“Uh… This is Santa Cruz?”
My first thoughts rolling into the West Coast icon that has come to be a mecca for surf, skate and apparel culture across the world. We were loping through a series of quiet, residential avenues, and a certain ‘whining’ sound had started dominating over the humble sound of Clementine’s second gear. Definitely a cause for concern for us, who have circumnavigated most of North America in a 33 year old air-cooled Westfalia to get here – but we’ll get to that later.
A Mecca in the Skateboard World.
Santa Cruz has a very small-town appeal to it, with a modest downtown strip, an old boardwalk with pitched volleyball courts and an amusement park, and a wharf inhabited by massive sea-lions. The cacophony of crashing waves and distant sea birds reigns in the background, and the gentle hint of salt lingers in the air.
What you wouldn’t necessarily expect in Santa Cruz is the massive homeless population. Everywhere we looked, there were drifters, spangers, sign-fliers, and transients. There we campers, RVs, Toyota Dolphins and Westies everywhere on the streets, and there were guerilla-campers everywhere. There’s nearly 10,000 homeless in Santa Cruz, a town boasting a population of only 62,000. It’s a little bit overwhelming.
Creepy Caveman gets slapped after tryin’ to make a move on my girl.
We were just another couple drifters in town for a quick visit. We got to work, and decided to perform on the downtown strip, Pacific Avenue. We checked with the Info Booth down town to see what the rules were, and then we saw this…
So there’s a weird change in the busking laws going down here in Santa Cruz… But, particularly for our Canadian readers, did you recognize anyone in there? We had a strange feeling that we recognized the couple busking on the street.
Turns out they’re a Canadian duo, (Normally a Trio), called The Shrugs. After busking for a couple hours, we had heard from 3 separate sources that there was another Canadian couple doing the same thing we were.
“Are you the Canadians that came through last week!?”
“There’s a couple more of ya, don’t know where they are now though!”
They were in SLO and saw us busking on our last day there, and then we were off to Santa Cruz. It was a quick message on Facebook to get in contact with them, and they told us they were en route back to Santa Cruz… So, we got together at an open mic at The Reef.
The Reef & Pono Hawaiian Grill… Nom.
4 Canadians at an open mic in Santa Cruz, playing folk music. Sounds like a joke… But seriously, on a much larger scale, we were 4 Canadians out of country, touring ‘Mericuh, and trying to make our dreams happen with our music. It was empowering, to meet another couple with similar goals to us, and a strong musical sound. We were beginning to wonder if we were in the wrong market, street performing, but Caitlin and Brandon were in the same boat. Solid musicians, they were a couple with a good attitude, and a good pair of heads on their shoulders. It was nice to swap sets for each other, and have some Canadian Musicians to hang out with.
The Shrugs had been in Santa Cruz for awhile before us, and are out of Vancouver, BC. They’ve got a very cool Rock/Folk sound – Caitlin has voice with all the fervor and power of Sinead O’Connors, dazzlingly sprinkled with a tough Alternative Sound. Paired with Brandon’s stomp, backups, and furious guitar lines, they’re Alt-Folk Force 1. Very cool sound, and you can download a free copy of their album Aurora, here.
The bosses at the wharf… A ton of Sea Lions love it here.
It wasn’t long until we got comfy in this little coastal town. We’ve had to be creative with our living spaces, but we’ve had room to be creative… The going phrase we’ve picked up along the way is ‘Park It Like You Own It.’ We’ve had some of the most peaceful sleeps on the road here, and some of the most packed days… But there were worries developing too.
California has been in a drought for a long period of time. Prior to our arrival, the annual precipitation total was 1/8th of an inch. The rain began two days after arrival, and as I type this, (a week later), has not stopped. We have a lot of trouble busking in the rain – we have electronic components in our instruments and cannot risk frying them. The van gets wet, damp, and musty all over. The floorboards under the passenger seat seem to always be wet. Kasey had had about enough, and we were ready to leave.
It was Friday, the end of February, and we were going to leave on Monday to take the North Highway. That was, as long as that pesky whining sound wasn’t anything to be too concerned about. We had looked at forums online to figure out what the cause could be, and answers, as always, varied largely. Some thought it was normal, and nothing to be concerned about, while others deemed it to be the final, bitter end of our travels.
I guess we’ll find out…
Hey Bubs, what’s Santa Cruz got in store for us, bud?
Next Issue: The Breakdown in Santa Cruz…
We had no idea what was next. We left LA, hugging our hosts Amy & Chelsea, and not knowing where to stop, until we found something on google maps that rang a bell.
San Luis Obispo top left, LA bottom right.
We met a couple in Fredricksburg, Texas that took us in, (remember Kathryn and Mark?) and one of the places they insisted on us checking out was San Luis Obispo, California (SLO). We weren’t far so we went for it, all the way up the beautiful Highway 101.
We crash landed on a Tuesday afternoon, and spent a couple hours at Kreuzberg Coffee Shop. It was here that we went after Couchsurfing to find a new friend, and someone that would hopefully put us up for the few days we intended to hang around for. Enter Julie and The Establishment.
Julie was extremely kind, and despite me mixing up the days on our arrival, was extremely welcoming. Julie lived in a huge, old-timey house called The Establishment, with 19 other folks. It was awesome – dorm-style living, several bathrooms, and a true sense of community and family in the group. Due to my date mixup, I felt like we would be imposing, so we opted to stay in the van on the street out front. (However, Julie invited us to stay on her pull-out couch, and assured us it wasn’t imposing. What a sweetheart.)
What can we say about SLO… It was a beautiful little downtown dominated by eateries, coffeeshops, and young people – young people everywhere! It was a great spot, with tons of sunny weather. We ate like royalty, and enjoyed the social nature of everyone around us. We met other musicians with tips for us, a few guys from Arizona, a even couple Canadian dudes on a West Coast Road Trip. We busked and busked and busked, and even scored a gig on Wednesday night at The Frog & Peach Pub, downtown.
This place was heaven.
Our gig at The Frog & Peach was a ton of fun… We started by playing to a nearly empty bar, but as soon as the clock struck 11, more and more people filed into the pub, greeted with our music at the doors. This was the first time we drank since… Well… Since the incident with the Grassies in Ottawa. Months, essentially. And here’s the aftermath…
We spent the hangover day down the road at Avila Beach – a Piscean Portal. (WHAT IS A PISCEAN PORTAL!?) We watched dolphins jumping through the tide, listened to the waves crashing, and I finished Game Of Thrones, A Feast For Crows. (Killer book, btw.) We had a romantic walk on the beach, investigated the shells, and chatted with some seagulls. Living the life, as we like to say. Clemmie even got to hang out with an older cousin!
Siblings? Or just cousins?
The next day, Friday brought us great luck. We busked twice during the day, and met Suz. Suz worked for 92.5 Krush FM, a local radio station that played a blend of music, very acoustic based. She’d heard us busking 2 blocks away, and had to come say hello. What a cool cat – she walked right up to us, waited for us to finish the song we were playing (Don’t Call Me Baby) and invited us to do an interview that Sunday. We decided we weren’t ready to leave SLO yet, and figured we would stay until Sunday to meet up with Suz.
The weekend was a blur – we met Jon Cutler, Jeremy Piven’s cousin, and had some great conversations with him. We continued to eat like royalty, seeing as we couldn’t find a dollar menu anywhere. (Dollar Menu… Gross.) We hung out in parks and wrote music, played cribbage, and generally existed. We had a great Saturday Morning breakfast with the family in The Establishment, and truly enjoyed all the fruits of the aptly named, “Happiest Place In America”, SLO City.
Sunday came along and we met Suz at the studio on a beautiful, sunny afternoon… We got set up, microphoned, and in no-time we were recording. We played 4 songs, and had a long chat about our trip, our music, and the trials along the way. It was such an amazing experience, and we can’t thank Suz enough for the time she gave us. She even treated us to a beer and appies at a gorgeous Italian restaurant before we hit the road for Santa Cruz.
Radio Personalities DJ Dan and Kickin’ Kasey.
Life is good. Every day we’re grateful. If you want to check out the radio interview, it broadcasts on Thursday March 6th, and Sunday March 9th. You can stream it live on http://www.krush925.com/, or alternatively, it will be On Demand after March 10th. We would absolutely love it if you tuned in, had a listen, and let us know what you think.
**Canadian & Mobile Users – you may have to download the free TuneIn Radio App to stream it live.
It was with heavy hearts we left SLO City. And you know what? We’ll be back.
You stay classy San Luis Obispo.
Next Issue: What is Going on in Santa Cruz!?
It’s a short drive between Palm Springs to LA; I would say equal to Vancouver to Kelowna. We were sad to leave Palm Springs and I totally thought at one point that we should turn around and go back. At the same moment that I wanted to retreat, the highway reached the ocean. Our windows were open and we could smell the salt in the air. It was such a powerful sight. The ocean makes you realize how large the world really is. The last time we saw the ocean was the Gulf of Mexico. It felt good to get to the west coast and it almost felt like home… Oh, but LA.
Thank god we weren’t going into LA blind. We made it to my friend Amy’s just after 6 pm. Amy and I have been friends for almost 25 years. Our mums became friends when we were in pre-school and Amy and I followed in their footsteps. Shortly after we arrived, we ate huge plates of pot roast and found the junk food cupboard. We kept eating… donuts, chocolate, pop rocks, and cinnamon hearts while trying to quench our guilt by saying we were adults and could make our own decisions. To stifle candy comas we drank beer and Amy brought out her beautiful acoustic bass and harmonica. So there we were… first night in LA, on a sugar high, a little tipsy and rocking some sweet tunes. It was pretty easy to fall asleep that night.
The next morning the hangovers were prevalent and Amy took Dan and I to In-N-Out Burger. We stood there looking at the menu thinking, sweet! This looks easy. Burgers and fries. Amy hushed us and said she would order for us.
“OK”, Dan and I said in unison.
“Can I please have four animal burgers, well, with chopped grilled onions, two fries, well, two fries animal style, and four drinks.” said Amy without missing a beat.
I thought… what the hell did she just say? What are we eating? Animal style?? She hushed me and told me to just go sit down.
In-N-Out is badass! oh The Sauce!
After we stuffed ourselves we went to walk it off. We checked out The Americana at Brand and the Glendale Galleria. Both are massive shopping malls with some of the most expensive stores I have ever seen. After the malls we headed back to Amy’s to shower up and head into Hollywood.
The fountain at The Americana at The Brand
Thank goodness Amy drove us around. It was wild to drive in LA. Freeways, highways, overpasses, and speeds Clem could only dream about.
The Rusty Mullet Restaurant & Bar
We walked up and down Hollywood Blvd. stepping on stars of actors, musicians, and bands. We passed Batman, Spiderman, at least three Jack Sparrows, Transformers, Robin Hood, Marilyn Monroe, and so many others. We saw the famous Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood sign and an awesome restaurant called The Rusty Mullet.
L. Ron Hubbard and his many “accolades”
We thought it only fitting while in LA, to visit the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition. We spent over an hour learning about the man, his accomplishments, and the religion he created. Ummm… didn’t really learn anything about the religion. Wait have I said to much? If you want more info about the museum and the things we experienced, I think it’s best if we talk about it in person… Someone might be listening.
Coyote in the Hollywood Hills
After the museum we went for a drive in the Hollywood Hills and checked out all the ginormous houses. We also saw something completely out of place. A coyote. In the middle of Hollywood Hills. He was a mangy looking creature and was scouring the streets for food. Being a car full of Canadians and knowing that hungry coyotes could be dangerous, we tried to contact animal control. We were having no luck finding a number so we stopped and told some residents that there was a coyote running around and it might attack someone’s dog or child. No one really seemed as concerned as we were?
We stopped one last time to inform a couple girls sitting on a sidewalk that there was a starving coyote on the loose. This was my first experience with a Valley Girl.
Amy: “Just to let you know, there is a coyote running around the neighbour hood. He looks hungry and I would hate for someones kid to get bit or someone to lose their cat or dog.”
Valley Girl: “Oh yah, he just walked past us. I don’t think he’s going to eat anyone’s baby. He’s more scared of you then you are of him. Fer sure.”
I thought let the coyote eat her dog. Silly city girl. With that we left the hills giggling about the lack of concern for the wild animal roaming the streets.
After that it was starting to get dark and we had forgotten to eat lunch. We bee-lined for a grocery store, bought some hotdogs, and headed back to Amy’s. We had crammed so much of LA into us that we laid low, watched movies, and caught up on all the celebrity drama.
Dan and I had had enough of LA. Even though we missed out on some great places, we just thought that was enough for one trip and we would venture back here soon and explore another time. The next day we packed up the van and headed for small town America again.
I knew Dan had had enough of LA and I felt a little bad staying at Amy’s, because when Amy and I see each other we always revert back to who we were in high school and tend to giggle a lot, but he champed it out for the days we were there.
We were both ready to hit the road and see what San Luis Obispo had in store for us.
P.S. Doesn’t this look like Dan??
Thanks Duaner for bringing this important doppleganger moment to our attention…
Next Issue: San Luis Obispo. Paradise.
Crazy Kasey. Yikes!
I have been preoccupied with the future lately - What will I do for work? Where will I live? Should I go back to school? Can I go back to school? Everyday I would stress about these decisions, send off numerous resumes, and search the web for places to rent. I had this desperate determination to get back to the grind. Then we got to Bermuda Dunes and to the Puglia’s.
Man, those people… I can’t even express in words what they did for my soul. I learned to relax and accept hospitality while feeling gratitude instead of guilt. We spent mornings making kale smoothies and sitting poolside and evenings watching live music, creating music, and sharing stories of our travels.
Our first day didn’t consist of much, both Dan and I are reading The Game of Thrones series (awesome freaking books) so we crash landed by the pool and re-learned how to relax (I can’t believe it took me until California to learn how to relax on this trip). Crazy Kasey started to disappear and the fact that we only had $5.00 to our name was no longer important.
We spent two weeks in the Palm Springs area. Dan made an amazing contact with a health food cafe that let us set up on their outdoor patio. We spent three days playing there and had made more than enough money to move onto LA, but just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave yet.
Taqueria San Miguel
I loved the vinyl chairs!
Kim and I spent a lot of time together, going shopping, visiting a date farm, and becoming immersed in our yoga practices. Dan and Joe spent time jamming together. We saw live music and ate dinner at an amazing mexican restaurant that had arguably the best and worst decor in the world. (I loved it. It reminded me of my grandparents basement, but that’s a whole other story.)
I was jealous of Marilyn… No one wanted to take pictures with TM?
We spent several days busking downtown Palm Springs in the company of Marilyn Monroe, and met travelers, transients and train hoppers along the way. *4:20: if you are reading this, I want to thank you for your stories of travel and I hope you make it to the Appalachian Trail :)
Eddie ate dinner that night!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tiger Moon tour story without a shout out to our smoke-show Clem. She had a little bit of an oil leak (huge f%*#ing oil leak) from the valve-cover gasket. We smoked out a lot of convertibles before we could get a new valve cover gasket from Eddie’s Auto Repair (thanks Eddie!!) and I learned how to groove again. These weeks got me back in the swing of our travels. If it weren’t for all the love and support that this area showed us, I would still be thinking about home, work, and all the responsibility that awaits us (shudder).
We were riding SSW on Interstate 15, escaping Vegas as fast as our little German gazelle Clementine could take us. Vegas wasn’t our place… We struggled. But now we were free again – on the road with a meagre horde of cash we earned in Sin City, and we were California bound!
It was a couple hours into the desert drive when we noticed a convoy on the access road near the highway. Not a regular convoy by any means… It was a military convoy of hundreds and hundreds of American Army vehicles. ICVs, Humvees, Jeeps, artillery trailers… Kasey and I couldn’t believe it. This military force was huge, and something to be reckoned with. The steady line of lumbering vehicles spanned from horizon to horizon, and we couldn’t see an end to it.
Then something donned on me – we needed fuel. So I took the next exit, and it lead us directly into the convoy. All of a sudden, we were the cutest part of a US Army convoy – a little German stick of butter sandwiched between two massive Stryker ACVs in a steadily roving line of green.
We got a great big convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight?
We gave the guy in the back turret of the vehicle one hell of a laugh as we loped about behind the massive war machine, giving him goofy waves and peep-peeps of our horn rolling through the villages on the access road.
Oh, and there was no gas to be found. We just toured with the U.S. Army for 45 minutes or so… No big deal.
Clementine’s brief service in the US Army. She’s now officially a veteran.
We made our way through the rest of Nevada unharmed – needless to say, the public feared us, with our newfound allies in the US Army. Clearly we were a force to be reckoned with, you know, with our happy little bus rolling down the highway at 55 mph.
We passed a brand new engineering feat that should be mentioned. Right at the border of Nevada and California lies the world’s largest Solar Power Plant, Ivanpah. It was massive, and we had no idea what it was – there was a spire in the middle, not dissimilar to The Eye of Sauron, and thousands of bright shiny things surrounding it. We couldn’t figure out if it was some sort of space-age water well, solar power, or if it was some crazy new Black-Ops weapon under cover in the desert.
Nope. It was solar. Our bad, USA – our bad.
We got into Palm Springs later that evening, rolling into a quaint little resort community called Bermuda Dunes, near Indio, CA. We were meeting up with Joe and Kim Puglia again! (Remember them? They put us up in Calgary way back at the beginning of this trip! Here’s a refresher!)
Joe & Kim’s place at The Bermuda Dunes. We got soft.
Joe & Kim get massive points in being the coolest damn people around. (We can see where our buddy Gabe gets it from!) They took us in, made sure we were comfortable, and jammed tunes with us. We met Hugh & Kathryn, their long time family friends who were staying in a condo down the way. We picked grapefruits and oranges from the tree inside the little community, and spent many hours by the pool in the sunshine. They treated us to dinners, and Kim was diligent in making sure we were fed daily – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It’s here that I want to point out that generosity and kindness is probably the most powerful thing any human can express. We were overwhelmed by the sweetness, kindness and friendliness the Puglia family expressed with us on both occasions that we stayed with them. It was surreal, and it was inspiring.
We have always housed ‘orphans’ as we so affectionately call them. Ski bums, rig workers and Newfies, musicians, travellers and transients… But neither of us had really been on the receiving end until this trip. We’ve stayed with House Puglia, the Tait family, the Wakefield Bunges, Dominique, Poco, Mark & Kathryn, River, and probably many others that don’t come to mind at the moment. For this, we are forever grateful, and we love each and every one of you. We’re on the road daily, travelling and performing for a meagre living – it is a dream I have always wanted to experience. It’s a beautiful, wonderful world where the realm of possibility dominates over the concept of impossibility. We wake up with smiles daily, and go to bed exhausted – but content. But there are trials. Daily, weekly, monthly – no matter which – there are most certainly trials. But what has kept us forging further on this trip and what is ultimately driving us to complete it with smiles and dignity, is the kindness of others. One does not understand the value of being ‘taken in’ until he or she truly experiences it. These trials are all trivial now after our many wonderful visits and stays with family, friends, and new friends in our lives.
For all of you out there: Young and old, near and far, free and bound… We are forever grateful for your part in our lives, and I offer this one piece of advice. Try to take an opportunity in life to live day to day, enjoying the present. Put “real life” on hold for a little bit, and live for the day – whether it’s hiking the West Coast trail, doing a driving tour across your country, or even just being unemployed for a couple of weeks – it doesn’t matter. Live for yourself for a little while. In a society in which we are too focused on the past and the future to notice the beauty and excitement of things happening right in front of us, we lose our creative, inspired self. It is this self that I set out to rediscover on this trip, and found it in the most unsuspected of all places… I found it in the kindness of others.
Life is beautiful. Enjoy every aspect you choose to, because we all have the choice to.
Next Issue: Getting to know Palm Springs a little better…