We’re finishing up the California leg of our journey and heading north to Portland, OR! We’ll have a full recap (or two or three) of the first month away soon, but for now we’re looking forward to settling into the rain for the next three months.
Since we are done with our Santa Cruz adventure, I thought it would be time to tell you about the food+beer experiences in Santa Cruz.
The first thing I wanted to note was that Midtown Santa Cruz has an abundance of citrus trees available in every yard- including lemons, limes, blood oranges, and pomegranates. What a wonderfully tasty bounty–I didn’t realize all of that grew so well down here! We cooked a couple meals in the Midtown AirBNB rental utilizing these fruits, a local Shoppers market, and the Buttery bakery both down the street.
Starting with the food and beer. It was about the third day Beth had to work that I was getting a little stir-crazy in the small apartment, so she sent me to “Husband Daycare”–I went to downtown Santa Cruz to get a few beers and watch the new Star Wars movie. 🙂 I was looking for a local brewery to start my daycare trip, and the closest one was my first choice- I tried Uncommon Brewery (http://www.uncommonbrewers.com). It lead me to an interesting small-business area near downtown. I walked up to their door to see a burly bearded dude wearing a beer shirt and carrying a few Uncommon 6-packs. I figured I got the right spot. I asked him if they served beer inside and he told me they don’t serve at this location, but a taproom across the way was being built–FAIL! He also informed me of a bar that serves their beers in cans and tap. With that information, I was on my way to a local bar a mile down the road, 99 Bottles (http://www.99bottles.com).
99 Bottles is a typical local bar in an upscale area, but with an extensive local and regional CA tap list. After looking at the list and talking with the bartender for a few minutes, I was armed with new knowledge. I started with a refreshing Uncommon Framboos raspberry ale (not usually to my liking, but it was hoppy and sweetness was not lingering). I followed up with a buffalo chicken sandwich (ok) and delicious waffle fries paired with a Sante Adairius Chaves Porter which made a wonderful combination. Word on the street is that Sante Adairius (http://rusticales.com) is a hot, regional brewer specializing in farmhouse ales, sour beers, and funky ales, and it is in Santa Cruz and I regret not making it to their brewery to try more, but make the trip if you’re in the area! Solid choices, good buzz- now time to walk to the movie.
A few days later it was time for Beth and me to go out on a beer-venture. We wanted good beer and good food–who doesn’t? Well, we headed to West Santa Cruz to go to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery (http://www.scmbrew.com) for some suds. It was located in the Santa Cruz West end a newer small business park with plenty of wine and food places. It was a cool, rainy evening but we got a flight of everything they had to offer, at a bit of a high cost, and enjoyed the dog-friendly outside area–too bad the pup stayed at home. The beer was pretty lackluster, there was a wheat that had a bit of flavor (which is the best I can say for it) and a porter that was ok. Needless to say, we downed those fast and moved on to find some better beer and definitely some food! Luckily for us, there was a nice, upscale restaurant just across the way.
West End Tap & Kitchen (http://westendtap.com) was the next stop because we were hungry (hangry??) and ready for some satisfying beer. This place was upscale with a modern layout, and at 5:30p Pacific time was already hopping–our stomachs were still on Eastern time so it suited us. The food here was good, if a bit pricy; we split a flatbread pizza that had good bread and toppings and some delicious breaded/fried [Pacific??] calamari. Ok, so that was the food which paired well with the delicious flights we ordered. You can see from the attached photo the array of local (including beers made at/for this place) and regional beers, and they were all good. We had a hoppy red ale that would appeal to the hop heads (thinking of you, Jake!). However, the final beer on each flight was barrel-aged and were I found my favs. Just to list a few- West End Stout (house beer, v. good), Corralitos Red, 2 Tun Imperial Stout.
The final beer stop in Santa Cruz (Soquel) was, what better, a bottle shop and pour house[sic] called Beer Thirty (http://www.bthirty.com). I can’t say enough good things about this place! Think Louisville Beer Store, but less pretentious with a better outdoor space. The front area has corrugated steel enclosed dog-friendly front patio and a dedicated food stand–very nice look and feel to it. The selection in the back looks good- you can see from the photo; in fact, I was surprised to see a barrel-aged Narwhal and some Against the Grain cans! We dropped by this place after a nice 7-mi hike, so we didn’t partake in the taps, only grabbed a couple bottles. Side note- had we been there just week earlier, we would have been there for a stout/barrel-aged tap takeover (argh- I want it!!). We picked 2 CA barrel-aged beers to take with us. The first I already imbibed and it is a complex, beautiful Coronado Collection Barrel Aged Stupid Stout. I am also going to rest a Fifty-Five Brewing Co. Imperial Eclipse Stout – Elijah Craig (12 Year), per the salesperson’s recommendation (said it was a bit hot). I guess I am going to carry bottles on our trip the rest of the year (or until I get a craving and drink it!).
- 99 Bottles- Do it; a bar worth a visit for local/regional taps
- Uncommon Brewer- Do it late 2016(??); when their taproom opens go, but find it in most local bars
- Sante Adairius- Do it now
- Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery- Pass; nice outdoor area but lackluster beer
- West End Tap & Kitchen- do it, it is a bit pricey, but beer flights are a great deal, and an outdoor area
- Beer Thirty- DO IT, for taps or bottles, dog friendly and must do it- can do it after a hike in Land of Medicine Buddha
Sorry if this is long-winded. Just trying to get the drive documented so we can move onto the fun stuff. Onward!
Day 3 – Are we there yet?
It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep can do for morale. We were up and on the road early after chowing down on some waffles shaped like Texas. Today we decided to make a couple of stops along the way and try to see a little of what Texas and New Mexico had to offer.
Our first stop was just outside of Amarillo to the famous Cadillac Ranch! We didn’t have any spray paint with us, but we found a bottle that wasn’t quite empty and made our mark. The cars were so textured from layers of built up paint, which is something you don’t see from afar.
We hit the road and before long found ourselves crossing the New Mexico border. We stopped in Santa Rosa, NM to see the Blue Hole. We didn’t know what to expect, and luckily we didn’t have any expectations because it would’ve fallen miserably short of them. Basically it’s an 80ft hole that has clear blue water and is a constant 60ish degrees. You can swim and dive here, but since there was snow on the ground we decided to pass. Though Snickers and Ariel had a nice little rendezvous.
Then it was straight on to Albuquerque. Sadly, we didn’t get any crystal blue persuasion as Walter White is no longer in the business, but we did get some good beer at Marble Brewery. With bellies full of beer (2 flights) and brisket nachos, we paused our drive and took a walk around Petroglyph National Monument. There were ancient markings on volcanic rock from Native Americans and Spanish settlers. It was a nice 2 mile walk to stretch our legs and digest our food.
The landscape through the rest of New Mexico was amazing! The sun came out and lit up the mountains and the rocks were illuminated with a red hue. Our goal was to make it to Flagstaff before calling it a night. For whatever reason, the hotels were filled up and it was expensive, but we found a decent place right near the University of Northern Arizona and called it a night.
Distance travelled: 608 miles
Beth’s favorite part: Cadillac Ranch followed closely by TX waffles
Matt’s favorite part: Petroglyph National Monument
Day 4 – Let’s hike!
We were up early in Flagstaff and ready to start the next leg of the journey. We weren’t ready for the freezing temps! It was in the teens as we loaded up the car! We found a hike just outside Flagstaff to work off breakfast and get the little pup some exercise; it was a 2.5 mile loop at the Elden Lookout trailhead. It wasn’t too strenuous, but the ice and snow on the trail made us glad we packed our boots. Luckily it was sunny and we got a great lookout of the city from the top.
Driving down the western side of the mountain was breathtaking. The sun played off the mountains and the scenery was a much welcomed change from the desert the previous two days. After a couple of hours we reached the California border!!!! Huzzah! Too bad we were still a day and a half from our destination 😦
We stopped at a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant to refuel, and were a bit underwhelmed by the lack of spices in our burrito and tacos. We were also price gouged for gas ($3.70! A GALLON!), but when you’re about to hit the Mojave Desert and the next gas station isn’t for 70 miles you gotta do what you gotta do. It probably didn’t make up for it, but later in the evening we were averaging 58 MPG going down a mountain into Bakersfield. I wish I knew what that drive looked like, but it was dark so we were basically careening blindly down a mountain.
Distance travelled: 480 miles
Matt’s favorite part: coming down out of the mountains
Beth’s favorite part: hiking in Flagstaff
Snickers’ favorite part: ditto to the hiking (woof!)
Day 5 – BIG SUR
This could really be a post of its own, but let’s just put it here and get the drive recap over with. We got up early (again) in Bakersfield; since the hotel didn’t have a complimentary breakfast – the first time this trip! – we treated ourselves to breakfast at Cope’s Knotty Pine Café. It was a greasy spoon diner with hearty helpings and hit the spot. Initially we were going to go with Google Map’s directions to Santa Cruz, but at the last minute changed our route to drive the coast up Highway 1. That was the best decision we could have made! It added about 2 hours to our drive time, but the views were well worth it. If you ever find yourself having to make that decision, just drive the coast.
The first hour or two was mostly desert; there were grape vines and almond farms as far as the eye could see. Then out of nowhere (well over the mountain) the scenery did a complete 180 and changed into lush greenery with rolling hills. There were wineries everywhere! We made it to the coast and made our first stop at a dog-friendly beach. We were able to walk up and down and let Snickers off leash to experience sand and seawater for the first time. She loved running around in the sand…and antagonizing the beached elephant seal, but she wasn’t so keen on the waves. I guess a giant moving object could be a little scary.
We drove the rest of the way up the coast through Big Sur. The views were incredible! Mountains to the east, ocean to the west! I wish we had more time to hike through there, but we were exhausted and just wanted to get to Santa Cruz. We will be back eventually to hike and camp.
We made it to our AirBNB and settled in for the week. The place was small, but comfortable, if not a bit overcrowded with furniture. The area was extremely walkable and we were relatively close to the beach. We cooked dinner in our small kitchenette and had fresh blood oranges from a tree out back. The computers were set up and it was time to settle in and enjoy the week in Santa Cruz!
WE MADE IT!
Distance travelled: 290 miles
Matt’s favorite part: driving through Big Sur
Beth’s favorite part: seeing Snickers in the ocean
Day 1 – the move
Once we got the house rented we decided to take a couple of days off work before the new year to drive across the country. With the built-in holiday that gave us 5 days to travel the 2,300 miles to Santa Cruz. We left without much of a plan other than to make our last driving day shorter than the first four and to try and enjoy the trip as much as we could – no small task with 2 people, 1 dog, and a year’s worth of belongings packed to the brim in a Subaru!
We left around 1:30pm on December 30th with the hope of getting to Springfield, MO before we called it a night. Beth took the first driving shift so Matt could get some emails and calls taken care of in regards to his new job. Leaving the house was terrifying and exciting at the same time. Snickers was equally terrified, but not quite excited yet.
We got to Evansville, IN before stopping for gas and some food. As anyone who’s driven through Indiana knows, this was not a very exciting drive. After our bellies had been filled, we loaded back in the car and struck out towards St. Louis. While we were driving, we decided to stop at the REI in St. Louis to get some sort of rooftop storage for the car; we wanted to open up some visibility and keep Snickers from being completely scared of the precariously stacked bags falling on her. We kept our time at REI to a minimum, though we could have easily spent hours meandering the aisles, and ended up buying a Sherpak 15 cu ft rooftop bag. We strapped it to the roof and moved a couple of bags from the interior of the car and headed back on the road to Springfield.
Only….it wasn’t smooth sailing. Maybe it would’ve been better if we had an actual sailboat! With all of the rain that IL and MO were getting, parts of I-44 were flooded and traffic was rerouted miles up the road; we added about an hour of drive time with the detour. We persevered and finally made it to Springfield at 11:30pm EST. We stayed at a La Quinta Inn that was a.) cheap and b.) dog-friendly. Not the nicest, but after a long day of travel we were glad to rest our weary heads. We toasted a successful first day with a beer in bed before crashing for the night.
Distance travelled: 481 mi.
Matt’s favorite part: corrugated steel in the rest stop bathroom
Beth’s favorite part: leaving Louisville
Day 2 – This isn’t so bad
There were bad omens all around when we got to the La Quinta last night, but we were so tired that we shrugged them off. By 5:30am we were really regretting that. The hotel sounded like it was made of balsa wood and each footstep from our upstairs neighbors had us worried that the ceiling was going to come crashing down. I certainly didn’t want my obituary to read: “Died in a La Quinta Inn in Springfield, MO” so we got the heck out of dodge…after partaking in the complimentary breakfast, of course.
We spent some time this morning reorganizing the car to maximize the space used in the cargo bag. We ended up keeping our carry-on suitcases (which had our essentials for the drive), our hiking backpacks, and two smaller daypacks up there. We were glad to have the extra room in the car, though the decrease in fuel economy wasn’t ideal.
On our way out of MO, we stopped in Joplin to stretch our legs. We found Wildcat Glades Conservation Center online thinking it looked like a promising area for a quick walk/hike. It wasn’t quite what we were looking for, but I guess you can’t expect much for hiking in the flyover states. Snickers sniffed a deer carcass and we were back on the road.
Let me tell you, this day had to be the most boring day. Oklahoma and Texas don’t offer much in the realm of scenery.
We stopped at a gas station outside of Tulsa and downed some sandwiches with crudites and hummus (fancy car food, eh?) and took off toward Oklahoma City. There wasn’t a whole lot of stopping this leg, but we hopped off on Route 66 in Clinton, OK for gas. Imagine a town that hasn’t seen much action since the interstate boom of the 50s and you’ve got Clinton.
From Clinton we headed west on I-40 towards Amarillo. This was New Year’s Eve, after all, and who doesn’t want to spend it with some Texans? North Texas was flat and desolate. Oil fields and not much else as far as the eye could see. After a quick gym session at the hotel we headed out to see what Amarillo could offer us in terms of brews. Did you know, there is only one craft brewery in Amarillo? ONE! Naturally, that’s where we headed.
We tasted all the taps and settled in talking to the owners for a few hours. We bonded with one of the workers over a mutual love of bourbon, at which point Matt retrieved a few bottles we had in the car (Eagle Rare and Rowan’s Creek) and shared a taste. After another beer (on the house!) Matt brought out a bottle of barrel-aged Narwhal and we toasted with the owners. Two beers in and we were starting to feel the effects so we chowed down a couple pieces of free pizza and headed back to the hotel. We didn’t make it to midnight Central Time, but we quietly rang in the new year with our Eastern comrades…from the comfort of the hotel bed.
Distance travelled: 545 mi.
Matt’s favorite part: talking to the owners at LWS
Beth’s favorite part: free bar pizza!
After years of social media absence, we’ve finally broken down and started a blog (sorry, we’re not quite ready to reactivate our facebook accounts). This will be our place to store our thoughts, pictures, and nonsensical ramblings with all of you as we try to navigate through this next year!
So grab a beer or some bourbon and join us on this journey!
Beth and Matt