October 20, 2015 – Sun, 75 degrees
Miles Today: 48
Miles to Date: 8,724
States to Date: 25
The ride from San Jose to Santa Cruz was both beautiful and shorter than I anticipated. That’s a winning combination. After a good breakfast with my super-fun warmshowers host family Meg, Dean, Dexter and Kylie, I climbed Los Gatos Canyon and around Jefferson Reservoir. I don’t even bother to take photos of near empty California reservoirs anymore; there’s no visual or news value in that. I had been warned about gravel and dirt sections, and so was prepared for a bit of slow going, but once on Old Santa Cruz Highway the pavement was super fine and the traffic was – what traffic? Cars here are stuck to their freeways, which are bumper-to-bumper until ten in the morning. My descent was speedy but not too steep. I arrived in Soquel by eleven and in Santa Cruz before noon.
Santa Cruz is a tricky place to define. Part honkytonk, part hippie-funk, part high-end retail. A place where Rocky Horror Picture Show and Steve Jobs – the Movie play at the same theater.
After lunch along the dappled light of quant Main Street I decided to visit UC Santa Cruz. I’ve known several people who went to school there, and the campus plan was much discussed when I studied architecture forty years ago.
Today, the fifty-year-old campus epitomizes both the good and the bad about 1960’s architecture and planning. For me, the problems outweigh the attributes. First, UCSC is miles from town. What is the point of being so far away? It’s a gas guzzling hassle to get there. Once on campus, immense fields separate students from any facsimile of real life, which was the point at the time but seems exclusive today.
When you finally get there, it’s all long slung, asymmetrical buildings that are afraid to make a statement. The students reflect the detached nature of the place. While Berkeley and Stanford are crowded with Chinese and Indian students, the folks here are overwhelmingly white. To be sure, Berkeley and Stanford are too intense for their student’s wellness, but UCSC appears extreme in the opposite direction.
Not everyone agreed with me when I met my couchsurfing host Scott and a bunch of his friends at Seabright Brewery for Neighborhood Night – nine-dollar pitchers and three-dollar tacos on Tuesday night. A bunch of us clustered around a few tables, some UCSC graduates, a few current graduate students, and several others who landed in Santa Cruz and decided to stay. It’s tough to make a living wage in this pricey town, but people bunk together and make a go of it because the engaging people, perfect climate and easy attitudes are worth a few inconveniences.