I’m currently sitting at Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, CA after the start of my last week of high school visits.  My time here is very different from Texas and the whole trip has a different tone.  As I was ordering my coffee, the (very hip) cashier asked me if I needed a copy of my receipt because I look “very business-y” (I’m not even in a full suit).  Everything is more relaxed here and things move a little more slowly, including the freeways. (We can go the speed limit, people!  Come on!)  USC is more widely recognized but Los Angeles is a tougher location to make accessible to people who don’t have to lock their doors at night and know everyone in town.

I always end with my California territory because it is lower key and reminds me that although Texas has charm and cheap gas, I am a California girl at heart.  CA-12, the geomarket of the central coast, is pretty much the most beautiful part of California.  There are world famous beaches, bridges, golf courses and views.  When I stopped to take a picture of the Bixby Bridge (Death Cab For Cutie, anyone?) they were shooting an ad for some vintage car I don’t know anything about.  I also switch hotels most every night as I drive down the coast, so I don’t ever get to settle or unpack.

BridgeIt is also much colder on the coast.  I bring a coat.  I can see my breath in the morning.  It’s no Minnesota, but from the heat and humidity of the rest of my travel it is definitely an adjustment.  By this point, I’ve stopped caring as much about not eating at chain restaurants and have succumbed to Panera to go and Netflix on my bed.  I had one nice dinner out in Pacific Grove, but the rest of my meals were eaten in my car between visits or on my bed in pajamas.  If you want to feel uncool, go to a Chipotle alone on Halloween in a college town.

My first year recruiting, I spent a weekend in Morro Bay and, since then, have always had a soft spot for the tiny town.  I always go back to the embarcadero where I stayed and look at the glassy water, remembering the cashiers at the coffee shop and the pizza place who remembered me after I’d only been there twice.  While I was eating dinner on the Saturday night two years ago, there was a group of people with a whole range of ages but all talking and excited.  After about thirty minutes, one of the adult women came over to me and said “Are you alone?  Come sit with us.”  I proceeded to get to know an acapella group from a community college up north who was performing at Cuesta College the following day.  The “mom” of the group told me about her work, her family, and the child she adopted when he was 18 because when she and her husband had traveled abroad there was “just this boy who needed a home.”

Morrow Bay

This year, I was only there for a bit between visits, but will always go back and snap a cliche photo.  I always stop at the same In & Out in Goleta on the drive back to Los Angeles.  This year, I popped in to the J.Crew Factory store in Camarillo (I might need an intervention soon).  Every year, the end of this trip marks the end of high school visits, which is a feeling that can only be celebrated with wine and my DVR.

Driving down the 101 (a la Phantom Planet and this show, obviously: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9cCMr1nYcA) my “gas is SO CHEAP” outbursts are replaced by “this is NOT REAL” with views of Pismo Beach, Ventura and Santa Barbara out my window.  I feel extremely fortunate to be able to travel and see such a range of people and places within the U.S. but at this point also feel extremely fortunate to only have an interview weekend left before Recruitment 2013 comes to a close.

By Sam Schreiber