Our first road trip, San Francisco-Las Vegas and further
Having had so much help from this site I wanted to post a report of our trip and encourage others that with some planning you can have the trip of a lifetime.
Our trip took us from San Francisco to Las Vegas via Yosemite, the Tioga Road,Bishop and Death Valley.Then on to Zion, Bryce, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, Route 66, Hoover Dam and back to Las Vegas and was over 3 weeks in September 2009.
In order to make sure everything was OK I started planning in Dec 2008 (probably as we are both over 65, retired , I had the time, and wasnt really convinced it would work out)I booked certain hotels in February and was glad I did as some were fully booked for our dates by May.
How do I describe this trip? Words really fail me - brilliant, fantastic, breathtaking,awesome all spring to mind - but seeing is believing and the memories we brought back will last a lifetime.
We left Gatwick UK on 8th September and after a 3 hour transfer in Atlanta, arrived in San Francisco 6pm that evening. Having read several threads on the site we decided to stay for 3 nights near the airport and found the Howard Johnson operated a free shuttle system to the airport, BART train and Dollar car hire desk, so stayed there. The hotel was alright for room but really noisy due to busy roads running both sides . A breakfast was included but was in the hotel lobby where there were only 2 chairs. Luckily we timed it right each morning !!
We spent the next 2 days in San Francisco, taking the BART train from the airport to Powell St ( buying the tickets was a challenge, with deducting dollars and adding on cents at the machine, but we managed in the end)
At Powell Street turnaround we got a cable car to Fishermans Wharf as we had decided to have a 2 day pass on a double decker open top bus which was great- took all the hassle out of getting lost!
Over the 2 days we used the hop on/off stops to explore the city , plus quite a bit of walking and when our feet ached we would just hop on the bus again and do another circuit while resting.We also did this in the hope that we would see the Golden Gate bridge,but although we tried it 3 times with blue sky everywhere, when we arrived at the bridge it was in fog and we froze while driving across to get off the bus,on the other side, in the heat - quite amazing. We found the bus was an ideal way of getting near the start of walks we made, such as walking up the back of Lombard Street to then walk down the crooked bit,for Chinatown and round the Fishermans Wharf and Union Square areas. The sealions at Pier 39 were an attraction, but not the smell !!
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-09-2009 at 07:01 PM.
Reason: Pictures are too good not to have larger!
Our first road trip
On Day 4 we took the shuttle bus to the airport to pick up the car. We'd booked it through usrentacar in UK, as recommended on the site. Now the driving part of the trip began. I was assured it was quite easy to get on Rte 101 and after a slight detour and minor panic as we ended up in a trading estate, with the help from a friendly citizen we got to the Bay bridge and from then it was plain sailing towards Yosemite and after a look round Mariposa we arrived at the Yosemite Bug. WOW. Thanks for the idea. What a great place to stay.Room was fantastic , food was good and quite cheap and staff were so friendly.
The following morning we drove to Yosemite to spend a day in the park. We had planned on using the shuttle buses and doing some walking but started by going to Yosemite Lodge to book on the earliest Valley Floor tour, which was great and gave us a good view of the area.
After the tour we got a shuttle bus to the Happy Isles stop and walked up to the Vernal Falls. Couldn't believe the number of chipmunks, squirrels and blue jays we saw.
Having looked round the Visitor Centre our next journey was to drive to Glacier Point and were we glad we did. The views were stupendous,and we saw deer, but no bears.We also stopped off at Washburn point on the way back down, then headed off back to 'The Bug'.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-09-2009 at 07:03 PM.
Reason: added white space
Really glad you went to the Bug!
Thanks for the great field trip report thus far and I'm REALLY glad you had fun staying at the Bug!
OMG -- your photos are stunning!
Our first road trip
Day 6 started with a coffee at 'The Bug' and it was time to tackle the Tioga Pass on the way to our next overnight stop at Bishop.The scenery was amazing and we stopped at Olmsted Point to look back on Halfdome and at Tuolumne Meadows, and pulled in many other times for photo stops. I think we were looking for the scree slopes for most of the journey and were beginning to think we had misread the guide book,when we at last pulled in and saw the rest of the road from the top of the Pass, dropping down to Lee Vining. Was there really a road there? Was it really wide enough for the car, let alone the RV's that were about? It's a road that should never be missed - absolutely amazing!!. What fantastic scenery along the whole of the route. The slight problem I had was feeling quite light-headed while out of the car at the top of the pass, don't think I could have walked far.
All too soon we were down by Mono Lake and visited Whoa Nellie's Deli for a late lunch.
Back in the car again we branched off on the June Lake Loop- really scenic and not really a detour as we were still heading for Bishop , and eventually arrived at the Bishop Village motel which we had chosen for an overnight stay.
A walk up to the supermarket, a look at some of the murals, a wonderful ice cream at Schatts bakery and a dip in the pool rounded off another great day.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-09-2009 at 07:03 PM.
Reason: added some white space
Great stuff !
Hi Jantomo, welcome back !
I am enjoying your report and photo's very much, thanks for taking the time to come back and share it with us.
I am looking forward to reading more.
Another vote for the report and photos - excellent - really pleased you had a good time!
Our first road trip, part 2
During the evening in Bishop I had quite a chat with the motel owner about where to visit while travelling to Death Valley. She told me about Manzanar and the Lone Pine film museum, so on Day 7 we set off for Manzanar, which wasn't far away.
Nothing had prepared me for Manzanar, an American / Japanese National historic site. I found the visit very thought provoking and the film moved me to tears, but I was glad we went and would recommend a visit to anyone that's passing.It's free to go in.
Our next stop was Lone Pine where we visited the Film Museum. Another interesting place to visit if you have a spare hour. My only disappointment was to find out that 'The Charge of the Light Brigade 'was not filmed in the Crimea as I had always believed, but near Lone Pine.The town was full of character and could have been a better option for overnighting than Bishop - (but then I might not have known about Manzanar)
Next we turned off on US 395 for Death Valley.What a drive !! One of the longest roads we've ever driven on with hardly any traffic. We saw a few signs for cattle but didn't see any or anything they could have lived on - what a vast, barren but impressive area.Nothing we'd read could have prepared us for it.
We even saw a small 'Dust Devil' when we stopped at Rainbow Canyon, quite fascinating.
The road and mountains seemed to go on for ever, but at last we stopped for a break at Panamint Springs, then on again to Stovepipe Wells Village, turning in to the motel just as the temperature reached 100 degrees. ( We then found out that was cooler than the previous day's 120)
Couldn't believe there really was a swimming pool in this desert.
The sunset over the dunes and the fantastic night sky didn't disappoint and I would recommend staying there.
The following morning (Day 8) we left Stovepipe Wells and first went to Badwater, another vast area. We hadn't really given much thought to how much below sea level it was so the position of the marker on the cliff was quite a shock.
Following Badwater we took the Artist's Drive route. It shouldn't be missed if you're in a car (too narrow and twisty for anything larger)but quite spectacular.
Once we were back on the main road we decided to walk through Golden Canyon, and armed with water, hats and sun cream we set off in the heat.It was well worth the effort - only about a mile each way, an easy walk and so quiet.
To round off the Death Valley day we visited Zabriskie Point, with its stunning views over the valley. What an amazing experience Death Valley turned out to be. We've certainly seen nothing like it before.
Finally on through Pahrump to Las Vegas for 2 nights, arriving in time to take a walk down the Strip - another WOW factor and such a contrast to what we had seen all day.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-09-2009 at 07:05 PM.
Our first road trip.
Day 9 - Las Vegas
On the forum I had read you either love it or hate it - sorry Mark I dont think I could cope with living there - but we LOVED it.The glamour and grandeur of the hotels and casinos on the Strip was beyond our expectations. What a place !!! With just one day on the first part of our trip we set off to see the Strip, armed with cameras, and before the day had ended 1gb card was full.
Staying at Circus Circus we had quite a way to walk to the centre Strip and called in all the hotel/casinos on the way . Everywhere was awesome. We just couldn't believe there was a canal inside the Venetian as well as outside, and the painted sky - wow! Venice has long been my favourite city and the Venetian didn't disappoint. We must have walked round open-mouthed.
On to Caesars Palace ,Ballys , the Mirage and the fountain display at the Bellagio.It was so hot that a cool off in a hotel/casino was welcome.
One tip I had from a previous visitor was to look on Las Vegas websites for food vouchers and offers before leaving UK. There are quite a few savings.
Having walked all day ,and getting weary we finally turned round and headed back up the Strip, via Treasure Island to watch the free pirates' show . What a day - but we knew we had anothe two at the end of the holiday , and there was still the Canyons tour to come.
Watch this space!
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-09-2009 at 07:07 PM.
Excellent stuff - after a bit of a barren run it is great to 'tune in' each morning and read updates to both yours and Dave's field reports... from a dark, wet and cold Kobenhavn it is inspiring. Only 9 months and I shall be back myself... :)
After Las Vegas
Thanks for your friendly comments everyone. Now on with the report !
On Day 10 we left Las Vegas heading on the I-5 on the way to Springdale. Didn't take us long to leave the city but then what a road for the next 125 miles. Where was everyone?We probably live about that far from London and to drive there we would see thousands of vehicles in both directions but the I-5 couldn't be more different.There is just so much space everywhere!
Anyway the last part of the route was really scenic and we made good time to Springdale arriving just after 1.30pm, which we then found was 2.30 due to the time change.
We booked in to the Zion Park motel (good accommodation) and set off straight away on the shuttle bus to Zion Canyon (stops just outside the motel)We thought we would take the Zion Park shuttle to the end of the valley and do the riverside walk, leaving the next full day for other walks.
Zion Park scenery is once again awesome. The river walk is a really easy walk, only about 2 miles long ,( unless you continue at the end of the trail, to walk up through the river) and gave loads of photo stops. We saw deer crossing the river and a magnificent stag a few feet from the path.
After the walk it was back on the shuttle to the Visitor Centre for a look round, ready to plan for the next day , then back to Springdale . Its a pretty little place, with plenty of places to eat and a laundromat(my evening entertainment) next door to the motel.
Day 11 was a full day in Zion . There are so many trails and the hop on/off shuttle was a boon.Sounded from others we met that the Angels Landing trail was a bit too much of a challenge for us, so we opted for the combined Emerald Pool and Grotto trails as a starter , and what a good choice.The scenery was beautiful and walking behind the waterfalls was a bonus.
There are so many viewpoints and what memories. All too soon the trail came to an end but off on the shuttle again to the short Weeping Rock trail- just a bit of a climb, then we walked the Pa'rus trail (level and easy)before leaving for Springdale, a dip in the pool and a nice meal. Perfect day again.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 11-12-2009 at 11:56 PM.