Santa Cruz, You're Not That Far (USA Day 134)

A recurring feature that we’ve enjoyed over the past few days is the singing trees. Now, trees don’t normally sing, I’m told, but every so often we’ll pass one just exploding with noise, and look closer to see that every chirping leaf is in fact a starling-like bird with the most wonderfully varied repertoire. We managed to stop and listen to one this morning, but not take a picture of it; after all, you can’t really photograph a noise.

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We managed another of those rubbish mornings where getting out is a chore, then you stop for far too long with your coffee, then stop for lunch to find you’ve only done about twenty miles. Our sandy spot was lovely though, and as Amy pranced across the sand collecting seaweed balls, I wrote a couple of blogs (they don’t just appear from thin air, you know) and guarded the bikes from evildoers.

The first significant town of the day was also the last one: Santa Cruz. In season, it’s probably a hub of surfer dudes and sun-cream-slathered families, but even as early as October the rush had subsided. An enormous amusement park on the boardwalk, dubbed ‘The World’s Greatest Seaside Theme Park’ by a few hopeful banners, lay empty, the rollercoasters eerily still for such a sunny afternoon. A few surfers floated in the bay south of town like sea debris, waiting listlessly for a wave that never came. We stopped for donuts and a quick map-check, but felt like there wasn’t much for us here. These seaside cities are blessed by all-year-round sun and excellent beaches, but you can get those out of town too, so that’s where we headed.

We ended the day in Aptos, where, and follow carefully here, the parents of the girlfriend of the son of a brother of Becky and Ken (a great pair of hosts from back in Illinois) let us stay in their gorgeous house. We didn’t mean to seek out such tenuous connections for a night’s sleep, but this worked out just great, and Carey and Judit were more than lovely, feeding us an Argentinian take on Shepherd’s Pie, not even blinking at quite how much we ate, and giving us the lowdown on the next few hundred miles of riding.