From my travel journal: Sunday 3 April, 2 pm

On Route 101, somewhere between Santa Cruz and Ventura

Amazingly, we achieved our aim of being up by 5 am and on the road by 6 (or 6ish, at least). Having left too early for breakfast, our first stop was a little roadside cafe in an old railway caboose for necessary driver caffeination. Very cute.

For the first part of the day at least we were able to get off the interstate and take the much more interesting coastal road. Stretches of long sandy beach, with the dunes starting to creep across the highway, and rocky stretches reminiscent of the Kaikoura coast. And always the wide Pacific beyond.

Just before Santa Cruz we turned off onto even smaller roads winding up into the hills to a tourist attraction called “The Mystery Spot”. I’d found it in the guidebook, so the others said I’d get the blame if it wasn’t fun 🙂 Luckily it was, in a mega-hokey sort of way. In a little valley in the redwoods (only 30-year-old ones, so not very tall, but still impressive) we bought tickets and were escorted by a guide up a path to a titled cabin on a steep slope, where a combination of optical illusion (from non-vertical “vertical” lines and non-parallel lines), and a bit of trickery and misdirection from the guides, balls seemed to roll uphill, and people to change height by standing in different places. Very similar to the tilted house as the Wanaka Maze, and reasonably obvious how it was all done (well, I thought so, but many of the group we were with seemed genuinely amazed, so maybe not), but the guides had a very entertaining patter, so we were well entertained.

“Look ma, no hands!” – DOS walks up a “vertical” ladder

Nope, no optical illusions here

Our guide tells us the “real” explanation for the phenomena: aliens

Now this was really cool – some of the kids in the group we were in found a banana slug in the forest

The Mystery Spot took a lot longer than we’d hoped, so we decided to give the Santa Cruz boardwalk a miss, settling for just driving past so we could make up time. Back on the road we were entertained by flipping through the local radio stations listening to weird and wonderful talkback shows and an over-intense radio preacher.

The area between San Francisco and Santa Cruz seemed to have a very high concentration of Spanish speakers, with a lot of signs on shops and things being only in Spanish rather than bilingual. I’d seen lots of taqueiras along the side of the road, so we stopped off at one for lunch – fast food Mexican style.

We’d originally planned to take the Big Sur road along the coast all the way down south, but recent landslides have closed the road, so we’ve had to turn inland and take the bigger highways. Not very exciting, being mainly just straight roads through a wide flat valley, but there’ve still been plenty of interesting things to see, at least for we foreigners for whom even the road signs are a novelty.

This valley is obviously the food production area for California – we passed huge fields of strawberries earlier, and now we’re passing through enormous vineyards.

Skyring’s just put an audiobook on, so time to put my pen down and listen.

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