The view from our dinner table

Suisun Bay and mountains

Hockey Playoffs & Santa Cruz


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Norcal Hockey Playoffs          Visiting an Old Friend in Santa Cruz


NORCAL Hockey Playoffs: At the end of March I took another one of my multi-purpose trips - first to Vacaville for my grandson's NORCAL hockey league playoffs, then to Santa Cruz to visit an old friend.

Although I usually prefer sunny weather for my trips, most of the activities this time would be indoors, and with the dry winter we've had, no one was complaining about the fact that it was expected to rain much of the time over the four days. It did rain, not quite as much as predicted, but a fair amount.

My daughter Teri wanted to work a full day, so it was decided that I would pick up Mikie and drive him there on time, and she would drive up later. Mikie left school at noon, and I met him at their house at 12:30. From here we drove north on the familiar State Highway 99.

Mikie likes to eat at least three hours before the game, so we try to stop for something that is quick and not too heavy, such as submarine sandwiches. Having been disappointed on our trip two weeks ago when a map program led us to a vacant field in Turlock, I looked up Quizno's on their official web site and found the address before we left home. I've been testing the Google Maps app on my new cell phone, and it led us right to a real Quizno's, where we had a quick lunch before continuing north on Highway 99.

The map program thought I should continue on 99 to Sacramento, then go down I-80, which is a few minutes faster and a few miles longer. However, we turned east on State 12 at Lodi, which is a more scenic road that goes through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and over a couple of suspension bridges.

After several attempts to direct me north, the program finally accepted my plan, and led us through Lodi, on to Rio Vista, and into Vacaville, where we checked in to the Holiday Inn, and had an hour or so before we had to leave for the rink.

It has been an up and down year for the Fresno Jr. Monsters Midget 16 and Under team, with a five-game losing streak in January and February that doomed them to fourth place. They finished with a league record of four wins, six losses and two ties. The top four teams in the league make the playoffs, and all meet each other once in a round robin tournament. With two points for a win and one for a tie, there are six points available, and the two teams with the most meet in the championship game on Sunday afternoon of playoff weekend.

After dropping MIkie off in front of Vacaville Ice Center, I found a parking place, then walked around the area, since I had missed my morning walk. When I returned to the parking lot, Teri was just arriving, so we went in and got ready for the first game against Capitol Thunder, the number one team in the league.

The Monsters did not play very well, and took a lot of penalties, eight in the first period, although with amateur referees, not all were legitimate. They ended up on the wrong end of a 6-0 score. After the game Mikie wanted to eat at Chipotle. Teri entered the address in her phone, but we could not find it where the program said it was. Mikie said a teammate had told him it was on the other side of the freeway, but we saw a Nation's, so we decided to go there. If you are in the Bay Area, look for one of these; they have excellent hamburgers.

The game the next day was not until 7:30 p.m., so we had the entire day to do whatever, but it was raining hard when we woke up, and continued into the early afternoon. We tried again to find Chipotle, with no success, but Teri had seen a Freebirds World Burrito, a similar restaurant, near the hotel. We went there, and brought our food back to the hotel rooms. None of us had eaten there before, but Teri had heard good things about it. We agreed that it was at least as good as Chipotle, with the added plus that FWB offered their burrito wrap in three sizes.

We filled our time each in our own way, Teri doing homework for an on-line class she is taking, Mikie hanging out with teammates, and me reading and going out for a walk. Just as I came back from walking, Teri and Mikie were coming out of the hotel, so she could drop him off at the rink and return. When she came back, she announced that she had finally found the Chipotle, which was about a half mile past the spot the map program placed it, but on the street indicated.

The next game turned out in our favor, as the boys played much better against the home town Vacaville Jets. The 4-2 win gave them two points, and hopes of getting into the final. To accomplish that they would have to defeat the Santa Clara Blackhawks the next day. Santa Clara had defeated the Jets the first day, and lost to the Thunder by one goal Saturday, putting them in a tie with us for points.

With a 10:45 a.m. start, we checked out of the hotel and left for the rink about 9:30. Santa Clara opened the scoring early in the first period, but the Monsters tied it half way through. The Blackhawks took the lead again 13 seconds later, and made it 3-1 at the start of the second. Mikie cut the deficit to one with a goal on a nice pass from "Doc" Dwyer, but the Blackhawks answered with less than four minutes left in the period.

When the Hawks took a 5-2 lead in the middle of the third period it looked dark for the Monsters, but they turned up the intensity and played some of their best hockey of the season, making it 5-3 twelve seconds later. They proceeded to put in two more, scoring three goals in just over two minutes to tie. Both teams played hard for the final six minutes of the game, trying for the win, but it ended in a tie.

This gave both teams three points in the standings, so at this point a series of tie-breakers came into play to determine who would take second place and go to the championship. The final tie-breaker was goal differential (goals scored vs. goals allowed), and here Fresno's poor start to the tournament cost them, with the Blackhawks prevailing with a goal differential two better than the Monsters.

Overall it was a fairly good season, with 9-10-4 overall record, not including their third place finish at the tournament in Colorado Springs, and a lot of fun and travel with friends and family.

After the game we made our way to the closest Red Robin (probably Mikie's favorite restaurant) for a well deserved late lunch. Teri and Mikie then headed back toward Highway 12 and home, while I set off to visit a friend in Santa Cruz.


Visiting an Old Friend in Santa Cruz: Some background: In 1945, when I was six years old and in the first grade, a short time after the school term had started and a little while after the school day had begun, a woman walked into our one-room school with a girl and boy. Although new kids in the school were always interesting, I had no way of knowing at the time that this family would become our closest friends during our growing up years.

The Ballard family consisted of Glenn and Helen, their son Jim, three years older than I, and daughter Carol, four years older. Jim and I played together as young boys, our families went fishing and picnicking together, the fathers worked together, and our families helped start the Bootjack Stompers Square Dance Club, which is still going 65 years later.

All the Ballards except Carol are gone now. I have seen Carol occasionally at Mariposa high school alumni events, but this would be my first visit to her home in Santa Cruz, where she has lived for around 50 years. We had actually planned this visit for early in the year, but her husband Bob became ill, requiring a number of emergency room visits and constant care and observation. He eventually had a procedure to open a blockage, and at age 89 was now well enough to work in the yard and travel.

My journey from Vacaville took me west on I-80 for a few miles, then south on I-680. This is one of the more scenic Bay Area highways, going through green hills for some distance before entering the city east of the Oakland hills. Before that point I stopped at a vista point which overlooks Suisun Bay, right at the border of Benicia, which, as we all know, was California's first capital city.

From this point the highway crosses the Carquinez Strait and gets into an area that is more urban - Martinez, San Ramon, Danville, Dublin, and a number of other cities one after another, leading into San Jose. Here I had to make a short drive on surface streets, then on to I-880, which flows into State 17, the highway that runs over the Santa Cruz mountains starting at Los Gatos.

State 17 is a divided 4-lane highway, but it is narrow and winding, and the speed limit is 50 MPH or less, although cars constantly passed me going much faster. I drove it once at night, and hope to never do that again. I stopped at a turnout to take some pictures, and a short distance from the roadway, the terrain is deep, dark redwood forest.

My first destination was Capitola, a small village adjacent to Santa Cruz, where Soquel Creek runs into Monterey Bay and forms Soquel Cove. I arrived at the Capitola Venetian Hotel, right on the water, and after getting checked in and unpacked, It was early enough that I had time to go out on the Capitola Wharf, right next to the hotel. I enjoyed the ocean and cliff views and took some photos.

The Venetian is a historic hotel, opened as the Venetian Court condominiums in the early 1920s. The motel portion has been in continuous operation since 1926 and is recognized as one of the nation's oldest to use the word that was a shortened version of "motor hotel." It's on the National Register of Historic Places. My room was more of a suite, with a nice living room, a kitchen complete with stove and full-size refrigerator, a bedroom and bathroom.

Since I had eaten a big meal around 2 p.m., I just wanted a snack in the evening, so I walked to the nearby Village Grill & Creamery and got some ice cream, which I took back to the hotel to eat.

I had talked with Carol on the phone Sunday afternoon, and she wanted to come to the motel Monday morning and take me out to breakfast. I met her out front, she found a parking place, and we walked to the Esplanade, the street where I had got ice cream, a location with a number of restaurants, and had breakfast at a window table with views of the bay and the wharf.

We then took our separate cars to her house, less than two miles away. It is a large house, on the bluff right above the ocean, with an extensive flower garden, Carol's passion. I spent some time getting acquainted with Bob, whom I had never met, while Carol started pulling old family photos out of a chest, and we spent the next hour or so going through them. This was a major, pre-planned part of my visit, since I hoped to find photos of our families' activities together. In my own collection, mostly photos from my mother, there were only two of a picnic we went on long ago.

There weren't any in Carol's collection, but there were a lot of her parents and grandparents going back to some childhood photos of grandparents. Discussing the photos, I learned a lot I didn't know about her family, and we picked out about 20 photos to scan, including one of Jim and Carol in 1941.

During my visit it began raining, but since our planned activities were indoors, we just enjoyed the view of the ocean and the clouds. Carol fixed dinner, and while we were eating we were treated to a fantastic double rainbow above the century plants at the edge of the cliff and the ocean beyond.

The next morning Carol picked me up at the hotel to take me on a tour of the area. She wanted to show me some spectacular cliffs in the nearby mountains, but as it turned out, we never found them. She had not been there for quite a few years, so we didn't find the right road. However, we did have a nice tour through spectacular mountain country with redwoods and other scenic beauty via Mountain View Road, old Soquel-San Jose Road and Summit Road, which led us out to Highway 17 and back to Capitola.

Here we said our goodbyes, and I checked out and started for home. My planned route took me south on State Highway 1 to Watsonville, where I planned to turn east on Highway 152. From State 99 to Gilroy, 152 is a high speed road, but from Watsonville to Gilroy it goes over Hecker Pass, through redwood country, and is narrow, winding and very scenic.

My GPS wanted me to take State 129, a slightly longer but quicker route that follows the Pajaro River to US 101 a few miles south of Gilroy. That would be the easy way, but as Ranger Doug says, "it wouldn't be the cowboy way." Therefore I took the 152 off ramp at Watsonville and tried to follow it through town. Usually when you change your route, the GPS adapts and starts giving directions for the new route, but it kept trying to direct me to 129, and as in many small cities, the signs for 152 were inadequate. I finally stopped and re-programmed the correct route, but by this time I was in the back streets of town, and spent at least 15 minutes getting back on track.

The road over the mountains was delightful as expected, with rain quite a bit of the way, but I managed to get a couple of good photos. I stopped at Denny's in Gilroy for lunch, then proceeded on over Pacheco Pass through Los Banos, east to  Highway 99, and south to home without further incident, with a total 494 miles added to my odometer..

--Dick Estel, April 2014


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 


View from vista point off I-680

Suisun Bay and mountains Ships on Suisun Bay
View from vista point off I-680 Suisun Bay and mountains Ships on Suisun Bay
Redwoods along Highway 17 Storm clouds over the redwoods My "home" at the Venetian
Redwoods along Highway 17 Storm clouds over the redwoods My "home" at the Venetian
My living room at the Venetian... ...and the kitchen The historic Venetian Hotel
My living room at the Venetian... ...and the kitchen The historic Venetian Hotel
The Capitola Wharf View of town from wharf The Village Grill and Creamery
The Capitola Wharf View of town from wharf The Village Grill and Creamery
Panoramic view of Capitola
Panoramic view of Capitola
Carol and Bob's back yard The view from our dinner table Rainbow over the cliff
Carol and Bob's back yard The view from our dinner table Rainbow over the cliff
Railroad bridge over Soquel Creek Rain forest along Hecker Pass (Highway152) A misty view in the ran at Hecker Pass
Railroad bridge over Soquel Creek Rain forest along Hecker Pass (Highway152) A misty view in the ran at Hecker Pass
Carol and Jim in 1931... ...and in 2000 Carol and Bob Arriola
Carol and Jim in 1941... ...and in 2000 Carol and Bob Arriola
Related Links
NORCAL Hockey Results Fresno vs. Santa Clara Score Sheet Fresno Jr. Monsters Midget 16-U A Team
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Santa Cruz Vacaville
Suisun Bay Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet Benicia
Carquinez Strait State Highway 17 Capitola Venetian Hotel
The historic Venetian Hotel

The Capitola Wharf

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