Hit The Road
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Napa Valley and Yosemite. Each like no other place, can be experienced in a two week road trip. The drive encompasses, skyscrapers, sandy beaches, granite peaks, flat desert and some of the best vineyards the world has to offer.
The itinerary we follow is loose and allows flexibility to enjoy the the stop off points and the choice of car is a very luxurious BMW X3.
Day 1 to 3 – San Francisco
Located on a hilly peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Add in a renowned food scene and iconic attractions such as The Golden Gate Bridge, the trams and Alcatraz and you have a fantastic start to the road trip.
With all the tourists, I head to Lombard Street to see the crookedest street in the world, you know this one as it is in many movies and then onto Fishermans Wharf for a few beers and a bite to eat. The chosen eatery is Boudin and the queue for sour dough is huge.
Unwilling to tackle the hills on the way back to the hotel, I choose to take the famous tram, however was unaware that the queue would mean that I stood out waiting for over an hour before giving up and taking a cab.
Day 2 involved cycling. Bikes hired from the aptly named Alcatraz Cycles, one of the many places to hire a bike and off we go. Fishermans Wharf, followed by lunch stop at Warminghut and then onto and over the Golden Gate Bridge with of course the mandatory photo stops for this magnificent structure. Once over the bridge, the descent into Sausalito is a treat and the town is most picturesque. Great to stop for a refreshing drink before taking the ferry back across the bay via Alcatraz to San Francisco.
Shopping in Westfield brought the day to a close.
Day 3 involved the start of the road trip. Heading north to Napa Valley for some wine. The scenery is breathtaking and soon the beauty of the bay is substituted with vineyards. An evening stroll around the city of Napa is a good choice to get a feel for this wine region.
Day 4 Today is the wine tour. I must be the only person who decides to drive it and lay off the wine. A multitude of vineyards are strung along the Silverado Trail and CA-29, two roads that head out of Napa and into serious wine country. Stopping off at Chimney Rock, Mumm and Hess as grape vines braid the scenic valley.
Back to the seaside, this time to visit Reyes Point and the lighthouse. An off the cuff decision to head to the coast again and explore the northern California coastline. The roads were empty and the countryside very spartan but the views along the beach and the vast Pacific Ocean were stunning. Looking for whales on their migration south was however unsuccessful. From here, there was a need to get on the road and begin the journey south as the next adventure would be along Highway 1.
Highway 1 Pacific Coast Highway
In summary, this is where the edge of the american continent meets the Pacific Ocean and the scenery is stunningly dramatic. Driving around each bend offers yet another jaw dropping view. If I were to do this drive again it would most certainly be by motorbike.
Through the towns of Monterey, discussing the merits of Steinbeck’s novels and then onto Carmel, the most pretty of places and then on through Big Sur. What a most memorable day of driving. Stopping off at the golden beaches is a must and a swim in the sea is a most suitable way to cool down.
Pressing on to reach Los Angeles proved to be a long day at the wheel, however by nightfall this was achieved.
LA is a 21st century metropolis mixed with a Hollywood dream and a set of beach towns. Driving around Hollywood makes me think I am in the computer game Grand Theft Auto, however I make the trip to Mulholland Drive to see the homes of the rich and famous. Onwards then to the see the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the Olympic Coliseum.
This is enough of LA for me, the traffic is awful and I feel ill at ease here. I skip the beach resorts and head into the desert for Las Vegas
A drive out of LA allows me to stumble upon Route 66. This most famous of roads is a true american classic. It is the most celebrated road anywhere in the world and I am happy to share in the history. The towns are quirky and there is plenty of photo opportunities for original and interesting shots. There is no doubting you are on the historic classic road.
Onwards to Las Vegas, rising out of the desert like a high tech oasis this place is an adult playground of casinos, bars, over the top shows and fancy hotels. From the first glimpse of neon glowing in the middle of the desert Las Vegas seduces your senses, indulges your appetite and sparks the imagination.
My hotel on the outskirts of town is not so. The Plaza Hotel had clearly seen better days, however was very proud of its history.
Downtown to The Strip and into the famous Casinos of Caesars Palace, before going on the High Roller observation wheel to see the whole city.
Yosemite National Park
Out of Las Vegas and through the aptly named Death Valley. What a place mile after mile of open emptiness. It is the lowest, driest and hottest place in America, but is also a place of rugged beauty with impressive sand dunes and salt flats, this makes a special place to visit. Unbelievable it is only a few hours drive from the Yosemite National Park and its cascading waterfalls.
A stop off in the town of Bishop before heading into Yosemite.
Entering Yosemite by the Tioga Pass was the route to take and into the National Park. El Capitan and the Half Dome were the key peaks to tick off. The richness of the vegetation was a contradiction to what Death Valley had to offer. Lucky enough to see an Elk and a Black Bear made this visit more rewarding and then off again towards San Francisco.
Half Moon Bay
To end the trip, the last stop off was south of San Francisco in a small town of Half Moon Bay. This was a laid back place made famous by surfing the Maverick waves. Huge waves only suitable for the most skilled. The mavericks were not there, however the whales were migrating south and offering a wonderful display splashing out of the sea.
Dinner by the harbour and a show of classic 50’s American cars was the most suitable way to end this road trip.
What a brilliant way to spend 2 weeks travelling around California.