Pacific Coast Highway: San Francisco

Having enjoyed everything we could squeeze into our short time in L.A., it was time to move on. Back onto the PCH and north. Leaving Santa Monica, we head into Malibu. Yeah, I can see why all the celebs are moving here. I would too. To make it all the more perfect, as we drive along through Malibu, we can see a dolphin playing in the surf. Sweet.

Further north, the PCH leads inland, and back out to the coast a few times. This gives us the chance to see some more diverse  topography. Lots of hills, farms, and vineyards, and then some absolutely incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.


 

San Simeon

 

After about four hours on the road, we were still amazed at the views around every turn. As Kelli is watching the views of the water, she notices what appears to be a jet ski splashing through the water, but all of the sudden, it was gone. She sits up alert, staring at the water, and tells me to pull over immediately! We pull onto the shoulder, and she explains what she saw as I begin Version 2scanning the water with her. Lo and behold, as our jaws drop, a whale! “Thats a f–king whale!” we exclaim together! We did not expect that at all. A quick glance, and I spot a better place to pull over. A little place called Hearst Park. It even has a small pier so we could walk, nay, run out over the water for a better view.

The humpback whales (there were two) came closer, and one swam in to the small bay for some feeding. It was absolutely amazing to see IMG_9569something like this. It was unbelievable to see the ease with which she could move through the water, disappearing here, and reappearing over there. As she feeds, she circles closer and closer to the pier, until she swims just below us for an amazing view.

Absolutely incredible.

 

After just over twenty minutes of watching this massively graceful creature, we decided that we needed to keep moving in an effort to make good time. Back on the road, and just a few minutes north, we came across an Elephant Seal Rookery. Okay, cool. I’ve never seen an elephant seal either, so we had to stop to see this too.

IMG_9591Any other time, this would have been awesome, but we were just watching a whale! There were these incredibly huge seals laying all over the beach, with males belching out challenges to the other males in a show of dominance. Cool, but not whale cool.

 

We got back on the road, and decided that we should only stop for gas, and try to make up some time.


 

IMG_9608Mile After Mile

 

The PCH twists and turns along the ragged coast, up and down the cliff face as it slowly squirms its way north. It’s absolutely beautiful, but not good for somebody on a time schedule.

On through Big Sur, and Monterey, but we can’t stop. Just another place for us to re-visit when we have more time. Mile after mile, we are stunned by the beauty that surrounds us.

 


 

Third Stop: San Francisco

 

As the sun began to set, we consult the GPS only to realize that we still had hours to go before we got to our destination. Sadly, we had to leave the PCH and head inland to the Interstate. At this point, there was no reason other than the principle idea of staying on the coast. It was dark, we could no longer see the sights, and we were making even worse time now. We even called ahead to the hotel to make sure they had late check-in because we were running so far behind schedule.

 

Taking so long to get to our destination didn’t leave us with much time to explore the city. Due to time constraints, most of the touristy things to do were out of the question for us here. The majority of our visit to San Francisco was simply driving around town trying to see the sights while driving.

We did take the time to visit Golden Gate Park. Taking a walk up Strawberry Hill gave us an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge.IMG_9613

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Pacific Coast Highway: Los Angeles

As we leave San Diego heading north, the PCH follows Interstate 5 for quite some time. Interstate travel doesn’t really feel like the adventure we were looking for, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Trying our best, we stayed off the highway along the coast, and north into Oceanside. It was about this time that Kelli and I were ready to eat, and a quick search pointed us to Ty’s Burger House. Perfect choice. Great menu, excellent beers, and an incredibly comfortable atmosphere means that if we are anywhere near here again, we will be back. Highly recommended! It might be worth a trip to Oceanside alone.

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San Onofre State Beach. Long boarders paradise. I’m going back one day!

Out of Oceanside, and back onto I-5, we head past San Onofre, another iconic surfing spot, and head into San Clemente. While not officially US 1, we at least got off the interstate, and into local businesses and the everyday life of the people that live there. Slow moving traffic, and tons of small shops eagerly enticed us to stop and shop, but alas we had a schedule to keep. Maybe another time San Clemente. We definitely need to go back.

 

North of San Clemente, we entered Dana Point, and rejoined the PCH on our northbound tour of the west coast. Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, all places I have wished to visit for so long.

Once we get to Seal Beach, the PCH heads inland away from the coast until we reach Santa Monica, and our stopping point for this segment of the drive.

 

Second Stop: Los Angeles

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Los Angeles is one of the most popular cities in the United States (I’m sure you already know that), and a place that we needed to see for ourselves. From the freak-show fun of Venice Beach, to the elite hideaways of the Hollywood Hills, we wanted to get a small taste of it all.  With only a day and a half to see it all, we played the full-on tourist role and made the best of what time we had.


 

Santa Monica

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The PCH at the western end of I-10 entering/leaving Santa Monica. We have now driven both ends of Interstate 10. It connects from Jacksonville, FL to Santa Monica, CA.

Just after checking in to our hotel (and hours of being in the car), we decided to head out for a walk to check out the surrounding area of Santa Monica. On foot, we crossed the PCH over toward Santa Monica Pier, and then south toward Venice Beach. Along the way, we saw people walking their dogs, their birds, and their snakes. Tons of rollerbladers, bike riders, and skateboarders all telling pedestrians that we were in their way. We passed muscle beach (nobody was there), street performers and artists along the way. The souvenir shops were closing up as we approached sunset, and so we turned and began heading back north to the hotel.

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Sunset over Santa Monica Beach. Yup this shot is my wallpaper now.

Before calling it a night, we decided to explore Santa Monica Pier a bit. We had no idea that the pier was the western terminus of Route 66! Cool! The pier would be a great way to spend most of the day. There are plenty of places to eat as well as play games, and ride rides. It felt like a carnival with an incredible ocean view.

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Santa Monica Pier just after sunset.

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Looking down the pier at the end of Route 66.

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View looking down 2nd St, the route we walked to get to the 3rd St Promenade.

Just up the road from our hotel was the Third Street Promenade. It’s about four blocks of Third Street open only to pedestrian traffic and designed just for shopping. There’s food for every taste, and stores for every style. Live music echoing from every direction, and the smells of outdoor dining overwhelm the senses. We highly recommend visiting here. You could spend the entire weekend (maybe longer) without a car here walking the Promenade and the Pier, as well as Ocean Front Walk.


 

Hollywood Boulevard

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No Trip to LA would be complete without a visit to Hollywood Blvd. In true tourist style, we did what we had to do. We braved the traffic, and headed in to see where stars are made.

It was exactly what we expected. Bumper to bumper cars, shoulder to shoulder tourists and people waiting to be “discovered”. There were people jumping around in homemade costumes. Some good, some bad, some just terrible (think brown Spiderman wearing a fanny pack). If they see a camera, they put on a performance hoping you snap a photo so they can suggest a “thank you” for their efforts. There are people selling things, others very politely asking for money, and a few pushy types trying to get you to go into their souvenir shop.

The strange thing is, there is magic in the air. For some reason, while we were there, we felt a strong urge to find an agent, and try acting as a new career. You really feel as though there is a chance you could become famous overnight while you walk down this street. It is definitely a crowded, hectic place to be, and we truly enjoyed it.


 

Beverly Hills

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Just another Rolls parked in a “red zone”. No big deal.

So, what do Jed Clampett and Weezer have in common? They both know that Beverly Hills is the place to be. Strolling along Hollywood Blvd, we what seemed to be hundreds of vans, shuttles, and busses just for tours of the area. We found a Beverly Hills stars tour that promised to show us where many celebs live, plus a drive down Rodeo Dr. Kelli successfully talked him down to a two for one deal for a ride in the roofless van they used. It was a perfect way to see the sights without having to worry about the crazy LA traffic.IMG_9403

Beverly Hills has some very strict rules about the tour vans, some of which restrict them to certain streets. Fans of architecture would enjoy a tour like this, as well as fans of celebrity gossip. We saw houses which are regularly used in films, and locations where some celebs made some not-so-good decisions.

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Somebody famous used to live here… They probably moved to Malibu.

 

 

 

 

 

Towards the end of the tour, we realized that not many celebs still live in Beverly Hills. At least not on the tour route. Most of the homes we stopped at were described as “So-and-so used to live here, now they live in Malibu.” Although we never saw anybody famous, it was nice to finally see where so many stars have called home.

 

 

Now, I gotta go call my agent. I think I saw a house for sale.

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Pacific Coast Highway: San Diego

Driving a large RV can be a challenge sometimes. If the roads are too steep, you could have difficulty stopping on the way down. If the lanes are too narrow, that’s another kind of nerve wracking. If the roads are too twisty, (while fun in a car) you might actually get into a bad situation requiring assistance from a rather large tow truck.

While heading west, we stopped for a while just south of Carson City, Nevada, so we could enjoy the Fourth of July in cooler temps. We wanted to visit Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area at the advice of Kelli’s uncle. We were not disappointed. During our stay, we read more about the California laws regarding RV sizes, as well as warnings as to the hills we would need to traverse in our mobile mansion. 

Although we did not want to avoid California all together, we decided it was not a good idea to take our home into the state for an extended period of time. If we get stopped for being too big, our roving residence could get impounded. Bad idea. A better idea, park the house in a storage lot in Nevada, and take a road trip into Cali.

There are a few things we had to see in California. Among them was the Pacific Coast Highway, or US1. (We wanted to see Yosemite N.P. as well as Sequoia N.P., but they were booked full) The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) runs along the Pacific Coast. Much of it has beautiful ocean views, but a lot of it has great places to stop in towns big and small. With the help of my parents, we booked hotels in three cities along the PCH in hopes of seeing what we could, all within a week.

 

First stop: San Diego

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San Diego, California is a place we have only heard good things about. The weather is supposed to be great year round, and it promised to have world renowned beaches. The rumors were right.

The weather was incredible. Now, we didn’t stay a full year to get a real feel of the temperature swings, but for a visit, it was absolutely perfect. No disappointment there. The beaches. Yes the beaches are beautiful.


 

La Jolla

IMG_9299We stayed in La Jolla, just up the street from Windansea Beach. Windansea is a world renowned surf break that has been featured in surf movies and documentaries for decades.

 

Just north of where we stayed is La Jolla Cove. Another place to go enjoy the beach, or go see wildlife. La Jolla Cove is a protected ecological area providing a home to many different fish, as well as mammals. The Seals, and Sea Lions are fun to watch, but man you can smell them from blocks away. Being a protected area, there are many snorkelers, and divers in the water, and places along the road where you can rent such IMG_8762things. Being that the water is protected, surfboards, boogie boards and other floatation devices are not allowed. There are lifeguards year round, so you can bring the whole family and try snorkeling in the calm water.

 

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San Diego Zoo

IMG_9154The San Diego Zoo consistently ranks among the top ten zoos to visit in the country. It is a place I wanted to visit since I was very young, and I finally got the chance to go. It is huge. We only gave ourselves a day to see it, but you could probably take a full weekend to see everything. It is big enough that there are regularly scheduled double decker buses driving around the park to help you get from one side to the other. Hop on or off at any of the stops. There are also tour buses that travel through, pointing out the different animals, and giving perspectives that you can’t see by walking. The zoo even has a safari park which we did not have time to visit. Maybe another time.

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Sunset Cliffs

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IMG_8875We made sure to take a trip to watch the sun set from Sunset Cliffs. As the name implies, its a great place to enjoy such a view. It seemed quite popular by the number of people there for the same reason. Get there early so you can find parking, and when you leave, be ready for slow moving traffic. It’s a residential area, so unless you live there, there’s no reason to stick around after dark. Everybody heads out at the same time, and it feels like they are all going the same way.

 

All in all, we certainly enjoyed our stay in San Diego. A great place to visit, and we will visit again.

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Is There a “Right Way” to Travel? Part 2

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Years ago, when Kelli and I lived in Florida, we began shopping for boats. Specifically a boat that would be big enough to live on. We were looking for an RV that floated. We knew we could travel the intracoastal waterway from Florida to the Mississippi River and head upstream to Cincinnati to visit family. We could float north on the east coast to visit places like Savannah, Georgia or Myrtle Beach, and never have to leave our home. Our friends planted the ambitious idea in our minds that the Bahamas were “only a few hours east”.

Well, having never owned a boat before, we changed our minds. Besides, how would we see the rest of the country?

 

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Recently, we re-considered the idea, only this time we were discussing sail-power. We could float to Europe using little to no fuel, and again, we would have our entire home with us. Not just a suitcase. (a deep sea fishing trip in heavy seas has scrapped that idea)

Our final idea was a houseboat you could carry on a trailer. We could see the country from the highways, and the waterways. Questions like, “Is it safe to sleep in a boat on a trailer?” or “Is it even legal?” filled our minds, as well as our browser history. Would RV parks even allow us entry to their park?

 

IMG_0173Then along came Jim. He answered our questions yes, yes, and yes. In fact Jim had the same idea, and he met a builder that could make it happen. He explained “It’s essentially a Travel Trailer on top of a pontoon boat.” He pulls it around the country living in RV parks, as well as lakes and rivers. One week he could be sleeping, beached somewhere along Lake Powell, and then the next week tied to a mooring line in Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe. Today, he is hooked up on the other side of the same park we are staying in.

 

IMG_0174Is that the right way to travel? It is for him. It probably is for us too. However, if you don’t like boats, then I would not recommend it.

There are so many different ways to travel, with pros and cons to all of them. One thing that’s right for us, might not be right for you. Is there a right way to travel? No. Is there a wrong way? Maybe. We haven’t found it.

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Is There a “Right Way” to Travel?

 

When shopping for our condo on wheels, we had a lot of different decisions to make. Some decisions were easy such as “how big should the fridge be?” or “queen size vs. king size bed?”. Some choices were a little tougher, and we went back and forth for quite a while as we tried to make a decision. Choices like Class A or Class C motorhome. Maybe a fifth wheel trailer would be better. But overall we were looking for the comfort that a regular home provides rather than feeling like we live in a van.

 

Is there a problem with living in a van? No. Simply, no.

 

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During our travels, we have met a number of people, and not everybody travels the same way. Most of the people we talk to travel in some sort of RV wether it be a motorhome or a form of trailer. (that’s probably because we spend a lot of time in RV parks) Pop-up trailers are not uncommon, and we have even seen a small pop-up pulled by a motorcycle in the park.

IMG_8176-Edit-2Tents are a great way to spend some time. In fact we are amazed how much our “neighbors” look out for each other, and we would have no issue staying in a tent now. (weather permitting)

 

Our decisions were all about comfort. Things like running water and TV’s were essential. We were after more square footage. As much as we could afford. Our thoughts were that we didn’t want to be in each others way on a rainy day. Well, we didn’t realize much of the country was in a drought. (we don’t watch a lot of news) The rainy day scenario is not an issue like we thought it might be. While some places get plenty of rain, there is always something to do inside somewhere. Besides, what’s wrong with playing in the rain? Just wear a swimsuit to go outside.

 

IMG_9791Again. Is there a problem with living in a van? Not at all. In fact, after a year of hauling around 30,000 pounds of diesel fueled house, we will probably be ready to downsize into a van.

A van, as such, can be as luxurious, or as basic as you like. There are vans made by Mercedes Benz, and finished by Airstream if you want to spend a lot and have wood floors. The same van can be bought with a Dodge Ram emblem on the side, and absolutely nothing inside like a contractor would need. Either way, they are a safe, mobile shelter. You can have running water inside if you need it. You can equip a full kitchen if that’s your desire. Some people take the minimalist route requiring only a bed to keep a less cluttered, more zen like atmosphere.

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We recently met some full-timers (Berkley and Christie) that have traveled extensively, and live in a fifth wheel. They found a place in Nevada that feels like home, so they decided to stay permanently. Living in an RV is great, because if you need to move suddenly, there is no problem with selling property. Just go. They still love traveling, and after years of RVing, they know what they really need. A van. With the van, they can spend a weekend at a National Park, or travel for weeks knowing they have what they need. When the grand kids come over, they have a spare bedroom just for them. Nice.

 

“Okay. So what if we have three kids to take with us?”

Easy. A van will carry everybody and a four person tent. The parents sleep in the van, and the kids sleep in the tent. No problem. If the kids complain, tell them “it builds character” and “tenting is good for them”. Then lock the doors and pour another glass of wine.

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