We were leaving Soledad with coffee in our drink holders and Mexican norteño blasting out of our speakers, the windows rolled down and the sun beaming in when we learned of Japan. It was suddenly not such a beautiful day. First Christchurch, now Japan- we did not visit the area that was hit worst, but even stories from Tokyo sent chills down our spine. It is absolutely crazy to hear these stories and see these pictures of disasters unfolding in familiar territory. It was also a rude awakening to the fact that we had been traveling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, and were still in it- this is, as far as seismic activity goes, the créme-de-la-créme of notable zones. Top notch, this is. So when we started to hear the tsunami warnings on the radio and see all of the beaches and coastal rest stops on Highway 1 were closed and guarded by police, we started wondering how real the threat was. I mean, we had lived in a complete bubble as far as the West Coast was concerned for three weeks and we were in no way capable of gaging "normal" coastal activity. We are bloody Dutchies for godssake. However, having been in the States for long enough to know that if anyone likes to create hysteria, it's the American, we figured we were probably safe to continue. Logic told us that if it was life-threatening, the highway would most likely be closed.
We were on our way to go ride the roller coaster on the Santa Cruz boardwalk to end our trip and I was excited. I had been trying to go on a roller coaster throughout the trip, but it seemed like the gods were against me. The one in Vegas didn't work out, we passed one on our way over the border of Nevada and California but it was only open on weekends. This one was last chance saloon. It was supposedly a really rickety wooden one that had been built in the 1930s- extra thrill! We entered Santa Cruz, and everything seemed to be going well- we were even able to synchronize our map reading and driving skills to get us there! However, the closer we got to the boardwalk, the worse the traffic seemed to be getting. There were six choppers circling above us. This is perhaps the point where you are all wondering why we didn't put one and one together and assume the boardwalk, a wooden construction built in the sea, might be closed due to the possibility of a tsunami in that very same sea. Well, it was shortly after we saw the choppers that it started to dawn on us, and we flipped the radio on only to hear that Santa Cruz harbor had been hit by the tsunami, albeit a very much watered down version, and had caused quite some damage. Three people had gone missing (because they sneaked down to the beach to take pictures, NOT because they were minding their own business and carrying on as per usual), but I think all of them were found later.
No rollercoaster. No Santa Cruz. But lots of detours and polite but stern policemen waving traffic on. And lots of blocked off streets. The entire coastal area of Santa Cruz was closed. We never even saw it was on the ocean. It makes a great bar story though.
Now we're back in Berkeley, pet-sitting for Frances and Chris while they are away in Ireland. Our family comprises of Rua the cat, and Leda and Hera the chickens. Daniel is attempting to make a lap cat out of Rua, which seems to working. He has in any case figured out where we live and that if he miauws at our door long enough he will get fed in the morning, or get attention in the evening. One of our cats does that at home, so it's almost comforting. Almost. The chickens (or the ladies as everyone calls them) are absolutely the most entertaining animals I have ever seen. I could watch them all day. It's also really neat to eat eggs that come from chickens you know personally. Going to look and see if they have laid makes me feel like a kid again, it's exciting. They lay a lot- Daniel worked out that they lay around 10 eggs a week! That's a lotta egg for two people. We have started bringing them to people's houses as gifts now.
It's hard to believe our last month here has started.