Yeah, so, we are back from our annual family trip to Santa Cruz.
In the past there was a big group of us, but this year it was just the three of us – just us MansTracys. The truth is we always end up doing our own thing anyway. My mighty, mighty good boy Calvin usually has his own autistic agenda, and it involves finding all the ceiling fans in the area. It definitely doesn’t involve going on roller coasters at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is fine by me. I don’t want to ride that stuff, either.
We started our trip with a stop at the Roaring Camp Railroads to ride the steam train. If you have a kid who loves trains, this is a must-do. The steam train winds its way through a redwood forest and stops by Bear Mountain, where everyone can get out and do some exploring.
When in Santa Cruz we like to stay at the Dream Inn, because we’re so fuckin’ fancy. Actually, I’m pretty sure we’re the opposite of fancy, but we do love staying there. It’s right on the beach, and it’s got a heated swimming pool. Every morning we order room service for breakfast and eat on the balcony.
After breakfast, we usually walk the wharf, stopping into every shop and restaurant that has a ceiling fan. We usually tell the hostess, cashier, etc., what we’re doing and why. “He’s autistic, and he loves ceiling fans.” I realize that we don’t have to tell them, but I think it’s a good idea. This way, if another autistic person comes in, they will recognize it. Maybe it’s a silly thing to do, but I think it helps raise awareness.
We walked the wharf a few times a day, so all the employees in the shops and restaurants started to recognize us, and they always had a smile for Calvin. He’s really into naming shapes right now, so we walked the wharf and listed shapes: “square, circle, oval, rectangle, parallelogram, rhombus, star, arrow, heart.”
After we walked the wharf, we would go to the beach. We had a great time just playing in the waves and walking along the beach. During one trip to the beach, Calvin and I held hands and walked along the water until we ran out of beach. I got a little teary. The two of us have faced a lot of challenges in the past few years. Calvin received his autism diagnosis about the same time I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. But here we were, walking on the beach together – healthy and happy.
After the beach, we would head to the pool. Calvin loves to be in the water, and he’s getting braver and braver. He’s been working on his dog paddle, which he calls “dog piddle.” The Dream Inn has a nice pool. It’s packed with families, and there’s a bar (beer!) and a taco stand.
One afternoon, we were in the pool, and employees came around and told us that we needed to get out because they had to clean the pool. It turned out someone dropped a turd off at the pool.
“Hmm, maybe setting up a taco stand next to the swimming pool wasn’t the Dream Inn’s smartest decision,” I told David.
“Mr. Hanky decided to go for a swim, too,” David replied. “Howdy ho!”
Some folks nearby overheard David, and they started cracking up and talking about Mr. Hanky. It wasn’t long until we could hear the Mr. Hanky impressions going around the pool.
So, yeah, that was pretty gross. And I was so, so, SO thankful our kid wasn’t responsible.
We did walk through the Beach Boardwalk one day, but Calvin didn’t like it. He thought it was too loud, which was a change from last year. He loved walking through the boardwalk last summer, looking at the lights and watching (but never riding) the rides.
This year, he was more interested in watching the boardwalk from the comfort of our room. He referred to the boardwalk as “hockey island.” “Hockey Island is too loud.” “Oh, Hockey Island is closed.” Pretty impressive “Inside Out” reference.
We also hit a few Santa Cruz breweries, including Seabright Brewery, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Humble Sea Brewing Company. We got the Easy Money IPA and Blur IPA from Seabright. Very drinkable and perfect for the beach. I had the Devout Stout, because I’ve been drinking a lot of IPA lately, and I was ready for something dark. It was delicious, but the real winner was David’s Dread Brown Ale. We got a couple of growler-cans to go. On our way out of Santa Cruz, we stopped at Humble Sea. I got a stout based on Girl Scout thin mint cookies, and David got a northeast-style IPA, and both were pretty good. I was really impressed with all three places. They were terrific, comfortable spaces that were all dog and kid friendly. I’m always surprised by how kid-friendly other restaurants and breweries are outside of San Francisco. Other cities recognize that human beings have children, and that’s a part of life. San Francisco would prefer you get a sitter. Personally, I think some of the breweries in San Francisco could learn something from the ones in the East Bay and beyond. Children are a part of life. Get with the program.
So anyway, we had an awesome time on our trip, but it was nice to come home. We missed our animals. Toby spent the week with my mom. She told me that he really missed me, and he spent a lot of time staring longingly out the window. Our neighbor took care of Kubo for us. She said she’s not really a cat person, but Kubo has won her over. Kubo did the same thing with David. I think it’s her super power.
One of the smart things we planned with this vacation is we got back on Thursday, so we have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to recover. Most of the time, after a vacation, we feel like we need another vacation to recover from our vacation.