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  1. Default First ever road trip: Pacific Coast Highway and R66

    Dear all,

    Here is my long overdue field report on my first ever (and EPIC road trip) from Sept to Oct 2015 (oh wow it's been so long... no wonder I'm getting withdrawal already).

    Here was my itinerary:
    Day 1 - land in San Francisco from Austria (where I was on a work related trip)
    Day 2 - exploring San Francisco
    Day 3 - pick up rental and leave San Francisco to pick up a friend at San Jose airport and head out on Highway 1. Stop at San Simeon for the night
    Day 4 - continue on Highway 1 to Riverside LA
    Day 5 and 6 - hang out with above friend and her family
    Day 7 - hit the road again, random stopover (as recommended by friend) at Joshua Tree National Park, then aim for Route 66: Oatman, ending at Kingman
    Day 8 - back on Route 66 to the Grand Canyon
    Day 9/10 - 2 days in the Grand Canyon
    Day 11 - back on the road to Phoenix and to the airport to fly to North Carolina (to visit another friend)
    The rest of the days didn't involve driving (except when I was BEING driven) so I will leave them out - but let's just say this was the most epic vacation of my life so far. :)

    Background (everything here is just background, so if you just wanna skip ahead to the real trip, go ahead to the next post)
    The background behind this trip is that I have lived in Singapore all my life which is a tiny tiny country that you can drive across in half an hour. It's almost all city with a huge amount of traffic, especially during rush hour.

    We also drive on the left side of the road. So before the trip, I had never driven for very long distances, never had any major car problems or tire issues (more on that later), and always drove on the left side of the road.

    Almost of my close friends in high school eventually moved to America and I hadn't seen them for AGES, although we correspond a fair amount. Furthermore, because I was completing residency (to become an Orthopaedic surgeon), I hadn't gone for a long holiday (more than a week) for the last 10 years - and America is a little far from Singapore to just go for a couple of days before flying back.

    So last year I FINALLY completed my training! Woohoo! And suddenly my time was my own. A road trip has always been on my bucket list, so the first thing I did was to try find a travel buddy (my best friend in Singapore). Unfortunately he had work commitments so I spent some time waffling about doing this solo - before finally deciding to go for it. (Also, my Singaporean friends were telling me I was crazy.)


    I'm fairly OCD by nature and training, so the first thing I did was to research extensively.

    I researched the Pacific Coast Highway (which was easy enough). I mapped out Route 66 on Google Maps (which took a lot of online searching and figuring). And I tried to figure out how far I could and should drive in a day, and I planned my stops.

    I found this forum - which was awesome, because I could confirm that my planned itinerary was feasible and not insane for a complete noob like I was (and am).

    Things I bought online before the trip

    1. CabinMax carry on luggage - I packed everything in that and had no check in luggage so moving in and out of airports was a breeze
    2. A turn by turn Route 66 guide which I highlighted and dogeared the appropriate pages (I used EZ66)
    3. A current US road atlas for CA/AZ
    4. Reams and reams of handwritten notes and a trip journal
    5. A US SIM card

    So then I was all raring and ready to go.

  2. Default Day 1: land in San Francisco from Austria

    This is fairly unroadtrippy - I landed in SFO and was picked up by a friend from Singapore (who was doing a fellowship in San Francisco) where he spent a fair amount of time giving me driving tips for America.

    I stayed in a really interesting hotel called The Red Victorian - which is really hippy.

  3. Default Day 2: San Francisco

    This was fairly unroadtrippy but quite touristy and packed.

    I walked the span of the Golden Gate bridge to and fro and regretted not taking the bus.


    I decided to take all the forms of transportation I could: the cablecar


    The street car


    The trolleybus and the ferry

    I wandered around El Castro and saw a couple of guys wearing only a sock (they're gonna have one interesting tan line). I wandered around the Golden Gate park and climbed up Lombard Street.

    I didn't take many pictures, I'm afraid - travelling solo just meant I was too lazy to whip out my camera most of the time.

  4. Default Day 3: The start of the Pacific Coast Highway

    This is where the real road trip bit begins... I picked up my Nissan Versa (I actually wanted a Mustang - sadly there were none available when I called in) from Hertz and the first thing I did was sit at the car for 15 minutes reading the manual and familiarising myself with the controls. Before the trip, I had also prebooked the Hertz GPS (NeverLost) and presaved all my locations on a USB - so navigation was fairly easy.

    All ready to go - I sent off a quick text to the friend I was meeting at San Jose and made the world's sloppiest U turn on the way to the San Jose airport. I'd timed my drive late in the morning to avoid rush hour (also giving me time to pick up some trail mix, water and snacks) - so traffic was reasonably light and I got out of the city onto the highway in one piece.

    The most stressful was trying to remember who has right of way at which junctions - happily, there were few junctions between me and the highway.

    San Jose airport and I picked up my friend - so now there was a driver familiar with driving in the US in the car. We headed straight to Highway 1, stopping at Point Lobos National Park for a quick breather. I didn't take any photos as I was driving, but the scenery is stunning - absolutely beautiful coastline to our right and cliff-face to our left. I'm not sure photos could have captured the absolute glory of that drive.

    We stopped at Nepenthe for a late lunch overlooking the sea.

    The rest of the drive to San Simeon was likewise amazing (Can a soul be full? Mine was.) The sun was setting when we reached Piedras Blancas - which is why we completely missed the turn off to the rookery and had to double back.

    Elephant seals as far as the eye can see, mainly juvenile males, pups and a few females:


    We tried to do a tour of Hearst Castle but I think it was already too late - I had spent much more time driving than I thought.

    We settled at San Simeon Lodge for the night.

  5. Default Days 4-6 summarised

    That's odd - I seem to be missing Day 2, which I thought I posted. Will repost it again if it doesn't reappear.

    Anyway back on the road again until we reached my friend's home in Riverside, LA.

    The rest was fairly domestic and I managed to spend some time sleeping off some of that lingering sleep debt. :)

    Mod note] Your second post has now been published. It got held up in moderation by our Spamware tool]

  6. Default Day 7 part 1: back on the road

    Back in the saddle again after a 2 day break, and it was off to Joshua Tree National Park.



    Kind of reminded me old Westerns - I almost expected to see tumbleweeds going past.

    And it was attempting to trace Route 66 - unfortunately they closed part of the road (the sign said flood risks - but it didn't rain the whole time I was in CA), so I had to turn off. I did manage to find my way back to Oatman though - missed the High Noon shootout by a couple of hours. Burros everywhere - very hungry burros who will come up and nose you for food.




    The foals have signs taped on their heads asking people NOT to feed them - they are still on milk at that point, and burro food would not be good for them.

    Onwards to Kingman - the road between Oatman and Kingman is the twistiest, narrowest road I have ever driven. There is no barrier between your car and a sheer drop off, so it was a pretty exciting and very slow and careful drive for me.

    Oh wow - just found this on Wikipedia:
    One section just outside Oatman, Arizona, through the Black Mountains, was fraught with hairpin turns and was the steepest along the entire route, so much so that some early travellers, too frightened at the prospect of driving such a potentially dangerous road, hired locals to navigate the winding grade. The section remained as Route 66 until 1953, and is still open to traffic today as the Oatman Highway.

  7. Default Day 7 part 2: really? Only 5 photos per post?

    Hmmm - resized the photos in the earlier posts a bit too much. Bigger photos from now on.

    Stayed overnight at El Trovatore Motel - the owner has a spiel that he will gleefully repeat to anyone who walks in, and a really fat (and excitable) dog called Taco (who should be called Burrito). Rooms are themed - I got the Marlon Brando room.




  8. Default Day 8: Grand Canyon Ho!

    Another early morning start, stopping off at Seligman for lunch. This town, I have been told, is the inspiration for the Pixar movie Cars, and I can see why.






    From Seligman attempted to continue to follow Route 66 as far as I could but ended up driving on really rough road which for some reason stopped at the border of a forest. My guess is that it was probably some remnant of the old Route 66 - because I was following the "Historic Route 66" signs.

    Gave up and made a beeline straight to the Grand Canyon and checked into the Best Western at Tusayan. It was dusk by then and I was fairly tired after the early start to the day, so had an early night.

    (As an aside - I kept seeing Burma Shave signs along the way... I really love those!)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Wonderful.

    Thank you for coming back to post this. Those of us who have covered this are will be riding with you. Those who have not, will no doubt get another reminder of how wonderful this part of the world is.

    Quote Originally Posted by awctan View Post
    I'm not sure photos could have captured the absolute glory of that drive.
    Maybe not, but your word pictures are doing a great job. (Are you able to post full size photos?)


  10. Default Day 9 and 10: lots of driving back and forth between Tusayan and the Grand Canyon

    I spent 2 days exploring the Grand Canyon - there are probably much better photos of the Grand Canyon out there than the ones I took, so I will instead wow you with 2 photos from my collection of squirrels contemplating the infinite.



    I also spontaneously decided to try to climb the Bright Angel trail at noon - which I strongly do not recommend to anyone of average or below cardio, because I almost blacked out a couple of times on the way back up. (The signs on the trail lie - it isn't twice as hard to climb back up as it is to climb down. It's ten times as hard.) It got better once I figured out that it wasn't dehydration that was making me see spots - it was hyponatraemia, and thankfully I still had trail mix.

    So yeah. Not the smartest decision in my life.

    Highlight of this trip: being at the Grand Canyon at night to catch the Blood Moon total eclipse - sadly it was cloudy so I didn't get any good photos, but a once-in-30-year event is hard to beat. :)

    It gets pretty dark on the drive back from the Grand Canyon though - city slicker like me wasn't used to that at all.

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