A quick tour around Santa Cruz, California ... U.S. border fee a no-go?
SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA - The far north coast of California is famous for its redwoods, as is Muir Woods in Marin County, just outside San Francisco. But it’s hard to beat the ones you’ll find towering magnificently around the coast near the surf town of Santa Cruz, an hour and a bit south of San Francisco.
On a quick visit last week I started the morning at The Ugly Mug coffee shop in the town of Soquel, just down
the road from my family cabin. It’s a fabulous coffee spot on the main drag,
just up from Capitola Beach, with a great local vibe. In the
Santa Cruz area, that means advertisements for acoustic music and raw milk in
the window, local art on the walls and a list of characters that run the gamut
from flower child to motorcycle dudes to local ranchers and surfers, all rolling
in for their morning lattes and pastries.
If you opt to stay and drink your coffee, you can fill up with any of dozens of mugs (only some of them truly ugly) that are washed out daily and put out for folks to use. I opted for a rather garish one from Universal Studios in southern California if you must know.
I got back to our cabin and told my Dad about how I’d read something in one of the local magazines about a good German restaurant in a nearby town called Ben Lomond. My Dad being fond of German food (he also used to turn on the radio on Sunday mornings and listen to oom-pah-pah music, or so my Mom used to tell me), I mentioned it to him.
Hearing about Ben Lomond prompted him to recall being a teenager in Oakland and driving down in a friend's Model A to go to dances or go swimming in the area. He also talked about a place called the Brookdale Lodge, where he said a river ran through the dining room.
I’ve seen a place like that in Kelowna, B.C., a Best Western hotel with a huge atrium and a powerful, rushing river, but I didn’t know there was one in northern California. So we hopped in the car and went for a drive to check it out and see about some schnitzel or sauerbraten for lunch.
Alas, the German place was closed for lunch and the Brookdale Lodge has been shuttered for a couple years. It’s in a state of dusty disrepair but the security guard was nice enough to briefly show off the place to a couple of nostalgic visitors.
The dining room doesn’t look too much different from the way it did back in the day, my Dad said. The river still runs down the middle, and there are banks of tables that rise toward a high wall featuring stained glass segments. There’s a magnificent glass light fixture hanging over it all and a small bridge at one end. It’s said that former U.S. President Herbert Hoover used to fish off the bridge for brook trout, and my Dad said that back in the day you could catch your own fish in the stream and give it the kitchen staff, who’d prepare it for your dinner.
The place needs a ton of work and probably has too many rooms by half, I’d say. But I can imagine some dot.com billionaire from the nearby Silicon Valley giving it a shot. I hope so, as it would be a great story and a fun place to bed down in the redwoods.
The nearby town of Ben Lomond (see photo at left) feels like a small city you’d find in Oregon or the interior of British Columbia, with old wood fronts and a casual, outdoorsy feel. We stopped at the old Mac’s Bar, where folks used to pin dollar bills to the ceiling with darts. It’s now a fun shop featuring all sorts of old-time knick knacks; Pinocchio dolls and old car models and fun signs.
From there we backtracked to Felton and then took Highway 9 back into Santa Cruz. It’s a winding road that drops through a line of incredibly tall, beautiful redwood trees. It’s a thick, luscious canopy that feels like a cathedral, with broken light cascading through the green treetops and the deep smell of redwood and fog and sunshine all at once.
We motored into Santa Cruz and opted to have a bowl of chowder and a beer out on the pier, where you can dine behind tall panes of glass that keep out the wind. The surfers were dashing about in the waves off to the west at Steamer Lane - a legendary surf break in California - and noisy sea lions were barking on the pier below us as we dined.
The pier in Santa Cruz is a great shop for a bite or a stroll or for fishing. And the views are great. You can see the dun-coloured cliffs and colourful homes on West Cliff Drive. Off to one side and, to the east, the old-timey Santa Cruz boardwalk with its historic merry-go-round and one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world.
We also stopped at a hole-in-the-wall (I mean that in a good way) Mexican joint on Water St. called Tacos Moreno, where for about $5 you get a massive quesadilla filled with chicken and beans and cheese and oozing hot sauce. I can only imagine how filling a $6 burrito would be.
U.S. BORDER FEE A NO-GO?Canadian Press reports that a U.S. congressman says Canadians should not be overly concerned about a proposed border crossing fee, saying it just isn’t going to happen.
Democratic representative Brian Higgins, who is from the border city of Buffalo, N.Y., told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that he has a lot of allies in the U.S. Congress who will stop any legislation that includes a fee.
Higgins, who is a member of the Homeland security committee, has been a vocal critic of a proposed feasibility study on a border fee since it was spotted last week buried deep in the department’s 2014 budget.
New York Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat, has also spoken out in opposition.
The Canadian government said it would lobby against such a fee.
But Higgins says there is sufficient political opposition to stop any such fee in its tracks.
“I’m telling you it’s not going to happen,” Higgins said. “The early indications are that both Democrats and Republicans oppose it and any new fee would have to get by both the House of Representatives, of which I am a member, and also the United States Senate, which Senator Schumer is a member. I’m going to fight this very very aggressively and I have a lot of allies.”
HOT AIR BALLOON DEATHS
Peruvian authorities rescued five women on Sunday but the pilot and another man are still missing. The women were found clinging to the balloon's floating basket. Peru's Interior Minister criticised the balloon's owner, Globos Peru SAC, for failing to provide life jackets and for not equipping it with a GPS tracker.
In February, you may recall, a hot air balloon crashed in Luxor, Egypt, killing 19 tourists. Star Travel columnist Arthur Frommer wrote a story about the safety of balloons after that incident, and his words seem remarkably prescient today.