Posts Tagged 'Santa Cruz'

Slow Times in Santa Cruz

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.”

“Fuckin ‘coons.”

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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Highway 1 to Capitola

kitesurfers along highway 1. photo by dailytransit.

WE THROTTLE OUT OF San Francisco and are winding southwards on Highway 1, gunning down the roadway precariously close to coastal cliffs. Excited, resigned, taking in all we can as we silently acknowledge that we are headed to our southernmost destination – after Santa Cruz, it’s the way home.

The scenery is fantastic, a rolling gradation of bucolic fields, harsh drop-offs, sand dunes and beaches.

Feeling spontaneous, we spot The Half Moon Brewery and turn off of the highway. At the restaurant, we sit, take in a breath of sea air, and have a look at the menu – and it looks a little pricey. So in the same vein, we “spontaneously” decide to ditch it and are peeling out of the parking lot before we get our waters.

A ways down the road we are greeted by an amazing panorama of the Pacific, and can’t resist pulling off the road to really soak it in. We get out and see the masses of kite and wind surfers dotting the shoreline and cruising out amid the deep blue surf. It’s idyllic. “This is what I picture when I think of Northern California,” I say to Nick.

Miles later (and after we passed the really cool-looking HI lighthouse hostel) we roll into a gas station in Santa Cruz, fill up the tank, and decide we ought to figure out where we’re camping. Nick asks the station attendant, but she can only think of spots back up the way we came – and there’s no town, no nothin’ up that ways.

We pull out a map (purchased back in Portland), and find that the only real spot to camp is a state park on the edge of Capitola – the town adjacent to Santa Cruz.

By the time we get to Capitola (maybe 15 minutes later), we’re starving, and so we park it in town and settle on a delicious Thai joint before trying to make camp. After our meal we stroll out to the beach, checking out the funky multicolor bungalows, and spotting a couple who are happily asleep in the sand.

The park ranger at the entrance to New Brighton State Park is out for a break, so we find ourselves a campsite and hope that nobody has it reserved – it’s about 8 o’clock, so we figure if someone is gonna show they’d be here by now. We figured wrongly, as it turns out, and the ranger (who can’t be older than 18) tells us we have to move. We pick up our tent and shuffle across the way to our new site, which is actually a lot nicer.

Tent set up and a fire going, the sky fades from dusk to black. We clink together some beers, and call it a night.

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