West Coast road trip: San Francisco to Seattle (Part 3)

Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2 of our week-long West Coast road trip!

Day 6: July 5th, 2012

San Francisco to Crescent City, CA
356 miles

Happy Birthday, Jim! Now load the car, please. :D

Two and a half days in San Francisco was just the right amount for us. Feeling a bit of city fatigue and crowd fatigue, we hit the road early in hopes of beating everyone else. That backfired pretty wildly, and we spent the first 90 minutes of the day trapped in traffic with a million commuters.

From SF we headed west for the coast on 101. Today was the biggest driving day of our entire trip. The 101 route was significantly more exciting than I-5 and I’m glad we gave ourselves a full three days of driving to enjoy everything. Northern California’s gorgeous hills and trees were the most memorable parts of our journey to Crescent City.

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There are shops along 101 selling fantastic wood carvings.

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Alas, I have neither the space nor the funds for awesome wood carvings, so photos will have to suffice. :)

Crescent Beach Motel was in every way opposite our previous accommodations. I just love an unpretentious hotel. This one was rustic, cozy, and right on the beach. Walk across a bit of grass and climb down some rocks = you’re on the beach.

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Just outside our room:

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We spent the evening drawing in the sand and hanging out with wooden dolphins.

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We slept with the slider open and the wooshing tide lulled us to sleep. Totally awesome.

 

Day 7: July 6th, 2012

Crescent City, CA to Newport, OR
231 miles

Okay, one more thing before leaving Crescent City: this amazing lighthouse that’s only accessible on foot some parts of the year. Being a lighthouse keeper sounds like the best job ever. It’s quiet, easy work and I bet you don’t get too many visitors. I’d do it, as long as there’s broadband of course. ;)

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Once on the road we spotted a sign for the Rowdy Creek Hatchery. Fish had basically become the theme of the trip by this point, with us stopping to look at fish ladders and hug fish carvings. Visiting a hatchery would complete the fish trinity.

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Fence prevented proper fish hugs. This will have to suffice:

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The volunteer at the hatchery was an awesome dude, eager to show us his process of collecting the baby fish, gassing their water to temporarily knock them unconscious, tagging them with a tiny piece of metal, and then releasing them back into the hatchery pools. Tagging fish helps people understand their migrations and behaviors. The hatchery also helps keep up with the demand that recreational fishers place on the local watershed. I hope all the fishermen/fisherladies who like plenty of fish are donating to and volunteering at their local hatcheries. This guy was working hard!
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Babby fish pools!

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I just love fish (the live kind, not the food kind). Coming here was super exciting for me. :)

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Continuing on our journey north, we stopped several times to explore Oregon’s rocky beaches. I’m not much of a tropical beach person, but I looooove these beaches! Look at these gigantic rocks!

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Look at me getting my feet soaked!

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Next stop: Sea Lion Caves! We stopped here on a whim, having never heard of it before but apparently it’s got a long history and it’s something people raised on the West Coast go to at least once in their youth. Ignore the middling reviews on TripAdvisor, the Sea Lion Caves were awesome and if you’re in the area you should totally check them out.

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Plus, the scenery around the caves is amazing.

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Our final stop was at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Newport, OR. The hotel was brand new, so new it didn’t even show on GPS, but the Newport area was a disappointment. There was little to explore and most of the town’s shops and restaurants were closed by the time we got there (6pm). It was hard to find somewhere to have dinner and we turned in early for lack of things to do which is odd, because we are very good at finding things to do. There wasn’t even anywhere to walk!

Day 7: July 7th, 2012

Crescent City, CA to Long Beach, WA
152 miles

Best thing about driving north: it’s getting colder! Oregon’s coast continued to deliver fantastic lighthouses, beaches, and eyefuls of scenery.

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Some awesome person built a hut out of driftwood on one of the beaches we walked:

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More eyefuls of scenery on an Oregon beach:

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Next stop: the Tillamook Cheese Factory!

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Yes, there were a billion people here, but watching the cheese get packaged and sent off was super awesome.

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After eating our weight in ice cream at the factory, we soon encountered another fish hatchery! The Nehalem Fish Hatchery fish food dispensers let visitors pay a quarter for the experience of throwing fish food into massively huge fish tanks. When food starts raining down, the fish go INSANE! They jump out of the water and thrash in a giant writhing mass of fins and flippers.

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Adrift Hotel in Long Beach, WA was our final stop of the trip. Reviews seem mixed, but we adored the spartan interior and the close access Cape Disappointment State Park, which we spent the evening exploring.

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Also, there is a totally badass GRAY WHALE SKELETON ON THE BEACH NEARBY!!

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Day 7: July 8th, 2012

Long Beach, WA to Home
179 miles

We started early and banged out the rest of the drive in one long stretch. Scenery was grey and gorgeous. Coming home is a wonderful feeling.

Jim and I both grew up in families where road trips were the primary (or only) style of vacationing. We love spontaneity and savings of a driving-based adventure. While this was far from a how-low-can-you-go budget vacation (each of our nightly stays was $95-$170), we saved plenty by stocking the car with grocery store food, eating the free breakfasts at the hotels and choosing cheap or free adventures along the way. Even with a rental car, the whole trip came in WAY under the cost of last year’s 10-day trip to Alaska which included flights and a 7-day cruise. And we easily had just as good a time, if not more thanks to the relative solitude and freedom of road tripping.

 

Our West Coast road trip: Seattle to San Francisco and back (Part 1)

Driving from Seattle to San Francisco was an amazing trip and a fantastic way to see the West Coast. We departed Seattle on June 30 and returned July 9th (10 day trip). We love road tripping, as it’s a great way to see the country for fairly cheap, avoid crowds of people, and spend time with just each other. I know some people like to bang out as much driving in day as they can, but we usually drive less than 6 hours/day so we have time to explore along the way.

We rented a car for this trip for the added security of instant vehicle replacement should something malfunction. Given that our 2002 Taurus just suffered a misfiring cylinder last week, this feels like a wise choice.

Our route: I-5 from Seattle to San Francisco in 3 days, 2 nights in San Francisco, and then 3 days to return via 101.


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Day 1: June 30, 2012

Seattle to Roseburg, OR
370 miles

I-405/I-5 took us all the way into Oregon where our first stop was Portland. Here, we underwent the usual tourist tradition of waiting an hour and a half in line for Voodoo doughnuts.

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We bought a massive box that we had no business buying and had most of them eaten before we left Oregon. We continued on to Roseburg, Oregon where we stayed at the Best Western Garden Villa Inn, a hotel we will remember for 1) practically sharing a parking lot with a JoAnn Fabrics and 2) having an improperly installed bathroom faucet that sprayed a fountain of water out the handle when turned on. I took it apart and reassembled it properly, but without any tools I couldn’t quite finish the job.

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But the best fun was to be found in exploring Roseburg. My favorite thing: the FISH LADDER! Fish ladders, which I had never heard of before discovering this one, are a series of increasingly elevated pools that salmon jump into on their climb. It’s a way for fish to get around man-made structures like dams.

 

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I am completely, entirely in love with Roseburg’s fish ladder because of its awesome viewing room. It’s basically a cave with glass cutaways to view the fish as they move through the ladder. Most visitors to this room seem to be recreational fishermen getting a look at tomorrow’s catch.

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I used it for its true purpose: air hugging fish through the glass. This vacation = already a huge success.

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Day 2: July 1, 2012

Depart Roseburg, OR with a Crater Lake detour and then onto Redding, CA
244 miles

We took a detour from I-5 onto Highway 38 to visit Crater Lake. Dude. Crater Lake.

It completely blew me away (and I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, the so-called grand-daddy of blow-you-away scenery). Don’t miss this if you’re nearby. This picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s so clear that this photo makes it look small. The other side of the lake is 7 miles away.

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Crater Lake and all of the surrounding scenery to/from it was just absolutely gorgeous.

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Continuing towards Redding, we passed through Klamath Falls which had an awesome old cemetery I couldn’t resist the chance to explore. I love old cemeteries, and this place delivered: most people buried here died around the late 1800s.

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As we neared the California border I was struck by how quickly the Pacific Northwest turned into California. The change was almost instant, just 30 mins or so north of CA.

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Once in Redding, we did something we’ve wanted to do for a very long time: we ate at In-N-Out for the very first time.

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Man, it was good.

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We also hit up Target for t-shirts and shorts because CA is WAY WARMER THAN WE EXPECTED!

Day 3: July 2, 2012

Depart Redding, CA for San Francisco, CA
217 miles

After the worst night’s sleep in years (thanks for nothing Oxford Suites in Redding, with your paper thin floors and your asshole guest who never stopped pacing above us), we quickly departed for San Francisco. California continued to look like what I always imagined California would look like.

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Oh hi, San Francisco entrance toll. This is how you know you’re approaching a city!

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And what a city, wow! The view was spectacular. So spectacular I took absolutely no photos of the drive in because I was so in awe. And because I was driving. We stayed at the Inn at Oyster Point, located in South San Francisco.

Our top-floor room was large and comfortable:

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A word of caution to visitors: the view is spectacular and the location is serene, but the windows aren’t covered. So if you hate waking up at 5am, consider a different hotel!

We still had plenty of day left, so we hopped in our car and drove all over Silicon Valley to see the offices of some of our favorite tech and gaming companies. We saw: Facebook, Zynga, Playdom, Kabam, Glu Mobile, Oracle, Crowdstar, AOL, TinyCo, Stanford University, eBay, and a bunch more I forgot. We somehow missed Apple and Google, but all in all this was a super fun way to spend an afternoon.

Check out Part 2!

 

Our Alaska Adventure: Anchorage, Whittier, & Alaskan Cruise

Home renovations were put on hold for a while as Jim and I took a vacation in September!

We went up to Anchorage, Alaska (via plane) and sailed south along the coast to Vancouver (via a Princess cruise ship). We were there for a week and a half and had a (mostly) wonderful time.

Downtown Anchorage:

Where I ate reindeer every time I got hungry (SO GOOD!!!!):

The weather was nice during our one full day in Anchorage, so we rented bikes and biked the trail along the coastline:

Here’s a dorky victory dance I did after I was the first (between Jim and I) to successfully throw a pebble through the ring in the tree leaves:

Alaska is pretty much mind-blowingly gorgeous everywhere you turn.

Our cruise boarded in Whittier, where we stayed for a day prior to boarding. Whittier itself could be its own post, that town is AWESOME. This one pic will have to suffice for now:

The cruise itself was… an experience. We’d never cruised before, and we weren’t really ready for how much they try to annoy pamper you. The excessive attention from waitstaff and room stewards trying to get in to “straighten up” all the time was too much for us. Seriously, I can tidy my own room, I’m an adult… thanks guys. I guess we are DIYers to the bone!

The cruise took us to the glaciers, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Juneau.

Glaciers are awesome:

Cruising was a great way to see these otherwise inaccessible cities, but I didn’t like how crowded the cruise was.

I was all expecting a week of this:

But it was more like this:

The cruise lines will never show you photos like these, with ass-tons of people crowding everything and walking at a turtle’s pace. But I will! Here’s me and like, a hundred people:

And then when the cruise ship (plus three of four others) come into port, this is what they do to the tiny town waiting to receive them:

I’m a crowd-hater, totally miserable at places like IKEA and Disney World, so being surrounded by so many people drove me nuts. We ate at odd times (dinner at 9:00!) and did everything we could to minimize exposure to massive loads of people, but they were truly everywhere.

The excursions, while pricey, were the highlights of the cruise. We did a terrifying high speed tear down a mountain on a bicycle while I struggle to maintain control of my bowels in the torrential rain scenic bike tour in Skagway, whale watching in Juneau, and ziplines in Ketchikan. I highly recommend the whale watching and the ziplines. Here’s Jim incoming via zipline:

And that’s when I started coming down with something bad. By the time we arrived in Vancouver on Saturday, I was feverish and nearly bedridden with plague. We cut our trip a day short once we arrived in Vancouver, BC, skipping our plans for seeing the city. We rented a truck and road tripped it back to Seattle. My bed never felt so good. (And after that, well… I was ill with bronchitis and missed a week of work, about 5 weeks of the gym, and am STILL – in December – trying to shake a lingering cough despite a hearty regiment of inhalers and rest.)

All in all, I can’t WAIT to go back to Alaska! I loved the scenery, meeting the people, and the way they put fish graphics on EVERYTHING. (If you know me, and you probably do if you’re reading this blog, I’m totally batshit for FISH!!!). I don’t want this post to end on a downer about how sick I got, so here’s some pics of how much fun we had:

FISH ON A GARBAGE CAN!!!!

WHALES ON WALLS!!!

MORE WHALES!!!

EVEN MORE!

Jim made a point of eating pizza every single day:

And I ate ice cream every day (sometimes twice a day):

Okay, one more whale:

We must go back!

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