The Santa Cruz Mountains have a terrific potential for infernos due to the large number of high value, but low code enforcement, realestate that mingle within the redwood forests. By late summer, the forests are particularly dry and redwood branches and needles pile on the ground and rooftops of tinderbox cabins. In addition, the fire fighters are trained for emergency rescue and health response. In the many remote corners of these mountain roads, a good quick response is not easy. Not surprisingly therefore, volunteer fire fighting is an important community asset, and a way for locals to share company. During pancake breakfasts, tourists are welcomed to view the shiny red fire trucks, one or two of which are typically antiques from a bygone era. The procedure calls for paying between $5- and $10, and then running the line of fire fighters who dish out the pancakes, sausages, and eggs. Coffee and tea are also part of the breakfast. In the past, the Felton Fire Fighters held theirs on Mother's Day and used the Felton Covered Bridge as a venue, but now they use the firehouse itself. Further up into the mountains along Hwy 9, the more quaint hamlet of Ben Lomond fire fighting force uses their firehouse, which is right on Hwy 9 and easy to find. Ben Lomond Pancake Breakfast is typically around the 4th of July weekend. Both are considered a tax deductible contribution.
Smoking tobacco cigarettes is banned virtually everywhere in Santa Cruz County, but smoking pot, particulary medical marijuana, is sanctioned, at least in part, by Santa Cruz city law. In November of 2006, a 64% majority of voters in the city of Santa Cruz passed Measure K, which amended municipal code by adding an ordinance that requires Santa Cruz police officers and other law enforcement officers in the City of Santa Cruz to make enforcement of state and federal laws pertaining to the distribution, sale, cultivation or use of marijuana by adults their lowest law enforcement priority. Santa Cruz, an affluent city with a balanced budget, thus remains one of the nations most tolerant cities when it comes to treatment of drug use and abuse, and finds itself bothered by state and federal drug laws. The attitude by Santa Cruz citizens appears not that marijuana is recommended, but that in the face of such popular and widespread casual use of this relatively benign drug, enthusiastic local law enforcement should better spend its time combating other more important crimes. While the measure provides some protection for the recreational user on the beach, it makes specific exception for law enforcement to combat drug dealers, particularly those dealing drugs to minors, and where drugs and crime are associated, state and federal drug laws may be appropriately bundled for prosecution.
Medical marijuana, another wrinkle in the issue, was originally covered under the passage of California's 1996 Compassionate Use Act (California Proposition 215), which later was more precisely defined by state legislation passed in 2003 and 2004. Here, physicians can legally prescribe issuance of a special medical card to patients, and special medical marijuana stores may legally sell the product. In any case, this allows caretakers and patients to possess, grow, or transport medical marijuana, all of which remains in opposition to federal criminalization that dates back to the 1950's. In June of 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled that Federal authorities could prosecute physicians for prescribing marijuana, probably in part because it is not a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, in October 2006, probably recognizing that marijuana may indeed provide profound sedative and calming effects, particularly for terminally ill or chronically afflicted patients, the Santa Cruz City Council voted to create a municipal Office of Compassionate Use that would distribute medical marijuana. The legality of this city sanctioned distribution system is still being debated, but if created would be the first within the United States. Needless to say, the battle over state and federal laws pertaining to the use of medical marijuana is likely to continue for sometime into the future because of the US constitutional priority of state's rights for such civil matters.
The first quarter released in 2005 honors California, and is the 31st in the United States Mint's 50 State Quarters® Program. California was admitted into the Union on September 9, 1850, becoming our Nation’s 31st State. Nicknamed the "Golden State," California’s quarter depicts naturalist and conservationist John Muir admiring Yosemite Valley’s monolithic granite headwall known as "Half Dome" and also contains a soaring California condor. The coin bears the inscriptions "California," "John Muir," "Yosemite Valley" and "1850."
In 1849, the year before California gained statehood, the family of 11-year-old John Muir emigrated from Scotland to the United States, settling in Wisconsin. In 1868, at the age of 30, Muir sailed up the West Coast and landed in San Francisco. He made his home in the Yosemite Valley, describing the Sierra Nevada Mountains as "the Range of Light… the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains I have seen." He devoted the rest of his life to the conservation of natural beauty, publishing more than 300 articles and 10 books that expanded his naturalist philosophy.
The 20-member California State Quarter Commission was formed to solicit design concepts from California citizens and to review all submissions. The Commission forwarded 20 design concepts to Governor Gray Davis’s office for further consideration. From these, five were chosen as finalists and sent for final review to the United States Mint. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose the final selection from this group of five. The four other design concepts considered included "Waves and Sun," "Gold Miner," "Golden Gate Bridge," and the "Giant Sequoia" design. The Department of Treasury approved the "John Muir/Yosemite Valley" design on April 15, 2004.
Santa Cruz maybe the picture-perfect California beach town, but unlike its Southern California cousins, the town is very much oriented in a liberal, left-wing culture, which has become highly-charged since the Bush Administration came to office and the War on Terrorism. Issues like the Patriot Act and the Iraqi War can result in arguements, protests, and decrees from the city council denouncing such actions. Add this with homeless, marijuana legalization, and gay marriage issues, and you are bound to have contentious political arguements.
The city is also home to a fairly large lesbian community, which attests to the number of Rainbow flags seen around town.
With politics aside you will notice that many of the locals' cars will have a SANTA CRUZ sticker on them. A great number of locals with shirts, surfboards, skateboards and sweaters with the city name on them. Thanks to the surfing-skating culture that sprung up here, I can't think of any other place on the West Coast where the name is as much of a city as it is a brand.
There is a pretty huge divide between University culture and Santa Cruz culture, so I would recommend a trip up to the University. It is easily accessible by bus, car, and with a little work -a bike. It is a truly pretty campus and well worth a little effort. It is situated among redwood trees and parts of the campus overlook the ocean.
While you are up at the University you should take the time to walk through the forest and try to find all the different buildings. It is virtually impossible to see all the University buildings from the main road.
All the pretty sailboats lined up in the harbor - I notice that most of them have the same ocean blue canvas rigging. Someone has a good business going here!