Day 36: Santa Cruz to almost San Francisco

Finished up stuff in Santa Cruz in the morning and stumbled upon a legal doggie area on the beach north of where all the surfers are. Huge waves and Nik got thrashed around a bit but it didn’t stop his enjoyment. He’s got diarrhea though which I assume is from swallowing way too much salt water during the past couple days. But he’s a good boy and pokes my ear repeatedly when he needs me to pull over.

Working northward from Santa Cruz, I got to the El Camino Real cities early afternoon. Other than the things that were on my list, not much else is left. Very sad since when I left California about 25 years ago, there were still tons of neon signs, old motels, cafes, etc. left there. Now, it’s just like everywhere else — all the chains, new big developments, and much more wealthy now. Sometimes as I sat at stoplights (way too many of them, and the sequences are incredibly long in CA), I’d do car inventory from the light. BMW, BMW, Audi, Lexus, Prius, BMW, Sparkle…

According to my schedule, I’ve got two more days left for CA which is going to be a hustle as I am just outside the San Francisco city limits now & have obviously much to shoot there. I’ll do what I can but I have a feeling Iowa plans might be getting the cut.

The Peter Pan Motel sign in Santa Cruz is a bit faded but still fun:


Still wet and sandy, Nik decides the best place to doze is with his head resting on the “magic box” that contains his assorted favorite toys. I’m sure he can smell them through the plastic.


Redwood City has been claiming its “climate best by government test” since the 1920s:


I went to Malibu Castle Golf & Games in Redwood City to check out the mini golf — which was nothing all that special. The mini golfs at these places always require a walk through the arcade and snack bar area so I take a quick look around. I haven’t seen this Percussion Master game before (not that I’m an expert). These girls were having a great but serious time.


I had to chop off the title of this game in order to get more of the game itself in — and of course now I’ve forgotten the name. But anyway, the concept is earthquake-related. That’s San Francisco’s Transamerica Building (or whatever they’re calling it these days) at the back, etc.


As I was saying earlier in this post, there’s not a lot of old stuff left on El Camino Real now. I did find several fun mid-century buildings in San Carlos. This one appears to have been a former car showroom. There was nowhere to safely park Sparkle on this now superhighway so I left her here for scale. The glass walls were removed and the interior linoleum is visible. I don’t know how long the remains have been like this but I’d imagine it won’t be long before there are more bland stores like all the others at this spot.


I don’t know what this building used to be but it seems to have been subdivided and reused by new businesses now:


And, lastly, I don’t know if this has always been a tire store but it has a nify V-shaped roof and complementary signage.

8 thoughts on “Day 36: Santa Cruz to almost San Francisco

  1. DJ – Thanks for all the work it takes to post these on a daily basis. I know how tough it can be. I certainly look forward to your daily travel recap!

  2. Yeah, but the crowd I was traveling in yesterday didn’t seem very eco or money conscious — it was mostly about status.

    How bout that — Nik has another fan out there. He looks so grey in that photo!

  3. I have to say ‘thanks’ again for your wonderful documentary work … even though posts like this one are disheartening, since I too left California 25 years ago, and am so dismayed to hear your reports on the disappearance of the wonderful/wacky roadside artifacts that used to be so prevalent there. My recollections of El Camino Real from the 60s/70s are full of memorable buildings and signs. *sigh*

  4. Thanks — glad you are enjoying my posts. Last night, I was reflecting on what S.F. used to be like. In the late 1970s, I was into the punk rock scene and used to go to a place called the Mabuhay Gardens on Broadway:

    It had a great neon sign and some nice tiki-esque decor. I can’t find any photos of it now. Just this sad photo of what it is now:

    There was also a strip club across the street known as Carol Doda’s and there was a great old sign there, too. Can’t find any photos of that either now. It sounds like that place is a sportsbar now. Broadway is just not the same since it’s been cleaned up.

  5. I remember the Mabuhay well! My two main hangs in that area of North Beach were across the street at Enrico’s (also gone now), and Spec’s Bar on Columbus — which thankfully is exactly the same as it has been for 40 years!

    San Francisco used to have such wonderful grit…

  6. I’m not familiar with those other places — but then I never really lived in SF. Just came up many a weekend. I was in the Haight today and at least that neighborhood has pretty much maintained its flavor.

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