I'm going to be attending a scientific conference in Fallen Leaf, Lake Tahoe in late September. I know, good location, and all paid for by my department! However, the flip side of that is the torture of travelling all the way from the UK (where I'm from) and knowing there is all this beautiful country around you, but you have to work/network 9 hours+ through the day!
SO, myself and two friends/colleagues are taking 5.5 extra days (6 nights) to do a proper road trip after the conference. The only restraint is that I have to be back in Reno on the last night, to make a horribly early flight out the next morning.
I'm no fan of casinos or casino-culture, but I'm open to new experiences. I'm looking for open roads, interesting towns, amazing sights and one big city. I've decided, with the aid of very wobbly pencil lines on a road map, to travel from Fallen Leaf (Tahoe) to Yosemite. Then from Yosemite (or thereabouts) to San Francisco (SF), then SF to Reno, via Berkeley and the Napa Valley.
I wasn't planning on booking any accommodation, except for perhaps the last night in Reno, but some people I've spoken to have suggested I do, certainly for Yosemite; plus it may be cheaper online. Yosemite seems rather expensive to me (being on a budget and in a hire car), so I was thinking of staying just outside the park and daytripping in? I also like the look of Sonora too. San Francisco is a place I've always wanted to visit, but the size and range of things to do, and accommodation, daunts me!
So my cries for help are:
Not knowing these areas and never having road tripped in the States before, I'm not sure how to divide up the time I spend at each place. I'm looking for any advice on what you'd recommend I MUST see as a first time california-visitor, which includes little strange, off the main highway places worthy of a visit (including particular places in SF to visit). Should I, on this occassion, enjoy random little stop-offs en route, but otherwise aim to spend a decent amount of time in SF, or (nr) Yosemite, or Napa; or try and divide the route into 5 equally spaced distances?
Has anyone done any part of this route before? I'd like to hear how it went. I just don't have time to re-invent the wheel on this trip, so if someone enjoyed a particular route, I'd be keen to hear about it.
Finally, accommodation. Gah! There's so much! Does anyone have any recommendatiosn of cheap and cheerful (tried and tested) accommodation in:
South Lake Tahoe
Sonora or Modesto
San Fransisco (Bay Area I guess - not that I know any of the districts)
Reno (near the airport I guess)
Sorry, that's loads, but if anyone has any little bits of information on anything I need, please reply or feel free to email me.