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July 13, 2003: I am very sore. Also, there were fish.

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When I was here last year doing mollusk handler training for Benthic Creatures, we found a marvelous little diner called the Santa Cruz diner. Early this year, when Richard was in Santa Cruz passing out shell polishing kits to the mollusks, he discovered the joys of this diner too. So this morning when we both got up too early for the inn's continental breakfast, we decided to relive some of the fun of our Benthic Creatures days and went to the diner for breakfast.

It was as cute and quirky as we remembered. The waitresses are all no-nonsense and serve up sarcastic humor along with the coffee. We had pancakes and drank coffee and tried very hard to find some energy for one more day. After yesterday's marathon of walking we were both exhausted, so we eyed the tourist map dubiously in the hopes of finding some kind of entertainment that would involve a minimum of movement.

First we meandered through the streets back to the coast (but safely away from the traffic that surrounds the boardwalk) and found the Santa Cruz Natural History museum. It's in a tiny little building overlooking the ocean and was manned by one rather quiet and bookish gentleman who greeted from behind his counter. There isn't a lot to see in the Natural History museum, but what little there was, was laid out quite well. One room had all sorts of exhibits and pictures and information about the local indigenous people in the area while another held all manner of birds and local furry things (including a huge full-grown red tailed hawk hanging from the ceiling). In a third room we learned all about fossils and shellfish in the area and got to pet starfish in a tide pool.

Then we decided to go to the Long Marine Aquarium. We arrived before they opened (it seems to have been a trend for this weekend) so wandered around on the cliffs overlooking the ocean for a bit before we were able to go inside.

It's another tiny little place, but like the museum, was definitely worth the trip. Unlike most aquariums, this place was set up to show how science actually happens. Each exhibit started with a question, and then gave simple steps on how the scientists came up with an answer. Obviously it's mostly geared toward school kids, but even for adults it was pretty neat. There was some hands-on stuff, including a huge puzzle (which Richard and I put together because I really, really like jigsaw puzzles), and a tank full of jellyfish, and a few little tide pool areas where I got to poke at sea cucumbers and watch them contract, and also let an anemone try to run off with my finger by leaving it there long enough for it to wrap half a dozen of its little sucker legs onto my skin. Once we were done poking at sea critters we went on a little tour, which mainly consisted of a short walk outside along the bluff behind the center, and then an even shorter trip into the main complex to see the dolphins and sea lions and seals. It was a highly educational trip, because when one of the docents asked if we had any questions, I jumped at the opportunity to find the answer to a question of utmost importance (by the way, in case you were wondering as well, jellyfish do not, in fact, have butts. You are welcome).

We headed home after lunch. My legs are sore and I am walking funny because there is a huge blister on the bottom of the middle toe on my left foot, and we are both sporting nasty sunburns on our faces and arms, and I am completely and overwhelmingly exhausted. We forgot to bring the camera and we realized sometime today that if we'd had half a brain between the two of us we would have tossed the bikes onto the car and brought them along and maybe we wouldn't be nearly as worn out. The cats will not leave me alone because they have been left with no one to give them attention for TWO WHOLE DAYS (no matter that my parents came in and fed them both days, and probably did a bit of head scritching and petting), and I need to do laundry and I think I could use another day just to sleep before I go back to work tomorrow and am required to at least pretend to be awake. But all those things aside, it was a lovely weekend, and I am very glad we went.

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