Spring break

California uber alles

California uber alles

Last week, for our kids’ spring break, we headed to Monterey and Santa Cruz to visit the Aquarium and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. You don’t have to go too far south to get to better weather in the Bay Area. Probably we could have seen the sun just by heading east past the fog line, but our kids wanted to try salt water taffy. So why not south?

Dennis the Menace Park

Dennis the Menace Park

Monterey is a weird place, with a nice aquarium and beautiful scenery and not that much else.  When our kids tired of sea otters and the madding crowds, we headed to a playground we’d spotted on the way into town. It turned out to be Dennis the Menace Park, a truly unbelievable playground with everything up to and including a hedge maze.

Grocery store parking: giant beach cruisers

Grocery store parking: giant beach cruisers

From there we headed up to Santa Cruz. California is full of college towns like Santa Cruz, and virtually all of them are lovely, bike-friendly, and flat. Last year we visited Davis, which has the largest share of bike commuters of anyplace I have ever been in the US, and San Diego, which despite its serious car culture has many people hauling surfboards on bikes. Santa Cruz is also a beach town with lots of surfers, and I hadn’t seen so many beach cruisers since San Diego. Every time we visit, I want to move to these college towns, with their quiet streets filled with single-speed bicycles moving at a stately pace. It all feels so friendly and easy-going. Sure, there are drivers who go too fast in these places too, but despite the vast expanses of parking lots, I didn’t feel like they were cities owned by cars.

Santa Cruz beach boardwalk

Santa Cruz beach boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk thrilled our kids, even though our daughter is still too little to go on any of the terrifying rides she wanted to try. Our son, who is now tall enough, remains uninterested in rides with names like “Tornado” so they both ended up trying every kiddie attraction. And while we were there, we ran into friends from Rosa Parks, who were visiting for the day, which was awesome.

The bike racks at the boardwalk were packed.

The bike racks at the boardwalk were packed.

Having come from San Francisco, we were traveling by City CarShare, but it was clear that many locals skipped the expensive car parking and came by bike. There is a railway converted to a multi-use path running along the beach, and the bike racks near the entrances were packed. Even the guys working at the car parking lots rode around on beach cruisers. Our kids loved the beach and were awed by all the ape-hanger handlebars on the bikes we saw. They asked if we could move to Santa Cruz. It’s a good thing we love the city too, fog and hills and traffic and all.

We’re not yet at the point where we’re ready to try bike touring with our kids, but it’s getting closer. When Matt went with our son to Tahoe to try snowboarding earlier in the week, they took the bus rather than deal with the nightmare of driving through ski traffic. Our kids love the train, especially the part where they get to run around. And our son has, unfortunately, developed a bad case of motion sickness that left him violently ill on the drive down and mostly ill on the drive back—it’s not a problem on a bus, but it is in a car. So while I’m okay with driving out of town now and again, having now tried other ways to travel, I’m finding I like them better. Maybe it’s time to figure out where the train (plus a couple of bikes) could take us.


Filed under travel

4 responses to “Spring break

  1. RD Frazier

    Our son is a “1st year” (i.e., Freshman) at UC Davis and the campus is so large that he often has to bike between classes. We live in Walnut Creek so the drive there is under an hour but we prefer to take the train from Martinez to Davis when we visit. It is more relaxing and we can enjoy a glass of wine in the refreshment car on the way back.

  2. What’s up with the car sickness among bikey families? I’m not so unscientific to assert cause and effect, but… are we choosing bikes because of motion sickness in the family or could our normal mode being slower have an impact on how we experience a faster mode? Probably not the latter, what with the bus and train not being a problem, but I’m wondering if you’ve heard of any studies?

    • I don’t know of any studies of biking families in particular, but the story of motion sickness seems to be the conflict between your vision telling you you’re not moving (because the objects immediately around you and inside the car are not moving relative to your body) and your inner ear telling you that you are moving. General advice to resolve this conflict in cars involves sitting in the front seat and looking out the window so that what you see matches what you feel. That’s obviously not an option for most kids.

      I suspect like anything else you can train yourself to get used to it and vice versa. Our son used to get sort of car sick and now he gets really car sick. Our daughter used to never get car sick and now she frequently gets car sick. And it’s probably worse because we only rent cars for longer trips. There is some evidence that motion sickness can be less of an issue on trains because there isn’t as much jarring motion–no bumps because they’re on rails–and more of an issue on boats which tend to buck and sway. Local buses are probably worse than cars but we almost never ride those, so I have no idea whether they’d make our son sick. The long distance buses we sometimes ride are probably better because they also offer a smoother ride. That’s the best I’ve got though.

  3. Obligatory 2nd comment so that I can check the box to be notified of follow-up comments.

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