Our trip through California was a quick one for many reasons. But we still got to see a lot.
REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS
There were a couple of things that Jerud and I each learned as we entered California. Jerud had thought redwoods only grew in one spot, but he learned they are along the western slopes of Sierra Nevada Mountains, northern California coast, and even in central China (dawn redwood species). Years ago I took a trip to Palo Alto to visit a friend and we went to see redwoods, but I didn’t remember them being so close to the coast as I realized this time around.
It was pouring rain as we drove into Prairie Creek Redwood State Park on Hwy 101. We got lucky and halfway through Prairie Creek it stopped long enough for us to get a couple of short hikes in and some photos (although the sun never really came out).
People wonder what happens when we run out of grease for the truck. Ideally we try to have extra waste vegetable in the back of the truck that we can filter and pour into the grease tank when we’re low. It doesn’t typically work out this way, but this time around we had extra waste vegetable oil that we bought from Portland Biofuel Project. If we don’t have extra grease then we start asking for grease before we’re about to run out.
We decided to stop somewhere with a new view and filter the waste vegetable oil. Since it’s a slow process with our current setup, we only filtered enough to get us to Bear River Casino, where we were going to boondock for a few days and finish filtering the rest of our grease.
HUMBOLDT REDWOODS STATE PARK
If you haven’t had the chance to stand in a redwood forest, I highly encourage you to do so. “Reaching heights of almost 400 feet, coast redwoods aren’t just the world’s tallest trees – they’re the tallest living thing on the planet,” Chris Hendrix, park ranger, writes in the Redwood National and State Parks visitor guide. If you aren’t awed by these, then…just go back to sleep.
We drove through Avenue of the Giants to see the redwoods in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
When we realized how close we were to Napa Valley and it was kind of on the way to Oakland (where we were planning to be the next day) we decided to go for a quick visit. Turned out our timing was good because all the vines were changing colors. Coming down Hwy 29 (which by the way has a long, steep, and winding section), we got a great view of the valley – the mountains surrounding the valley, the perfectly lined and spaced fields of vines, and the colors. Wow. We weren’t expecting that scenery, and it was breathtaking.
I was set on wine tasting at a vineyard. But I didn’t know how to decide which vineyard and who would have a big enough parking lot for the Toaster. So I called the visitor center and asked for a recommendation. Peju Winery was the one that closed the latest and had a parking spot big enough for us, so we headed there. Their wine tasting is $25/person (unless you buy two bottles of wine, then the tasting is free) and they have set tasting times. We ended up buying two bottles of wine and getting both our wine tastings for free. Cha-ching! We did learn that you can share a tasting, like the people next to us did.
I’ve known Shaun since freshman year in college. She was my suitemate then. She was also with me, along with two other friends, when we decided we wanted the mustard yellow couch that was tossed out on the side of the road. And if I remember correctly, we got some stranger with a pick up truck to bring it back to campus.
It’s been a few years since we last saw each other. She is one of those friends who you can just pick up where you last left off, even if you don’t remember where or when exactly that was.
We hung out at the Oakland Art Museum, where on Friday nights they have food trucks, beer, live music, and half off admission. We never did get the chance to go into the museum, or even get a picture together. But we did manage to get Indian food, Korean food, mango lassi, beers, laughs and lots of talking done.
One of the great things about living on the road is the ability to see friends that you otherwise may not see for a long time. Our next stop was Marina to see Colin, a high school friend, and his wife Heather. The last time I saw them I just had a Thanksgiving accident, was in pain and then on painkillers. I figured this visit was going to be a lot better no matter what.
Marina has really strict overnight street parking laws, as in it’s not allowed, so we couldn’t take them up on their offer to stay with them. Laguna Seca Recreation Area campground was the cheapest place to stay and still be close to Marina and Monterey. It was a nice campground, we stayed two nights and would recommend it to other RVers visiting the area. Here is the review I did on it in Campendium.
We had a great time with Colin and Heather and they were super sweet to us: brought us on a hike by their house, were patient when Tybee’s trailer got stuck in the sandy trails, made dinner for us and let us do laundry at their place! The thing I miss the most since living on the road is being able to do laundry at home. I’m always really appreciative when I can do laundry at a friend’s place. Heather had mentioned that Marina Donut and Bagel has delicious donuts, particularly their Peach Wrap which is a pastry with peaches and cream cheese on top. They sounded so good we had to try them. The next morning, on our way to their house, we dropped by and bought a bunch of these freshly made baked goods to share.
Colin and Heather have annual passes to Monterey Bay Aquarium and they also get free guest passes. Since Jerud and I didn’t end up going to the Oregon Coast Aquarium while we were in Newport, we were really excited about going to this aquarium. Heather was also full of great information about the local area; she’s the perfect person to hang out with in the area.
There were so many interesting things at the aquarium. Here are just a few that really caught my eye.
I've never seen a lobed comb jellyfish before and I found this just too wild and had to share it.
We were initially on the fence about driving down Hwy 1 because we were told by a couple of people that it would be sketchy to tow an RV on. Colin assured us that we’d be fine, and Shaun had insisted that we drive down Hwy 1 because of the unique scenery. They were both right. We took Hwy 1 from Marina to Hwy 46 just south Cambria, before heading inland. It wasn’t an issue at all to tow the Toaster. We were slow at times, but there were enough pullout spots along Hwy 1 for us to let everyone pass. This section of Hwy 1 runs high above the ocean, winding along the edge of the mountains. The views were dramatic and the coastline was rugged.
Garrapata State Park
Great place to stop and walk down to the beach.
Bixby Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges along the Pacific coast. There is a large (crowded) pullout area right before the bridge, heading south.
Limekiln State Park
Without looking we found a goat trail right before the Pitkins Curve bridge and Limekiln tunnel and I was able to get some cool shots of the bridge and tunnel. This is a really beautiful section of Hwy 1.
There was also a trail on the other side of Hwy 1 from where we parked at a pullout that leads into Limekiln State Park.
Willow Creek Rd.
The boondocking spot we had hoped to stay at off Hwy 1 didn't work out as planned. We ended up just parking in a pullout spot right next to Hwy 1 for the night.
Elephant Seal Scenic Point
The elephant seal rookery, located at Piedras Blancas, is a really cool opportunity to see them close up in the wild. There was also a volunteer on-site who provided us with a lot of educational information about elephant seals. The number of seals ranges from hundreds in July and August to thousands from January through May. We missed the birthing and breeding season by about a month. Pregnant female elephant seals arrive around mid-December and are ready to breed again after giving birth.
After being on the coast for almost a month, from Washington’s down to California, we turned inland to head towards Mojave National Preserve. It was heartbreaking for me to leave the ocean. The desert seemed like too dramatic of a change and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it.