jims - Column for 7/5

Independence Day Ramblings As I am writing this, the United States is in the process of celebrating it's 225th birthday. Well, the day that the Declaration of Independence draft was completed, the actual signing of the document didn't take place until a bit later. From then on, the British would say things only went downhill. For better or worse, however, we are still here, I am writing this, and you may or may not be reading it.

I spent a portion of this particular day doing what I often do, biking around Santa Cruz. Like a weekend, the streets were choked with people coming to the beaches, wanting to be outside, enjoying the weather and time off. Being that I live in a beach town, and often take it for granted, I find it difficult to understand this interest in wanting to spend time off with a zillion other people. The beaches were literally packed, even lesser known beaches (well, to those that are not familiar to the Santa Cruz area) like Castle Beach (now, known by another name).

While biking, I often people watch. Literally, I just meander and let whim and fancy be my guide. This particular day I found myself starting at Natural Bridges and winding my way eventually to Capitola Village. In nearly every case, people were spending a lot of time sitting in their cars, looking for a place to park, a place to unload moutnains of crap, a place to hopefully play (after toating the crap). I just had to shake my head in many cases and pedal on.

Summer seems to be the time for travel. Schools are out for long vacations, parents take time from work to tote their screaming broods to places local and afar, the weather is warm and people want to enjoy it. Lines are long, a lot of work is involved, and a great deal of time is spent fretting and preparing. Personally, it seems too much like work.

For me, the best vacations are those less like work, free of the screaming masses, allowing me time to explore and have fun. There is much to be said for visiting places in the off season -- as our esteemed editor is now experiencing. People are often friendlier, the pace of life is slower, you can experience more with less (time, money, headaches). For instance, communication with the inn keeper in southern Portugal is filled with laughter as we resort to hand gestures to try and understand one another -- clearly not an efficient means of communication. Mere weeks later, such would not have been as enjoyable as the whole area would have been over run with screaming hordes of German tourists.

My own travels in the coming months do not reflect my preference, but in many cases will allow avenues for escape. London in August (work made me do it), my sanctuary will probably be a set of Sherlock Holmes stories in the reading room of the British Museum or running off to a pub in the 'burbs. Finland in August, no one ever goes to Finland, so I guess it fits. Burning Man, upon returning from Europe, should be easy enough to relax at walk out in the Playa and keep walking, there is a lot of desert there. No doubt, many a trip to quiet trails in Big Sur will be needed, a sanctuary of sorts.

But, on this Fourth of July, I watch families tote their children around in hopes of playing on the sand. Watching them stuck in traffic hearing such phrases as 'Are we there yet?' and 'How much further?'. I can only wait until September as the tourist season winds down. I'm sure somewhere in my mind there is a little voice contemplating this very question and is asking 'Are we there yet?'.