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  1. Default SF-LA-Vegas-Yosemite-SF (Yeah. I know.....)

    So pleased I bumped into this amazing messageboard. We've been planning a trip to California for some time and have finally managed to organise it for later this year. In the past few weeks I've been rummaging more and more around this site and must say it's been a superb resource in so many ways, and, much to the annoyance of my wife, more than a little addictive in it's own way.

    Anyway, I know this kind of itinerary has been done to death, but I'm struggling to dig up much info on the Las Vegas to San Francisco bit.

    We're going over in the first week of October '09 from the good ole' UK. We're planning to hire a small or medium sized car (automatic/ac) from the airport in San Francisco and travel down the pacific highway to Vegas and back.

    We're hoping it'll go something like this;

    Day 1 Arrive SFO 10pm - pick up car - overnight at airport hotel
    Day 2 Head down Pacific Coast Highway - overnight at Monterey/Carmel
    Day 3 On through Big Sur and Santa Maria - overnight at Santa Barbara
    Day 4 On through Malibu and Santa Monica - overnight in LA
    Day 5 Have a look round LA, Hollywood, etc - overnight in LA
    Day 6 Out to Las Vegas via Big Bear and Barstow - overnight in LV
    Day 7 Spend with friends in LV - overnight in LV
    Day 8 Another day in LV - another overnight in LV
    Day 9 Out through Pahrump and Death Valley - overnight in Lone Pine
    Day 10 On to Yosemite via Bishop and Tioga Pass - overnight in Yosemite
    Day 11 Most of the day in Yosemite the SF via Manteca - overnight in SF
    Day 12 Spend in SF - overnight in SF
    Day 13 Spend in SF - overnight in SF
    Day 14 Spend in SF - overnight in SF
    Day 15 Drop off car - Fly Back to UK

    Now, thanks to various posts on here, I've been able to work out most of what I figure I need to regarding this route, though there are still one or two things that are bugging me.

    I think the drives are about right, based on the kind of mileages I've previously been used to doing, but grateful if anyone could point out anything unrealistic or strrrettttched in what I'm currently planning. As I said, I'm particularly unsure about the LV to SF bit. Is LV to Lone Pine a reasonable days drive, bearing in mind we would ideally like to split off to see a few bits and pieces in DV? Similarly, the drive from Lone Pine to Yosemite. Anyone have an idea of a realistic drive time, bearing in mind that we'll be coming in from the Tioga Pass and staying at Evergreen Lodge in Groveland at the west entrance?

    Anyone got any opinions on the type of car that would be suitable for this kind of journey? Will we be able to have a pretty good look around Death Valley, for instance, in a standard vehicle?

    We were also thinking of maybe ditching the car once we arrived back in SF. Any opinions on that? I know it's not that big a city and public transport is pretty good, but I'm wondering if the car might be useful for wandering off, if the fancy takes us.

    Right. This seems like a pretty long post for a "virgin", so I'll shut up and leave it there.

    Needless to say, we're both really looking forward to this and would really appreciate any input whatsoever that anyone may be able to offer.

    Thanks,

    Pete

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default good start

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you've got a very reasonable plan that you've laid out, and it looks like you've done a good job with your research.

    The only place I might tweek, is to spend a second night in Yosemite. It will likely take you a good part of the day to travel across Tioga Pass (assuming you stop alot for the many overlooks etc along the way) and spending a second night would then give you a full day in the Yosemite Valley before heading onto SF. Its not essential, but its something to consider.

    A regular sedan will be just fine for your trip. Think of it this way, if you can't get there with a regular car, then you can't drive their without invalidating your rental agreement, no matter what model or type of car you have.

    As far as having a car in SF, probably the biggest thing will be the cost. Parking, especially overnight is quite expensive, plus you'll have the extra cost of the rental itself. Personally, I found SF to be a relatively easy city to get around by car (although I could be in the minority there), but you'll need to balance your budget with the potential freedom to sprint off elsewhere for a little while.

  3. Default

    Thanks for the swift reply Michael.

    Good point about the car and the terrain. We were thinking in particular about trying to get to see one or two of the "Ghost towns", namely Bodie and possibly Rhyolite. Though I'm not sure how much time that might add on to our days schedule.

    Do you think we would be likely to reach Groveland before sundown on the day we travel from Lone Pine in the morning? I know it's not too far in mileage terms, it's just all those damn photos and sightseeing. :-)

    We were looking at accommodation on Van Ness in SF that apparently has free on-site parking, so, if true, the parking issue there perhaps wouldn't be so apparent. I spent some time in SF a few years back and had a motorcycle to get me around the city then, so parking wasn't such an issue anyway, though I imagine, like everywhere else, congestion will have probably increased a fair bit since I was last there. (1993). I have, incidently, thought about maybe hiring a motorcycle whilst we were there, but have been struggling to find anywhere on the net that's not a premium "Live the Dream" Harley Davidson outlet. So, I guess any ideas on this would be appreciated.

    Another day in Yosemite? Well, I am a little conscious of not making things too "whistle stop", and whilst it is such an amazing place to wander around in, I guess in order to do this we would more than likely have to sacrifice a night in SF, in which I was planning to take the time to show my wife some of the sights and wind down a little before the dreaded return home.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default But the views!

    Another night in Groveland and an early start you could still be in SF just after lunch but those extra few hours in Yosemite would make all the difference. It's your call but it's not often you get to see views like this. If you got an early start from Vegas you could see a reasonable amount of DV and push on to Bishop for the night and would be worthwhile if you decide not to take the extra night near Yosemite. I really think that you will struggle for time if you try to see Bodie and want to enjoy Yosemite either way.
    If you are sticking around the central area of San Fran you won't need the car but perhaps you might want to keep it an extra day and drive over the Golden gate bridge or some other surrounding area. Lombard street still offers reasonable lodging rates that can include free parking around Gough St and Van Ness ave area and is handy for the Piers and not far from the trolley services. It was a couple of years ago but we found the Best Western Grosvenor great value for money as an airport hotel.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    777

    Default Good plan

    Quote Originally Posted by pete719802 View Post
    Day 1 Arrive SFO 10pm - pick up car - overnight at airport hotel
    Day 2 Head down Pacific Coast Highway - overnight at Monterey/Carmel
    Day 3 On through Big Sur and Santa Maria - overnight at Santa Barbara
    Day 4 On through Malibu and Santa Monica - overnight in LA
    Day 5 Have a look round LA, Hollywood, etc - overnight in LA
    Day 6 Out to Las Vegas via Big Bear and Barstow - overnight in LV
    Day 7 Spend with friends in LV - overnight in LV
    Day 8 Another day in LV - another overnight in LV
    Day 9 Out through Pahrump and Death Valley - overnight in Lone Pine
    Day 10 On to Yosemite via Bishop and Tioga Pass - overnight in Yosemite
    Day 11 Most of the day in Yosemite the SF via Manteca - overnight in SF
    Day 12 Spend in SF - overnight in SF
    Day 13 Spend in SF - overnight in SF
    Day 14 Spend in SF - overnight in SF
    Day 15 Drop off car - Fly Back to UK
    A couple suggestions/observations.

    First: (and you're not the only person who does this so I'm not picking on you specifically).... folk in Northern California don't call CA1 the "Pacific Coast Highway"; that's a Southern California term. You'll sound more like a local (up north) if you refer to it as "Highway 1".

    Second: if you stay at an airport hotel, most of them have shuttle services. You may want to hold off picking up the rental car until the next morning (using the hotel shuttle both ways). You're probably not in the best condition to drive (on the wrong side of the road at night) after a long flight from the UK, and why start the meter earlier than you need to?

    Third: The coast from SF to Monterey isn't as exciting as the stretch from Monterey to Cambria.... I'd suggest heading straight down US101 to Monterey (cut over from 101 at or before Salinas, multiple options exist); spend the remainder of the day there and Carmel.

    Fourth: you might consider breaking off the drive south in Cambria rather than Santa Barbara (both very nice towns by the way). This would allow you time to stop for sights on the way down, and time to hit Hearst Castle late in the day , or first thing in the morning as you continue to LA. Santa Barbara is certainly worth a stop for lunch and a look around as you pass through, if you don't stay there.

    Fifth: I'm into photography, and love both Rhyolite and Bodie... but if you have time to do only one, make it Bodie. More to photograph there. Also hit the South Tufa Area of Mono Lake on the way past.


    Rhyolite; Photo: Don Casey


    Bodie; Photo: Don Casey


    Mono Lake; Photo: Don Casey

    Fifth: I agree, the day before Yosemite will be a full day, you may want to spend two nights in the Yosemite area (sacrifice a day in SF or LV or LA) or stop early in Bishop (as Southwest Dave suggests).

    Tips for Bishop: hit Shaats (sp?) bakery, and if you're a photographer drop into Mountain Light Gallery, founded by the late adventure photographer Galen Rowell (and his also late wife Barbara).

  6. Default

    Thanks for great input guys.

    The plan is for 7.00-8.00 am starts on the travelling days, and with the exception of evening meals, mostly eating on the fly, so we're hoping that even on the longer drives that should give us a reasonable amount of time to catch the sights before sundown.

    With regards to getting to Lone Pine to Groveland and fitting in Bodie on the way, perhaps I shouldn't be too literal here, but Google Maps is suggesting around 6 1/2 hours for this. Now, obviously we're going to want to stop off a good few times along the way, but I'm calculating that even if we turn that into a 10 or 11 hour drive, providing we start out on time, that should still bring us into Groveland before nightfall. Does this figure or am I really being a wildly optimistic ass here? We were of the assumption that the 2nd day in Yosemite would be the day we would really see the most of it and were planning another early rise, most of the day in the park and heading off out to be at Mariposa around 5.00 or 6.00 pm to aim for San Francisco by 9.30 - 10.00 pm that night. Now, on paper all this seems pretty doable to me. The long days behind the wheel wouldn't normally bother me and I'm assuming they should be pretty well punctuated anyway, BUT.... You guys are the guys that have been there, and whilst I appreciate that we will all tackle things a little differently, I would have to be pretty ignorant to pose a question and then continue on as planned without taking into consideration any of the points you've taken the time to raise. (Notwithstanding the fact that we had already booked our accommodation in Groveland for the end of day 10. Er.... Maybe a bit rash, I know, but just thought that we should get in whilst we could, as we picked up what seemed like a good price).

    Southwest Dave - Thanks for the links to those Yosemite pics. I actually came across them myself a while back but they really are truly stunning. To be honest I would quite happily spend a week there, but alas that will have to be for another trip. (Which may not neccesarily be that far away anyway).

    I'm thinking you might be right about the car thing in SF also. Another day with it might be a good thing. (Golden Gate - Sausalito - etc.) I would really like to find somewhere in SF that has reasonably priced motorcycle rental though. Anyone, anywhere with any ideas on that?

    CalOldBlue - Thanks! I stand corrected on the CA1/PCH thing, though I do think my southern english accent will probably do more to give me away as not sounding like a local.

    The airport car hire thing doesn't appear to make much difference in terms of price if we pick it up the night we arrive, and if this, coupled with the relatively short hop to the hotel, means we can get an early start on the road without faffing about at the rental desk in the morning, I think I'd be ok to sort everything out the night before.

    I think I might take your advice on the SF to Monterey stretch though. I guess I really wanted to pass through Santa Cruz as I'd been there some years back and well..... you know.....

    Also, your suggestion regarding ending the day in Cambria sounds like it could be a plan. (I was beginning to wonder myself, whether Santa Barbara might be a bit too close to LA to set it up as a stopover).

    Great shots of Bodie and Mono Lake. How did you find Bodie? Were there a lot of people around or was it fairly sparse? (I'm thinking about trying to get those atmospheric "tumbleweed" type shots, you see).

    Anyway, thanks again to all who have chipped in so far. I really do appreciate you taking the time to throw your ideas and opinions in. It's all food for thought.

    Oh. Any suggestions on accommodation in or around LA? We've found a few possibles and pretty much have an idea of areas to avoid, but I'm wondering if anyone has any reasonably priced recommendations.

    Right..... Quick...... I'll try and sneak it in one more time........ Anyone have any ideas on motorcycle rental in San Francisco other than hiring a fully laden Harley for a squillion dollars a day? (Maybe I should start a new thread with this one).

    Ok. I'll shut up for a bit.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    777

    Default Good bye God we're going to Bodie*

    Quote Originally Posted by pete719802 View Post
    How did you find Bodie? Were there a lot of people around or was it fairly sparse? (I'm thinking about trying to get those atmospheric "tumbleweed" type shots, you see).
    I've been to Bodie a few times... here's a few things you should know.

    1) The last few miles into Bodie are on an unpaved but generally good road. Don't know if your rental car agreement allows this or not, but unless conditions are wet/snowy the road IS in pretty good shape.

    2) Bodie is at a high altitude, and can get really really cold. October can have minimum temperatures (typically overnight) in the 20s (Fahrenheit, sub-zero Celsius) or below. It CAN get snow in October, but not a lot.

    3) As for crowds; shouldn't be bad in October, and in any event unless you're trying to get a wide shot, it should be easy to just wait for folk to clear to get the shot you want.

    * Possibly apochryphal quote from a young girl in the 1800s. One newspaper punctuated it as "Good-bye God, we're going to Bodie" (due to it's lawless nature). Bodie boosters said it should be punctuated "Good! By God; we're going to Bodie!".

    P.S. One more shot....


    Photo: Don Casey
    Last edited by CalOldBlue; 07-27-2009 at 04:50 PM. Reason: added one more image

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Other than the expensive Harley experiences, there just isn't much motorcycle rental at all in the US.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Are you from Australia ?

    I do think my southern english accent will probably do more to give me away as not sounding like a local.
    With a Southern England accent be prepared to repeat the following a dozen times a day; "No, I am not Australian" ;-)

    As for the Lone Pine to Groveland part of your trip then Yes you can cover a 12 hour day and include Bodie but at the same time you could easily spend a half day detouring to Bodie and take a half day stopping at the various viewpoints with short walks and photo ops along Tioga. Time is a valuable thing and only you can decide how to best use the time you have available. TBH I don't think another thread is going to help you regarding bike rental, if you can't find it through Google I doubt it's available as it's so specialist anyway. Here's a link I found with a few SF bike rental company's if you fancy having a look, but it's not cheap !

  10. Default

    Thanks again guys.

    Like that last pic, CalOldBlue. I found that quote as well. I think I prefer the "Goodbye God" version, myself. A bit more evocative, maybe.

    Looks like we're going to stop over in San Simeon, just north of Cambria on day 2 now. Good advice there, I think. We found a little place called the Sea Breeze Inn that looks about right.

    glc - Yeah, I found that was the case the last time I was over. Just wondered if things had changed at all. It does seem weird too me that, in a land with so much sunshine, great roads and beautiful scenery, the motorcycle rental thing isn't a lot more common.

    Southwest Dave - I wonder if I can affect an approximation of an Australian accent I might be construed as an Englishman. Maybe it doesn't quite work that way.

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