OK, so bear with me because I'm not the greatest with formatting. But I'll try my best!
As the title suggests, I posted some photos of the first week and a bit of a 6 month solo road trip I am currently undertaking around the USA and parts of Canada. They were received relatively well, and some people asked if I could do some updates along the way. So here's the first one and hopefully it can inspire some people to do similar! Why?
Firstly, some background on the trip. Around about 4-5 years ago I had a pretty shitty bout with anxiety and depression. This isn't a sob story so don't feel bad for me, I'm actually quite good now. But anyway, after a few trips to a Psychologist, we both decided that it would be a good idea to set a goal that would actually get me through the days. As a university student coming to the end of my degree, starting work didn't really excite me.
So after some deliberation it was decided the only thing that excited me was travel, and no matter what type of work I got upon graduation, I would do it for about 2-3 years and save everything to put towards a 6 month road trip across North America. I actually studied American History at uni, so obviously that's what drew me here. More topical to current events, I actually took a lot of inspiration from Anthony Bourdain. Sounds made up now, but RIP. Where?
I started planning this trip as soon as the decision was made. So if you're wondering why things are so detailed, that's probably why. Originally a lot was focussed around things with historical significance, like American Revolutionary sites, or Civil War Memorial, etc. But I've also always had a love for nature and hiking so that's where the National/State/Regional Parks come into play.
Then the love of food travel shows started to seep in. Anthony Bourdain being the main one, then a bit sillier shows like Man Vs. Food, and yes, even Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives played a role, for as much shit that Guy Fieri (deservedly) cops here. This drew me to certain cities.
I had already done a 5 week trip to the USA in 2013/14 for Christmas and NYE where I hit the main touristy spots like NYC, Vegas, LA, etc. So this trip was to focus more on the small towns, national parks, and open road. When?
My previous trip was over Winter, so this trip had to be warmer weathegreener pastures. Originally planning to start in June, it just so happened that a sale popped up around January for return flights from Melbourne to LAX for AU$850 leaving in May and returning in November. Too good not to pass up and not that far from what I had planned anyway. Only problem is I cut it a little short because my cousin is getting married on November 10th and I couldn't miss it, so I arrive back in Melbourne the morning of... Cutting it fine, I know. Itinerary
Now to the stuff that people will probably actually care about. My general direction that I'm heading in is a loop from LA, back to LA.
That was the best looking map I could make out, but it gives you the idea. The good thing is I only have things booked about a week in advance at this stage, so it's more a 'rough' itinerary than anything.
I arrived in the country on May 20th and have a ticket home on November 8th. It was best to have a return ticket because otherwise those border guards will be on your back and you put yourself at risk of getting turned back at the airport. May 20th - June 8th
So now to the actual good stuff, with pictures and all! Going through each place I've been, what I enjoyed there and recommendations. This will probably be the way each subsequent post will be set out, if I commit to doing them (which I have a tendency to be terrible with commitment). Los Angeles, CA. 20/05 - 21/05:
OK, now when I say Los Angeles, I didn't actually spend any time in LA outside of the Airport. I got my car and took it straight to a place called Santa Paula, CA. I've been to LA before, spent about a week there, did everything touristy, and didn't particularly enjoy it. Not to say others wouldn't find it enjoyable, just not for me. Santa Paula itself isn't much to write about, but the drive from Santa Paul to Fresno had some cool parts.
Fresno, CA. 21/05 - 23/05:
- Took the coastal route to Santa Barbara, up to San Luis Obispo, and on to Fresno
- Santa Barbara is a pretty expensive beach town with million dollar houses in the hills looking over the coast. I didn't spend long here but I did take a stroll through Paseo Nuevo, an outdoor mall which has a pretty cool Spanish vibe to it. Bought some US$150 Ray Bans here and then subsequently left them on a tram in San Francisco days later... nice
Now I know what you're thinking, "Who the hell would go to Fresno?" I say this, because basically everyone I encountered in Fresno asked me that question. I went because it was a good base to explore the Sierra National Forest. Can't say much about Fresno, though. Also, a little side note, I'm not that proud of my photos early on. Everything is shot with my iPhone and it's taking me a little time to figure out how to get the best shot. Still in the process.
Santa Cruz, CA. 23/05 - 26/05:
- Driving from Fresno to Lakeshore, my first stop was at Shaver Lake. Not sure if the depleted water levels are from the drought, but wouldn't be surprised. The drive through pine forest was pretty good to this point, but got better as you got further into the forest.
- A short hike to Rancheria Fall was definitely the highlight of the day. It started raining on me whilst walking to the falls, but by the time I was there it was hard to tell if it was rain or spray from the falls.
- On the way back I stopped in Shaver Lake Village for a veggie burger at Shaver Coffee & Deli. Friendly service and a good burger, can't complain
Originally, I wanted to stay in Monterey for this portion. However, everything was either way too expensive or booked out, so I settled for Santa Cruz. Or more specifically, Felton, which is out the back of Santa Cruz. I was happy with the decision.
Sausalito/San Francisco, CA. 26/05 - 29/05:
- I was staying right near Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which had 100+ year old Redwoods everywhere and also a cool floor of clovers Funny story about the park, its namesake was actually an industrialist who cut down the majority of the original redwoods for profit. After he died the govt wanted to buy the land to preserve the forest, so the family agreed on condition it was named after him. A preservation park named after a guy who did the complete opposite
- Big Sur is where it's at. The coast drive is phenomenal. I believe there were landslides recently so I could only really make it to Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park, but that was enough
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park backed up what Big Sur started. Just walking along the river was an experience in itself. And yes, the water was that cleablue.
- Monterey was mostly on the list for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. More specifically, the otters. My photos/videos are terrible, but they are freaking adorable
I stayed in a hostel across the Golden Gate Bridge which I believe fell under Sausalito, but was in the Marin Headlands. I'd been to San Francisco previously so didn't feel the need to spend all my time in the city. I would park on the outskirts and catch the BART to downtown.
Lake Tahoe, CA. 29/05 - 31/05:
- I'm a big fan of Sausalito. Something about the town itself has a really nice vibe to it and they have fantastic views back on the city. I had a nice dinner at Poggio Trattoria, which was probably a bit upscale for me but was super nice. Also enjoyed a beer at No Name Bar with a local who had retired and filled in as a bar tender. We watched one of the Golden State finals, good fun.
- Onto the city itself. Most of the things I did were touristy. If you're not into crowds I would stay away from Pier 39. That was in May, remember. I can only imagine what July/August would be like. But it was pretty cool to see the sea lions at the pier.
- I made my way up Coit Tower, which had some pretty amazing views of the city. Again, though, if lines aren't your thing I'd recommend not coming here. Probably waited around 40 mins to get up there for a total of 5 mins. I was fine with it, but can imagine not everyone would be.
- I originally wanted to see a San Francisco Giants Baseball game, however they weren't playing. So I went across to Oakland to see the Athletics play. I don't know much about Baseball, but I'm an A's fan now.
- And of course, how could I forget the good old Golden Gate Bridge?!. It might just be a bridge, but it is pretty incredible close up. Also the little spot that GIF is from is a nice viewing platform away from the crowds.
I didn't know how I was going to like Lake Tahoe, because having Nevada there and casinos around I thought it might be a little much for me. Can confirm, it's a lovely spot that far exceeded expectations.
Redding, CA. 31/05 - 2/06:
- The drive in from San Francisco alone was enough to get me excited for Lake Tahoe
- Emerald Bay has to be at the top of your list if you are going to Lake Tahoe. From above or below, you really can't go wrong.
- Driving from Lake Tahoe to Redding I went the scenic route and stopped at Truckee, CA. It allowed me to take the lovely drive along the river out, and then through the rest of Tahoe National Forest as well. In Truckee I ate at Coffee And, which was a classic little diner with a lovely waitress and homestyle food. Exactly what I want in a small American town.
- Also stopped briefly at Lake Spaulding, which was a cute little lake on the way.
Another baffler for some people who didn't understand why I would go to Redding. This was my gateway into Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Also was an interesting little town with the giant Bethel Church
) centred here.
Crater Lake National Park, OR. 2/06 - 5/06:
- Would highly recommend doing the Black Butte Trail near Mt Shasta. Has some incredible views of Mt Shasta itself and although a pretty strenuous hike uphill, it involves some cool rock scrambling, if that's your thing. Despite all this, the highlight of basically my life so far was making friends with this guy. He was even nice enough to pose for me.
- On the drive from Redding into Oregon, I passed Mt Shasta again around Dunsmuir and got some nice views along the way
Based myself about 20 miles outside of Ashland, OR whilst exploring Crater Lake National Park. Stayed with this total hippie family at an Airbnb which turned out to be on a Weed Farm. I'd forgotten that it was legal in Oregon. But they were the best.
Eugene, OR. 5/06 - 7/06:
- I was surprised to hear from a lot of people local to the area that they hadn't made it to Crater Lake yet. They need to get there, NOW. It's hard to describe or even capture in pictures the beauty of the lake. The deepest lake in the USA, and also has 0 tributaries, meaning that it has just been filled by rain and snow over millions of years. I hiked Garfield Peak, which still had some snow on it and was technically closed, but should open soon.
- The equally as beautiful, but in a different way, Umpqua National Forest neighbours Crater Lake National Park and has some incredible waterfalls to visit. Clearwater Falls, Whitehorse Falls, Watson Falls, and my favourite, Toketee Falls. I missed out on the Umpqua Hot Springs, which are supposed to be cool
Back when I was at university, I seriously considered transferring to the University of Oregon for a year. I kinda regret not doing it, especially after being in Eugene and seeing the town/campus. I didn't take a lot of photos, mostly just walked around and took it all in.
Portland, OR. 7/06 - 9/06:
- Firstly, I would recommend checking out the University of Oregon campus. I've never seen a place be so passionate about their college, although I think that's a normal thing for a college town. Check out Hayward Field if you get there before they tear it down. An Olympic runner called Steve "Pre" Prefontaine went to the U of O and he's pretty famous around there. They call themselves Tracktown, USA because of their Track & Field program at the university
- Other than going up Skinner Butte, where I got a nice view of the town, I got some beers at Beer Garden. They had a huge selection of different beers/ciders and they also had a beer garden (go figure) that was surrounded by food trucks. Also got pizza at Track Town Pizza, which I would recommend just for the fact that it seemed like the entirety of Hayward Field went there after an NCAA meet during the day
Currently in Portland and to be honest I haven't actually checked out the city itself at all. I'm planning to on my way out tomorrow, so here's what I've done so far anyway.
- The Colombia River Gorge is an incredible drive only minutes from Portland itself that I would recommend to anybody. Unfortunately for me, the Eagle Creek fire that went through last year is still showing its effects and therefore a lot of the trails I wanted to hike were closed. Despite this, the drive itself and the stops along the way were still beautiful
- The places I stopped at included Vista House, Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Multnomah Falls. Multnomah is probably the most popular stop along the way, and I can say that because I tried to go in the morning and the car park was closed because it was full. So I had to come back later in the afternoon
- I spent some time in Hood River, which was a cute little town that had a lot to offer and was a good place to stop and turn back. I had lunch at Double Mountain Brewery, which I'd recommend. There's micro-breweries galore though all across Oregon, so feel free to try the like 3 others just in this small town
If anyone makes it this far, I bloody salute you. I can say already though that the last 2 and a bit weeks have been amongst the best of my life. From here, I head to Seattle tomorrow, before crossing into Canada and doing the Rockies. I'll try to make these a bit more regularly so it's not a huge chunk of writing that is terribly written and hard to read. If anyone has any questions or wants to know more, please reach out! I want to help in any way I can if you're planning a similar trip or a trip to an area I am going/have been.
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