At the beginning of March, it was finally time to say good-bye to San Francisco – but luckily not to California. For one more week we travelled through California, Arizona, Nevada und also a very small part of Utah. This may sound a little bit crazy compared to the time we had for our road trip, but in the US we experienced those distances completely different from what we are used to in Europe.
We started our journey on Highway 1, the State Scenic Highway, along California’s amazing coast. Our first stop was Santa Cruz, the “Surf City” on the northern edge of Monterey Bay. Santa Cruz is well known for its moderate climate, the beautiful nature, its alternative community lifestyle and the Beach Boardwalk – an oceanfront amusement park. The Boardwalk opened in 1907 and has been operating since then. Two of the rides are even Historic Landmarks: The 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster (best-known wooden coasters in the world) and the Looff Carousel. Honestly, I was more impressed by the “Sky Glider”, a chairlift to glide far above the Boardwalk with an incredible view.
Not far from the Boardwalk you can find the “Steamer Lane” – Santa Cruz’s famous surfing location. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is also housed there in a lighthouse. It was at Steamer Lane where the modern surfing wetsuit was mainly developed by Jack O’Neill. Therefore, Santa Cruz is also home of O’Neill Wetsuits and Santa Cruz Surfboards.
After watching the spectacular waves and its surfers, we continued our trip southwards to Monterey. The town served as California’s capital under Spanish, Mexican and American flags, and is also know for its early 1900s sardine industry. Many original sites survived until now including Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. Of course, we had to visit both – Fisherman’s Wharf for the sea lions, and Cannery Row because of its literary relevance.
Fisherman’s Wharf is an historic wharf and was used as an active wholesale fish market until the 1960s. Since then, the wharf reoriented its business focus towards tourism and you can now find many restaurants and sweet shops there. Like at San Francisco’s Pier 39, you can also find a sea lion colony there. Besides, you could also find sea otters, harbor seals, bat rays, pelicans and dolphins near Monterey.
But in Monterey I was looking for something different – I wanted to follow John Steinbeck’s footsteps. He immortalized Monterey in his novels “Cannery Row”, “Sweet Thursday”, “Tortilla Flat” and “East of Eden”. The first two novels were also the basis for the movie “Cannery Row” starring Nick Nolte in 1982.
Today, only a few privately owned and operated fishing companies still exist. The fishing industry collapsed in the mid 1950s due to a combination of several factors like oceanic conditions and over-fishing. Before the collapse, the fishery in Monterey was one of the most productive in the world. Now, the former cannery buildings contain numerous establishments and have become a tourist attractions. Ironically, the Monterey Bay Aquarium was build at the edge of the Cannery Road in 1984.