Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the Boardwalk

It really wasn't the boardwalk, but last Monday I actually went out on a pier to get a virtual cache and get a picture taken for a webcam cache. The virtual was in the middle of the pier near one of the entrances to the amusement park built on the pier. It was a fairly easy virtual because I only had to answer a couple of questions to gain credit for the find. The webcam was a little more difficult. I had a cacher prepped for the picture, but I originally thought I was going to be there before noon, but I was there in the morning when this cacher wasn't available, so I called my son and walked him through the steps. As it turned out, the webcam wasn't broadcasting pictures, so I had to resort to having my picture taken at the right spot to get credit. I was expecting this to happen, since the webcam had been out since Saturday evening. When I got home to log the cache, the webcam was back up and operational. Doesn't that always seem to happen?

The way everything was laid out on the pier, it gave much the same feel of an old fashioned boardwalk, complete with carnival barkers, games of chance and a couple of thrill rides, including a giant Ferris wheel and a rather tame looking rollercoaster. I knew this was going to be there when I came out and tried to get the Tadpole to come along for the ride, but he wasn't interested, so I came alone. Hopefully, he'll come next time I come out this way. I think he would have had a good time.

It's been years since I've been on a pier of any kind. I can remember as a child in the mid 1960s, my parents would take us down to Newport Beach frequently where we'd walk out on the pier and get out over the ocean. I would love to look into the buckets of the fishermen on the pier to see what they'd caught that day. There were other fishermen who'd been out in the ocean who would bring their small boats right up onto the beach and sell their fish directly from their boats. Occasionally, my father would bust out his wallet and we'd have very fresh fish, usually halibut, sometimes swordfish for dinner that evening.

The last pier I was on, was more of a boat dock and it was located on Catalina Island, 24 miles away from Los Angeles. For a couple of years, we had a science camp field trip for our 8th graders where we'd take them over to Catalina Island, away from the touristy places near Avalon and teach them different things about the ocean that you couldn't do in the classroom. The hands on labs with plenty of ocean critters was, for many of my students, the first time they'd encountered many of the creatures in the Pacific Ocean. While on the Santa Monica Pier on Monday, the air was so clear, I could see all the way to Catalina, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to do here, because of ocean clouds (called the marine layer here) that block the view, but also because of the smog the area generates.

The last actual boardwalk I've been on, in fact the only boardwalk I've been on, would be the Santa Cruz boardwalk. I was up in Santa Cruz with a couple of buddies of mine right after we'd graduated from high school. This was our senior trip and we made the most of it, camping in different spots along the coast of California. My friend's sister was attending UC Santa Cruz and so when we got up there, we crashed at her apartment. That evening, we went down to the boardwalk and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the place. One of the highlights of the boardwalk was the Giant Dipper, a large wooden rollercoaster that consistently rates in the top ten of great woodie rides by coaster enthusiasts. I couldn't tell you how many times we rode it that evening, but it definitely makes my top 10 list as well.

The Santa Monica Pier, which I visited this weekend was a much smaller version of the Santa Cruz boardwalk. The Ferris wheel was large, but most of the other rides were scaled down versions of rides that I've seen before. As noted above, the rollercoaster appeared to be quite tame, though I didn't ride it. Had the Tadpole been along, I'm pretty sure we'd have ridden it, but with a couple of helixes and one and a half small drops, I don't think that one will make anyone's major list.

The atmosphere of the place is what I enjoyed. I could constantly hear the waves crash on the beach as I walked around the pier taking in the sights and getting plenty of pictures. The screams of kids as they rode the rides told of their enjoyment, or terror in some cases, of the different rides there. The park was very colorful and noisy, just what I believe one would expect of this kind of amusement park. And yet, there was a quiet side of the pier as well.

The pier extended out quite a ways into the Pacific Ocean and the amusement park is situated close to the entrance to the pier. There is a good portion of the pier that extends beyond the park. There's where the fishermen are, plying their craft. It was a different kind of attitude there. There wasn't any kind of bustle. Fishermen march to their own drummer I suspect and they have this inner calm. I don't have that kind of patience to be a fisherman. Throw that hook in and a fish better start playing with the bait pretty quickly, or I'm going to be bored.

As you can probably guess, I'm more attracted to the glitz of the park as opposed to the other extreme also found on the pier. And yet, I could relate to these people, because I know that I can sit for hours doing things that I enjoy doing, like reading a book, or contemplating a set of photographs. I used to do needlepoint and cross stitching for enjoyment, but can't do that anymore, because a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome gets in the way. So I can understand the appeal of fishing, but it's just not for me.

While I was walking along the end of the pier, I noticed a couple of people pulling in their lines. They appeared to have snagged each other's lines and were trying to get them untangled. As they brought the lines up, I head one gentlemen state, "Man, that was a big sea bass that got away!" Now, I've grown up believing the myth that fishermen tell tall tales and the stories get taller by the day, and yet I still kept wondering to myself how big that fish was. I wished I'd been there a couple of minutes earlier, so I could have seen the size of the fish for myself. I wonder how big that fish has become in the story now that it's been a couple of days?

Pictures were taken at or near the following caches:
Santa Monica Pier - by GeoCraig
Don't Get Sucked In !! - by Splashman

Profile for Webfoot


Steve Natoli said...

Terrific pictures here.

Webfoot said...

Thanks Steve. The setting helped tremendously.

P.J. said...

Looks and sounds like an excellent place to go -- not just for caching (though the webcam and virtual would really interest me). I love places like that for photography. Endless possibilities.

A \'lil HooHaa

chaosmanor said...

I'm behind on some of my comments to this blog, but I wanted to comment on this particular post, as it stirs up some interesting thoughts and emotions. I'm not really an ocean person; that's Sharon's bag. She's the one with the B.S. in Zoology; she's the one who wanted to study sharks when she graduated. It didn't work out, but she's never lost her fascination with the ocean. For me, the sea is mysterious and dangerous, and while I can stare at it for long stretches of time, I don't have any great interest in it for its own sake. Which is not to say that I didn't avidly watch every Jacques Cousteau special when I was young :-) And Sharon has manage to inculcate at least a little of her enthusiasm of on me. When we were much younger, we would occasionally go to a tide pool area, and I would basically humor her, letting her wander at will while I followed along at a much slower pace, often stopping just to watch the waves. If she called me over to see some denizen or other, I would make the appropriate comments, but I think she knew that I was doing it because she was jazzed, and I was happy to see her happy. But as time passed, and the girls were born and grew up, and Sharon would teach them about the ocean on our trips, I developed a small appreciation for, and even knowledge about, the ocean. When we go to tide pools now, I'm an active participant, not just a driver and bag holder. And she reciprocates; on hikes, she actively looks for interesting flowers, and her knowledge of names has increased. I guess that's the idea ;-)

All that aside, I have to admit that I love walking on piers. Sharon and I have been on the Santa Monica pier several times over the years, and we go out on Stearn's Wharf in Santa Barbara every chance we get; it has a great little salt water taffy shop that Sharon *must* visit :-) We spent a lazy couple of hours on the pier at San Luis Bay, near Avila Beach, a year ago December; the sea lions were a trip! I don't know what it is; maybe it's the fact that I can get reasonably close to that reminder of the primordial cauldron from which all Life sprang, without having to negotiate any of the stuff within. I can handle snakes and spiders and scorpions, because I can see them. I'm not so casual about the ocean's critters, which I generally can't. Except for those tide pools, of course :-)

I found this comment of yours to be particularly interesting: "Fishermen march to their own drummer I suspect and they have this inner calm. I don't have that kind of patience to be a fisherman. Throw that hook in and a fish better start playing with the bait pretty quickly, or I'm going to be bored." I'm hardly a patient person, but I do enjoy fishing. Sometimes, the best day fishing is when you drop the line in the water, sit back, let the sounds of the water seep into your being, then you wake up a few hours later, reel in your line and head for home, refreshed in mind and body :-) If a fish happens to be on the hook, Bonus! Of course, you don't *have* to put a hook on the line to get the effect ;-)

BTW: I don't think you ever mentioned that you used to do needlepoint. I've done needlepoint for many years, although I've really slacked over over the past few, as other interests have taken over. I always felt that if Rosey Grier could do needlepoint, no one could look at me weirdly for doing it.