The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Monday, January 06, 2003


"Your coffee is in the brew station under the picture of a cat"

Many people overestimate the balminess of Northern California weather. It is only Southern California that has a beach-in-February climate. Northern California is wet and chilly from November through April. Typical weather is a high in the 50's and a low in the 40's, with precipitation about a third of the time. We have had a lot of rain recently, so it was a pleasure to have dry conditions and higher than normal temperatures last week. Yesterday my wife and I drove down the coast to Santa Cruz.

The scenery was spectacular. It was abnormally warm for the coast, resulting in a hazy sheen over the water. I have never seen such a heavy surf; waves crashed on the beach and the water was white with foam. We drove by fields of yellow flowers.

We got to Santa Cruz and parked near West Cliff Drive. West Cliff Drive is my favorite street in the world; it is several miles of road on a cliff 25 feet above the shore. On the coast side is a paved pathway, some overlook points, and staircases down to small isolated beaches. On the other side are houses built to take advantage of the view; most have fronts which are mostly windows, and little balconies on the second floor.

We walked along West Cliff, part of a stream of walkers, bikers, roller bladers, and kids on scooters. The temperature was in the low 60's; it was comfortable walking in jeans and a sweatshirt. We looked down the cliff to see the beachgoers. There was a child of about five who had a boogie-board; he was determined to use it like a surfboard, and kept climbing on top of it and falling off. There was a white dog who tried to join his master on a surfboard. There was a black dog happily running around with other dogs, despite the fact that he was missing a front leg. (Obligatory Religion of Peace quote: 'Therefore, if the Muslim is forced to have a dog to protect his home or his property, he should be careful not to choose the black dog. And that is due to the statement of the Prophet, "The black dog is Shaytaan"')

And there were the surfers, hundreds of them in the shallow water offshore. Every now and then we would catch sight of one riding a wave for thirty seconds or more. The surf was rough; waves spashed against the cliffs twenty or thirty feet high. Apparently the waves had reached even higher earlier, as we saw puddles of water on the sidewalk and even clumps of seaweed on the street.

Towards sunset we went back to the car. (We were startled by someone screaming out the window of a passing car; later we realized it was a reaction to the 49'ers playoff comeback.) We went downtown and got some coffee at the Santa Cruz Roasting Company. That's where the title quote comes from; I ordered a hot chocolate for Sherry, and a coffee for me. The clerk said, "Your hot chocolate is number 35, and your coffee is in the brew station under the picture of a cat." (The "brew station" is a series of coffee filters in a rack, beneath which cups may be placed. So your coffee is brewed personally and freshly for you. Absolutely wonderful.)

After that we did some window shopping, browsed in a bookstore, and went to a pub called 99 Bottles of Beer for dinner. I had a Sierra Nevada Brown Ale, which I had never tasted, and which flirted with a violation of the Iron Law of Sierra Nevada: All SN varieties taste the same. Then it was time to return home.


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