IT’S PITCH DARK, probably sometime around 3:00 a.m., and I can hear a rustling outside the tent. I quickly try to recall whether I closed the cubby with all our food in it – I did, and I turned the latch. But then I hear a crunching, and what I’m pretty sure sounds like packages of Pop Tarts being opened. Nick stirs from sleep. “Hey man, where’d you put the pretzels?” he asks.
“In the cupboard man, and I latched it.”
Nick steps outside with the lamp to use the bathroom (aka, the bush), but not before knocking against the side of the tent and making growling noises to scare off any critters. Then he investigates the scene – it’s bad: an empty box of pop tarts, a half eaten bag of pretzels strewn on the ground.
In the sleepy morning, I sip orange juice and ponder the implications of raccoons not only possessing the superior intellect to understand the function of a lock, but also the dexterity to compromise it. Eerie.
Nick and I roll into town (we’re driving, feeling lazy and without a good night’s sleep) to find some breakfast. Right along the beach in Capitola we find Mr. Toots, a cozy second-floor cafe with good coffee and and a fantastic balcony facing the coast. We order bagels and sit out in the sun for a while, reading and reflecting. It’s surprisingly breezy – so much so that when Nick puts a Tolkien novel on the ledge of the deck a gust carries it away and into the water. The barista comes out (he saw us jump up) and asks what fell. We tell him a book. “Ah man, that sucks,” he says. We don’t tell him the book was the cafe’s. Oops.
We take that as our cue to leave and head towards Santa Cruz. As we cross the river and begin to take in the scenery, I’m a bit surprised – SC is pretty suburban, and while it maintains a laid-back appeal it’s also a far cry from the beach bum, hippie town I envisioned.
The University of California Santa Cruz is tucked up into the woods, several miles from the coast. This means the actual city has less of a college feel than one might expect. There is, of course, a main drag of shops and restaurants similar to those present in any college town (the Ave in Seattle, Telegraph in Berkely, and Pacific Avenue here), but beyond a new-agey shop selling some pretty cool handmade journals and a pretty phenomenal pizza joint, there’s nothing much to write home about. The one treasure I do find is a CD I’ve been on the hunt for since Los Angeles – Television’s ‘Marquee Moon,’ an album that will become the anthem to our journey.
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