1YoT: Driving Through California

Hello readers! Here’s my first one-year-of-travel (1YoT) post. Inna and I are currently in Boston, relaxing in our Airbnb after walking the Freedom Trail. We’ve done so much on our US roadtrip and it has all been amazing! Seriously, the US has so much, so diverse and all of it spectacular. We have not been disappointed. Not even close.

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Inna and Leia, loving our roadtrip. That’s right, Leia went with us, and she had a blast (we’ll have more on what Leia is currently up to in another post).

For my first post, lets go back to California, where Inna and I started. Inna and I had already done lots in this state (it’s where we live after all), so this time we focused on two things: friends and the few California things we’d never done.

We drove north through California, starting in Los Angeles and ending in Oregon. We went this entire distance without ever taking I-5; it was a beautiful off the beaten path drive, so lets get to it!

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For our first stop, we visited Solvang, the 105-year-old Danish enclave just north of Santa Barbara. Somehow, with all our trips to the Central Coast, we’d never stopped here, but we’re glad we did this time, because the city is beautiful and is one of the more unique places in the US that we’ve visited. 

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Further up the California Coast is Morro Rock. This viewpoint, Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, was recommended by my friend Leon, who was living nearby and with whom we spent the night.

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We’re on the road again, and here we drove by a dinosaur farm. They must’ve had 20+ dinosaurs in their front yard, and the T-Rex (not pictured) was chomping on a surfboard. Sights like this are why we took the back roads.

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Next stop, the first of many national parks on our trip: Pinnacles. Pinnacles National Park consists of the western half of an extinct volcano (the volcano sits atop the San Andreas Fault and due to plate tectonics the eastern portion is currently located 200 miles south). Pinnacles National Park is known for its unique rock formations and also as a release location for California Condors. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any Condors on this trip (although we have seen lots of other animals, more on that in another post. Also, I saw two Condors at the Grand Canyon last year).

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Pinnacles also features several rock formed cave formations. I’m pretty sure this one housed the rock from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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Me under the Raiders of the Lost Ark rock. This is my new Facebook pic; I think I look pretty good!

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Next stop: San Jose, where we spent our second night with more friends. We arrived early, so we stopped by another California destination we’d never visited, the 100+ year old 160 room Winchester Mystery House. Built by Sarah Winchester (widow of the gun company founder), this building underwent non-stop construction for 38 years, as Sarah believed the place to be haunted and that construction would keep the spirits at bay. The result is a beautiful architectural monstrosity, a giant mansion with no master plan and featuring numerous oddities (stairways into ceilings, doorways to nowhere) designed to confuse the spirits living here.

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The next day we set off for Davis, only a few hours drive away. On our way, we stopped by Golden Gate park, one of several giant urban parks we visited on this roadtrip.

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You know, I think a list of things you are allowed to do would be shorter… Thankfully this sign did not apply to the entire park.

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We are California people, which means we love the beach! This was quite an impressive one, but it was too cold for us to enjoy it.

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So I know I said that in California we restricted ourselves to things we’d never done, but we made an exception for the Golden Gate Bridge. This bridge is so spectacular, we had to do it. This is the view from the Golden Gate Overlook.

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And here’s the view from the Welcome Center. This bridge, one of the seven civil engineering wonders of the world, truly is incredible.

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While we’d been to the Golden Gate Bridge before, neither of us had been to the location where Vertigo was shot. And it turned out there was a historic fort down there, one of the best preserved ones I’ve seen.

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Inside the fort, the Golden Gate towering overhead.

Driving across the bridge, exploring America, listening to Adele. Life is good.

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Our next stop was Davis, where we stayed with more friends (we have lots of friends in California). We went downtown, where everyone was staring at their phones, playing Pokemon Go. It was like a cell-phone zombie apocalypse, and it was very disturbing.

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Our friends (and ourselves) are not Pokemon players, so we had frozen yogurt instead. Hoff (pictured center) still seems pretty disturbed.

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For the next leg of our journey, we took the super-scenic route: Pacific Coast Highway. Here’s the road that took us there, the hills bathed in beautiful California gold.

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Here we are in Mendecino, where we had a beautiful ocean-view picnic lunch.

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And this is Glass Beach, beautiful but also one of the more disappointing stops on our trip, since there was almost no glass on the beach (the glass was either covered by high tide, or gone forever as visitors picked the beach clean; we’re guessing it’s a little bit of both).

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We’ve now reached the northern-most part of California: Redwood National and State Parks. We’d visited Sequoia earlier in the year, and while Redwoods are similar, they aren’t the same, and even if they were, when trees are this spectacular, seeing them never gets old.

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The famous Chandler Tree, so large you can drive through it. We did drive through it, but unfortunately (unfortunate because it is a Mustang), the car pictured is not ours.

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Driving up PCH took a long time, which resulted in us driving into the night. It also resulted in us witnessing this spectacular sunset. It was a great way to say goodbye to California.

And with that, we reached the California/Oregon border, which we crossed at night. But California only marks the first four of our 365 day journey, so to continue onto Oregon, click here!

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