So to say thanks for the advice I recieved on here in a couple other threads I had made I thought I would post a rundown of the road trip my wife and I just took!
We did all of this in 14 days roughly. Wanted to stay in Vegas a few nights and ended the trip at the Coachella Festival in Indio.
Sadly we had bad weather following us around most of the trip, but we still clocked up a little under 2000 miles.
Starting in LA we headed out to Santa Monica to pick up the Pacific Coast Highway and headed north for San Francisco. I was in no rush so I booked us accomodation at the half way point at San Luis Obispo.
The drive between LA and here is relatively uneventful. Lots of market gardens and military bases. Nice cheap strawberries from the side of the road!
Anyway we stayed here :
The Madonna Inn is cool, but I wouldn't rave about it. If you ever stay there, throw down for one of the top dollar rooms. The lower tier ones aren't worth the trip. We had a choice of Portugal or Holland and went for Holland. It was nice, but it didn't blow me away. We got in late so didn't eat dinner there which may have made it more memorable? Now that I've seen the area I'd prefer to stay in one of the coastal towns slightly up highway 1, there is some amazing resorts and hotels perched high above the sea! The Madonna is basically a motel in a field off of a highway.
Leaving the Madonna Inn we headed for the coast road, Highway 1. Some friends had driven it 2 days earlier and said there was some insane rockslides, and we saw a whole area that had been taken out with loads of smashed up cars!
If you ever drive this road, heed the speed limit. The locals might overtake on corners like lunatics but if it says 25mph, do 20. It's a tough road, very windy and very high up! Stop and look at the sea lions too!
We hit SF late afternoon. Stayed at the Marriot at the Fishermans Wharf which is close to the Italian part of town and also Chinatown. Be prepared to pay $45 a night for parking if you stay here. I found a room rate that included parking for $120 a night which was perfect. The Marriot there has been refurbished recently and the rooms seemed to be brand new. Perfect.
SF Chinatown is the biggest one in the world outside of Asia. Entirely unmemorable for me as I've spend time in China but I guess it would be interesting if you wanted to buy stacks of plastic crap you will never need ;)
Dimsum lunch was ok, but expensive compared to Australia/London and other places I've lived.
A tip for good Italian in SF. If you like seafood head to Gigi's Oysteria (formerly Sotto Mare http://www.sottomaresf.com/index.php ). Best clam chowder I've ever had and the owner is a local legend of sorts. Get in, get full, then gett-a outta here! No desert menu, only the freshest seafood and pasta!
Left SF headed for Yosemite. Quite a nice drive. Just don't stop in Oakland! We got off the freeway for food. Close to the biggest ghetto I've ever seen! On the way through Oakvale we saw a rodeo, complete with cowboys and people bbq'ing half cows on grills in the street. California is full of such amazing contrasts!
As we got higher it got colder and suddenly we were seeing snow on the side of the road which meant we were in Yosemite! As Tioga was closed we just wanted to pass through, check out the waterfalls and carry on. It's an amazing place and was definently worth the drive.
I snapped this on the way out.
Headed out of the park, aimed for Las Vegas. This is a good 9 hour drive so we stopped at Fresno for the night, an entirely unmemorable town!
Next day, Vegas. The following 72 hours are a blur and involve the strongest drinks I've ever poured down my throat and a gaping hole in my wallet, but on the 3rd day we took a drive out to the Grand Canyon, via Hoover Dam. We opted for the slightly less popular and moderately contraversial West Rim due to the fact it is only 2.5 hours from Vegas rather than the 5-6 hour drive that the Southern Rim is. I'm glad we made this choice. To get there, you go down a 16 mile section of road that is unpaved which made me glad I'd hired a SUV, but normal cars can make it easily.
The West Rim is where the glass floored skywalk is. It costs $30 to walk out on it and you can't take a camera. We decided not to bother.
For 2 people to enter the park and ride their bus to the 3 spots they have was $75 or so. Pretty steep. They've built some cheesy kind of 'wild west' townsite which we avoided, and I passed on all the fake indian crap they have in their giftshop!
If you have the money, spring for the helicopter ride. They land on the floor of the canyon and you can go in a boat. If the weather was nicer I'd have done that, but it was actually snowing a little when we were there.
I haven't been to the South Rim before and alot of people say its alot better, but I can't see how with views like this.
Hoover Dam was pretty crazy. They're building a new bridge to bypass the actual dam road. Seeing contruction workers hanging off of it was pretty crazy!
So thats about it. We left Vegas, stopped at some desert outlets to buy stuff we didn't need (but it was cheap!) and ended up in Indio where we got some great 90F+ weather for the weekend.
Cheers to everyone who posted advice! Paul + Ebony.