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  1. #1

    Default Road trip in 4 weeks (!) from San Fran-Yosemite-D.Valley-then onto beaches-back to SF

    Hello all :)

    Karen from the UK here :D

    My husband and I have never been to California before, so we are very excited to be coming soon, last two weeks of August in fact! We were in the hands of a travel agent who unfortunately just didn't seem to get the 'tailor made' part of the advertised road trip, everything we asked about was met with 'No' (We 'had' to rent a car from Day 1 apparently! and couldn't incorporate beaches in the itinerary!)
    So due to them wasting an awful lot of time, we have booked the hotels and flights ourselves. It remains to be seen whether the order we have put them in was a mistake, lol! My OH will be doing the majority of the driving (if not all) and has driven in America before and drives for a living so that's a bonus - if it were me alone I'd be advertising for a driver :D

    I have spent a lot of time reading this forum and will continue to do so, picking up tips- it's fantastic! I have played around a little putting sections of my itinerary into the map planner to see what attractions there are nearby and this is an excellent resource to use. However, you can't beat first hand knowledge or experience of a trip/area so I thought I'd post our plans so far.


    Anyway, here we go: ( I am hoping to fill in all the little bits inbetween that will really make it enjoyable as well as leaving time for us to relax and enjoy the scenery.)

    Day 1 : Arrive San Francisco - Flight gets in at 7pm, we are going to arrange for a airport shuttle or maybe a taxi? Taxi would be around $51 excl tip right? Shuttle would be around $18 each excl tip so not sure it's worth sharing plus waiting while everyone else gets dropped off etc.
    Staying for 3 days here at Golden Gateway, Van Ness Ave due to it being right next to the Cable cars. We will probably grab a Muni pass as we are not renting a car until we leave (don't see the need to pay to park it in the hotel)

    Day 2 : San Francisco - Hoping to arrange a tour of San Fran and also explore ourselves. Looking forward to hearing the seals!

    Day 3 : San Francisco - Planning to visit Alcatraz, will be booking tickets very soon, evening tours already sold out.

    Day 4 : Picking up rental car and driving to Yosemite (approx 195 miles) - staying overnight here in Cedar Lodge.

    Day 5 : Driving to Death Valley (approx 304 miles) - staying overnight at Furnace Creek Resort

    Day 6 : Driving to Las Vegas (approx 144 miles) - staying here for 2 nights. Las Vegas and it's night life/gambling doesn't really appeal but hey, we've never been so will try to keep an open mind, what should we not miss?

    Day 7 : Las Vegas - Planning on taking a Helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon (Anyone have any personal rec's for companies who offer this?)

    Day 8 : Driving to Grand Canyon (approx 278 miles) - staying overnight here at Holiday Inn.

    Day 9 : Driving to Phoenix/Scottsdale (approx 225 miles) - staying overnight at Xona Resort. Beaches next :)

    Day 10 : Driving to Palm Springs (approx 298 miles) - staying overnight at Holiday Inn.

    Day 11 : Driving to Ventura (approx 178 miles) - staying here for 2 nights at Crown Plaza.

    Day 12 : Ventura - Relaxed day - nothing planned so far.

    Day 13 : Driving to Monterey (approx 272 miles) - on the way from Ventura am hoping it's do-able to visit McWay Creek Waterfall, it looks beautiful! Staying overnight here at Hilton Garden Inn.

    Day 14 Driving to San Francisco (approx 105 miles) - staying here overnight at Hilton airport hotel

    Day 15 Checkout and travel to airport. Mid-morning flight.

    2, 010 miles in total (-ish, no doubt there will be a variation)

    So, are there any glaring mistakes in our plans so far?

    I did read (after booking!) that it was best to travel the opposite way due to all the pull ins being on the same side of the road, how much of a problem is this likely to cause us, if any?
    If anyone has any little gems up their sleeves that could be incorporated along the way, like no-nonsense places to grab something to eat/rest stops, it would be much appreciated if you could share :)

    Thank you,

    Karen
    Last edited by KarenUK; 07-22-2011 at 03:59 PM. Reason: Spelling!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    The only thing that really jumps out at me right off is "Beaches next" while in Phoenix and Scottsdale, but the next thing is Palm Springs. Other than a couple of reservoirs, Phoenix and Scottsdale have no beaches, nor does Palm Springs.

    A couple of suggestions: on your way from Grand Canyon to Phoenix, you have some extra time. You might like to stop at Montezuma's Castle, an old Indian ruin. Or swing through Oak Creek Canyon on 89A South, and stop at Slide Rock if it isn't too busy (a great swimming hole).

    In the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, if you love pizza and great music, Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa is a fun place to enjoy both. Every night (not open for lunch), a talented organist plays all sorts of music on an Old Wurlitzer organ. S/he does 45 minute set, then takes a 15 minute break, then another 45 minute set with different music, etc. (The only thing that repeats in each set is Happy Birthday - because someone is always celebrating a birthday that night.) The pizza is good, they serve soda, tea, or wine, and there is ice cream available for dessert.

    There are beaches close enough to Ventura if you are looking for a beach. Enquire locally for the best ones!



    Donna

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks for replying Donna,

    The only thing that really jumps out at me right off is "Beaches next" while in Phoenix and Scottsdale, but the next thing is Palm Springs. Other than a couple of reservoirs, Phoenix and Scottsdale have no beaches, nor does Palm Springs.
    Ah silly me, that's my mistake, 'beaches next' was supposed to have been copied/pasted lower down when I added more text! Please ignore that bit.

    The swimming hole at Slide Rock sounds like a fantastic idea, I love swimming and it'll be a great way to cool off.

    Thanks for the tips for fun in the Phoenix area too.

    Karen

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Anti-clockwise

    Hi Karen, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    That looks like a great trip you have planned there, and I am sorry to hear about your experience with the travel agent. Many of us have been down the same road. Unfortunately, they are in a position of giving advice but not actually having been there, done that themselves.

    The only suggestion I have for you, is that you do this trip in an anti-clockwise direction, so that when you are driving the Pacific Coast Highway you will be on the side of the ocean, and all the great pull-offs and viewpoints. It can be frustrating to have to cross over oncoming traffic each time you go in and out of a view point along this magnificent single lane road. I see you already have many of your hotel bookings made, but since the trip is still some weeks off, maybe they will allow you to alter the dates. Would be worth checking.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Some thoughts.

    Hi Karen and welcome to RTA from another Brit.

    San Fran is a great little City and easy to get around and personally I prefer to do it under my own steam, without tours. Of course that's just me and you have to decide. Why I mention this, is because if you decide not to do any other tours, this is the only direct ticket sellers for Alcatraz backed by the NPS where you don't have to book other tours or pay an agents fee.
    Book ASAP ! Pier39/Fisherman's Wharf, China town, Union square area and Coit tower are just a few highlights of SF. An evening meal on the pier is a wonderful experience with a vibrant atmosphere. [Guess it will be 'heaving' with people in August though.]

    If you are up for an early start to get out of SF before morning rush hour, I would recommend it. You are very short of time in Yosemite and this a true gem of the National parks. Traffic starts to build from 6am and won't ease of again till 9am. It might be too late to alter, but Furnace creek is about as far East as you can get in DV and your time might have been better spent stopping earlier [Bishop, Lone Pine or Panamint springs] to get more time out of Yosemite and next day driving through Death valley and getting to LV later in the day. Of course you can still sight see in DV next day, such as heading down to Badwater from Furnace C which happens to be the lowest point in the USA below sea level. On the way back up you could take the scenic Artists drive and on route to Vegas stop at Zabriske point and Dantes view. Death valley is going to be HOT, very HOT so make sure you have sun protection/hats for even short walks from the car and carry plenty of water.

    I had similar thoughts about Vegas, but it's an experience I will never forget. The atmosphere, Hotels [you could spend a day in a hotel 'lobby' such as the Venetian where you can get gondola rides along the canal, yes inside the hotel ! Not to mention all the free street entertainment such as the Bellagio water fountains and battling pirate ships.

    A possibility for the Helicopter flight would be not to take one from Vegas, but from Grand canyon airport in Tusayan. It depends on what you are looking for. The Vegas tours go to Indian lands at the West rim of the grand canyon [Skywalk] and are permitted to land where you can combine a river tour and the like. If you want to fly over the National park area [no landing allowed] then you can take a 50 min flight from Tusayan, which we found to be a spectacular experience ! We used Papillon Helicopters [which also caters for flights from Vegas] and had a great experience of their service. You could possibly book a morning flight from Tusayan on the day you are leaving for Phoenix.

    You won't have trouble finding gems along the way nor places to eat, but one such place has just come to mind. Just before CA120 [Tioga pass] joins 395, on the right there is a gas station. Inside that gas station is a poorly kept Local's secret, 'Woah Noah Deli', that serves up great Diner grub, wonderful ! Take a short drive up the hill afterwards and you will get a nice view of Mono Lake.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    'Woah Noah Deli'
    Whoa Nellie Deli at the Tioga Gas Mart.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Sleep deprivation.

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Whoa Nellie Deli at the Tioga Gas Mart.
    That's the one !! If I have mentioned it once I have mentioned it a thousand times.

    [[ Don't know what's up with me. Perhaps the 18 hours of ripping my kitchen apart and digging up the concrete floor to try and locate the burst water pipe that was flooding the kitchen may have something to do with it. Hampered by the discovery of electrical wiring in corroded metal sleeves running through the rather wet concrete floor didn't help matters. We discovered the cable's were live shortly after the big BANG !!]

    Please forgive me. LOL

  8. #8

    Default

    Thanks for the welcome everyone and for taking the time to help.

    Lifemagician,

    Thanks, I thought I'd read somewhere about the pull ins being on one side only. Unfortunately, my husband is reluctant to change any hotel bookings, since some of them have been booked at Non Refundable rates. I suppose that since he will be driving that's fair enough and no doubt the subject of us 'going the wrong way' will arise again. ;) Actually, to be fair, we did want to visit the beaches after all the sightseeing, etc so it's almost like two different holidays in one.

    SouthwestDave,

    I have read your trip report and thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks for sharing, loved the photographs! Thanks also for all of the information you have given me (and after battling the pipes, concrete and big bang too!) I researched hotels in the Bishop area and drew up a plan but it seems we will have to stick to the hotels we have booked (non refundable).
    We leave San Fran on a Sunday, will there still be bad traffic or will we be lucky? I've made notes of Badwater, Artists drive, Zabriske point and Dantes view.

    We are actually looking forward to seeing just how OTT Las Vegas will be now. Googled the gondola ride thinking you were having me on! All I can say is wow! LOL Are you expected to dress formally in the casino's?

    Your idea of having our heli experience on the day we leave for Phoenix is a good one and we are seriously considering that, as there is no rush for us to arrive at Phoenix. We will just be relaxing there, swimming maybe, unless anyone has anything unmissable in that area?
    ( still keeping the music/pizza option in Mesa in mind, although it would mean driving 25+ past Xona, have to see how tired the driver is)

    Woah Nellie Deli (or Woah Noah as I'll probably remember it from now on, lol) is a definite on our itinerary now, so thanks for that Dave and glc :D


    Does anyone know if you can get down onto the beach at McWay Creek Waterfalls? I've seen the photographs of it and am sure I've read in someone's report that they walked under a highway(?) to access it? It's on our route more-or-less between Ventura and Monterey.

    I'm expecting to feel like I'm walking around in an oven (lol) and no doubt the world and his son will be in residence with it being August. Maybe all the great views we miss this time we will catch if we return in the future and if we return, maybe do so in a cooler month :)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    777

    Default a few comments

    Quote Originally Posted by KarenUK View Post
    Thanks for the welcome everyone and for taking the time to help.

    We leave San Fran on a Sunday, will there still be bad traffic or will we be lucky?
    .
    .
    .
    Does anyone know if you can get down onto the beach at McWay Creek Waterfalls? I've seen the photographs of it and am sure I've read in someone's report that they walked under a highway(?) to access it? It's on our route more-or-less between Ventura and Monterey.
    :)
    Traffic should not be a serious problem, given the day and the fact you will be going against the bulk of the traffic (people returning to The City on Sunday).

    I don't believe you can get to the beach. The walkway you refer to is how you get to the overlook (on the ocean side of CA1) from the parking lot (on the land side of CA1).

    As to crossing over traffic into the view points. By all means do it, but exercise some care. Almost all the viewpoints will be on promontories, where the land juts out into the Pacific a bit. That means you'll be on a road that curves around a cliff to the right, in the righthand lane, needing to turn left across oncoming traffic. You will have a somewhat restricted view of oncoming traffic due to the way the road curves, so just be careful and make sure you have an unobstructed path into the parking area (don't get hung up on the road waiting for another car to clear the parking area).

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by CalOldBlue View Post
    Traffic should not be a serious problem, given the day and the fact you will be going against the bulk of the traffic (people returning to The City on Sunday)
    Well that's good news.

    Quote Originally Posted by CalOldBlue View Post
    I don't believe you can get to the beach. The walkway you refer to is how you get to the overlook (on the ocean side of CA1) from the parking lot (on the land side of CA1).
    and that's not, lol! Oh well, there are plenty more beautiful beaches.

    Quote Originally Posted by CalOldBlue View Post
    As to crossing over traffic into the view points. By all means do it, but exercise some care. Almost all the viewpoints will be on promontories, where the land juts out into the Pacific a bit. That means you'll be on a road that curves around a cliff to the right, in the righthand lane, needing to turn left across oncoming traffic. You will have a somewhat restricted view of oncoming traffic due to the way the road curves, so just be careful and make sure you have an unobstructed path into the parking area (don't get hung up on the road waiting for another car to clear the parking area).
    We certainly will be careful. If it were me alone driving I would be more concerned but my OH is a professional driver by trade. It is unfortunate but to change the order of the trip would be a real headache and waste a lot of cash. Has anyone driven it in a clockwise direction? :) It'll make for interesting trip reports no doubt.

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