Well, It’s Frying Time Again – Santa Cruz, California

Well, It’s Frying Time Again…
Santa Cruz, California

“Well they’re out there havin’ fun
In that warm California sun.”

-The Rivieras

I’m peeling.

This makes the third time in less than two weeks. Granted it’s just small flakes this time. Nothing like the huge cellophane-like sheets I pulled off after the initial trauma. Nevertheless, I’m a bit concerned. I’ve severely sunburned a portion of my body that has never, I repeat NEVER, seen the sun! Just how many epidermal layers down did the damage go?

Well at least I can sit down again without the fear of having my pants fuse with my flesh when I rise. And it could have been worse. Much worse. At least I fell asleep on that warm, balmy, California beach on my stomach. My buddy wasn’t so lucky.

He fell asleep on his back!

Sam has to go to work. He would like nothing better than to blow the day off and go to the beach with his two old chronically under employed college friends who have driven down from Oregon to freeload on their vacation to the Bay Area. But Sam’s a semi-responsible guy now, with a good job in the high tech industry here in Silicon Valley (yeah, it’s 1982!). Plus, after a weekend of beer, bars and barbecues with these two, Sam could use a little break.

“Well, what’s the closest beach?” I ask. That’s the real reason we’re here. California Beaches. They’re warm!

“Santa Cruz,” he says, “But don’t go to the main beaches in town. They’re way too crowded. Where the freeway splits coming into town, go north for a few miles. You’ll see a few cars pulled off on the sides of the road here and there. Anyone of these is great. Beautiful beaches and not very many people. Mostly college kids from the university.”

Sam points us in the right direction and heads off to work. We’ll fill him in on the day’s adventures over burgers and Bud that night. We pile into my buddy Mark’s 1978 Subaru, toss the squirrels a few peanuts, and we’re off.

The freeway to the beach is close by. It travels through miles and miles of urban sprawl. Eventually we get out of the congested areas, and drive through a pleasant, winding coastal range, not unlike parts of Oregon. Within 45 minutes, we’re at the outskirts of Santa Cruz. Following our host’s directions, we head north on 101, driving through the northern section of town. The road is lined with funky shops, bars, stores and restaurants. No trip to the beach would be complete without the proper provisions, so we pick up some beer and junk food at one of the stores. After a few miles, we are out of town, and start looking for a beach. We see a car or two pulled over here and there, but are unsure if that’s the place to go. Eventually we see a pull-off area with a dozen or so cars. Bingo! We have arrived.

We walk down the embankment to the beach, a seemingly simple task that becomes more difficult as we draw near. No, our provisions aren’t that heavy, but trying not to trip over our tongues and put our eyeballs back into our heads adds to the degree of difficulty. What our good buddy Sam has failed to mention to us, is that the beaches on the north side of town are…yikes!…clothing optional! Like a couple of young innocents wandering in the desert, we have stumbled upon the promised land.

We set up camp, trying to act nonchalantly, no easy task among the bevy of college beauties who have decided to cut class and frolic for the day au natural. A quick beer to calm our nerves, and our vital signs are almost back to normal.

After beer number two, Mark says, “Well, when in Rome…” and proceeds to shuck his swimsuit.
“When in Rome, indeed,” I reply, cracking beer number 3 and following (sorry) suit.

We spent the next hour or so drinking beer, eating badly and taking in the beautiful environment. As nude beach novices, we were trying to remain low profile, observe proper etiquette (NO blatant gawking, hovering or gymnastics!) but still appreciate nature and all its accessories, while waiting for the legendary nude volleyball game to break out (it never did).

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What about sunscreen? Well, to tell you the truth, in all the excitement, I kind of forgot. I really had no intention of dropping trou to begin with, nor any idea of how long they would remain dropped. But it didn’t seem that hot with the breeze (about 72°) and rubbing sunscreen on my nether regions at that point in time seemed rather conspicuous. And of course, after a robust four-food-group repast (sugar, salt, grease and alcohol), the inevitable post-lunch slump set in, and we dozed off (no, DOZED off! You know, fell asleep!).

When we awoke, it was 4 p.m. The air was noticeably cooler and most of our fellow naturalists had left. Time to head back and meet Sam for happy hour and tell him of our most excellent adventure! We dressed, packed out our refuse (like all good campers, clothed or non-clothed, should) and pointed the Subaru back down the road.

It was about halfway back to Sam’s when I noticed the discomfort. Just some slight irritation and chafing at first. By the time we arrived at the apartment, I couldn’t sit in one position for more than 10 seconds. I was on FIRE!

“Man, I think I might have fried my buns out there,” I said.
“You too, huh?” Mark said.
“You’re burnt?”
“Oh, yeah! Big time! But it’s not my buns! It’s the other hemisphere!”
“What? My God! You don’t mean….”
“Yes. The Mother of All Weenie Roasts!”

The last few days of our trip were painful. I couldn’t sit, sleep, run, fetch or do the bump. Even just wearing clothes hurt. The only form of relief was standing in the swimming pool all day draining beers. Okay, that part wasn’t so bad. But the drive home! Through Red Bluff and Redding, Hilt and Medford. 95 degrees! Black upholstery! In a cramped Japanese economy car! My shorts and I were one!

But I learned my lesson, I truly did. I know everybody says that, but in this case, I grew from the experience. Several years later, I found myself in a similar situation, unexpectedly at the famous clothing optional beach at Rooster Rock State Park along the Columbia River. But this time, after separating from my trunks, I applied an overly generous layer of SPF 45 to the vulnerable areas. In fact, I applied so much, It looked like I was wearing a pair of tighty-whitey jockey shorts. My swim trunks were more revealing.

Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco.
I left my epidermis in Santa Cruz.

©2005 Lee Hammerschmidt