Thursday night, with a bit of trepidation, we headed down to Henry Cowell State Park to camp for two nights. Hank's park is a bit outside of Santa Cruz, in the direction of the large wildfire that started Wednesday evening and was quickly growing. Mrs Notthat called ahead and found that the park was still open and not threatened in any way, and surprisingly, was still allowing campfires.
So we packed up and headed down.
Two other families met us down at the park, but since we were the first to arrive, we set up camp and went for a short hike to an observation deck where we had this view of the smoke from the fire. While the smoke was very visible, the winds kept it from the campground.
Us on the observation deck, with Monterey Bay in the background (for those of you with REALLY good eyesight). I love my Wallace and Gromit t-shirt, and it's fun when some kid recognizes them.
The second family to arrive included Ylime (not her real name), here showing her skills at defining hair fashion, her mother Nwad, to the left, trying to explain that this is normal behavior for a teenage girl, and Ylime's sister Ainos, who you can see part of on the extreme left.
Finally the third family, Nod and Htiaf (I know, this "not their real name thing" is getting old - but it entertains me). Note how many people it took to set up Nod's tent. I'm pretty sure it would have gotten up much faster without so much "help," but it was more fun to watch it go up this way.
Here is a very good example of the "help" Nod was getting from Mrs Notthat. It's hard to see in this picture, but she is using two of the tent poles as alien antennas on her head.
After dark, Ainos got me to take this picture. She loves to try out long exposure things with the camera. This was a 10 second exposure with her jumping from one position to the next while Nod flashed her with his high-intensity flashlight.
The next day we headed to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The primary purpose of the trip was to see the free Papa Doo Run Run concert on Friday night. This picture shows the line of chairs at 10:30 AM. At 4 PM they allow those in line to storm the prime seating areas and stake out their claim. At this point, we were at the end of this line, but by 4 the line was three times this long. And the beach was 100 times as crowded.
To kill a bit of time before the rides started running, we played a round of miniature golf. Since I was the only one that faithfully watches golf on TV, I was the obvious winner. This is an indoor course that is actually a lot of fun - it includes many standard mini golf treasures plus a darkened black light stretch of holes.
I do not ride the rides, so I got to take pictures and hold purses and other treasures while the brave ones risked their lunch. This is a bizarre ride called the Double Shot which does its level best to make your lunch turn up missing. This picture is just as it is starting to shoot up several hundred feet in the air. Pure insanity.
In addition to the many rides designed to maim and torture otherwise intelligent people, there were many arcade games. In this one, you rolled a ball into holes to advance your horse to the finish line. Ainos (in pink) won both games. It turns out she had an advantage with her small hands and could reach in and grab the ball quicker than the others.
It was getting pretty warm by this time, so the log ride looked like a good idea to Nod and Ainos. The ride cruises along nice and peacefully only to end with a death plunge, which they are just starting on in this picture.
There are also bumper cars (inexplicably called the Space Race). Here Ylime and Mrs Notthat do their best to put each other in the emergency room.
Ainos really wanted to get in the water, so Htiaf took her out to ride some waves. There were a lot of people (and seaweed) on the beach by this time.
Just before the concert, we engaged in the ritual signing of the beach balls. Mrs had picked up a couple of cheap beach balls and we had the girls write obnoxious things on them.
I cannot explain some of the things that were written on the balls, and that is part of the charm. Many times you would see someone grab one of the balls and spend a few minutes trying to work out what it said, before giving up and sending it on its way. There were about ten balls going during the concert, and unlike the beach balls that infest a Dodgers game, these seem totally appropriate and fun.
You can see one of the balls in the air during the concert. By the way, Papa Doo Run Run is an extraordinary band. They specialize in Beach Boy, Jan and Dean, and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons-type music. Most of the members in the band have actually played in one or more of these bands at one time or another. They are a huge blast and perfectly fit this venue.
(One of the odder things they did was play a country song and a song from The Who - at the same time. Imagine Folsom Prison Blues with the words from Pinball Wizard - it was a bit creepy how well this perfectly worked.)
This picture shows two things. First, you can see Moe. We have been seeing him for years at the various boardwalk concerts - he uses sign language to "sing" the music to the special section set aside for the hard of hearing. He can be very entertaining to watch. He did something this concert though that we had never seen before - he talked. It was kind of like when Marcel Marceau spoke during Mel Brooks' Silent Movie - something that you just assumed could not happen.
The second thing you see in this picture is a grim reminder of the fire that was still going on. If you look hard to the right you can see one of the water drop helicopters heading back to the fire after refueling. The wind had changed by this time and it was not hard to smell the smoke.
Carrousels are boring, right? Theirs is a little different though. That wooden beam coming in from the right distributes little steel rings. As you ride past you try to snag one and then fling it at that clown face's mouth - make it into the mouth and bells and whistles go off and all the riders start cheering. That's how you make a boring old carrousel fun.
So what does a guy do on the boardwalk if he does not want to ride the rides? You eat deep fried Twinkies. Mrs Notthat had a buy one get one free coupon. Between the six of them, I would have thought they could eat one of them and I would eat the other. Only two of them were bold enough to even try a bite - I ended up eating about two-thirds of the second one. Not that I was complaining (at least, seriously).
This is a picture of the whole group of us, once the tents had been taken down and everything loaded in the cars.
The final picture shows what happened when I was dared to actually hug a tree. I have no idea how many bugs and other things managed to infest me during this stunt. But since it was just moments before we pulled out and headed for home, it was worth the discomfort.
That's it - move along...