Plan a California Road Trip

There's a song called "Summer '79" that I sang every time we talked about our upcoming California Road Trip. It brought me to this strange dichotomy in time, that song. Reminiscing from the summer of 2003 when The Ataris first released it, to now planning for the fall of 2012 when Jonathan and I actually would take a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. We planned our vacation loosely, if you could even call if planning at all. Since Jonathan had been to LA and San Diego several times, and I had been to San Francisco and Yosemite, we lumped everything into one trip to even the field. When we boarded the plane in Nashville on October 5, the only plans we had were the first night's hotel and a reserved rental car. We planned the rest as we went along, and I wouldn't have done it any other way.

But just in case you are the planning type, here's what we did for our California road trip.

Our plane left at 7:30 on October 5 from BNA, and we landed in San Francisco later that afternoon. Having planned on staying in San Francisco for two days, we wanted to get all the touristy stuff out of the way that afternoon, and we would do the rest the next day. First things first, we went to the Golden Gate Bridge. Along the drive there, we noticed a lot of people walking around and a lot of "event parking" signs, but it's San Francisco, so we didn't think much of it.

We finally parked at the Golden Gate Bridge and got out of the car, when the near-deafening noise of fighter jets whizzed above us. After a little investigating, we found out it was Fleet Week in San Francisco, where an estimated additional one million people come into the city. It was great at the bridge, where we watched the Blue Angels soar above us, though.

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The next morning, we tried to make our way around San Francisco, but it was pretty much impossible. Instead of staying an extra night (where most of the hotels were fully booked, anyway), we decided to cut our losses and go ahead to Yosemite.

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Getting closer...

It was pretty late when we got to our hotel, the Tenaya Lodge, so we ate supper in the hotel and stayed in for the night. We went into Oakhurst on Sunday morning to stock up on gluten-free snacks to have for snacks and lunch for the next few days, then headed into the park.

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Get gas before you get in to the park... We paid it.

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Tunnel View, without waterfalls.

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I know it's controversial, but these rocks beside Mirror Lake were one of my favorite parts of the trip. It's amazing to think of all the people that have stood on that spot, seeing the same views we were, and decided to leave something behind. Combined, it made this beautiful piece of art.

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Of course we had to add our own.

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Mirror Lake was a little thirsty. The last time I went to Yosemite was in June, when the snow had melted and water was everywhere. I was amazed that it was completely dried up in October.

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We stayed in Yosemite a little longer than we had planned and didn't leave until Tuesday. We're mountain people and hiking people, so it wasn't easy leaving. But, we did have a plane ticket out of San Diego in a few days and the hotels in the park aren't cheap, so it was time to go to Monterey.

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We ate Dungeness crab (our favorite) and walked around for a while on Tuesday, drove down 17-Mile Drive and stayed the night in a strange little hotel. On Wednesday morning, we started down the PCH (See, we're all cool and local now, so we call it the PCH).

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Meet Cid, our rental car.

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The PCH was so much more beautiful than I ever expected it to be (and, honestly, made the 17-Mile Drive pointless). I could have taken thousands of pictures, but I didn't. I try to actually be present on vacations and really experience them, so I didn't pull my camera out much. What's in this post is the majority of them, actually, for the whole trip. Just know it was a lot of this and was absolutely stunning and I crazy highly recommend it.

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Toward the end of the PCH before you get near LA, there's apparently always hundreds of elephant seals on the beach. I could have watched them for hours, but I settled for about 30 minutes.

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We thought we would need to stop somewhere along the way on the PCH before we got to LA, but we ended up making really good time and stayed in LA that night at Hotel Angelino, by far my favorite hotel of the trip. Using the Hotel Tonight app, which was a lifesaver for us on the trip, we ended up getting a great price on a really nice room. (Also, use code cnewberry25 to get $25 off the first room you book!) We spent the day in LA on Thursday, being quintessential tourists. We went to lunch in Santa Monica, where I had some delicious gluten-free macaroni, then walked along the pier and watched the sun set on the coast.

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That night, we met our friends Steve-o and Anna for supper (and forgot to get a picture!). We went back to their place and talked until around midnight, then we drove through the night to San Diego. Since we didn't get to the hotel until around 3 a.m., we slept in a little bit on Friday morning, then went to the Mission in search of more crab. Completely unsuccessful, we settled on Chipotle instead (booo, I know) and spent the afternoon at the zoo. That night, we really did, once again, attempt to eat somewhere local, but couldn't get in anywhere without an hour wait, and the length of the trip was really beginning to wear on us. We justified it and consoled ourselves with one last trip to In-N-Out, went to bed, and flew back to Nashville on Saturday morning, where a very angry Wondercat awaited us in our apartment.

We put about 1,500 miles on our rental car, but it didn't feel like we spent that much time in the car at all. It was a long trip, and I'm not great with long vacations, but with this one, I actually wasn't ready to go home until the last day. That's pretty perfect timing, if you ask me. We saw everything we wanted to see in those nine days, and if you cut out the trip to Yosemite, where we spent three days, you could do the trip in much less time.

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