January 23, 2016

West Coast 4: Santa Cruz & Highway 1

I went from big city San Francisco to little city Santa Cruz along Highway 1.  I'm stubborn, it's beautiful, but honestly it was so early in the morning (7! how does anyone do anything at 7!) I barely remember it.  And it only took about two hours, which, psh, was a hop skip and a jump at this point.

Santa Cruz was sunny and small and before I did anything else, I went to the laundromat and dumped all my clothes into a washer named Babe and a dryer named Phil.  I didn't make these up, they were stickered onto the machines.  Laundromats are cool things!  This one was all cheerful with ocean murals painted on the walls and a couple dogs in the back and maybe I was making it up, but I felt a sense of camaraderie there.
At the recommendation of a Little River friend, I went to Cafe Brazil for takeout lunch and got this delicious mess of veggies and plantains and bread and we took it to the beach and I sat in the sand with my bare feet and shorts and laughed at Bix and tried not to get sand in my food.  They had a boardwalk, which was very exciting in theory and from afar, but in reality it was sort of not operating for the winter season.  Bix made friends though.
We did the pier too, which was decidedly more exciting because it had smoothies AND seals.  Big old fat seals that lounged and barked on the beams below.  Bixby didn't know what to make of them, but I thought they were GREAT.
Let me now say my couchsurfing hosts were stupendous.  Top notch.  Among the best couchsurf hosts I had the entire journey.  They lived in a beautiful old ranch-style house with gardens in the backyard, and I was there such a perfect night because they were having a get-together in their home.  We made taco accoutrements and sat around a long picnic table outside and spooned food onto our plates.  It was just one of those nights, you know?  Dogs underfoot, music playing, a general earthy connectedness, ice cream sundaes for dessert.  Stellar.

I was going to a Bombadil concert, of course, and everybody helped get my bike ready, because goodness knows that poor thing wasn't used enough.  Tires pumped up, lights borrowed, leather jacket on, Samantha and I zipped on over to the tiny bar to see the Bombi-boys play one more time.  It was by far their smallest concert, we passed around the set list and called out the songs, and everybody got one dedicated to them - mine was "Learning to Let Go."  I rode home chilly and happy through the empty Santa Cruz streets.
We peaced pretty early the next morning, crossing paths with the hosts as they were on their way to go surfing.  Bixby, handsome devil that he is, was offered a modeling gig with American Eagle while we were getting Starbucks, but we had to say "thanks but no" and continue on down the road.  This was a big day for us, because (drum roll please!) it was the day of Bixby Bridge, my little knucklehead's namesake.  It did not disappoint, although the significance of it went completely over Bixby's head.  "It's his name!" I told people, who probably thought I was nuts.
And then one of my very favorite things happened.  I'd been all bummed about the sea lions being out of their cave up in Oregon, but I was driving down the highway, and there were suddenly little brown government signs advertising elephant seals on the right.  We pulled off, of course, and hopped out of the car, and there were the seals.  Hundreds and hundreds of them, sunning mostly, flopping sand onto their bellies and backs.  Occasionally one would make its way down the beach and into the water, and two of the males chest-bumped in the shallow waves.  Bixby watched and watched.  "These are your mermaids," I told him.  They didn't have to be there at all, that was my favorite part.  This wasn't any sort of zoo.  The fence built was to keep people out of the seals, and the seals had the whole wide ocean to disappear into whenever they felt like it.  They just felt like being on this beach, being ogled by travelers who marched down the boardwalks to stare at the seals and then get back into their cars and continue on the Pacific Coast Highway.  Magical!  And then!  Because California is The Coolest, right after the seals, I had to pull over again because someone had put zebras in their cow pasture.  Why not!
Aaand then I got In-N-Out Burger, and despite the obvious vegetarian handicap it was delicious.  Chocolate milkshake FTW!
The end!