Living in San Francisco, we normally venture north should we need a weekend away from the fog and noise (Ben’s family is up there, and I often find myself with a hankering for a glass of Carneros Pinot that cannot, nay SHALL NOT be ignored). This past weekend, after purchasing the Moon Guide to Northern California Biking, we decided to travel south on 1 to explore what had previously been a drive through on the way to visiting otters at the aquarium – Santa Cruz and surrounding area.

I left the research up to Ben this weekend, and he totally killed it, hotel-wise. Taking a cue from Weekend Sherpa (and some advice from friends), we made a reservation at the Davenport Roadhouse, just up the road from Santa Cruz, nestled amongst art galleries and impossibly cute beach houses.

When it comes to hotels, I have very specific likes and not-so-likes. For instance, I love luxury, but I don’t like chain hotels. I love quirky details, but I don’t like fussiness. I like a hotel bar, but I don’t always care for wine with a B&B owner. I’m a bargain hunter, but I need a certain amount of comfort. Somehow, Ben and the Roadhouse delivered on everything I needed – it was the perfect way to enjoy Santa Cruz without breaking the bank or sacrificing a weekend off.

We left San Franciso Saturday morning, and lazily made our way down Highway 1. After discovering that the Ana Nuevo elephant seals tours were on standby, we pledged to wake our butts up early and do our best to get one of the leftover spots. Arriving at the roadhouse near 2PM, we unpacked in our ocean view room (see above), went down to the Roadhouse bar and got out the  Moon book to plan out the ride for the next day. In the meantime, the 49ers game was playing and they beat the Saints (bittersweet, in retrospect), which led to much merriment after a walk on the beach.

I enjoy good restaurants in hotels: there’s something about a two minute walk downstairs versus a cab ride that makes the meal that much more satisfying. Since I’m on this gluten-free thing, I had the salmon and ignored the hot bread they brought out – it was fabulous, and went well with the absolutely perfect brussel sprouts. Service was a bit spotty, but I chalk that up to a) getting slammed and b) being understaffed. Overall, very satisfying.

The next day, we woke up bright and early to get standby tickets for Ano Nuevo, because if there’s one thing that screams awesome weekend to me, it’s an alpha elephant seal defending his harem (sounds like RAGHRRRRRGH). We narrowly beat other couples to grab the last spot for the guided walk, and spent the entire time hanging on our Naturalist’s every word – he knew EVERYTHING. After watching a couple of almost-fights, and marvelling at the fact that being an elephant seal looks pretty freaking uncomfortable, we walked back to the car to get prepped for our big bike ride through Santa Cruz (more on what started as awesome, then turned into hell later).

After three and half hours on the road, 1900 feet of elevation gained, and far too many “oh GOD when is this going to end” courtesy of moi, we ended up back at the Roadhouse, exhausted and elephant seal-like smelly. Our first stop was the bar, where we managed to communicate “NEED… TRUFFLE FRIES… SPARKLING WINE… HURTS” –  I’m pretty sure they were the most delicious fries in the history of the world, and not just because they prevented me from passing out right there on the floor.

After recovering, showering, and slowly regaining motor skills, the challenge of what to eat for dinner presented itself, and an app I’ve used for ages kicked travel recommendation ass. Using Foursquare’s “Discover” feature, we decided on Pono’s Hawaiian Grill and were not disappointed – I for one didn’t know that all I wanted after a really hard ride was Spam sushi, but I am never one to say no to an adventure. After devouring the dinner, we proceeded to hobble back to the car, go back to the Roadhouse, and sleep 12 hours.

The trip home included a stop at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which, sadly, has fallen into disrepair due to a jurisdiction issue between the State Park and the Coast Guard (what are you waiting for? GET TO DONATIN) as well as another Foursquare Explore discovery, the Moss Beach Distillery, where we received a free drink for checking in before moseying on back to the North Beach homestead.

Coming up next: an elaboration on peaceful beach walks, as well as the ethics of yelling the f word very loudly on bike rides.

In case you’re interested, I made a Foursquare list of the weekend.