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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Wonderful Watsonville: Day trip highlights agricultural roots


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
A mural painted on the side of a Watsonville building pays homage to the area’s agricultural legacy and promotes its bounty of crops.

It may not have the cachet of some other Northern California hot spots, but a day trip to Watsonville brings you closer to nature and to Steinbeck country.

When you live in the suburbs, it’s easy to take California’s bountiful agricultural regions and rural communities for granted. It’s only when traveling to, say, Michigan in December that you’ll miss a good head of lettuce like the kind we get year round.

Taking the winding Hecker Pass Road/State Route 152 through the redwoods, we witnessed dramatic views of the fields below. Sugar beets and grains used to be the major regional crops, but by the 1920s, strawberries and lettuce took over.

In the 1930s, field workers arrived from Oklahoma, and John Steinbeck chronicled their mistreatment in his books, including “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Cannery Row” and the lesser-known “In Dubious Battle,” set in his native Salinas and on the Monterey Peninsula.

Agricultural legacy

Despite sunny skies, the weather was brisk when we arrived at our first stop in Watsonville, the Codiga Center and Museum at 2601 E. Lake Ave. (aghistoryproject.org), run by the Agricultural History Project.

Set in a quaint two-story barn, volunteers staff the museum from noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Exhibits document the history of the region, including the once-flourishing apple industry and the legacy of the vaqueros.

“Most members of the Agricultural History Project come from farming families,” said volunteer Gloria Van Dierendonck.

In addition to running the museum, the Agricultural History Project collects and restores tools and equipment.

The museum’s Porter Implement Shed includes hand tools like a wood rasp and Cooper’s axe, augers and something called a “fro.” Rickety plows and a one-row potato planter round out the display.

An outdoor garage for restored tractors would probably interest young and old. A model 1937 John Deere tractor and a 1933 Ford truck give an idea of how far machines have evolved.

As part of its educational mission, the group sponsors events the second Saturday of each month. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Feb. 8 event will combine chocolate and roses. Member John Borena will offer pruning tips, and a local chocolatier promises to hand out delicious morsels.

For tour reservations, call (831) 724-5898 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Immediately adjacent to the museum sits the Rodgers House (santacruzeventcenter.org), once owned by Steinbeck’s sister, Esther Rodgers. She donated it to Santa Cruz County, and it’s been restored to its original 1870s Victorian state. Historical archives include stories of the Pajaro Valley.

El Mercado Popular (elmercadopopular.com), the local farmers’ market, is scheduled year round 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays at Pajaro Valley High School, 500 Harkins Slough Road, and Sundays at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 E. Lake Ave.

Birding on the sloughs

Hidden from the road, the Watsonville Wetlands (watsonvillewetlandswatch.org) remain one of the last freshwater marshlands in the state. The sloughs make an ideal spot for birdwatching.

Following directions on the Wetlands Watch website, we found Ramsey Park, 30 Harkins Slough Road, and the Nature Center, which serves as a jumping-off point for several trails. Free guided nature walks are offered on Sundays.

According to city officials, the marshlands provide crucial downtime for birds migrating on the “globally important Pacific Flyway.” More than 200 species of shorebirds, raptors and songbirds gravitate to the wetlands.

Children might enjoy looking at the Nature Center’s interactive exhibits, which explain the importance of the wetlands. An estimated 26 endangered species make their home in the wetlands, currently undergoing restoration.

We had no trouble spotting egrets, mallards and swallows as soon as we started our walk. The trails meander through private and public lands on 800 acres, so it’s easy to get lost. Download the trail map at cityofwatsonville.org.

The city boasts 6 miles of paved walking and cycling trails, with 29 accessible trail entrances. Another trailhead, for the Watsonville Slough Trail, sits hidden behind the Body Zone fitness center, 1810 Main St., in a strip mall. Check the map.

Farm-fresh fruits

Crystal Bay Farm at 40 Zils Road (crystalbayfarm.com) sponsors an unmanned, roadside farm stand operated via the honor system.

The farm grows organically certified berries, pumpkins, herbs and other crops. Crystal Bay offers customers the chance to pick their own strawberries ($3 a pound) and raspberries ($8 a pound) from mid-April through October.

Gizdich Ranch at 55 Peckham Road (gizdich-ranch.com) invites visitors to pick all the pay-by-the-pound strawberries they can eat.

Downtown highlights

Once you work up an appetite, head downtown. Visitors will notice the historical apple-crate murals on the sides of buildings. Exact copies of crate labels from the 1900s, they are exclusive to Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley. Download a walking tour brochure from the city’s website.

Watsonville houses plenty of historical homes with interesting architecture built circa the late 1800s and early 1900s. William Weeks, a celebrated architect of the Victorian era, designed most. He also produced the plans for the Gothic Revival-style St. Patrick’s Church at 721 Main St., with an ornate slate-roof steeple that dramatically enhances the building.

Other must-sees include the Resetar Residential Hotel at 15 W. Lake Ave., which Weeks designed in 1927 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.

The Pajaro Valley Historical Association, headquartered in the Bockius-Orr house at 332 E. Beach St. (pajarovalleyhistory.org), is quite active in town. Godfrey M. Bockius, a Pennsylvania merchant, settled here and commissioned Alex Chalmers to design a Victorian addition in 1870. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

End of the day

Jalisco Restaurant at 618 Main St. (jaliscorestaurant.com), in an enormous space with full bar, serves great steak and chicken fajitas with rice and beans for $14.95. A full Mariachi band plays on Friday nights.

For dessert, try the Tamale Factory at 611 Main St. for sweet tamales.

Surrounded by strawberry fields, sand dunes and pine trees, Sunset State Beach at 201 Sunset Beach Road may be hard to spot, but it’s worth finding for its dramatic coastal views. Watching a spectacular sunset on the Pacific Ocean is a great way to end the day.

For more information, visit cityofwatsonville.org.

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