Q I feel for Debbie Davis' pain trying to go from San Jose to Santa Cruz and back over Highway 17 on weekends. The beach season has just started, and traffic has already gotten pretty bad.
A Debbie pleaded for help on alternate routes and strategies after taking more than two hours to get back to San Jose on Mother's Day. Here are a few.
Q Normally, if you hit 17 south before 11 a.m., traffic won't be too bad. On Sundays, it seems most people hit the road right after church. Do not even bother getting on 17 south between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on summer weekends.
For the reverse commute, parents start packing up their kids about 3 p.m. to head home, so northbound traffic is bad from then until 7 p.m.
If there are any accidents, all bets are off.
A Here's a suggestion from me, besides listening to radio traffic reports: Check with 511 before making the trek through the mountains.
Q It takes less than two hours to take Old San Jose Road to Summit to Black Road.
A And ...
Q My family has owned quite a bit of property in and around Felton since there was a train that went there from San Jose, and Mt. Hermon was a dirt trail. I also lived off of Zayante Road, commuting to Mountain View, for about six years, had forgotten how much of a "Zen" drive that is for me -- my passengers may not always feel the stress-evaporating Zen, but hey, I drove that road every day for several years!
Other often forgotten (and usually stress-reducing Zen driving) ways are Skyline Boulevard and Highway 9 into Saratoga; Highway 1 to Old La Honda/280 or 92/280, or if it seems EVERYTHING on that end of the county is backed up, take Highway 1 south to 152 (we always make a pit stop at Gizdich Ranch to pick up some yummy berry pies or let the kids pick some fresh berries!). Once over Mt. Madonna, Old Monterey Road intersects Monterey Highway and 101/85.
A Berry pie -- yum-yum.
Q In general, there is no best time to come back. It depends mostly on the weather. If it is a beautiful, hot weekend, there is going to be a lot of traffic on northbound 17. The key things are what time the sun goes down and what time the fog rolls in. When either of those things happen, people are going to leave the beaches and traffic backs up. So keep an eye on the weather.
A And ...
Q Take Old Santa Cruz Highway from Summit Road and come down into Soquel. ALWAYS less horrible than 17!
Q I personally hate Highway 17 and avoid it as much as possible. From the time I attended San Jose State in the '50s to this day, I have taken the longer way to Santa Cruz and back again -- 101 south to either Morgan Hill or Gilroy and Hecker Pass to Watsonville and then on to Santa Cruz. You might even catch sight of albino deer at the top of the pass.
A The drive to the beach has been torture for a long, long time.
Q Before I moved to Capitola, I'd leave late afternoon and, yes, it would be a parking lot for two hours on the way back. That was over 35 years ago! If you look at the pictures from a history book on Highway 17, written by an Aptos author about 1930s beach traffic, the Model T's were lined up just like now. Sometimes things never change.
A So true.