Glenwood Preserve
Glenwood Preserve in Scotts Valley offers a beautiful hike. (Randy Johnson)

When you have kids who live in L.A., you find a way to visit that city on a regular basis. And when you add a sweet granddaughter to the mix, the visitation intervals really intensify. I am not, however, a fan of the drive. 

I prefer Highway 101, as the scenery is very pleasing, and what’s the rush? The rest of my family, however, disagrees and they prefer the dreary Interstate 5 alternative and 14 vital minutes it saves you speeding down to SoCal. The worst part of that trip is the crossover you have to use on Highway 46. It used to be more than treacherous, but gradually they have made great progress on making it four lanes.

During the last trip down, I caught a red light at the junction of Highways 46 and 41 and glanced over and saw the enormous 20-foot cutout of James Dean. Sure enough, it was at this very junction that he was tragically killed in his Porsche Super Speedster. That got me wondering, do people still make the pilgrimage to visit their fallen movie star? Yes. Apparently people still visit the crash site, leaving behind beer bottles, cigarettes, sunglasses and even women’s garments.

When I arrive in LA, my driving privileges are quickly taken away by the kids. Apparently you have to be a local to traverse the mean streets like Highways 405 and 101. Routinely, the topic often turns to where we might want to visit. Well, visit anywhere in a county that has 4,000 square miles and things get a little dreary, because the trek is mind-numbing, tedious and close to intolerable.  

But on reflection, I have been fortunate to see quite a few spots over the years: The Getty, Disneyland, Venice Beach, Universal Studios, Hollywood Walk of Fame, The Grove. Not a true Bucket List, like the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu, but kinda impressive. 

Visit’s over. I take the scenic route home (101) and reflect on my destination: Santa Cruz County.

If there was a word to describe my emotion, it would be grateful. How fortunate to live in a small county, where virtually any destination is achievable within about 20 minutes. And what are some of those destinations? I pondered that and thought about all the beaches, parks, open spaces, lagoons and endless natural wonders to behold. And then I got a little sad.

Why am I not taking advantage of all that my home has to offer? A click to Visit Santa Cruz County allowed me to fully realize and remember how big the universe of opportunities existed for me to enjoy and experience. Time for a new bucket list with a small “b.” Not the seven wonders of the world, but seven meaningful encounters with my surroundings.

Here we go:

1) Glenwood Preserve—Scotts Valley. Beautiful hike with birds, bunnies and breadcrumbs, for those easily lost.

2) Sunset State Beach. One of a dozen that are part of our beautiful coastline.

3) Wilder Ranch—Could someone lend me a horse?

4) Roaring Camp—Steam train through the redwoods.

5) Capitola Village. Pastel homes and amazing shops. 

6) Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park—Where they grow giants.

7) The Boardwalk—Still fun, even for big kids like me.

So here’s a little challenge: put aside the phone, the computer and the television and make your own bucket list. And they don’t all have to be serene and outdoors. Downtown Santa Cruz qualifies, as you slip into Bookshop Santa Cruz for a brew and a read.

P.S. Just finished a 60-minute walk at the Glenwood Preserve. One down, six to go…

Randy Johnson is mayor of the City of Scotts Valley. To reach Johnson, email [email protected] or call 831-438-0633.

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Randy Johnson is mayor of the City of Scotts Valley. To reach Johnson, email [email protected] or call 831-438-0633.


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