Thursday, May 23, 2024

a train to Santa Cruz

I've written before about Roaring Camp, which runs narrow-gauge trains with a vintage steam locomotive on excursion runs up a mountain in the hill country above Santa Cruz. But they also run a beach train from their station down to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. I'd never taken that, but I decided it was time to try. On summer weekends they make two runs a day - the trip takes about an hour in each direction. If you come back on the same run you went out on, there's a 45-minute layover, which isn't very long; but if you go on the first run and come back on the second, you have five hours from 11 AM to 4 PM, which is long enough to have a leisurely lunch and then hang around.

So that's what I did last Saturday, before taking my car over to Aptos and attending that bassoon concert where I won the audience quiz.

The train runs through some thick redwood forests and halfway up along the side of some vertical cliffs, before descending down into Santa Cruz where it passes through an industrial district and then settles along running down the middle of a street. I'd driven that street and seen the train tracks, but I hadn't seen a train along them before. The feeling was not totally unlike that scene in Inception. The train then makes a left turn and runs - slowly, so that pedestrians can get out of the way - along the boardwalk, puffing to a halt alongside the big century-old roller coaster ride.

Physically getting off the train without the ramp they have back at the station was a little awkward (there's steps, but they're difficult), but once off, I walked back along the boardwalk, past the roller coaster and the bumper car ride and the video game parlors - I didn't even know they still had those - way over to the other end where the wharf is, which is where the good restaurants in the area are.

Adequately lunched, I sat on a bench on the wharf, reading and looking out at the beach and ocean, and about 3 began wandering slowly back towards where the train would be. I spent some time gazing at a flock of beach volleyball courts, most of which were occupied by games of two people (both sexes well represented) per side. It occurred to me, first, that two per side isn't really enough people to play an effective game of volleyball; second, that clearly the reason for playing volleyball on a beach is to facilitate making a saving hit while diving head-first into the ground. I used to play volleyball occasionally - it was the only team ball sport I was ever the slightest bit good at - but never on a beach, only on asphalt. Clearly I was missing something.

Train in the other direction, then hobbled back to my car and was off.

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