Leaving Yosemite behind us, we began our drive out of the park and headed westwards, towards our next destination, Santa Cruz, where we were meeting a friend who goes to college there. Our aim was to arrive in SC by around 6:30pm, but it seems that was very much just wishful thinking and we soon realised it was going to take longer than we had anticipated.
Firstly, it was really hard to drag ourselves away from Yosemite’s overriding beauty, and secondly, it took a lot longer to actually get out of the park than we thought – almost an hours! Eventually we got back out onto some main roads, made a few stops for various food and drink items and then were truly on our way… Our only thought being to see the sea!
Not really knowing where on earth we were going, we just followed our (not so) trusty GPS, which took us a very bizarre route into the absolute middle of nowhere. And it was incredible. Just dry, brown, mountainous farmland as far as the eye could see – it was everything I thought a road trip through Northern California would be, and so much more. And we did all those classic road trip things – we listened to music so loudly that we couldn’t hear each other speak; we had plenty of snacks (Nutella on rice cakes anyone?); we listened to Stephen Fry narrate Harry Potter; and we enjoyed blissful silence as we drove and drove and drove, marveling at everything around us, no one feeling the need to speak at all.
As we drove west, 6:30 came and went and we still hadn’t arrived (and had no way of contacting our friend to tell her were would be late), but at that moment nothing else really mattered because we were met with the most intense sunset I think I ever seen. Drive along an empty, straight road, past farmland and vineyards, it was like the sky just opened up in front of us and we were inside and directly underneath the sunset. There were huge open spaces filled with wispy clouds coloured in with oranges, yellows, pinks and blues every which way you looked. I think our mouths just hung open in awe for quite some time.
We finally arrived in Santa Cruz at around 7:30pm, found a cute little motel called the ‘Ocean Lodge’, checked in and then went to Pacific Street downtown to meet up with our friend who by this point had been waiting about 2 hours for us. Our bad. Probably should have checked the distances a bit more thoroughly. We had a lovely evening of dinner and drinks, and explored the cool little city that is Santa Cruz before falling into bed later that evening.
With it’s small but buzzing atmosphere, obvious surfer vibes and location right near the ocean, Santa Cruz reminded me a lot of Byron Bay in Australia, and I just wish I could have spent a bit more time there, because I think it’s somewhere I would really love.
But we were on a pretty tight schedule and had a long day of driving ahead of us the next day, so it’ll have to go on my ‘must visit again’ list. Santa Cruz, it was nice to meet you, now onwards to LA!