After working a week of night shifts, I had the luck of having three days in a row off. The first thing I thought of was my friend Gina’s, offer to do a weekend getaway if I could manage the time. When she suggested we head a few hours south to Santa Cruz and Monterey for the weekend I jumped at the chance.
I’ve had past experiences with couchsurfing, both staying on people’s couches and hosting. Thankfully they have been overwhelmingly positive. Couchsurfing is the best way to see a place and perfect for people like me, on a student loan budget!
Finding a couch to surf on in California is almost a contact sport. Last summer on our California roadtrip we contacted dozens of couchsurfers in San Francisco. We received no after no. Responses ranged from “Sorry you didn’t mention the secret key word I had hidden on my profile in your message” to “Sorry, I get 17 requests a day for couches.” Seventeen requests a day! No wonder the California couchsurfers are getting burned out!
Luckily, I had an “in” to the Santa Cruz couchsurfing scene. Pat spent a week surfing – and couchsurfing – last summer. I sent Mitch an email asking if he could spare a spot for Gina and I. Even though he has a steady stream of guests through his place, I got the all clear for Gina and I to share a futon mattress for the night.
Mitch was a fantastic host. He was full of ideas for our day in Santa Cruz and even placed a stuffed animal on each of our pillows. He regaled us with stories of couchsurfers past, including about his time hosting Pat.
He was also playing foster dad to some rescue squirrels. I was happy to stand behind the safety of my camera while Gina let them run wild over her – even in her hair!
He pointed us to the awesome and local Charlie Hong Kong for dinner. The food was affordable and delicious. The place was packed and the crowd was colorful, in the “is there a hostel nearby?” sort of way.
The next morning, Gina and I woke refreshed and headed out to see Santa Cruz. Our first stop was a co-op grocery store to get some fresh coffee and some vegan baked goods. Ever the animal lover, Gina immediately made friends with one of the local patrons:
We took a walk along the ocean and saw everything from sea lions to surfers. Pat also recommended the Surf Museum, which was full of old surfing photos, uniforms and even a shark-bitten surf board.
For lunch we checked out Saturn Cafe. Gina is vegan and Saturn Cafe offers only vegetarian entrees, many of which are vegan. I had a huge salad which was not only filling, but delicious (when combined with the order of fries we shared!).
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering Pacific Ave, the tourist downtown street of Santa Cruz. Then we packed up the car and headed even further south to Monterey.