Wilder Ranch

In 2010, we bought a camping trailer and started an October/April tradition. To camp in one of the most sought-after camping spots in the California State Parks program, you must reserve your spot seven months in advance, at the moment the month is opened for reservation. For any date in April, that means being on your computer with the spot and dates ready to reserve at 8:00 a.m. on October 1 the previous year. Apparently, camping on a California beach is very much like purchasing Beyoncé tickets.

 Camping at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, CA. It's worth the hassle.

Camping at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, CA. It's worth the hassle.

When we are lucky, we get an April week at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, which is just south of Capitola, which is just south of Santa Cruz. When we aren’t, we might settle for the state park up on the hill in Capitola with no electric or water hookups, or we might go into Santa Cruz and stay at the city harbor RV park. We spend a week beach combing, walking along Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, or kayaking in Monterey, or poking around San Francisco, and always mountain biking at Wilder Ranch State Park just north of Santa Cruz.

 Time to roll.

Time to roll.

Twice a year like clockwork (calendar work), I become a mountain bike rider for a weekend. I wriggle into my chamois shorts (maybe a little tighter this year), with my chubby white babydoll knees poking out, wobble up onto my overpriced twenty-niner, forget what I look like, start to feel cocky, get red in the face, have the Best Day Ever, and resolve to do the same thing Every Weekend From Now On.

 I play a pretty slick water bottle game.

I play a pretty slick water bottle game.

One of those two days a year is the day we go out to Wilder Ranch. It has everything a mountain bike ride should have: gorgeous views, mostly flat terrain, no scary boulder thingies, ocean breezes, the possibility of a whale sighting, and little possibility of death, unless you disobey the signs.

 Obeying the signs

Obeying the signs

I usually take pictures. In fact, I usually take the same pictures, because either (a) the joke never gets old,

 Funny!

Funny!

 Still funny.

Still funny.

or (b) the views always look unprecedentedly beautiful to me, even though I eventually find they are nearly identical to the ones from last year.

 Here's those rocks again.

Here's those rocks again.

Although I know, design-wise, that photos of my favorite places don’t always make the best subjects for art, it hasn’t stopped me from trying because five percent of the time it works, sometimes spectacularly in spite of the rules. This one is not a spectacular success, but it is a happy blending of two moments, one at Wilder Ranch and one on the way to Bend when the clouds did this bendy thing that I captured and squirreled away until I needed a design element to boost a feeling.

 Wilder Ranch, 2016, oil on canvas (palette knife)

Wilder Ranch, 2016, oil on canvas (palette knife)

We don’t have camping reservations at Seacliff this year, and I am regretting our decision in October to sell the trailer in the spring and save our money for the next, better trailer. This trailer may have to do for a while longer. I think I’m going to need an April mountain bike ride.