One Year on the Road

Walking Brookdale

Angelica in action.

My friend Angelica is a wonderful photographer and an avid walker. A couple of years ago, she set herself a goal to walk the length of every street in Santa Cruz, taking photos along the way. She’s completed that goal and then some. Now she’s moved into outlying areas in the county. (She was recently written up in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.)

While I was staying in Santa Cruz, I wanted to join Angelica on one of her photo walks. She likes to walk early, and she walks rain or shine, hot or cold. When rain was pouring down at 6:00 on Sunday morning, I thought this was really a crazy thing to do. But then I’m not one to necessarily shy away from crazy. I was worried about my camera, but Angelica suited our cameras up in “raingear”:  special plastic bags with drawstrings around the lens and a window for the viewfinder. She promised me my camera would be fine.

My old cabin.

For our walk, we chose Brookdale, a tiny mountain town where I lived between 1977 and 1985. My two-room cabin was up on a hill under the redwoods, a steep hike from the driveway. For the first five years, various roommates got the bedroom, and I slept in the curtained off sunroom for $50/month. In 1982, Kate moved in and we stayed until Tobi was 18 months and we were ready for something more suburban. Maybe something with a sidewalk, a washer and dryer, and more than one bedroom. But I always loved that cabin. It was simple and rustic. A tin shower stall and drafty plank walls, but it had a big fireplace and open beams that I strung a hammock up in, and the sound of rain on that roof was heaven. So our destination that morning had special appeal for me; this helped get me out of bed in the dark.

Post office.

Brookdale has a population of 200. There’s post office, where residents pick up their mail (no delivery) and Brookdale Lodge, which put the town on the map in the 30s. The lodge was boarded up the whole time I lived there, but it was famous for its restaurant that had a stream running through it, and in its prime, Hollywood stars like Clark Gable would make the long drive up for the novelty of it. Now, it had a chain link fence around it and it was either being renovated or torn down.

There are three streets in Brookdale, and we walked all of them. We started with Clear Creek, to the end and back, then on to my old street, Alta Via, up and back. Finally, we walked down Pacific, by the post office. At the end of the street, there used to be a nude swimming hole for the neighbors. But now it is marked PRIVATE, and the creek was running like the muddy Mississippi.

The little brook behind my old cabin was now raging.

Taking photos with a camera in a bag proved challenging for me, especially with sheets of rain fogging my glasses and dripping into my eyes. And I was really cold, even bundled like the dough boy with five layers. But I still had a great time. Walking the neighborhood brought back so many memories for me, and spending time with Angelica made me happy. We both delighted in curiosities along the way: a peacock cage, carved dwarves, a painted hydrant on a pole, a moss-covered flatbed truck. When we finally returned to her car, wet to our underwear, we could only laugh at our soggy selves and rave about our grand adventure.

As soon as the warmth of the car’s heater hit my camera, the inside of my expensive 18-200mm lens fogged up and showed no signs of recovery. I tried not to appear devastated, but I knew I couldn’t send it away for repair while traveling. Angelica, of course, felt responsible after assuring me that my camera would be safe, and when we got back to her house she scoured the internet for solutions. We wrapped the camera in a handkerchief and sealed it in a baggie filled with rice and DampRid pellets, and sure enough a few hours later, the lens was fine. Only then could we admit to each other how much we were sweating it out.

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