Taken during a morning drive through the Redwood Empire located on the foggy Northern California Coast.
This fellow was standing in the middle of California State Route 1 while we were driving from San Francisco to Eureka, California last year as part of our 1,500+ mile road trip up the West Coast. While the vast majority of California State Route One is devoid of livestock, this particular portion wound its way through miles and miles of dairy farms. With its beautiful rolling hills and proximity to some of the best coastline in the country, it is no wonder that California is home to the happiest cows in the country.
Next to train travel, road trips are one of my favorite ways to travel. If embarking on your own road trip, always make sure that your motor insurance is valid and up-to-date (in many states, proof of insurance is required by law). A policy that includes car breakdown cover is also very worthwhile to have, as you may find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere if your car encounters mechanical difficulties. Carrying one of these policies definitely ensures peace of mind.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Wyoming
We arrived in Seattle nearly two weeks ago and have settled into our apartment with the exception that most of our belongings are currently on a broken-down truck somewhere in South Dakota. Yeah, I’m kinda regretting using Allied Van Lines to move everything, but it’ll get here eventually.
Anyways, some some selected thoughts from our recent road trip:
– Before traveling through the South (ie, Kentucky) check the NASCAR schedule, or else you might find yourself stuck in traffic for hours.
– My uncle in Illinois still makes the greatest BBQ sauce in the world.
– Drivers in Red Bud, IL have no idea how stop signs work.
– There is a Churchill Museum in the middle of nowhere, Missouri. Random.
– Columbia, MO has some damn good beer (see Flat Branch Brewery)
– I was amazed at how many wineries there are in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. Now this may be the California chauvinist part of me speaking, but, seriously?!
– Everyone said that driving through Kansas is horrible. I can see where they are coming from as far as the monotony of the drive, but I actually thought it was quite relaxing. I love cruising along with some good music.
– I am pretty sure I was the only person driving through Kansas with a surfboard.
– Colorado is incredibly beautiful, especially during thunderstorms. I loved Denver and Fort Collins (the breweries definitely helped) and could definitely see myself living in Colorado. Thanks to Liz, Nick, and Wrigley for their hospitality.
– State troopers in Wyoming don’t care if you pass them at 85mph in a 65mph zone.
– Yellowstone is really that amazing and deserving of its reputation. Photos will be up shortly.
– Buffalo meat should be served in more restaurants.
– My Xterra is a bug killin’ machine.
– There are only two radio stations in Montana. One plays country music; the other plays nothing but “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.
– After driving for two weeks, I actually miss being on the road.
– I am very, very glad to be in Seattle while the rest of the country is experiencing a heat wave. Our temperatures here have been in the high 60s/low 70s.
– I can’t believe I actually left DC. This is truly a dream come true. I was actually shedding tears of joy as I sat in Beltway traffic on our way out of the metro area. It has been a long, strange, frustrating, and simultaneously wonderful decade in our nation’s capitol.
Oh, and it cost me $577 to drive across the country, just $30 shy of Cost2Drive’s prediction. Not bad.
Although I have traveled to some rather distant locations, I never crossed the border to visit our northern neighbors. Yes, I’ve been to North Korea and Azerbaijan, but not Canada. My friends tease me mercilessly about this.
So, when we finally arrived in Seattle, we decided to spend one of our days in Vancouver, which is about a 2.5 hour drive from Seattle. Upon arriving at the border, we encountered a Canadian immigration control officer who was, to put it mildly, a complete asshole. I wasn’t even sure he would let us in because he probably thought we were drug dealers or something. But now I finally know what it is like for my foreign friends who visit the U.S. and are constantly forced to deal with rude U.S. customs agents. Sorry, guys!
Waiting to enter
Welcome to Canada
Obligatory American pose
Since we were only in Vancouver for the day, we didn’t get to experience much of the city. Still, a few observations: a) With the bay and mountains as a backdrop, this city is incredibly beautiful; b) it is also damn clean; c) parking is very expensive; d) it was not unusual to see people boarding city buses with their snowboards and gear.
Lions Gate Bridge, as seen from Stanley Park.
Ships in the Burrard Inlet and English Bay
More photos here.
We didn’t spend much time on the Oregon coast, since our main reason for being in Oregon was to scout Portland as a potential city to relocate to from Washington, DC (as it turns out, we are moving to Seattle in July 2011). Also, a quick shout out to my friend and fellow LSE alum, Erin, and her husband, David, for cooking a delicious dinner for us at their home in Salem. Much appreciated!
The beautiful Oregon Coast
At Jackie’s suggestion, we stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. You can view the actual production area on the tour and then gorge yourself with cheese samples. We had ice cream, too, which was also delicious despite the miserable weather outside.
The tallest trees in the world can be found in the Redwood Empire, the strip of land that stretches along California’s northern coast from San Francisco to the Oregon border. While driving from Eureka to Portland, we stopped in the Redwood National and State Parks to walk amongst these giants.
The redwoods were incredible. This place is definitely on my list of destinations I will be returning to sometime in the future.
More photos here.
After leaving Point Reyes National Seashore, we continued our journey northward on California State Route 1 to Eureka, where we would be staying for the night.
More happy cows
Fort Ross was the headquarters of the southernmost Russian settlements in North America between 1812 to 1841. Unfortunately, Fort Ross was closed due to state budget cuts, so we couldn’t see the actual fort. I was really disappointed, because I am huge Russophile.
You can see a tiny bit of the fort off in the distance
If you ever rent a car and the agency gives you a Chevy HHR, ask for a different car.
A little over halfway through our drive, we stopped for dinner at the North Coast Brewing Co. Taproom in Fort Bragg. I had the beer battered fish and chips with a pint of Blue Star Wheat Beer. Both were delicious.
By the time we were back on the road, night had fallen, which made the remaining 130 miles to Eureka slow-going. We still had to traverse over 40 miles of State Route 1, which winds along the rugged coastal cliffs and redwood forested mountains in complete darkness, before turning inland at the beginning of the Lost Coast and terminating at the US 101.
More photos here.
“It is no longer a question of whether or not we should set aside some more of the yet remaining native California landscape as ‘breathing space’…If we do not, we will leave our children a legacy of concrete treadmills leading nowhere except to other congested places like those they will be trying to get away from.” – Former Congressman Clem Miller, author of legislation to create Point Reyes National Seashore
We left San Francisco early in the morning, as we had a grueling 300 mile drive up CA-1 to the city of Eureka. On our trip north, though, we made a slight detour to Point Reyes National Seashore, located 50 miles northwest of San Francisco on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County.
One of the first things you will notice about Point Reyes is that it is inhabited by cows. A lot of cows, most of them looking quite content to live on some of the most beautiful real estate in California. The cattle ranches and dairy farms within the National Seashore were established in the mid-1800s, and produced renowned butters and cheeses that were used in high-end hotels and restaurants in San Francisco. When the National Park Service created Point Reyes National Seashore, the agreement allowed many of the remaining dairy farms and cattle ranches to continue operating.
This is why happy cows come from California.
An escapee. Be careful when driving through Point Reyes, as there are many cows on the loose.
It was foggy, of course
Point Reyes is the windiest location on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. The Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870 to warn mariners away from the treacherous rocks that define the Point Reyes Headlands. Due to the high fog that plagues the Headlands, the lighthouse had to be built very low so that mariners would be able to see it.
It’s a tough climb, but it’s worth it. And you won’t feel as guilty when you dig into some tasty fish and chips with a pint of beer later in the day.
Drake’s Bay, named after the explorer Sir Francis Drake. According to many historians, Point Reyes is the site where, during his circumnavigation of the world, Drake landed in 1579, claiming a portion of the North American Pacific Coast for England.
Point Reyes beach. Beautiful, with good surf, but pretty sure the water is teaming with Great White Sharks.
More photos are here.
After driving through Big Sur, we stopped for some delicious clam chowder in Monterey and continued north to San Francisco. The following morning, at my friend Adam’s suggestion, we drove to Battery Spencer, in the Marin Headlands, for some amazing views of Golden Gate Bridge and the city.
Other than seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, we didn’t have any particular plans for that day, so continued driving along Conzelman Road, further into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. And I’m glad we did, because the views were incredible.
We decided to park the car and hike down to the beach
We drove out to the Point Bonita lighthouse, but it was closed.
We came across SF-88, a former Nike Missile Site. I was surprised to see this well-preserved piece of Cold War history in the midst of such beauty. SF-88 is the only restored Nike missile site in the United States. Opened in 1954, this site was part of the last line of defense against Soviet bombers. With the advent of ICBMs, these missile batteries became obsolete, and this site was decommissioned in 1974.
The ranger on-site gives a very thorough tour, and even allows you to ride the missile elevator down into the storage area.
Heading back into the city
The rest of the Bay Area photos are here.
When I was back in California during the Christmas holidays, we went hiking at Joshua Tree National Park. Much like the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree is another desert wasteland favorite that I try to return to every few years.
During our recent visit to Joshua Tree we hiked the Lost Horse Mine Trail, a 4.5 mile roundtrip hike that takes you to a well-preserved former gold mine site.
The tree from which the park takes its name.
Mine cart remains
The Lost Horse Mine. This mine produced 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver between 1894 and 1931.
The mine’s stamp mill
After our hike, we drove through the rest of Joshua Tree National Park.
Cholla Cactus garden. Stay away from the cacti. Trust me on this one.
More photos here.