variety of entertainment and food restaurants that entertain children and adults. There is also a ropeway named Sky Glider. Looking at the endless ocean on one side and the beautiful Santa Cruz coast on the other, going up is like a gameplay watching the boardwalk, is a bit scary but a memorable feel.
Sitting with legs drop down, it gives a fear of the tub breaking down any time. But when you see the frothy waves, feel like flying from the shore like a bird to the other end. Last time mom and I went on it. When the tub reached the top of the pillar I shut my eyes and screamed. Amma burst out laughing.
There were 35 rides and attractions and one day is not enough to see all. We can even buy tickets for all at once, but we took tickets for rides that suited Varu’s age.
It is noteworthy that most of the rides here have been running for decades. They are so good that they are of such good quality and remained without corrosion! Not only that, parks and public railings are of good quality wherever the iron is used. I remember the plight of Appu Ghar in Vishakha. Why can’t we maintain like this? I thought. Opened in 1907, the park is still the oldest surviving amusement park in California.
This includes the Giant Dipper roller coaster running from 1924. It is made entirely of wood. Looff Carousel is like the (rangula ratnam) merry go round we have. It was built in 1911 and still entertains everyone. Along with Varu I too boarded it. After so many years, it seemed so happy to ride a wheel of color on a wooden horse. Something of childhood comes back the joy is unique. Nothing is strange to people in the US, anybody does anything regardless of their age. Adults can get along with small kids.
Above all, there is a century-old bridge at the end of the rides. It is only now possible to walk on it. Flowing below is the Pare San Lorenzo River. Due to summer, it dried up and there is only a thin flow of water.
There is also an hour-long train ride through the city streets, along the surrounding beach. We could not afford 25 $ ticket for an hour ride so we had been to play mini-golf in the Neptune Kingdom. Good to see with the Pirates theme inside the Neptune Kingdom. Varu had good fun for two hours with a ticket for $ 5. There are many indoor golf centers and arcades all around our home where children and adults play. In spite of often playing in them, still, Varu asks ‘when will we go again?’ Arcades are a crazy thing of putting plastic money and getting tickets. Collecting waste plastic things and getting them home is a craze for kids.
We did not speak completely about July 4th isn’t it? In 1776 the USA got freedom from the British. Being a holiday and also warm summer people enjoy a lot on open barbeques, picnics, and family gatherings. Places like Santa Cruz are very crowded. No one is at home that day, they are all on outings to have fun eating, enjoying all day.
To get a parking place is out of the question on that day. Even if we get, we got to pay15 $. Evening there will be fireworks, live music entertainment far off from the cities in open grounds. The fireworks are awesome to watch. They look as stars born and blast in the skies. They are like our taarajuvvalu(cracker that shoots up into the sky and blast into fiery stars), of course, these are very huge in size. Santa Cruz was crowded, people from all walks of life gathered there. The Santa Cruz County law says that no fireworks should be burnt within six miles near the sea, but people keep firing harmless crackers in and around.
Roaring Camp Railroads
We had been to Santa Cruz many times. But it so happens, every time, that it is almost evening by the time we see Mystery Spot or Board Walk. On the 11th of last December, we visited again. The boardwalk rides are closed in the freezing cold so we have planned to see something we haven’t seen so far. The Felton rail is nine miles ahead of Santa Cruz.
The train trip was from 12.30 and it was one and a half hour in total. Car parking was 8 $ and each ticket was 24$. It was cloudy and cold. We had to walk a little from the car parking. While going we boarded a shuttle train and came back by walk. The train was with a small steam engine with open top coaches. There were gift shops, restaurant, and restrooms near the station. We had chicken nuggets, French fries, and coffee by the time the train came. As it is December festive mood of Christmas is there all around. Children played a lot as if it is not cold.
Redwood hills all around looked as if they did not notice us and are in penance. Though extremely cold, nature’s beauty in winter stands unique. Going in the steam train passing by the shades of the trees, I felt as if the clouds are playing hide and seek amidst the trees.
In spite of wearing double sweaters, gloves and caps the cold was hitting badly. Our younger one Siri Vennela’s nose and cheeks turned red. Though a toddler of sixteen months, along with us she too is watching the passing trees.
The trees here are more than two hundred feet tall and more than a century and a half age-old. All the coaches are filled with people. Passing on the small track close by the trees, slowly moving the train reached Bear Mountain. The train halts for half an hour there. Here they celebrate seasonal festivals and welcome visitors. By the time we reached Santa Claus was ready with a bag of candy cane chocolates and wishing all. All the kids were taking snaps with him. I asked Varu to go and have a snap. “No, I already have snapped with three Santas,” she said. There were tall and short Xmas trees on both the sides of the path.
On the ground, the trunks of the redwood trees have much space around, but reaching the top they knit into a thick canopy. Except for the small pieces of bark at the foot of trees, there is no sign of plants or creepers. My birthday began enjoying wandering amidst the trees. Without a trip like this, we would have not seen such woods. Looking at the wide foot of the trees and the sprouting leaves at the top, I feel as if visualizing history from a time machine. I had an enchanting feel of having known the secret of the tall elegant trees.
Santa Cruz Warf and Natural Bridges
Further along, the shore of the sea is the lighthouse field state park. As the land extended a bit into the sea and formed a semi-circular shape, high tides are there to facilitate surfing. The sea is very far down from the road. Like the present Tenneti Park View in Visakhapatnam. The National Surfing Championships were held that day in the freezing waters and severe cold. The seaweed is entwined and spread all through the shore. Yet, about 200 surfers swim in the water, float, and display their feats on the waves. I felt they must be honored for going into the waters in such adverse conditions.
Every viewpoint from there is awesome. The high rocks that rose from the sea and the tides hitting as if to knock them fiercely. Many have lost their lives at that place. Signboards were placed with a serious warning not to get down even for fun.
The Natural Bridges State Park, two miles from the Boardwalk is a must-watch. The natural bridge is formed with the hill rocks curving like a wall. Under the bridge, there are shallow waters flowing both sides as an archway is formed with the hitting waves. In the time of the earthquake of Loma Prieta in 1989, the bridge was damaged to some extent and only one arch is standing aloof from the original part. It is said the effect of the earthquake was very worse on Santa Cruz and the seashore around.
In the eucalyptus wood adjoining the shore is a monarch butterfly winter camp. The larvae stay in the trees and fly as beautiful butterflies with new life and are a visual delight. Black and orange butterflies are off on exodus to the hills in spring. As it was getting dark by five itself we postponed our walk into the woods and returned.
As December is the month of celebrations, every hour a ‘lights train’ starts from the beach. The train is illuminated and is shining bright. The train charge is a bit high and we thought nothing out can be seen as it is night and so we did not get into it. There will be musical shows and special events on board. We waved goodbye to the people on the train.
The Pacific sea was very rough with high tides in the night times at Santa Cruz. Freezing snow overhead, cold sand beneath and sea driving a shiver into the spines, I remembered the nights we enjoyed at Visakhapatnam beach sitting with legs in the cold wet sands and eating the hot fried salted nuts. There is no such happy atmosphere here but of course, the wish to watch the beauty of the sea at night is fulfilled.
JAGADHATRI is a bilingual writer in Telugu and English, a translator and a columnist and critic. She writes for The Hans India and Telugu monthly Visalaakshi , and other journals too. She is an MA English , First Ranker from Andhra University and has few more PGs. She has done her M.Ed, M.A in Philosophy, M.A Sociology, M.Sc Psychology. She published her poetry anthology Sahacharanam for which she received two awards , Pathuri MAnikyamma Smaraka Puraskaram ( 2015, Nellore), and the prestigious AJOVIBHO KANDALAM FOUNDATION award (2017). Her features “Aksharaanganalu”(now continuing) in Visalalakshi won her great applause. Her previous feature “Bharateeyangla Rachayitrulu”(Indo Anglian Women Writers too brought her accolades. Good literary magazine Chinuku featured her variety of articles under the name “Jagamantha Kutumbam”. She writes for many magazines and translates from English to Telugu and vice versa.