California - Roadtrip

While deciding on the most economic and fun option to explore California we stumbled on a great offer from Escape Campervans, for a roadtip experience. This was something we were thinking about for a while, so we started planning. The famous Highway one and Yosemite Park were quickly fixed as destinations. We initially had a few more in mind, like Death Valley or even Las Vegas, but quickly realized that we don't want to pack our shedule too much. Looking back at it this seems like the right decision.

The picture you see here is from McWay Falls, where we stopped on Day 2 before Pfeiffer Beach, but let's start at the beginning...

Day 1

Los Angeles

Alex with Backpack
Ready to pick up the van in LA
Our van. A modern Ford E150 with a custom paint job. Equipped with a small gas stove kitchen and a large seating area in the back, which can be transformed to a bed at night
To give you an overview: This is roughly the route we drove. The red dots mark our camping spots. We drove Highway 1 from LA north to San Fran, then inland to Yosemite and finally back to LA.

We started the day with a long day at the The Getty, which is covered in another blog post. On the afternoon we finally set out to explore the coast.

Highway 1

Highway 1
The adventrure starts on Highway 1. Most of the time you have this beautiful view of the ocean and the rough coast while you drive
Protip: If you girlfriend says you should take more pictures of the trip, don't start taking a picture of a model at a photoshoting on the beach. Almost had to sleep outside that night.
BBQ Dinner
A typical dinner on our trip: Hobo-stew. The steps to prepare it are simple. 1. Chop veggies and put in foil 2. Add oil and Bourbon Whiskey. 3. Put on grill and add what else you like. Suprisingly good and all worries forgotten!

The day ended at a nice camping place with a view over the ocean. We arrived quite late, so we didn't manage to take many pictures there.

Day 2

Coast View
More beatiful views of the coast made for a good start of the day

San Luis Obispo

Usually called SLO by the locals. Very laid back student-town. We spend a few hours to each lunch and explore it.

Lunch at SLO
First stop of the day for lunch. What you can see is Tri Tip from the Old San Luis Barbecue Company
Cafe Kreuzberg
After lunch we explored the town a little and stumbled upon this Cafe Kreuzberg. Apparently the 2 owners lived in Berlin for 2 years, which inspired them when designing the Cafe.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay Beach
Next was a short stop at Morro Bay. The famouse landmark there is a big rock in the water, wich you can see in the back of the picture
Beer and Yoga
That's the type of yoga I can get behind

Elephant Seal Vista Point

Elephant Seal Vista Point
Further north we stopped to see some Elephant seals. Cute and chubby
Squirrel at Elephant Seal Vista Point
Another little friend who was looking for some food

Big Sur

Now we entered Big Sur region, known for winding turns, seaside cliffs and views of the often-misty coastline. First stop were the McWay Falls, as described in the intro, then we continued to Pfeiffer Beach and ended the day at the Bixby Bridge.

Pfeiffer Beach entrance
Almost done for the day. Pfeiffer beach is famous for its purple coated sand and rock formations
JJ collecting stones at Pfeiffer Beach
JJ found a suprising joy in collection stones on the trip. I would've been more enthusiastic, if I wasn't declared the designated carrier
Pfeiffer Beach rock formations
Rock formations on Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Beach sunset
The day is comming to an end... Sunset at Pfeiffer Beach

Now the final task of the day was finding a camping stop for the night. It was dark now and we were getting tired. The only problem was, that national holidays just started, so all surrounding campsites were fully booked. At the second campsite we luckily got the secret tip: Camping close to the road next to Bixby Bridge, a bit further north. In case you are curious: This is the spot

Day 3

Waking up at Bixby Bridge
Good morning sunshine. Waking up at Bixby Bridge
We found a nice spot at the beach to have our breakfast: egg on beagle
Smoking Chocolate
Smoking kills, that's why I prefer chocolate. Too bad it's just as addicting
Confusing streets
We're starting to get close to San Francisco now
Google Campus
First stop was at the Google Campus. This bike are standing around everywhere. We got later told they are reserved for staff, but that didn't stop us from riding them around to explore
San Fran Downtown
Entering downtown of San Francisco. What a busy city
Dim Sum
Eating Dim Sum lunch in Chinatown
San Fran park
After a lot of walking we relaxed at the Golden Gate Park

Because we didn't want to spend money on a hotel we decided to continue north that day and sleep in our Van again. Only: the problem from the day before still existed. All the campsites were full or had only ridiculously expensive spots left over. That's when we decided to continue driving to our first destination of the next day: Point Reyes. Sadly we didn't really find the campground there or any suitable spot on the way, so we ended up driving all the way to the parking spot of Point Reyes (see picture above with our van on it). What continued can only be described as one of the worst nights of our trip: Because we were so high up and close to the coast the wind was blowing full force outside against our van.

Day 4

We were awake early next morning, but not only because we couln't get much sleep. When I looked in the backmirror I saw the car of a National Park Service Ranger with its flashlight on. That was quite a shock for us. After we talked to him we learned that it was absolutely forbidden to camp in this area an we would have to pay a fee of $275 USD (about $350 CAD because of the horrible exchange rate). Luckily we ended up getting around paying it, but he told us that we were now on a blacklist and should make sure not to run into any trouble in a National Park again.

With that being over we started exploring Point Reyes. Apparently one of the windiest places in America (could've guessed that after last night) and also where the Point Reyes Station is located. The lighthouse is now obsolete with digital technologies, but the area is open to tourists.

Point Reyes Trees
You can see how the wind has formed the groth of the tree
Point Reyes Station
Point Reyes Station. We weren't allowed to walk down, as it was too windy that day

After we finished exploring we left the coast and set our course inland towards Yosemite Vally. Because it was getting late and it is not always easy to find a camp spot in Yosemite Park we decided to stay at a small site not far from the entrance. As a funny coincidence we met another German who was camping with his girlfriend.

BBQ late at night in the National Forest

Day 5 - 7

Yosemite: See seperate blog post

Day 8

After leaving Yosemite we spent most of the day driving south.

Of course California is where many fruits are grown. We stopped several times at local farmer stands that sell fresh fruits.

We camped at a campground close to Pyramid Lake, which is not far from Los Angeles, so we could arrive there early next morning.

Day 9

We had the Campervan for another day, so we decided to use it to explore north LA a bit more. First stop was Hollywood, then we drove up to the Observatory to watch the sunset.

Griffith Observatory with a great view over the city

After that we had to leave the city again to find a campground. It took us some driving to find it, but we got rewarded with a great spot in the hills with a fireplace for our last grilled meal of the trip.

Angeles National Forest Camping