Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Walk on the Boardwalk

Last weekend, I took my older son up to Santa Cruz. We took off Thursday afternoon after I was done with school. I left so quickly after school, that I literally beat the school buses out of the parking lot that day. There was a method to my madness. Getting out at 2:10 in the afternoon, afforded me the time to get home reasonably early, so the two of us could be on the road near 3 o'clock and thus miss most of the traffic. That worked to perfection and we were out on the Grapevine before any real traffic hit down below.

We got the Santa Cruz a little bit before 10 in the evening and both of us were tired, so we checked in and crashed. The next morning, I woke sometime around 7:30 and decided to go out on the balcony of our motel. Getting in late the night before, I was a little disoriented and wasn't sure exactly where we were in Santa Cruz, but was I in for a big surprise when I opened the door to the motel. The motel was literally only two blocks away from the Boardwalk, a popular Coney Island type amusement park right on the beach in Santa Cruz. That made our evening's entertainment easy after our tour of the campus.

Back in 1976, two friends and I took a senior trip following our graduation from high school. We explored almost all of what California had to offer back then, driving up Hwy 1, seeing Hearst Castle, Big Sur, San Francisco, the coast Redwoods, then cutting across the northern part of the state and visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park and Yosemite. We also stopped in Santa Cruz for a night since one of my friend's sister was attending UC Santa Cruz at the time. We crashed at her apartment and took a walk on the Boardwalk.

There is no entrance fee at the Boardwalk. The place prefers to charge by the ride. So many tickets would get a ride on Hurricane, or the bumper cars. The primo ride there is the Giant Dipper a beautiful wooden roller coaster which first made its appearance on the Boardwalk back in 1924. The Giant Dipper is a classic woodie twister and has a very small footprint for a roller coaster. Its overall track length is only about a half a mile and it tops out and just about 70 feet in height. It's not like other woodies around the country like Beast at Kings Island in Ohio, or Colossus in Southern California. Yet, the Giant Dipper consistently gets rated in the top ten of woodie coasters by coaster enthusiasts surveys.

I really can't remember how many times I rode the Giant Dipper back in 1976, but I would hazard a guess and say it was about half a dozen times. It was a great coaster from start to finish. I hoped that it would be as good as I remembered it. My son and I worked our way up to it by riding Hurricane, a smallish metal roller coaster right near the entrance to the Boardwalk. It was very jerky and not much for good dips. After getting off that one, we headed over to the Giant Dipper.

Getting in line, we waited patiently as the cars kept flying over the station, shaking it as it sped around and over it. We listened to the screams of the visitors as they rode the ride. It's all part of the ride as the excitement built. Then it was our turn and we got a nice bonus. 6 people were ahead of us and for some reason, they all wanted to go to the front of the train. Silly riders. The back is best and we had the prime seats for this ride, and what a ride it was. Whipped around in a dark tunnel and then up the lift hill we rose. Then it was over the first hill and it was non stop action as we plummeted and twisted along our half mile course. It was as good as I'd remembered it.

The rest of the Boardwalk was also as I remembered it, expensive fattening food and cheap carnival type rides, most of which spin you around in circles until you want to throw up. Those are not my cup of tea at all, but that one ride was worth every penny we spent to ride it. I kept pointing out to my son different things that I could remember from 33 years previously. I showed him the display of the old boards that used to be THE Boardwalk. Renovated in the mid 1980s, it's now just cement, probably easier to maintain and keep clean, but not really a boardwalk any more.

Still, it seemed to be doing quite a business for most of the day. I'd been down earlier to find a cache attached under the Boardwalk and it was fairly crowded for a weekday, albeit Friday during what might have been spring break for many. The deep friend Twinkies and deep fried cheesecake were tempting, but my son kept me in line and refused to allow me to indulge. It was nice to see he was looking out for my welfare. I probably wouldn't have anyway, but it was fun messing with him nonetheless.

Since my son has decided that he's going to attend Santa Cruz, I probably will have ample opportunities to enjoy the Boardwalk again and again in the future. I doubt if I'll ride the Hurricane again, but the $4.50 I spent to ride the Giant Dipper, will be spent again and probably again. And even though the surface is cement now, I couldn't help but hum a tune by the Drifters as I took a last walk on the Boardwalk.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Under the Boardwalk - by little_bear_blue and Big Green

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