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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
first destination was Capitola, a small village adjacent to Santa
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
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
room, a kitchen complete with stove and full-size
refrigerator, a bedroom and bathroom.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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..
Estel, April 2014