Ever present fog
Fog is present on the coast of northern California pretty much from June to September, with some clear days mixed in when we get that rare offshore breeze. On many days the fog moves into the inland areas. The rainy season is November to March or April. These weather patterns are the reason the Santa Cruz mountains (and other part of coastal northern California) are thick dense Coast Redwoods forests. The best time to visit are those narrow slices of great weather in between the rainy season and foggy season, and even then it is a guessing game. Best chances of hitting great weather are in May and October, for sure. The Santa Cruz mountains are high enough that we often see fog here in the morning and clearing by mid morning, and the fog burns off to the coast. In this picture, you can see the fog sitting on the coast in the distance. If this were a clear day, we'd have a view of the brilliant blue Pacific Ocean. It does happen sometimes and it is utterly remarkable when it does!
Santa Cruz is a World Leader in Bicycles
Santa Cruz is a world leader in recreational cycling. The mountain bicycle was virtually invented here when I was a kid, and some of the toughest wilderness trails are in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Since then full suspension and BMX bicycles are made and used by professionals born in the area. Along the beach, coaster brake balloon tire bicycles were common during the 40's, 50's, and 60's, and have made a full scale comeback as a retro sport activity. Then, along the roadways in the mountains, along hwy 1, and elsewhere in the county, road bikes remain extremely popular. Many high tech companies provide incentives for their workers to commute by bicycle. If you are a driver, beware of the assertive style of many of these riders who are skilled at road lane management and won't easily move to the roadside just because your vehicle is bigger, especially on steep and winding downhill descents where they can often outpace the fastest sports car. There are also funny bikes and trikes of various types, since Santa Cruz cyclists are experimental techies willing to try anything new. Yet, cycling in the area is not for the inexperienced and faint of heart. Traffic in town or on the rural roadways is busy and dangerous. Some hill climbs among the great maze of rural roads in Santa Cruz mountains will burst the heart muscle of the strongest rider. While cycling to the west of Santa Cruz along Hwy 1 is a good relatively level and minimal traffic path to take, the natural gusty winds and blinding fog on some days can run interference to the enjoyment of a good ride. There are definitely restrictions on where mountain bikes can go off-road since bike trails do cause further erosion in a landslide prone mountain sides. I recommend that cyclists start early in the morning before traffic builds. Tourists, beach goers, and partiers are late to rise in the morning, particularly when the skies are overcast. In town, follow the excellent network of bicycle lanes to stay safe. There are several small manufacturers that make all these types and more of bicycle frames. The link below is just two of many, and there are individual frame makers who work alone in their workshops. All materials--aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber, and steel are available in the local market, and the prices have been coming down a bit for increasingly better equipment. There are also local equipment manufacturers, particularly for mountain and beach going bikes. One of the great experiences when visiting Santa Cruz would be to rent a bicycle for a day or two, and then arrange for a custom frame sizing. Then have it outfitted with the type of equipment you want from the start. One should do research on-line, as most of these companies have really great websites and 800 number sales/service, and then make an appointment before you arrive in town. Don't expect to be received on a weekend or holiday. If fitting is to be done at the workshop, the bike can be easily shipped home to you later. There's no sense stuffing one of these gems into your luggage since it can be easily shipped direct to your house by UPS.
Bonny Doon Winery
Bonny Doon is tucked in redwood forests somewhat near the coast. Typical of the rest of Santa Cruz, the winery has a quirky, irreverent character. The owner refuses to follow any of the standard protocol of the proper and staid in the winemaking industry.
Our pourer was a friendly woman who poured more wines than we were willing to taste (I think she would have kept going if we hadn't said "No more!"). Her obsession was spots on the wine glasses. She kept holding them up for inspection, and if a glass had the tiniest spot, it was relegated to the reject shelf. (We couldn't see these spots.) She was entertaining and sold us on a few bottles of wine.
Santa Cruz's State Parks.
My old birthplace is blessed with a good amount of state parks and beaches that surround the city. Natural Bridges State Beach, Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, Wilder Ranch State Park, Twin Lakes State Beach, and nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park are all great day getaways from the town. Nature seems always to be at the city's doortstep, whether it be a scenic beach or a foggy redwood forest.
Wilder Ranch is perhaps the best off the beaten path in Santa Cruz. This 19th century, 4,500 acre dairy ranch sitting next to gentle hills and the coastline is great to explore, with old Victorian homes, gardens, barns, blacksmith shops, and excellent hiking and bike trails.
Bad Ass Coffee
Santa Cruz has a Bad Ass Coffee location downtown on Pacific Street. This is one of just 45 locations in this small but expanding coffee franchise. While their headquarters is in Salt Lake City, they embrace the Hawaiian culture and its Kona coffee in their stores.
The Santa Cruz store is a interesting mix of fun and island culture. At the Pacific Street entrance there is a big children's play area with huge stuffed blocks and other toys. Enter the store and you will see their palm tree and tiki hut motif. The counter is in the center of the store along the wall, and it is surrounded by perhaps 10 small tables. Towards the back of the store you will see about four computer kiosks, then at the back entrance the restrooms with combination locks to prevent bums and hoodlums from making use of them. Unique to Bad Ass Coffee is their custom art adorning the walls of the stores. In Santa Cruz several local artists ran with the Hawaii theme and created a great interior.
Their menu includes 100 percent pure Kona cofee and Kona blends, espressos, and a variety of cold drinks. They also have a small selection of food items such as ice cream and pastries. A small iced coffee was reasonably priced at around $2.15.