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.




There are shops along 101 selling fantastic wood carvings.





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.



Just outside our room:



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





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. ;)



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.



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


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!






Babby fish pools!





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



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!




Look at me getting my feet soaked!



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.



Plus, the scenery around the caves is amazing.



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.



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




More eyefuls of scenery on an Oregon beach:



Next stop: the Tillamook Cheese Factory!



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


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.


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.



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



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.


West Coast road trip: 2 days in San Francisco (Part 2)

If you’re just joining us, don’t miss Part 1 of our West Coast road trip adventure.

Day 4: July 3rd, 2012

Our first full day in San Francisco! We started the day in the Financial District, watching Serious Business people go to their Serious Business jobs. The architecture in the Financial District is stunning. (Apparently, I didn’t get my fill of big city architecture in Chicago. :D)




We bought passes for one of the 48-hour tour busses and shuttled ourselves around the city like the tourists we were. I was entranced by the floaty flower sculpture outside this government-looking building.


And we both loved the walk-in water sculpture:




This is as close as we got to Alcatraz. Yeah, we bucked time-honored tourist tradition and didn’t go. (They were sold out, and besides, prisons make me sad.)


This entire day was spent walking/bussing around the city looking at things. The last thing we did before bed: eating some Authentic Latino Food.


In this picture, Jim ceased to be Jim. He became an otherworldly burrito monster who knows no pain, no suffering, only burrito and his animalistic lust to consume. My suiza was pretty good, too.

Day 5: July 4th, 2012

We started the day early in Chinatown, which was awesome and absolute sensory-overload. The markets were my favorite thing. Those bins in the foreground are full of piles of dead, dried out fish.


I wanted to go in here so bad, but it looks like we got here too early. Yeah yeah! Pony Prince


San Francisco has a famous bridge, too, which was (unusually) fog-free for us:




We enjoyed the blinding winds on our trek across the bridge and down the beach.


From the bridge we walked to the Exploratorium, which was packed with every single person in San Francisco due to the July 4th holiday. The highlight was definitely the Tactile Dome, which we went through twice (once for srs and once using our cell phones as lights to find all its secrets). Super awesome and totally worth the extra cost, don’t miss it if you’re visiting the Exploratorium.

Our private Inn at Oyster Point retreat was the perfect place to hide out once the crowds poured in for the fireworks. From the room itself and the mile+ long path around the docks and bay, we saw the sun set and then watched several fireworks displays. This place was deserted, so this was pretty much our perfect 4th and a sweet way to spend our last night in San Francisco.



Tomorrow, we start the drive back to Seattle. You can read all about it in Part 3!

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.


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.


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.




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.


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



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.


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



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.



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.


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.



Man, it was good.


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.


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


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:




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!