Wouldn’t be right to miss out on one of the most famous zoos in the world so we dedicated a day to San Diego Zoo since we were in the area. It’s freakin massive. We got there just after opening and powered through at a fast pace and it got dark before we managed to see everything. We got to the panda enclosure after dark but the line was still huge. Took lots of happy snaps and had a good day.
We bypassed LA as we travelled south from Big Surr so we could hit up San Diego for a few days. The weather was awesome and we enjoyed walking around the city and the beach. The San Diego beachfront was terrific – sunshine, nice beach, restaurants, pubs, shops and cool dudes with ghetto blasters riding bicycles with huge chopper handlebars. At San Diego Old Town we got ushered into this nice looking building thinking it was a museum or something but actually it was a Mormon recruitment centre.
San Diego would be the last time we got to visit Walmart (excluding Hawaii on our way home). It was a sad moment since Walmart had played such a big part in our road trip around USA. We reminisced about the delicious chicken tenders, $5 roast chickens, 30 cents / pound bananas and various other favourite Walmart items that were staples on our road trip. To mark the occasion we hired a DVD and watched it in the Walmart carpark, and then slept overnight in the van in the carpark.
We had a day at San Diego Zoo but that will come in the next post.
Heading back towards the coast from Yosemite, we passed through a town we’d never heard of before nor knew anything about - Los Banos, California. We needed somewhere to clean up after roughing it through Yosemite and we needed somewhere to celebrate new years. Los Banos seemed like a good enough spot!
So we got ourselves a good cheap motel and hung around Los Banos for a couple of nights. For new years we went out for dinner where we were served up a gargantuan multi course meal. They eat a lot in this town. Then onto the pub where we had a couple of drinks and mingled with some locals. We bought a huge bag of beef jerky from the supermarket at Los Banos. Check out the huge strips it came in. Kept Joe busy for a good few days.
From Los Banos we continued west and made it to the coast where we checked out Big Surr – a famous stretch of rugged coastline in California. Then we trekked south where we camped up at a rest stop on the side of the highway on our way to San Diego.
Yosemite National Park, made famous by Yosemite Sam, is yet another great natural attraction in USA. Spectacular scenery and some great hiking is on offer. Dam cold though! We packed our cold weather gear deep into the bowels of the van once we entered sunny California, thinking we’d not need them for the rest of the trip. We were wrong. It was well below zero at the elevations around Yosemite.
The carpark at the main visitor centre is massive. Took us 15 minutes to walk from the car to the visitor centre, slipping and sliding over the icy ground. Yosemite is one of the most visited parks in USA and there’s plenty of shops, resorts and varied accommodation options. We drove around checking out the main central attractions and then camped in the van, enduring a pretty cold night. Next morning we got up early and did a big several hour hike up to Vernal Falls and back. It was one of the most roughest, toughest, root’nest, toot’nest hikes we’ve ever done. Then we hit the road back towards the California coast.
We left the Redwoods on Christmas eve and continued south to our Christmas location of choice: Healdsburg, California. It’s in a region famous for wine production, adjacent to the world famous Napa Valley.
Being Christmas, all of the wineries were closed. In fact on Christmas day everything was closed except McDonalds. So we chose McDonalds for Christmas lunch. That’s two Christmases in a row we’ve been on the road. Last year we were in Longreach, Queensland.
Even without the wineries and wine tasting it was still good to chill out in a hotel for a couple of nights after being on the move for quite a while. We enjoyed strolling around and checking out the town. Healdsburg we found to be quite nice but it’s inundated with pompous middle aged women.
On boxing day we took off for San Francisco, passing through Napa on the way. San Francisco was really busy with Americans on their Christmas holidays. It was really crowded. We waited ages to jump on the tram and we were jammed in there like sardines. A highlight was the sea lions at the wharf. There were heaps of them and they were really noisy and active. We enjoyed watching them for a while. Driving through San Francisco, we played a game of “spot the Prius.” There’s many hybrid vehicles in San Francisco since the people are so progressive there. We made friends with some students who were staying in the same accommodation as us. They came with us for a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and climbing up some San Francisco hills. We would later see them again when we returned to Los Angeles at the end of our trip.
Leaving Oregon on Highway 101, we continued south into Northern California. First stop – Redwood National Park, home to the tallest trees in the world. These trees are huge and photos aren’t able to get a true perspective on how big they are. An impressive sight to behold. Mind you we’re slightly patriotic and reckon Karri trees are just as good especially if you’re into risking your life climbing them.
It’s $35 a night to camp in Redwood National Park! We’ve stayed in motels for a similar price. Screw that. We stayed at Florence Keller County Park instead, still set among redwoods and only a few minutes away from the national park. We camped there a couple of nights and drove out to the national park for the day where we enjoyed some hiking and a scenic drive through the redwoods. Back at camp, Joe struggled to light a fire in the cold, damp conditions. Logs had to be split into thin pieces for kindling as the twigs were just too wet. Hand sanitizer (consisting of mostly alcohol) was used as lighter fluid to get the fire going. Sharni cooked up a big camp oven roast which we enjoyed around the camp fire. It was pretty cold so a big fire was the order.
It’s hard to pick favourite spots out of all the places we’ve visited but the Oregon coast is up there. Spectacular coastline, cheap beer, cheap accommodation, good seafood, oysters of ridiculous proportions, lots of cool little towns to visit and friendly people make cruising down highway 101 along the Oregon coast pretty awesome. Only problem – it was bloody cold!
Checkout the oysters we bought from a side of the road seafood vendor. Nine super fresh oysters for $7 and they’re huge! It’s not possible to slurp them up in one hit. Each oyster takes about three mouthfulls to get through. I thought black lip oysters from northern Australia were big but they’re no match for Oregon oysters.
We visited the Tillamook cheese factory, the Blue Heron cheese factory and some confectionery factories. The one thing they all have in common – huge quantities of samples for tasting. Don’t worry about preparing lunch if you’re visiting these joints. You’ll be full up with cheese and chocolate.
We had a really good night out in Pacific City. We visited a brewery that was recommended by a friend we met at the brewery party in Portland and then went to a local sports bar where we enjoyed a seafood platter dinner, a couple of cheap beers and a few games of pool with some locals.
Also, over the course of the few days we spent along the the coast in Oregon, we hiked through forest, walked along the many beaches, visited a few shops, watched a movie (Anchorman 2), lots of general sight seeing along the many coastal vistas and tried some clam chowder in one of the random towns we passed through.
Next stop – Redwood National Park in northern California.