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Marg-ins - Cruz-ing Into Summer
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Summer is in full swing and I was able to cash in a few hours of vacation time recently. Half of it was spent getting to and from the destination, but regardless it was an enjoyable break.

Basically it was 36 hours, leaving one morning and coming back late the next afternoon. Some 300 miles round trip total, a world away.

Santa Cruz was the destination, with a visit to the Boardwalk, the beach and then the well-documented ‘Mystery Spot’ all on the agenda. Along with me were my daughter Ally, her friend Jordan (visiting from Arizona) and my friend, Gloria, who also happens to be Ally’s godmother. Originally it was just me and the two teen girls but they decided they would have more fun if I had somebody to hang out with as well.

The plan was actually a good one, as Gloria and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch out and some shopping while the 16-year-olds spent most of the day riding the roller coasters and a variety of turn-me-upside-down rides on the Boardwalk.

We two older girls took advantage of the lower admission nighttime-only Boardwalk tickets and managed to get our fill of the rides in a shorter amount of time. I have already done the coasters and the drop down rides there; this time I was content to enjoy some of the tamer ones.

We also had booked a hotel right across the street so the girls could go back and forth, coming to the room if they needed a quick change of clothes or a snack before tackling more rides.

Our dinner out for the evening was at a local establishment, one that had reportedly been visited by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri for his popular ‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’ program, deduced from the huge “GUY ATE HERE” banner on the side of the building. It wasn’t a drive-in, but it did land somewhere between a diner and a dive. More like a diner but nothing incredibly special. Guess we didn’t eat what Guy ate.

But the girls did decide to share a huge banana split to top off the meal, and they gave that the thumbs up. Kind of hard to spoil a banana, ice cream, chocolate syrup and whipped topping.

You would have thought, as we loaded up the car to head out the morning of the trip, that we were planning a weeklong sojourn. I have never seen that many bags for that short a time. Three coolers, two bags for each girl, a big sack of snacks, extra chairs for the beach, towels, you name it, we brought it.

And used almost none of what we packed, except for the essentials. That’s always the way, but we erred on the side of caution and brought more rather than less.

We also ran into some people we knew at the Boardwalk, waving to them as we got on different rides right next to each other.

The girls took time for a little sun tanning on the beach, though my daughter complains she will never get rid of her soccer tan. They didn’t actually venture into the water, but enjoyed the fresh air and the sounds of summer.

After staying up much too late (vacation day, remember?) I got up early the next morning so I could venture across to the beach. A little fogged in, the seagulls and egrets (maybe herons, I don’t really know for sure) were busy picking up the leftover bits of food from the beachgoers of the day before and I got to see the early morning workers cleaning the boardwalk and getting it all ready for the day ahead. There was even a paver on the beach, smoothing down and compacting the sand. I never knew they did that.

Several beach volleyball teams were practicing at 7:30 a.m. – must have been a tournament in the area – and runners were already pounding their footprints into the wet sand where the water lapped at the edges of the beach. It was quiet and peaceful, just a brief respite before the clatter of amusement park rides geared up again.

Before heading back home, we made a side trip to the Mystery Spot just outside Santa Cruz and, aside from being mysteriously hard to find (I think we went in the same circle about five times searching for it) in the middle of the woods down a road that looked more like a wagon trail, it was an eerie experience. Whatever weird gravitational forces are at work there have quite the effect – I wanted to take photos but could barely stand up, much less focus a camera. There’s a ladder built into the wall that people climbed straight up and had no trouble balancing on, a table that you could stand on the edge of and be leaning halfway over onto the floor and not fall off … just strange stuff. Our guide told us to “only use the handrails if absolutely necessary” because they were meant to help our elders. I quickly became an elder. I couldn’t stay upright if I wasn’t holding on to something. I wish I had been able to investigate it further because it really fascinated me.

But I was trying too hard not to slide down the mountain to worry about anything but keeping my feet on the ground.
Maybe next time … if the spot hasn’t moved.

Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.