I’m just back from a trip to visit Silicon Valley VR Expo (SVVR) in San Jose and the Computer History Museum (CHM) in Mountain View. Both excursions were interesting adventures in their own right (see links for details), but while I was in that area, I kept seeing really distracting pictures of Santa Cruz like this one.
It turned out that it was only an hour long $7 bus ride away from San Jose, so I just couldn’t resist a detour to go see the place for myself.
Santa Cruz was every bit as much of a quintessential beach town as it looked like in all of those pictures, and so I spent a couple of wonderful days there. In addition to the fantastic 70-degree weather, there were beautiful flowers and decor everywhere.
The Santa Cruz Wharf (Wikipedia) is the longest on the West Coast, and it is so packed with nice restaurants, it feels a lot like walking along Boston’s Newbury Street. The views from the Wharf weren’t bad either.
I started my morning watching volleyball over brunch on the Boardwalk.
There appeared to be a nice place to walk on the opposite side of the Wharf from the Boardwalk, so I decided to take a stroll. That turned out to be called the West Cliff Trail, and it was full of surprises! The further I got from the Wharf, the more I noticed a whole lot of surfing going on.
I didn’t find out until after that long walk that Santa Cruz is actually known as the best surfing town in America (according to Surfer Magazine). About a mile out along the path, there is a famous statue of a surfer called the To Honor Surfing Monument, and a bit further out, there is even a whole Surfing Museum.
It was only on the way back that I noticed this tribute to the famous O’Neill’s Surf Shop next to the Wharf at the entrance to the West Cliff Trail.
Each time that I left my hotel, I had to walk over a bridge to cross the San Lorenzo River, and at first I just noticed that it had a nice view.
Each time I crossed the bridge, I became more aware of intricate mosaics that decorated all four sides of each lamp post along the bridge. My last evening in Santa Cruz, I finally took a closer look. Each mosaic was hand crafted and unique, and there were around 25 lamp posts with four murals, so there had to be nearly 100 unique murals!
Sure enough, a little internet searching showed that there was an interesting story behind that bridge. It was called the Soquel Avenue Bridge, and it started out it’s life as a famous covered bridge that had then been rebuilt a few times over the years.
Then back in 2012, a teacher named Kathleen Crocetti ran a Kickstarter campaign so that 124 Mission Hill Middle School students could create 93 mosaic tiles representing agricultural products of Santa Cruz County. The images include commercialized products (berries, mushrooms, lettuce) as well as unusual, small-scale, local farm products (ostriches, avocados, and macadamia nuts). Here is her Kickstarter video.
There is more about the campaign and mosaics in these articles.
Soquel Avenue Bridge Art – Santa Cruz – LocalWiki
Student Mosaics Bring Colorful Crops to the Soquel Avenue Bridge (Brad Kava, Patch Staff)
How cool is that! It isn’t just an explanation about mosaics — it’s a statement about how the beauty I saw all over Santa Cruz was no accident. It’s that way because some very wise, dedicated people have worked to make it that way.
Bravo to them for making Santa Cruz a wonderful place to visit and live!