Karla and I have long wanted to hop on the interstate and drive to the west coast. Back in 2016, we took a two-week vacation, found someone to look after karla's farm and did just that. Here are the highlights
The original plan had been to drive I-40 to the Pacific Ocean but considering how rarely we would be coming out west, we opted to take in some landmarks. The first would be the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. Karla had been here as a child. I had not. It would have been a sin to have missed it.
Karla's aunt once said that Zion National Park was a beautiful place. Since it isn't far from the Grand Canyon, we thought we should at least do a drive by. It was worth the diversion. In the Grand Canyon you walk the rim and look down in the valley. In Zion National Park, you are in the valley and looking up at the mountain tops. It was amazing. We could have spent a week in Zion Park.
Driving out of Zion, we pass through St. George, Utah and down into Nevada. Neither of us had been to Las Vegas and so we decided it should be our next stop. We found our way to Caesar's Palace, got some lunch and spent about $40 bucks at the slot machines. We entertained the notion of staying the night, but Vegas wasn't our thing. After a couple of hours playing around we realized that neither one of us were having a good time. The Hoover Dam was close by however, and that was definitely on my list.
Not wanting to sleep in Las Vegas, we took a chance on a small town called Beatty in Nevada. Beatty is a small community that serves as a jumping off spot for Death Valley. It would be dark by the time we got there, but we found a room at the Death Valley Inn. This was an older motel looking like it was built in the 70s, but it was nice enough. We were exhausted and after a late dinner at Denny's we fell asleep watching Overboard - the Goldie Hawn / Kurt Russell version - with fuzzy reception.
My intention was to get across Death Valley, follow the Sierra Nevada Mountains north to Lee Vining, and take the Tioga Road Pass over to Yosemite National Park. This was early May and I clearly didn't know JACK about California. The Tioga Road doesn't normally open until mid-June (sometimes July.) With my initial plan scuttled, we continued north to the Sonora Pass... which was closed. So, we continued north to Carson City, Nevada and an OPEN mountain pass and got a room for the night. We would make San Francisco the next day.
There is something alluring about Pacific Coast Highway 1. When we left San Francisco, the parking attendant gave us directions how to get over to it. I wanted to drive as much of it as I could in the remaining hours of daylight I had left. I hope to someday get to drive the length of California on this road. Today I'd have to settle for Santa Cruz, which was cool.
The drive out of Sequoia Forest was exhausting: switchbacks and low gears. We spent the night in Bakersfield and drove into Los Angeles the next morning. Regretfully, we gave LA a short shrift. We were tired and getting a little homesick. I had wanted to go to the Griffith Observatory, but it was Mothers Day and after three attempts, it just wasn't going to happen. We had a nice picnic in Griffith Park and drove the Santa Monica freeway to the coast. The beach was crazy busy so we drove the length of Sunset Strip (I had wanted to) and made our way over to Pasadena where we set out on foot to do some shopping and have dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.
After eating at the Cheesecake Factory, we started home. The sun was setting but we were missing the Farm and the prospect of the three-day drive ahead of us was a strong motivator to get started. We headed out west on I-40 and would return on I-10 driving across Southern California, Arizona (with its BIG cactus), New Mexico, and Texas. Texas is a wide state when you're driving across it. All together we drove 5,000 miles. It's good to be home.