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  1. Default West coast road trip


    As I promised here I'll write a report of my West USA roadtrip. So here it is.
    I think this is going to be a loooong post so get comftable :)

    This was our plan.

    We flew in to SF from Frankfurt in B747. It was a nice 11 hour flight with beautiful views from 11.000 m. (Yes, in this post I'm gonna use meters and km/h and °C and liters and kilograms… because I have enough calculating between US and metric units for a while :) )

    We landed late afternoon, collected our luggage and went out in front of the international terminal. We were in USA :) The airport is as big as my home town and there are so many roads going in and out of the airport I got the feeling we won't get far here and that our trip is gonna end at the first crossroad from rental parking. Then I switched to optimistic view and everything went even better than I planned.

    Complimentary hotel bus soon arrived and took us to Best Western Grosvenor hotel where we had reservation for 3 nights. It's a 10 min drive from SFO. If bus driver helps you with luggage tip him 1-2$ per bag! Tipping is a little confusing for Europeans so I'll write who to tip.
    Hotel was great. It's near the airport, which is a big plus. It has a pool but the temperatures in SF in july and august are not for outdoor swimming :) it was below 20°C. If you reserve a room on their internet site you get free breakfast, which was quite good. (yes there was meat also :) ) Wi-Fi internet was good and ice machines are on each floor. Parking is 3$/day (I think).
    Next three days we were exploring SF and suffering from jetlag :) Before you go to SF get some free maps of town from hotel or airport. We used hotels shuttle bus to get to the airport and then we went to B.A.R.T. It’s a train that gets you from SFO to SF center. It's a 15 min ride. Round ticket is 16.20$ to Powell st. Powell station is the best place to go if you don't know where to go :) Cable car end station is there so you can continue towards the sea where everything is. One way ticket for cable car is 6$ and it doesn’t matter how far you ride.

    It was a long line for boarding but it goes fast.

    You can save $ and go on a walk to the shore as we wanted but let me warn you first. Roads in SF are steeper than they look and shore is not just over that hill. There are many hills (especially if you get lost :) ) and they are steep as hell. But we saw a lot of SF on that "short" walk :).
    When you get to the last station just follow the crowd. You have to see Golden Gate, Fishermans Wharf, Alcatraz, Pier 39, sea lions, Lombard Street, China town and everything in between.

    Lombard street

    Yep, that's us :)


    Pier 39 is a good place to take a bite. We tried every restaurant there and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. was my favorite.

    Tip the waitress 15-20% of total bill. I always tipped at least 20% to waitresses because they are all so nice and they take their time to advise what to eat.
    Late in the evening we went to pick up a car. We rented from Hetrz at SFO. From there we went shopping in nearby Target. It's open until 22:00. We got everything there from sleeping bags, tent, cooling bag, GPS, dishes to food and clothes and it was so cheap (maybe because I'm from EU :))
    We packed the car and waited for morning.

    Sunrise in SF

    Roadtrip begins. We left SF in the morning and drove on CA1 to Monterey. This road is amazing. If you are driving from SF to LA you have to take CA1. It's not that slow as some may think. We drove it in two days with only a few hours of driving a day. And most of the time we were alone on the road.

    There are many pullouts and picnic places on the way and the scenery is awesome. It's better to drive from north to south so you have better views and u can easily stop at pullouts.

    Yes, we drove in this car :)

    O, and the car :) THE CAR! :D Let's say something about THE CAR. It's amazing. There is nothing else to say. :)
    OK, there is a lot more to say. Mustang 2011, V6 convertible was the car I wanted to drive. I reserved convertible car at Hertz SFO and called them the day before pickup and we got it. It had enough room for our entire luggage (2 big suitcases, tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 inflatable beds and a lot more camping stuff). On the back seats we had only a cooling bag. A/C is great. We drove with top down at 45°C and at 10°C. Cool/warm air stays in the car and it's not windy at all. You just have to look out for the sun. Put on a shirt with long sleeves, a hat and some sunscreen. And drink a lot of liquid with minerals, salts, electrolytes… like Gatorade.
    Hertz has also Mitsubishi Spiders for convertibles but that car is waaay too small for road trip like this. There are also Chrysler 200 and Sebrings which are nice but they are not Mustangs with 300+ HP and average fuel consumption below 10 L/100 km :)
    The car is a big part of a road trip so I think it's worth paying a little more for a car that you will really enjoy driving than saving on a car and be "compacted" in a compact and just waiting for the miles to end. On some days when we got to our end stop we didn’t want to stop and we drove a little more around the place :)

    (aparently this post is so long i have to split it)
    Last edited by MihaT.; 02-20-2016 at 01:06 AM.

  2. Default ...

    Wow, I'm still at day 1 and this post is already long.
    Ok, move on. We got to Monterey where we visited the Aquarium. You can buy tickets online and print them so you don't have to wait in line. This place is great.

    A few photos from there.

    It was midweek so there were not many people. We saw everything in about 2 hours but we could stay there for the rest of the day.

    From there it was a nice and short drive to Pfeiffer Big Sur State park.

    We had a reservation in the Pfeiffer Big Sur campground. Yes you need a reservation because all camps on our trip were full. If you want to camp make a reservation as soon as possible! Some camps are full 5-6 months before arrival date. Read reviews about specific campsites so you get the best ones. I did that and it was really worth it. Our sites got a lot of compliments from camp neighbors :)

    This camp was great. We just spend a night there so I can't say much about it. We did our first laundry there :) Most camps have washers and driers so you don't need a lot of clothes on a trip like that. You just need a lot of quarters. Washers, dryers, showers, ice machines… all work on quarters so always have them with you. All camps have general store too where you can get ice and firewood. And beer :)

    Our site #88.

    Later we went to McWay falls a few km south to see the sunset. You can park by the road and take a short walk to the view point.

    Next morning we continued on the amazing CA-1.

    Wildlife was everywhere on our trip.

    Sea elephants

    Last edited by MihaT.; 02-20-2016 at 01:15 AM.

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    Before we knew it, we were near Malibu. We stayed in Leo Carrillo SP campground. Again, we were very satisfied with this camp and our site.

    Site #82

    Animals on our site

    Later in the afternoon we went to Zuma beach a few miles down the road. There is a big parking ($) but you can park by the road and walk to the beach.

    Mitch Buchannon hired us right away :)

    Back to the camp and next day off to Hollywood.

    You can park your car in Hollywood & Highland parking garage right in the center of where you want to be. If you validate your parking ticket in one of the stores or restaurants there, parking is really cheap.

    Avoid LA in the rush hours. We went through in midday and didn’t get stuck in traffic.

    Use carpool lanes!

    Then climate changed and we switched to hot desert. On our way to Palm Springs we drove past looooong trains (I swear it was longer than a mile)…

    …and we visited Dinosaurs in Cabazon.

    We stayed in Palm Springs Travelodge. Again a good choice.

    There was about 40°C so the pool was really nice.
    After a good complimentary breakfast we went on the road. Soon we reached our first national park Joshua tree.

    Hat is a must in the desert.

    After Joshuas we crossed the state line and arrive to Arizona, land of the saguaros. I really wanted to see this cactus and I thought I'm gonna have to look for them, but there are thousands of saguaros along that endless road.

    Before we reached the hotel we went to see Lake Pleasant. Nice lake in the middle of the desert surrounded with cacti.
    That night we stayed at Hampton Inn in Anthem. I liked that place too :) Good pool, nice breakfast... We had a good dinner at Denny's just across the street.

    Last edited by MihaT.; 02-20-2016 at 12:14 PM.

  4. Default ...

    The next day we stopped at Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde. We bought tickets online so there was no line for us. This park was great. You can go on a bus tour in the park, see tigers playing in the pool, feed giraffes, pet lizards and a lot more. We spend about 4 hours there.

    Then we drove through beautiful Sedona, had a great lunch in Red Rock Cafe in Village of Oak Creek and made a side trip to meteor crater near Winslow.

    On the way towards Grand Canyon we visited Flintstones village. 5$ p.p.

    We were in Mather campground on the South GC Rim, site #296. This site is on the end of the loop so you have a lot of space and you see more animals.

    Watch out for this giant ravens. They will destroy everything you leave outside that contains food or drink. So don’t leave cooling chests, trash, water bottles and things like that unattended. We left 2 gallon bottle water (hard plastic) on the table and when we returned it was on the other side of site, empty with a couple of big holes in it.


    Canyon was amazing. You could seat at the rim and look down for hours. Picture can't show this grandness. You have to see it.

    We stayed two nights here.
    Use free park shuttle busses to get from one view point to another. They drive all day every few minutes (when crowded more often than schedule says) and they get you everywhere. One stop is at the camp entrance.

    Animals have the right of way

    We left GC on the east side. One last look in the canyon from watchtower at Desert View.

    There are many smaller canyons on the road from GC to Cameron.

    Like this one

    Before we got to Page we stopped at Colorado River Gooseneck. Parking is right by the road and then you have to walk about 1km to the view point. It's a short walk but bring some water with you because it's very hot on that sandy path. When you get to the end the view is amazing.

    We drove to the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell…

    Last edited by MihaT.; 02-20-2016 at 01:56 AM.

  5. Default ...

    …and continued to lower Antelope Canyon. This place is in Indian Territory so you can't wonder alone there. We decided for Ken's tour in the lower canyon because it's less crowded but the hike there is more "difficult". There are just a few ladders inside which are easy to climb but apparently that is enough to turn most tourists away.

    Entrance to the Lower Canyon

    Again, pictures cannot show this beauty.

    Unfortunately we didn't get to the end of the canyon because there was a storm at the upper part of the canyon. Someone at the entrance yelled down the canyon: GET OUT. FAST! And we ran out. They told us about the flash flood in 1997 when eleven people died, so we took that warning seriously.

    Next stop was Amigo Cafe in Kayenta where we had a great Mexican lunch.
    That night we were in the View Hotel in Monument valley.

    The View Hotel

    Yes, that hotel is not cheap but you get an amazing view from your room.

    This was on our balcony

    Next day we went towards Mexican Hat and Horseshoe Bend.

    Yes, I had to do that :)

    And up the Moki Dugway.

    This road is not that bad so don't worry about driving it.

    On the way to Arches NP we stopped at

    Wilson Arch,

    and Hole N" The Rock

    They have a little zoo where you can feed animals.

    Before entering Arches NP we grabbed a quick bite in Milt's Stop & Eat in Moab. Mmmmm… chili dog, mmmmm… Double cheese burger was great too. Next door is a store where you can go shopping because Arches NP doesn't have a store. There is no shower either. We showered in a private campground called Riverside Oasis at the end of Moab near park entrance. Showers were 5$ p.p.

    Arches NP is incredible.

    Last edited by MihaT.; 02-20-2016 at 12:21 PM.

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    We spend two days here. The camp site we reserved was under water due to the storm the night before, but the nice couple who run Devils garden campground got us a new dry site for one day. The next day we moved to our reserved site.

    Site #53

    Site #46 we reserved

    Both sites are great.

    We did some hiking around the park in the morning…

    and in the afternoon we took a trip to Canyonlands NP.

    Nights in Devils Garden are magical. There are so many stars and shooting stars I could look up all night or until my neck fell off.

    Next day was the day with the longest drive. We drove about 530 km from Arches to Bryce NP.

    Through forest

    On 3000m above see level.

    We stopped for lunch at Kiva Koffeehouse near Escalante. Nice place with good food and free Wi-Fi.

    Bryce NP has some great views. Most of the view points are on the east side so it's best to drive all the way to the south and then when you go back you have all stops on your side.

    We were in sunset camp on site #258. This site was nothing special but still had more space than other sites we saw. Showers are at visitor center and in Ruby's campground just outside the park.
    We went horseback riding the next morning. If you want to see the bottom of the canyons and don’t want to walk, go on a horse. We went on a 2 hour tour and it was great. Reserve your horse the day before and tip your "cowboy" guide when you get back from riding.

    Short drive away is Zion NP.

    Before we got to the valley we did a short walk to the canyon overlook point. You can park your car on the parking before the tunnel. 30 min easy walk awards you with a beautiful view.


    View from the canyon overlook point

    We spent two days in watchman campground inside the park. It's very hot here so make sure you get a site with a shade.

    Site D23 has full shade :)
    Last edited by MihaT.; 02-20-2016 at 02:52 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default This is good !

    Hi Miha, welcome back !

    What an awesome report with great photos. Thanks for dropping in and updating us, I'm looking forward to more and you have brought back some good memories for me. Bubba Gumps on pier 39 was one of our favourite places to eat, not only was the food good, the whole atmosphere and friendliness of the place was electric.


    Edit] I see you have finished the report while I was replying. Absolutely brilliant, Thankyou !!
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 09-09-2011 at 07:16 AM. Reason: Added comment.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    What a wonderful report! Thanks for sharing it and your beautiful photos!

    What did you do with the camping equipment?


  9. Default

    Thank you Dave and Donna.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    What did you do with the camping equipment?
    Believe or not I brought it home with me :)
    Well, most of it anyway. I had to leave two inflatable beds in the hotel room. I hope someone found a use for them :) But I managed to get the rest in two big checked bags and pillows in one hand bag. The bags looked like they would pop like popcorn :)

  10. Default

    Can I just say....I'M SOOOO JEALOUS!!!! LOL My husband and I are planning a family road trip to CA and your itinerary is almost exactly what we are planning!! Our trip is still a year or so out though. I'm gonna have to write down some tips from your posts :) Thanks so much for taking the time to share this! I had so much fun seeing it!

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