When dreaming up this crazy trip I imagined we’d have unlimited time to explore anything and everything. After approximately 4 months on the road we reached California, our 16th state, and discussed the differences between how we thought the trip would be, and reality. We had already completed more “vacation time” than every one of our previous vacations combined…90+ work days (A sad statistic if you think about it). This is an eternity compared to when we were employed, yet we still felt rushed and missed out on many places. Even though Jenna and I moved around the country growing up, we had no idea how much there was to explore in our own backyard.
We fully realize how woe-is-me this all sounds..complaining about our “troubles.” The struggle is real! Honestly, we are some of the luckiest people on earth and are so grateful for the opportunity to do this trip together. Aside from mini-arguments about directions and small spaces, we walk around like a couple grinning idiots, already dreading the day this freedom will end. ( U.S. Road Trip )
Now back to my complaining 🙂
On our first night camping in California we decided we would be skipping Yosemite, Sierra, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, etc. Basically most of the awesomeness on the eastern side of the state. The reality is that we don’t have the time, or money, to give these areas the attention they deserve. Idaho, Utah, and other places originally on our list had met the same demise. After a bit of ugly crying we came to terms with our choice and planned a mostly coastal route down the golden state.
Aside from a couple trips to the redwoods, we tried to stay as close to the coast as possible between Crescent City and Bodega Bay. Doing so required more back roads and time than we expected. Much of the northern coast of California is mountainous ranch land and rocky shoreline. Winding dirt roads took us over peaks and down to the coast only to climb back over the same ridge. We shared our slow roller coaster tour with cows grazing happily over the ocean and wondered if they were “pre-seasoned” by the salt air. For what seemed like hours the steering wheel never settled with each turn ending into the beginning of the next. The rig felt solid climbing and downshifting kept us off the breaks when descending, but I did worry about the CV boot clamps from our “repairs” in Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. As soon as we hit California’s Lost Coast I did a quick check expecting the repeated lock-to-lock turns to have shimmied something loose; but with a thumbs up and a smile of disbelief we were back on the road. I guess my CV boots are waiting for somewhere more remote and inconvenient before they call it quits.
As we closed in on our next camping spot we headed inland and found the first establishment we had seen all day, the Yellow Rose bar. What used to be a hole-in-the-wall, middle of nowhere tavern had been remodeled into a sterile, modern sports bar. The locals didn’t match the new decor and we felt as though we had missed out on the character of its past. A case of Jagermeister was being delivered and an unopened bottle of Hypnotic adorned the top shelf, but the day-drinkin’ men lining the bar, and a gal who looked as though she could handle the lot of ’em, only ordered Budweiser. I followed suit and blushed a bit when Jenna ordered her go-to; Vodka-Soda-Splash of Cranberry. Not to worry, the new Yellow Rose had fresh white drywall, big screen TV’s and burgers topped with avocado, so Jenna’s Rose Kennedy was delivered without question.
Our next beach camping spot was a bust due to some angry wind so we hopped back on the road and found a small dirt patch overlooking the Pacific. Lucky for us, a deeply rutted section of the trail kept away vehicles with lower clearance so we had the view to ourselves!
Some have asked what we do when camping in remote areas and the answer definitely changes based on location, hiking options, weather, etc. At this particular spot we set up camp, had some tea and watched the sunset. Luckily there was no cell service so that prevented us from checking social media. If I remember correctly dinner was spicy seasoned chicken served over rice and refried black beans, and topped with our favorite hot sauce – Valentina! The following morning, like most, started early and slow. We wake, stretch, and take our time simply because we can…what day is it? I start coffee knowing that Jenna won’t get out of bed until it’s ready. We settle into our places on the couch and swing open the camper door to take in the view. A bigger breakfast than normal, we throw a couple over easy eggs on the dinner leftovers…more Valentina. We wash the dishes outside and leave them to dry. Jenna stands overlooking the ocean and starts some yoga. I try to touch my toes and call it good but she makes me attempt some of the poses. We toss the frisbee which is mostly laughing and digging it out of the bushes, but we’re getting better. With plans to head south, Jenna makes some PB&Js while I take down camp. Camp departure has become a routine…hop in the truck and say our take-down checklist – Roof Latches? Check. Propane Off? Check. Slide Bolt? Check. Rear Window Curtain Clear? Check. Roof Vent Closed? Check…wait are you sure? YES! Camper Locked? Check.
Checklist complete, Ipod on, playlist selected, parking break off, P–D, and we’re on to the next place we’ll call home. What’s that noise? I thought you said you closed the roof vent! 🙂
Did you say wine??? Jenna and I have both been to the Napa/Sonoma area before and it is definitely not the kind of place we can afford on this trip. However, I had a couple free Hyatt hotel nights that were about to expire and Jenna’s wine-o radar kicked in. Next thing we know we’re in the Andaz Napa drinking complimentary cocktails and planning how to conquer some wineries on the cheap. If you’re not already aware, hotel concierges near vineyards usually have 2-for-1 tasting coupons to get your adult grape juice at half the price; and if you get chatty with said concierge she just might have some free reserve tasting passes too! We spent the next two days in a room quadruple the size of our home on wheels, taking hot showers ANYTIME we wanted, and sampling wineries on a pb&j budget. (Hopefully I’ll finally get around to writing a post about how we earned the points, miles, hotel nights, gift cards, etc. that we’ll be using to subsidize portions of our trip)
Hoping to wean Jenna off her recent wine binge, we left Napa and spent a free night at the Van Ruiten winery in Lodi using the Harvest Host program.
When my brother-in-law’s sister and husband heard we were in Northern CA they invited us to their home in Modesto. Sarah and Luis are a blast and their son Henry is such a little character. Like a typical toddler he is absorbing everything, including what sounds to be a scene from a Bruce Willis action movie. Every few minutes he would shout “No, No, No, No, Nooooooooooo!!!” followed by explosion noises. Whether it was Legos or cars, each toy would eventually be smashed together and exploded while, what I assume to be the protagonist, shouted in disbelief. Jenna and I now use this on a daily basis – Drop a taco? Spill a beer? “No, No, No, No, Nooooo!!! *explosion noise*” If you think we’re immature…I know you are, but what am I??? 🙂
We also spent Halloween with the Bautistas and threw together 30 minute costumes to compliment Henry and his official NASA flight suit. One Moon, one Milky Way, one Sun and one Jupiter…let’s do this!
Pismo Beach was an unexpected gem. Beach driving, awesome sunsets, and the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had.
After a bit more coastal camping around Big Sur we headed to Manhattan Beach to visit my cousin.
Amanda and I were best friends as children and hadn’t had much time to see one another since “adulthood.” Without skipping a beat we picked up where we left off and headed out for some fun on The Strand. Amanda, her roommate Amanda, and their friends were awesome. When your first night includes several rounds of flip cup followed by beach cruiser handlebar rides along the beach, you’re guaranteed good times.
As luck would have it, two of our best friends, Eric and Susan, decided to move to San Diego after we left the D.C. area. We arrived the same day they pulled into town and spent the next few days exploring Pacific Beach together. We’re stoked to have these guys on the West Coast and will be trying our best to get them to cruise on down to the land of cheap beer and tacos in the near future.
Did you say wine again??? My Mom and her friend Nicole happened to be taking a quick vacation to the San Diego area so we jumped at the chance to see them and some of the Temecula wineries they planned to visit. So much fun!!!
As you can see, we had it easy in CA. The hospitality we received from friends and family was incredible. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You! We’ve had it so good it’s starting to look bad. This is supposed to be a travel blog about overlanding from D.C. to Argentina. Instead it looks like the stories of Jenna and Josh as they hop around to people’s houses and get treated like royalty, while still trying to complain about life on the road. That’s ok though, we’ll take it. Next up, our first border crossing and Baja!!!! (Road Trip)