Saturday, March 27, 2010

Santa Cruz, dude!

For those of you who may not know, my cousin Evan is now eighteen years old. Not only does this means that he is in his last year of high school (God, I'm old), it also means that he is applying to college (I'm really old). Even though Evan I are are only five years apart it's weird to see the kid you used to play pirates with when you were ten years old all grown up and going off to college.

All sentiments aside, though, Evan has managed to get in to several universities. One of them being UC Santa Cruz, which is about two hours away from San Francisco. My aunt gave me a call a few days before Evan and I were scheduled to leave and asked if there was anyway we could make a stop there on the way to my dad's so Evan could check out the campus. So Evan and I moved the trip back a few hours to Friday morning as opposed to Thursday night so he would have enough time to walk around the campus for a couple hours.

I packed up my stuff Thursday night and got a few hours of sleep before heading off for Evan's house at about 5:20 Friday morning. I got there right at 6:00 am and called Evan's cellphone to wake him up. He got dressed and threw a couple last minute things in his bag and we were all set to go. We stopped at Noah's Bagels and Starbucks for breakfast and then at the gas station to top off the tank. By 7:00 we were on the freeway and on our way to San Francisco!

We made it through the Grapevine shortly thereafter without any traffic, which was quite nice. Even nicer was that the Grapevine was actually pretty to look at. Usually it's all dry and brown and ugly but because it's spring time it was all nice and green. In those hills remind you of anything or is it just me?

Aaaaaaas youuuu wiiiiiiiiish! *tumble tumble*

After we drove past all the pretty hills we made it to the flatlands. Good ol' boring agriculture country. We saw lots of cows, but they were kinda boring, too. After a few hours on the 5 we got on to some other freeway for a while that took us westward towards the coast. Then we got on some other freeway that took us through what I call Steinbeck country (i.e. Salinas and Monterey). Then finally after much driving through flat and hilly places Evan and I were finally reunited with the ocean. In that moment you could tell we were from the coast. The minute Evan and I looked out the window and spotted the sea over the horizon we both burst into shouts of "OMG ocean! Sweet, blessed ocean! It liiiiives!"

Yeah. I don't think either of us will be moving to the middle of the country any time soon.

We made it to Santa Cruz by about noon and it didn't take us too long to find the campus. But we did get lost trying to find the admissions office.

We drove past these historic ranch buildings right at the entrance to the campus and figured the admissions building would be somewhere in the middle. Excuse me just a moment while my inner history major indulges in a brief moment of joy at these historic buildings on campus property. Squee!

Ok, moving on.

We drove down this one path looking for some kind of administrative building until we ran into a wall of trees.

Why, hello, wall of trees.
....wait. What?

That's right. Wall. Of trees. When my aunt told me the campus was built in the middle of a forest I thought she was exaggerating or speaking figuratively. But nope. Turns out she what she was telling me was the 100% literal truth. Holy crap. This isn't UC Santa Cruz, this is UC Endor!

We turned around and continued driving, still trying to find the admin. office. In the process we drove past campus housing, which looked like a bunch of condos in the middle of the woods. Later, I tried to explain how the campus was laid out to my friend Scott over the phone. When I said the campus was built in the middle of a forest, his reaction was, "Oh, you mean where a forest used to be, right?" No, no, no. In the forest. As in: BUILDING, trees, trees, trees, trees, BUILDING, trees, trees, trees cont.

We eventually circled back to the campus entrance and realized that the admissions office was right out in front next to those historic ranch buildings we passed by earlier. The reason we'd missed it before was because it was so tiny. Really, it looked more like a post office than the office of admissions. Once we found it, Evan and I parked outside and went in so he could talk to someone about what the campus had to offer.

We stopped inside to use the bathroom (cause we'd been driving for a good five hours) and then went upstairs to this loft area which actually had a lobby, a bunch of pamphlets, and a guy at a desk who could help us.

Evan got in to see a counselor and I sat in while he answered Evan's questions. It became somewhat amusing when Evan asked what kind of sports the university offers. Evan's been playing baseball, rather well I might add, through most of his high school career so it made sense for him to ask about their baseball team. The counselor just shook his head and said, "Yeeeeah, we don't have one of those." I've never really been into team sports, like, at all. Evan is and that's fine. It's just never been my thing. So I love that UCSC is kind of anti-college sports. How can you tell? They're also anti-college mascot. Banana slugs don't exactly bring to mind images of athletic prowess. Come on, I dare you to tell me that this logo isn't awesome:

But not to worry, UCSC does have two sports for which they are well known: tennis and inner tube water polo. That's right, inner tube water polo. Go Banana Slugs!

I figured I might as well ask about graduate studies while I was there, so after Evan got all his questions answered I asked the counselor if he had any information about the university's graduate programs. It turned out there was actually a separate building for graduate studies, so Evan and I decided to go seek it out and take in the campus in the process.

The campus was huge, so we took this shuttle that makes a loop around the campus to get us closer to where we were trying to go. But we overshot our stop and wound up no where near where we had intended to get off. So we took a shortcut through a patch of forest and emerged on the other side to find...deer. Which were totally cool with all the students walking past them on their way to class.

Hey, dude. What's your major?
I wonder if they cared what kind of pants we were wearing.

After the deer we somehow wandered onto this meadow. Don't ask me how we got there, cause I still have no clue. But damn, it was pretty.

I should make this my new desktop, shouldn't I?

We saw all sorts of wildlife while we were there, including lizards, birds, and bugs I didn't even know existed. The best part was that even though the campus was huge, it really wasn't unpleasant to walk through at all. Most of the time we spent walking was through forest, giant redwoods towering above our heads. Honestly, I wouldn't have been surprised if an Ewok dropped down in front of us. But then I'd have to explain how it's against my programming to impersonate a deity and we all know what a mess that would have got us into. But the weather was perfect, it was a beautiful day, and I didn't even mind too much that my skirt kept trying to fall off because it no longer fits me.

We finally did find the graduate studies building we'd been looking for, only to be told that I should go talk to the English department across campus because they could give me more specific information on the grad program for literature. By this time Evan was starving since we hadn't really eaten since breakfast and I decided that we'd go get something to eat rather than traipse back across campus (even though it was a very nice campus) trying to gather basic information about the program, which I could probably find online anyway. And I did. But we did spare a few minutes to play on this bridge that stretched across from the Graduate Studies Department to the main street.


After that we took the shuttle back to the front of the campus, got back in the car, and drove towards the ocean where we knew all the food places would be. If we'd had more time (and money) I definitely would have taken Evan to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which is where much of The Lost Boys was filmed. One of these days I'm gonna sit Kyra down and make her watch that.

We found a Jack in the Box and decided to get drive through food. Which was kinda weird o.O The guy had us pull around to the front of the restaurant and then he carried our food out to us from the front door. Maybe the window was broken? I dunno. As long as I have my chicken strips and buttermilk dipping sauce (I swear that stuff has crack in it) nobody gets hurt.

We stopped at the closest gas station we could find a refueled before getting back on the freeway. It took us and the GPS a few minutes to figure out where the hell we were going, but once we did we were fine. We got on this really windy freeway that cut through more of the forest and it's a good thing Evan's a good driver and I was sitting in the front seat or I probably would have been sick. We made it to the 580, which is the freeway into San Francisco and almost immediately ran into traffic. I kept offering to drive throughout the entire trip, telling Evan to let me know if he started getting tired, but he kept insisting he was fine. That is, until we hit traffic and he admitted he was starting to get sleepy. "That's it, pull over."

So Evan got off at the next exit and I took over from there. I got on the 80 from the 580 as Dad had suggested, which turned out to be a major life saver. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. Aside from the dog on the freeway. I didn't stop to take a picture of it because a) I'm not stupid, and b) What the hell is that dog doing on the freeway?!

Traffic started slowing down for no apparent reason, which was how I came to notice the dog in the first place. A bunch of people had stopped their cars in the middle of the freeway and were trying to herd this poodle to safety but the dumbass kept running into oncoming traffic! Even my dog isn't that stupid and trust me, that's saying something.

I don't know what happened to the dog, but Evan and I made it to my dad's house in once piece, where everyone exclaimed how much Evan had grown since the last time they'd seen him. To be fair, Evan was about five the last time he was around anyone from my Dad's side of the family, so the difference was pretty striking.

My aunt and uncle hadn't arrived yet so Dad, my cousin Tim, Evan and I all went out for sushi. And it was awesome.

Here endeth our story.

Next time: Gasp! At the exploits of my cousin Tim as he returns home after partaking of too much vodka! Be amazed! By the amount of food six Italians can consume in one sitting! All this and more! Next time on this edition of San Francisco Road Trip!

Just so you don't get your hopes up too much, my Spring Break ends this weekend, which means I have to go back to school on Monday. Part two of these adventures will probably be posted the following weekend as I still have a bunch of catch up reading to do tonight and tomorrow before class on Monday. Have a happy Easter everyone, let me know if someone finds the body.

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