Today's Health and Fitness Consciousness

M.L. Fischer (R-P)


Most people would agree that our society is more health and fitness conscious today than in the past. One only needs to look around. Any time of day there are runners along East and West Cliffs. The Wilder Ranch bike trails on weekends resemble Highway 17 during rush hour. Kayaks pour out of the Santa Cruz Harbor on sunny days. It hard to get a wave to yourself at our local breaks, and people get up in arms about possible public pool closures. But it's more than just people with more spare time and money for sporting goods.

Not many years ago health food stores were oddities, small businesses serving a small demographic niche. It's now become big business, even spawning chain stores.

A very small, local chain is New Leaf, a popular business with a loyal following. According to Katie, manager of the Capitola Store, the health food business has increased steadily over the last few years and was booming at the time of the September 11 attacks. Although the events of September caused a dip in business, it's back up to summer levels.

An expanding item for stores like New Leaf is organic produce. According to Katie, people are becoming more aware and educated about the benefits of going organic. Organically produced food is more sustainable, and for those uncomfortable with genetically modified food, the only way to guarantee that your food doesn't contain altered genes is to buy organic. Concerned mothers of young children are becoming the most dedicated health shoppers.

Rick Seibert, General Manager of Staff of Life in Santa Cruz, says that business has actually increased because of the economic slow down. People are eating out less and are preparing fresh food at home. Staff of Life is also experiencing a rise in the demand for organics, as well as for fresh fish, which is becoming the preferred alternative to traditional red meats.

There is also a certain global consciousness at work. Many of us who are coffee nuts insist on fair trade beans, promoting sustainable crops and incomes for the small farmer, plus enjoying a better cup of coffee.

Besides eating well, people are flocking to the gyms to trim down, tone up, and get the heart and lungs working. However, life in the chrome and mirrored rooms is changing.

The manager of the local Gold's Gym dispelled my stereotype, left over from years ago, that their customers were primarily young, serious body builders. The majority now train for the trim and chiseled look, rather than for bulk. Gold's has now become more of a family place, where the young are learning the value of exercise over elbow bending on a bar stool.

Still, many old habits die hard. Spa Fitness in Watsonville, as well as the other gyms, notes that membership goes up in January, when people resolve to get in shape. This is followed by a mid-year decline, as many start to lose their resolve. The demographic group that seems to be on the increase at Spa Fitness is women under 25. The soft, rounded look of the 50s and 60s doesn't make it any longer.

Tom Newlove at Cabrillo Fitness claims that more people are learning the value of exercise, such as resistance training for bone density, weight control and cardiovascular conditioning. Cabrillo has created a more comfortable environment that attracts more mature people,

Pacific Edge, the place with the climbing wall, reports more members as well as more birthday bookings for kids. The increased interest is in both the climbing wall and the workout equipment.

People are definitely concerned with staying fit and healthy longer and with maintaining an active life style. A telling commentary on this trend happened three years ago in Nisene Marks Park. I was peddling my bike up the steep fire road when a man who looked to be close to 70 passed me like I was standing still.


Loaves and Fishes: the holiday spirit at work

M. L. Fischer


Loaves and Fishes is an organization that embodies the holiday spirit of giving. Since their founding, behind Saint Patrick's Church, in 1989, they've served hot lunches Mondays through Fridays to Watsonville's needy.


Director, Annette Baldwin, is the only regular staff. The other five to ten people working daily at the charming Victorian house at 150 Second Street are volunteers. These caring people give their time and energy to help their neighbors.


Besides providing a hot lunch to an average of fifty people daily, Loaves and Fishes collects and distributes blankets and warm jackets. They also help people who are searching for jobs. Some of the clients they've helped in the past are now successfully employed and have returned as volunteers.


During the holiday season the normally busy activity level increases to hectic. The plan this year is to provide toys and a Christmas dinner for two hundred families. A tamale and ham dinner with all the trimmings will be served at 1:30 on Christmas day, and gift certificates from businesses such as K-Mart and Safeway will be given. This is the time of year when they are asking for donations of new items of clothing, items that will enable these families to have presents to open.


Around town, during the holidays, Loaves and Fishes places Christmas booties, each with a child's name and his or her wished for present. Watsonville Hospital takes fifty to sixty booties each year, and some of the local beverage distributors take thirty to forty. An individual can take one or more and, for the cost of a modest present, brighten some child's holiday.


On Tuesday the eighteenth, third and fourth grade students from the Charter School for the Arts volunteered to decorate the tables for the daily lunch. They arrived in Santa hats, some carrying tiny live Christmas trees. After setting up the tables, they sang Christmas carols and then stayed for lunch.


Many local businesses support Loaves and Fishes, as well as some of the area's churches. Valley Churches United in Ben Lomand is a staunch supporter, as is Saint Patrick's in Watsonville and Holy Eucharist in Corralitos.


In addition to direct donations of food and money, Loaves and Fishes holds fund raising events during the year. This fall the Corralitos Grange volunteered their hall for one of these events.


Your donations are needed and greatly appreciated. Loaves and Fishes is open from nine to three daily. As Annette Baldwin says, "This is a very caring community; not just the wealthy, but everyone."


Roaring Camp Railroad

M. L. Fischer (R-P)


So often we fail to appreciate the treasures in our own back yards. That was certainly my experience with regards to Roaring Camp Railroad. I assumed it was just another roadside attraction, a choo choo ride and picnic for people with small children. In October I got a bit of an education.

Last summer my wife saw the ad for the Moonlight Steam Train Dinner Party and sent away for tickets. The barbecue and music under the stars was enjoyable enough, but the train ride made the evening memorable.

The narrative during the hour and a half ride recalled Roaring Camp's historical and environmental background. Apparently this patch of forest was the first area of redwoods to be preserved, an act that set the stage for the later Big Basin State Park. In 1867 Joseph Welch, a San Francisco businessman, purchased the land, thus keeping it from being logged. This is one of the few places in the Santa Cruz mountains where you can see groves of old growth redwoods. In fact the train passes through one of these stands of old trees, the Cathedral Grove.

As an environmentalist and lover of redwood forests, this alone would insure my patronage, this early form of ecotourism.

The narrative also turned to the historical aspects of Roaring Camp. We were told that the Heisler engine that was pulling us up Bear Mountain was built in 1899 and had enjoyed a long career hauling lumber for a sawmill up in Tuolulmne City. It is currently the world's oldest operating Heisler steam locomotive, and it can still pull this mountain grade of more than 9 percent, unheard of for standard frieght and passenger engines.

Rolling stock also includes at 42 ton Shay (Lima Locomotive Works, OH) built in 1912, a 60 ton Shay from 1911, and a little 14 ton engine built in 1890 to haul sugar cane in Oahu, Hawaii. These old hard working engines are gear driven, allowing them to climb steeper grades and negotiate tighter turns, perfect for chugging up in the wooded Santa Cruz Mountains. Highly knowledgeable engineer Phil Reader, showed me how the gears mounted on the wheels allowed these locomotives to perform their feats of nimble power.

These locomotives had all served for many years before arriving in Felton. After incarnations as a 25 cent scenic stop on the train ride over the Santa Cruz Mountains, a hub of rail activity, and a dairy farm, Roaring Camp was leased by F Norman Clark the 1958 from Welch's descendants. Then Clark started to realize his dream of reinstating rail passenger service.

Currently train rides include the ten mile round trip to Bear Mountain and the Round trip to the Beach Boardwalk. In 1986 passenger train service was restored to Santa Cruz for the first time in 27 years.

The ride to the beach is an hour each way. The trip up Bear Mountain, with the steepest grade and sharpest turns in North America, is supposed to take only an hour and a quarter. However, the night we rode, The Heisler had a minor breakdown going up the steep switchback built to bypass Spring Canyon after the historic Corkscrew Trestle was burned down in 1976. We had to wait for the other train to come up with the assorted tools and parts needed to get us moving again. We got an extra 20 minutes of excitement as flashlights darted through the night and crew members shouted questions and instructions. A few shims and some bailing wire later, the ancient engine pulled us to the mountain top.

During the Winter, Roaring Camp is pretty quiet, except for weekends and holidays. However, from April on, the place is going seven days a week.

Besides the regular mountain and beach runs, they offer the Moonlight Steam Train Dinner Parties once a month in the summer, the Victorian Valentines event in Feb., Eggstraordinary Egg Hunt for Easter, Great Train Robberies in April, Mother's and Father's Day events, the Annual Civil War Battle reenactments, the Summer Gathering of Mountain Men, and other events. You can order tickets in advance or buy an annual pass. Call them at 335-4484 or check them out on the web at

Roaring camp is located on Graham Hill Road in Felton, six miles from Santa Cruz.



M.L. Fischer (R-P)


Within the last week or so daffodils have sprung up and flowered along both sides of Corralitos Rd. They are also along parts of Amesti Rd., Varni Rd., and Browns Valley, as well as at Bradley and Amesti schools. In fact even schools as far away as Rolling Hills Middle School have been included in the daffodil explosion. Freedom Library, the local churches, the Five Mile House and Alladin Nursery have also been supplied with these lovely flowers.

All of this floral wonder originated with Heidi Theodore, the founder of the Corralitos Daffodil Society. Last summer she managed to acquire a donation of 30,000 bulbs from Walls Painting Co.

In Heidi's role of Producer and director of the Corralitos Community Theater, she's managed to combine theater with daffodils. The people associated with last year's production of Cinderella: cast, parents, children, scouts, worked with Heidi to plant bulbs all over the community. The bulbs were planted in September and October, during the run of the play.

Besides planting, bulbs were given to the local schools, churches, and libraries, in batches of up to 3,000.

Heidi is concerned that not all the bulbs came up, as farm equipment and autos have driven over some of them. None the less, daffodils line the road, welcoming locals home each afternoon.

Since daffodils are early flowers, they die back before the weeds get high enough to mow or spray, allowing them to have their undisturbed time in the sun.

There is a profusion of yellow blooms, and I've also been seeing some white. I'm anxious to see what other colors come up in the next few weeks.

These flowers will bloom for six to eight weeks because she has planted four varieties: Floral Surprise, King Alfred, Dutch Master, and Unsurpassable.

Before starting the daffodil society in Corralitos, Heidi was part of the Daffodil Society of England, and her knowledge and enthusiasm for these flowers was obvious during our conversation. She says that daffodils are the first signs of spring, even coming up through snow. They are also a gopher deterrent, so planting them around a flower or vegetable garden can save it from the hungry little rodents. Also, one should never cut these flowers back, as it robs them of their food and hampers their ability to sprout in ensuing years. Just let them die back on their own, and they'll come up faithfully every year.

Next years planing will correspond with next years production, Snow White, which will play May 11th and 12th. Heidi hopes to get enough donations to plant all of Freedom Blvd. from Watsonville to the Freeway, as well as Hames Rd., Eureka Canyon, and just about every other road in the area.

If anyone wishes to donate bulbs or money for bulbs, contact the Daffodil Society at 763-3563 or e-mail them at

Also, circle May 11 and 12 on your calendar, and plan on supporting the Corralitos Community Theater's effort to bring good theater and daffodils to our community.


Earth Day

M.L. Fischer (R-P & maybe Sentinel)


Tie dyes, bike shorts, and cargo pants mingled in San Lorenzo Park on Sunday for the annual Earth Day celebration. Several thousand visitors wandered through or chose to spend the warm, sunny day, hanging out, eating healthy munchies, and listening to the bands.


The event drew about 70 exhibitors. Most were local environmental and advocacy groups, plus a mix of vendors and food concessions. There were a few bead and jewelry places, a tie dye stand, some natural lotions, solar installations, and the perennial chiropractic tables.


Vendors and exhibitors started arriving at 8:30, so Cal-PIRG could direct them to their assigned spots. When, after a wait, the Cal-PIRG people didn't show, everyone poured in and started claiming preferred spots. By the 11 AM opening, everyone was in place, and exhibitors were wandering around, checking out their neighbors and chatting with people they may not have seen since last year.


As in past years, the bulk of the environmental and vending went on down by the river. On the upper level bands played throughout the day, groups like Tuesday Morning, Green Light District, and Shady Groove. On the lower level there was an open mike, and entertainers and speakers alternated throughout the day.


One of the few booths on the upper level was Ecology Action. Situated at the end of the parking lot, they arranged themselves into three sections. One promoted Bike to Work Day, and gave people the opportunity to try an electric bike. They also had a composting booth, and one that dealt with recycling waste products, such as oil, and promoting alternatives to pest poisons.


Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation was giving away tiny seedling, such as redwoods and big leaf maples. These proved popular; almost everyone was carrying one.


I was working the Ventana Wilderness Alliance booth, promoting the upcoming wilderness bills that will soon hit the House and Senate. We were between the Sierra Club and the Valley Women's Club of the San Lorenzo Valley. They've been involved in protecting the San Lorenzo and Lompico watersheds.


One group had a sign reading, "The drug war is a war on people of color." They were protesting our failed drug policy in Columbia. In fact, a common theme this year was the protesting of various current U.S. policies. The Santa Cruz Peacemakers were against globalization and our current approach to terrorism. Earth First! summed up their theme for this year with a call for, "Global Harmony." The Environmental Council was working on something called the Corporate Three Strikes Initiative, aimed at corporations that fail to act as responsible citizens.


Several organizations were passing around a petition to save old growth forests, always a major issue at any Earth Day event. Naturally, Planned Parenthood and Zero Population Growth were pointing out that all conservation measures will ultimately fail if our populations continues to grow at the present rate.


There were also a number of local issues represented. A group opposed to the widening of Highway 1 was passing out a brochure with two photos. One showed a two lane traffic jam on Highway 1 at Branciforte, and the other a four lane on Highway 85 at Winchester. They were both equally impacted, and the caption asked how long it would take the first to look like the second. The answer was about three years.


The Santa Cruz Service Corps. is working to hire the homeless and give them a "safe place to sleep." Another group advocates homeless camp sites, and the Second Harvest Food Bank is still feeding people. The local Surfrider Foundation is still monitoring pollution along our beaches and looking for help.


A couple of unfamiliar groups were present. The Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Santa Cruz was selling bottled water, and Santa Cruz Art and Revolution, a street theater group, was trying to attract artists and supporters.


The California Organic Farmers and the Hemp product advocates were promoting sustainable agriculture.


The days was upbeat, with all the various groups being very supportive of each other, signing petitions, discussing local, national and global issues, and just having a good time on this particular day on this particular Earth.


Blues and BBQ in Watsonville

M.L. Fischer (R-P)


Terry Hungerford and Kevin Conley are a match made in blues heaven. Conley, as you may remember, is a Corralitos area musician and painting contractor, whose "Watstock" music festival rocked Amesti Road for several summers. His Blue Tornadoes has played at various venues in Monterey, Capitola, and Santa Cruz. They now play every third Friday at Hungerford's Finest Award Winning BBQ Ribs in the East Lake shopping center.


Terry Hungerford opened the restaurant last December, after retiring from Pacific Bell telephone and is preparing for the restaurant's 1 year anniversary. Over the years, Terry competed in BBQ cookoffs throughout the state and won many awards for his BBQ Sauce and Ribs. After his retirement everyone he knew told him he should open his own place, and so Hungerford's BBQ was born. Just walking in the place, seeing the huge platters of food and catching the smell of BBQ will convince you that he really did win those awards.


Hungerford is also a singer and bass player, having played professionally for many years. A real blues man, Terry's voice hints of west Texas clubs of a half century ago, and there's a touch of Ray Charles and Joe Cocker in his style. With his love for the blues, he decided to bring in live blues music every Friday night with a different band playing each Friday.


As it happened, Halloween night was Blue Tornado night, and the four piece blue/rock band was in costume and sounding great, as was Hungerford, who sat in for several songs.


Terry and Andellyn, his wife, are both from Fort Worth Texas, Although she is a recent arrival, and he has been living in this area for the last 30 years.


Hungerfords is open Monday through Saturday from 4:30PM.

You can dine in or take out (722-RIBS). Besides Friday night blues, they have Monday Night Football Party specials, and Thursday night is Fried Catfish Special night.