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California 2010, Part 2

October 18, 2010
Capitola-by-the-Sea, California


The highways and byways linking Oakhurst to Capitola represent a standard slice of California. We began high in the Sierra Nevada forests, sloped down oak studded foothills, crossed through flat fields of the Central Valley, over the Diablo Mountain range, across the green Salinas Valley, over the Santa Cruz Mountains and finally down to the Pacific Ocean. Besides the widely varying landscapes, we passed through temperature gradients of over 40 degrees – 95° F/ 35° C in San Joaquin Valley to 55° F/ 13° C seaside. We added a couple more out-of-state license plates along the way.

We arrived in Capitola at dusk and took a short stroll around the beachside city center and had dinner at a Thai restaurant. After our "just one more tree" morning excursion and long drive, we retired early to Harbor Lights Hotel, which is just a block from the beach. Our large hotel room (including full kitchen) has a small balcony with an ocean view. The furnishing were a bit worn and dated, but the hotel was clean, conveniently located, and reasonably priced.

Capitola Beach

Manuela and I briefly passed through Capitola during her maiden voyage to California in 2009, but she remembered little of that visit. My memories of this seaside town go back 40 years. As kids, my brother and I tagged along with the neighborhood Cortez boys when their father tended a rental home they owned there. We spent afternoons exploring the cliffs and beaches while Mr. Cortez took care of the house. We walked from the house down a long street that ended at the sea cliff and then down along the cliffs to secluded beaches. Occasionally we walked all the way to Esplanade and played Skee Ball in the Fun House Arcade. If we spent the night, Mr. Cortez would drop us off the Capitola Theater on Monterey Street. We saw a Soilent Green (Charlton Heston)/Silent Running (Bruce Dern) double feature there one night.

Manuela patiently let me reminisce during a stroll Saturday morning (November 16) under gray skies. We wandered through some of the beach bungalow neighborhoods and were drawn to the east cliff neighborhood by a series "World's Largest Garage Sale" signs, but all we found was a woman selling boxes of broken pottery. If Manuela's travel passion is cemeteries, then mine is thrift stores and secondhand book stores. After our walk morning walk we drove to the Santa Cruz flea market. We bought some old records, including Bill Cosby's "I Started Out As a Child." That opened another can of childhood memories.


Manuela is a diehard weather optimist and while driving back to Capitola she saw two spots of the blue sky. But they blew far offshore by the time we got to the beach with our blankets and books. After about 15 minutes of shivering on the sand we gave up on seeing the sun and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading in the hotel.

Saturday evening drizzle turned into Sunday morning (November 17) rain. With no beach time in the forecast, we took a tour of local thrift stores but they were all closed. Instead, we decided to rediscover my Capitola roots. The Fun House Arcade has been replaced by Zelda's Sports Bar and the Capitola Theater was torn down last spring, but the Cortez house, long since sold, is still standing. Relying on 40 year old memories I eventually found it on Yucca Street. I was initially confused because that long road we walked down to get to the sea cliff (34th Avenue) has been shortened considerably since 1970.

The two blue spots Manuela spotted on Saturday came back this morning (November 18) and got together long enough to let the sun shine through. Unfortunately it’s our last morning in Capitola. After a leisurely breakfast at Mr. Toot's Café, we’ll pack up and head home.


While planning this trip, Manuela and I debated whether to visit Yosemite or Capitola first. We decided on the former because we knew our visit to the National Park would be active and our stay at the ocean more relaxing. It was the right choice. We did a lot of hiking and walking in Yosemite and saw many wonderful sights, but we were tired every night. We saw some interesting sights in Capitola, too, but our time was spent more relaxing - in our ocean view room, in restaurants, and in cafes. Our next holiday away will be another California road trip when Manuela's parents visit in January. They've requested a visit to one of America's National Parks, so we may make a winter visit to Yosemite. An ocean side stay will definitely be on the itinerary, too. Until then...

Where to next?

P.S. We spotted our 34th and final out-of-state license plate, Georgia, as we pulled into Elk Grove!

State license plates

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming


Posted by SChandler 10:00 Archived in USA

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