Just 20 minutes after arriving hot and a little lost in Santa Cruz we found ourselves sat in Rita’s garden, sipping cold water and making use of her wi-fi.
We had cycled 40 fast miles from Half Moon Bay alongside the Pacific Ocean and were in high spirits with the expectation of meeting up with our bike buddy Jennifer who had ridden ahead of us some days earlier.
As we turned off a busy main road into a residential street, a lady in a parked car asked if we needed any help. Her name was Rita and it turned out she often let cyclists stay at her house through the Warmshowers website.
We already had a place to stay thanks to Jennifer but we had no idea where she was, so we eagerly took Rita up on her offer to use the internet to connect on twitter.
As well as taking in stray cyclists, Rita also fosters kittens so Pierre and I spent a very pleasant hour playing with kittens and chatting about bikes, Santa Cruz and our journey.
A friend of Jennifer’s had generously agreed to let us stay at his house while he was away. It was a short ride from downtown and provided a welcome break from camping.
Santa Cruz is an incredible small city by the ocean which embraces outdoor life. Biking is very popular although almost no-one seems to where a helmet. Everywhere you look you see fit, healthy and more often than not beautiful people walking, cycling skating and just hanging out.
Wandering along the beach by the Boardwalk is like watching an episode of Baywatch as bikini-clad beauties and muscle bound hunks play volleyball and generally strut around topping up their already perfect tans.
Behind this veneer is a fun music and surf-loving city with a tantalising laid back vibe you can’t help but sink into. We spent two days hanging out, relaxing and generally soaking up the atmosphere before reluctantly leaving for Monterey.
Santa Cruz has gone straight to the top of our list of places to return to.