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December 5, 2019
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About Town, Week of Dec. 2

Dec. 4, 2019

Tarmo Hannula: In the midst of all this rain there have been a few incredible sunrises and sunsets. On Monday as I stepped off the 69A METRO bus in Santa Cruz the evening sky was opening up into an explosive bouquet of colors. Unfortunately I didn’t have much of an interesting foreground or background to make much of a photo of it (I had to settle for a furniture store parking lot.) But I worked it and you see the results above.

Pajaronian reporter Johanna Miller and I went over to Church Christmas Tree Farms in Royal Oaks to get our annual story on Christmas trees. By plan, we met Glenn Church who said it all began when one of his relatives came from Massachusetts to Central America by ship, then walked across Panama to the Pacific Coast and caught another ship north to chase after gold around 1852. His family eventually worked its way to the Central Coast where Church’s great-grandfather started farming popcorn on the stretch of land on Hidden Valley Road, which is now used for growing Christmas trees. Glenn showed us a bunch of early day metal farm equipment including several plows, seed spreaders, and a contraption that was used to haul the harvested popcorn kernels. Glenn also showed us a dilapidated green wood shed on his land that was built in 1918 and moved to its current spot on Hidden Valley. It looked like it came right out of a van Gogh painting from 1880.

METRO Diary (a slice of my life on the Santa Cruz METRO)

Several people have told me “taking the bus is an adventure, every time.” So far they’ve been right. The other day I boarded the 71 in Santa Cruz bound for Watsonville. Since the dollar bill I tried to put into the box was wet from the rain it was stubborn to get pulled into the machine. I put my stuff down and tried with two hands and still failed. In despair, I looked to the driver for assistance and got none. So I grabbed my stuff and got off and the bus rolled on without me. I had to walk several blocks home with my umbrella and a pretty heavy backpack to get a crisp bill. Oh well.

It’s interesting to note how many people thank the driver when getting off the bus. A lot of folks do it, young and old, from skater punks to seniors with walkers. Now I am learning the various routes and their timing so the METRO is becoming a very efficient service for me. And it’s saving me a pretty good amount of cash in that I am 65 and each ride is $1. There’s no way you can drive from Santa Cruz to Watsonville for that. And I don’t even think about crazy drivers, tailgaters and near-misses as I settle into the op-ed page of the New York Times and nurse my coffee thermos. I’ve also come to enjoy riding the bus in the rain.

Dec. 2, 2019

Tarmo Hannula: Today is the second day of December, with 19 days of Fall remaining. On Dec. 21 the days start getting longer and winter begins.

Four more vehicles were hit by flying projectiles Thanksgiving Day in Prunedale. The bizarre strikes have been occurring over the past several months along Highways 101, 152 and 156, leaving many with shattered windows and other damage. The California Highway Patrol has ramped up its investigation of the incidents and has now brought in help from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, there is a community reward of $4,500 for anyone who helps police make an arrest and conviction in the case. One of the latest victims from Thanksgiving Day told KSBW News that his car was hit with an unknown object as he drove on Highway 156 near Cathedral Oak. He suffered minor cuts to his arms. Another strike that night happened on Highway 101 near Crazy Horse Canyon.

Here comes the rain. A series of wet winter storms are saturating the Central Coast. Strong winds are part of the deal and that means many lines have come down and roads have been closed. It’s the first significant rain we’ve had since May, according to meteorologist Anna Schneider of the National Weather Service of Monterey. Meanwhile, Caltrans closed Highway 1 in Big Sur between Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide Saturday evening. The National Weather Service is predicting 6-8 inches of rain in Big Sur through Wednesday and officials fear mudslides in the Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide areas.

California Highway Patrol officer Julieta Trenado said the CHP has been busy with stalled vehicles, spinouts and minor crashes. She advised motorists to drive cautiously, slow down and increase your following distance. “People really need to plan to alleviate stress,” she said. She added that just because the posted speed limit may be 65 mph, heavy rain mean drivers have to slow down by as much as 10 mph. “That 65 mph maximum speed is only for perfect conditions and not for inclement weather,” she said.

A double rainbow opens up over Capitola Friday during one of numerous downpours. —Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Trenado said the CHP, in its yearly tradition, is teaming up with Walgreens for their holiday toy drive for the needy. People are encouraged to drop off new, unwrapped toys at the CHP office in Aptos, 10395 Soquel Dr. All collected toys will be donated to the Salvation Army for distribution.

Some news reports state that the price of Christmas trees has doubled over the past several years due to drought, wildland fires and an overall 33 percent reduction in tree farms.

My wife Sarah and I had eight people over for dinner on Thanksgiving. Our turkey from Freedom Meat Lockers turned out perfect. Sarah learned a lot about preparing this meal from her mother, who was a great cook. Fortunately, we have a round oak dining table that has two large insert panels, which transforms it into a large, accommodating table. Everything came together according to plan besides a few small changes. Though we told people to show up around 3, four of them came at 1:20 pm. Those are our friends who are from China. I have no way of knowing: Maybe in China arrival times are up for interpretation and it is polite to show early? Either way, it adds to the excitement. I got a fire going in our brick fireplace and the cold and rainy weather sure added to the warm and cozy glow we created indoors.

Watsonville Fire Department got its new 100-foot aerial ladder truck today. It will replace an older rig. It’s made by Rosenbauer in Minnesota and is a 2019.