After leaving Nevada we drove through more desert. This desert was less red and more brown, but still very pretty. We stopped a few times to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
The first stop on our trip was Yosemite. Getting to the valley was a little tricky do to the record amount of snow everyone got last year. When we left Nevada and entered the desert of California we had no clue how we were going to get to Yosemite Valley as the main road through the park, Tioga Rd, was still closed. When we got to Mono Lake we did some searching of the map and found Sonora Pass Highway which would take us to the town of Sonora near the north side of Yosemite. When we left Mono lake we did not know if it was open yet, but we were pretty sure it would be better than going to Mammoth Lakes and around the south side of the park.
When we chose to go over Sonora Pass we had no way of knowing what the road was going to be like. Having grown up on Colorado I figured I had seen it all. Turns out California had a few surprises for me. When we turned off the main road we started seeing signs warning trucks with trailers and RV’s to not go over the pass. When we got to the base of the pass there was a 25% grade sign. Both of our jaws dropped. I am pretty sure this is the steepest road I have driven on.
When we got to the top there was a lot of snow still. It looked as if the road had opened just a few days earlier.
Driving down the west side of the pass was phenomenally beautiful. The drive down was probably worse than the drive up even though it was not as steep. We had to stop twice to let the brakes cool down. Once we were off Sonora Pass we made our way to the north entrance of Yosemite to find a place to sleep for the night. All of the campgrounds in the park were full, which we expected, so we went in search of a forest service road to camp on. We found a beautiful spot and got to see a beautiful sunset.
We woke up early and headed into the park with the hope of beating the majority of the people. As we turned onto the road that goes into the Valley we got a good view of Half Dome. It is way more impressive than I had ever imagined it would be. I was sad to see how bad the vehicle pollution was. The picture I took makes it look like there was a fire near-by. We got there early enough that we were able to see Bridal Veil Falls and El Capitan before we had to park the truck. As the Valley is one of the most popular places in the US to visit we figured we would be better off parking the truck and biking in.
There was so much water coming off Bridal Veil Falls. The path up to the look out point was like walking through a stream of freezing cold water, but the walk was definitely worth it. The Falls are beautiful and I am glad we got to see them in June when they are still flowing.
El Capitan was for more massive and impressive than I could have ever imagined. I never imagined it to be that tall. There was an old climber on the bridge with a bunch of telescopes pointed at climbers. Being a rock climber who has dreamed of seeing El Cap it was really cool to look through the telescopes and seeing the climbers.
We parked the truck at Swinging Bridge and headed out on our bikes toward Yosemite Falls. We barely made it a mile before the tire blew and we ended up walking. We locked up the bikes outside the visitors center and explored the Yosemite Village. My favorite part was the Ansel Adams museum. I have always loved his photographs and am even more interested now that I am really getting into photography. Once we decided that there were to many people to really enjoy ourselves Jason headed back on his bike to get the truck.
Where we parked the truck was narrow and a little difficult to get into, but still doable. Someone had decided to take it upon their selves to make a new parking spot right behind the truck. Not behind one of the many cars, but our 4 door 6.5 foot box truck. Jason ended up taking the bike rack off and getting two guys to help him. I think it took him 2 minutes just to get out of the parking spot. Getting to where I was, was just as difficult. It seemed as if people had lost their heads and completely forgotten how to drive. No one seemed to know what common curtsey was anymore.
After leaving Yosemite we started the drive to the coast. The middle of California is full of farms and nothing else. We stopped at a fruit stand and got some amazing cherries, which I promptly smashed with a door.
When we got to Santa Cruz the most important thing was to find food. We ended up going to a local brewery and getting fish and chips. After dinner we walked down to the beach and watched the sun set.
This was our first night in a city, so after we left the beach we set off to find somewhere to sleep for the night. The only problem was that by this point it was dark and the farther north we drove the darker it got. After about 15 minutes we found a pull-off that didn’t have a no over night parking sign. There was about 5 other vehicles parked there, so we took this as a sign that it was an okay place to sleep for the night. The vehicles there ranged from a typical dirt bag mobile with a huge AC unit to a crappy car. Neither of us felt comfortable getting out of the truck to sleep in the bed, so we set up camp in the front. In the morning we woke up to a cabbage field and fog. We threw everything in the back seat and headed back in to Santa Cruz to find some internet so I could get some school work done. We had now officially joined the dirt bag club and truly enjoyed being a part of it.
After I had gotten some school work done in a McDonalds parking lot we started our drive up the coast. The first stop of the day was a place to sleep for a bit. I was looking at a gps to find a new pull-off. We ended up finding the perfect one and almost set up our tent, but decided to walk the railroad tracks first. While walking on the rail road tracks we found a steep trail that led down to a beach, so we headed back to the truck to fill a backpack with the necessary items for the beach.
After making our way down the trail we came upon a high school party area and a hole in the hill. Through the hole was the most amazing beach. We walked as far as we could and set up camp. It truly felt like we were on our own private beach. Jason took a nap while I read. The perfect way to start our drive up the coast.
We stopped at a random pull-off to grill some brats for lunch before we got to San Francisco. I keep wanting to say that this was the most beautiful place to eat lunch, but everywhere we stopped on our trip was amazing. After we got everything back in the truck we continued on and made our way in to the city.
My step-mom grew up in the area so she told us where to park when we got to San Francisco and drew us a map of the thinks we should see. The only problem we had was the parking garage was 6’ 5” and our truck barely fits in a 7’ garage. So we went in search of another garage to park in. After about 15 minutes we found a nice garage and headed out on our walk toward China Town. I forgot my camera in the truck so we have no pictures from our long walk around the city.
We walked through China Town, which was interesting, but a little to touristy for our liking. We did find a tea shop a nice tea shop where we bought some loose-lea chai tea. After China Town we got on the trolley and went to the wharf. By this time I was starving and could not think straight, so we got clam chowder in a bread bowl at the very first place we saw. This was not my preference as I was hoping for a really good meal, but when I am hungry there is no thinking straight for me. The soup was not the best, but not the worst. The bread bowl was no better than what you can get in the middle of the country, so my search for good sour dough continued. After eating we walked around the wharf and watched the sea lions it was time to find some chocolate. We walked over to the Ghirardelli Square only to find that most of the shops were closed. We grabbed a bar of dark chocolate and started walking up a really steep hill to find a trolley stop. I’m pretty sure we walked all the way up one of the biggest hills in the city. There were a few other people walking up also and they looked like they were going to die, especially when a guy went running by like it was nothing. The trip back to the truck was an adventure. I had studied the trolley map and thought we had gotten on the correct one. Turns out that was not correct. We ended up walking nearly two miles from where we got off the trolley. Once we finally got back to the truck we had to figure out where to sleep for the night.
When figuring out where to sleep for the night we knew two things: we didn’t want to pay more than $150 and we wanted to be able to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning. We found a campground south of the city and looked at hotels in Oakland and Berkley. I don’t remember why we decided not to go to the campground, but we ended up staying in a crappy hotel in Berkley.
We woke up early the next morning so we could find a bike tube for my bike and grab some breakfast before we started our drive. All morning I was geeking out about getting to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I love bridges and this one has always been one that I really wanted to drive over. When we finally got to it I could not believe how huge it was. I was in awe to say the least. After we got to the other side we stopped at the visitors center to see the city from the other side.
After leaving San Francisco our next stop was the redwoods. We had about five hours of driving a narrow winding road. The speed limit on HWY 1 was an average of 55 mph. We were going about 45 and felt like we would go flying off the road around every corner. The drive was beautiful and I am glad we decided to take Hwy 1 instead of 101.
After our sleeping fiasco in San Francisco we decided that maybe we should have reservations for a campground near the redwoods. We did some searching and found a KOA. We got to the KOA after the sun set so we couldn’t really see where we were setting up camp. When we woke up we saw the most amazing KOA ever. We were surrounded by huge red wood trees. It was just amazing. We had a pancake breakfast before we headed into town to get some information on the local area. We were lucky to be going through the area during a year when part of the redwoods that is normally very limited to vehicle traffic was open. We were able to drive to the trail head for the boy scout tree.
We hiked out to the boy scout tree, which we were told was pretty impressive. During the hike we were in awe at the size of the trees. We kept saying to each other that there was no way the Boy Scout tree would be any more impressive.
When we got to the Boy Scout Tree we were amazed. It is so huge. We took a few pictures and headed back. We drove out of the Redwoods and head into Oregon.