The big 3-0: Day twenty four – Where to?

Welcome back dear readers! Time for yet another day of this 30 day trip! You’ll be pleased to hear (or maybe not?) that we’re near the end now!

Those of you following along will know I was enjoying a 30 day trip in the USA to coincide with my 30th birthday in the summer of 2018! The trip spanned six states, several cities and I cherish so many moments and memories from this trip but the reality is things were starting to wind down from here on out.

Whether that will make for interesting reading, who knows.. I guess I’ll let you be the judges of that but we woke up on Monday morning and it was time to say our goodbyes to San Francisco and head back to familiar surroundings in Washington State.

I wasn’t flying home until Sunday so in an ideal world we would have squeezed in some more adventure but Haleigh teaches and unfortunately, with no consideration for my trip, they set their first day back at school on the Thursday! A sodding Thursday! I’m sure that was a productive first two day week back at school!

So with school in mind we hit the road, not that we really knew where we were going. We’d half hoped the school might be a little flexible and Haleigh might be able to miss the first couple of days and start on Monday instead. Of course it didn’t pan out that way but that slim hope meant we held off making concrete plans or booking any accommodation so as the trip got closer and closer we just decided to wing it.

We’d looked at a few possible options before setting off but were mostly in the mindset of “we’ll see where we end up..” and just find somewhere to stay once we’d decided where to stop.

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Where to? Somewhere North..

For the most part it was a fairly uneventful drive. Unlike our drive down the coast, we headed back to Washington further inland which wasn’t quite as scenic as our journey down – although the company more than made up for the less aesthetic scenery!

That’s not to say that parts of the drive weren’t pretty because they were. However with forest fires ravaging Northern California and Oregon it seemed that the further North we got, the sky would get hazier and hazier. The blue skies in San Francisco seemed a distant memory.

We made a couple of stops along the way to break up the drive and get some food but nothing noteworthy until we started getting closer to Mount Shasta. Shasta seemed largely unaffected by the fires; things had started brightening up and the blue skies had returned which provided a great opportunity to get some photos as we drove along.

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Quick stop in the town of Shasta
Highway Photo
Snapping photos on the road

Mount Shasta

Klamath Falls Sign
Central Weed or Klamath Falls?

Eventually we arrived at a city in Oregon called Klamath Falls which seemed like a good halfway point to stop for the night. We did debate driving on to Bend but as that was another two hours away we sensibly decided that was a bit too far to go after already having spent the bulk of the day on the road.

Our first task in Klamath Falls was trying to find somewhere to stay. The first hotel we stumbled across had some pretty off-putting reviews so we decided to give it a miss and configured our SatNav to take us to another hotel nearby.

A short drive away we soon “arrived” at our alternative hotel option only to find nothing more than rubble and an empty carpark. The SatNav hadn’t been updated in a while and it seemed our hotel no longer existed!

Hoping it would be third time lucky our next hotel was unfortunately fully booked before we finally managed to book a room in the hotel next door – who knew finding somewhere to stay in Klamath Falls would be so difficult!?

To our delight our fourth choice hotel was actually quite nice. We checked in to our room for the evening only to find an in-room jacuzzi which was an unexpected surprise and something we definitely intended to make use of before leaving.

However the first priority was to go and find some food. We dropped off our things and visited a nearby Chinese restaurant which had some decent reviews. Much like the Chinese we’d had in San Francisco, the food was excellent but there was just so so much of it. We ended up giving our leftovers to a couple of guys embarking on a roadtrip we got talking to in a neighbouring booth as they had a van and the means to heat something up on the road.

If we’d been in town earlier I think there’s probably a bit to do in Klamath Falls, most notably seeing the nearby falls of the same name, but in the evening there didn’t seem to be much going on. It’s a sleepy little city with a population of little more than 20,000.

In the end we found ourselves a local bowling alley which was near empty and we played a couple of rounds. I maintained my success over Haleigh which felt just revenge for the constant Mario Kart beatings Haleigh served me on my first trip to Washington!

After a couple of games we returned to the hotel and put our jacuzzi to good use for the evening – definitely a nice little bonus to our stay in Klamath Falls. It was by no means the most exciting day on this trip but we’d anticipated as much, knowing it would mostly be a day of driving.

Sadly tomorrow would be more of the same but we did make one fun roadside stop that I think you’ll enjoy seeing photos of! Stay tuned for more on that!

Jason

P.S – if you want to read previous days from the trip, see below!
Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!
Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!
Day nineteen – California pit stop!
Day twenty – San Francisco bound!
Day twenty one – San Francisco begins!
Day twenty two – San Fran continued!
Day twenty three – Alcatraz!

The big 3-0: Day twenty three – Alcatraz!

Welcome back my dear readers! I hope you’re all doing well and feeling some optimism that there’s an end in sight to this crazy past 12 months.

Last time out on the blog I’d talked about more of my time in San Francisco and it’s time to continue with the “big 3-0” story as it nears its conclusion. Those of you that have been following along will know I was in the USA for 30 days, celebrating my 30th birthday, back in the summer of 2018.

We’d now covered a bit of ground in San Francisco and seen a few of the main landmarks in the city but there was one “must see” left for us to experience – Alcatraz!

Alcatraz sign

I’d heard mixed reviews from people about Alcatraz but it was something myself and Haleigh were both keen to visit and see for ourselves. I’d sneakily bought tickets for Haleigh’s birthday which was a little tricky because everytime Haleigh hinted at buying tickets I was coy about doing so – “we’ll get it booked after the next payday..”

Alcatraz unsurprisingly sells out well in advance so it was one of few pre-planned attractions on this trip – along with the Chicago Skydeck which some of you will remember was a disaster and an attraction I ended up missing out on in the windy city at the start of the trip. I was hoping today wouldn’t be similar!

Anyway, we kicked off our day as we had so many times on this trip – fairly relaxed and without too much rushing around. For whatever reason we decided to take a different route in to the heart of San Fran today, deviating from our tried and tested journey on the one day we had concrete plans. Clever, right?

In hindsight it probably wasn’t the brightest idea we’ve had. We’d left our AirBnB in good time before heading over to Alcatraz but our spontaneous route put our plans in jeopardy a little. We stood waiting at this particular tram stop for an age.

Our wait did mean we got chatting to another couple at the stop but after a little small talk the discussion swerved to whether this tram was ever going to arrive! Eventually one came along but then kept going and whizzed by us – too busy on board to make a stop to pick people up – ahhh!

The minutes ticked by and ticked closer towards missing our Alcatraz boat! Eventually we had to accept we’d have to improvise further and get ourselves to the pier asap! We parted from our new friends who were heading elsewhere and managed to grab a taxi over to the pick-up-point.

The next dilemma was the tickets. I’d booked in advance, through the official website I’ll add, but their strange system had me feeling a little uneasy. For whatever reason you book your tickets online and they then need to send you two confirmation emails, the second once payment has been processed which for whatever reason isn’t instantaneous – unlike just about any other booking system on the planet.

They’d emailed me one confirmation and they took my money a little while after the actual booking which was of some relief but I’d envisaged some scenario where they’d deny all knowledge of my booking at the ticket office – which was only exacerbated further by the Chicago Skydeck debacle. I’d winged most of the trip – were the only two plans I’d really made both going to fall through?

The woman at the desk seemed frustrated that I was unable to provide the second confirmation email – as if it was somehow my fault and that this stupid system wasn’t the bigger cause of the confusion. However fortunately the details we had were seemingly enough for her to print our tickets and she seemed a little friendlier after locating them.

We took our tickets over to check in and were soon being waved on to our ferry. It slowly started filling up and then we were off!

As we inched closer and closer to Alcatraz I began to appreciate just how far off the mainland it actually is. It’s visible from San Francisco but it’s still a little way on the ferry – this island isn’t the quickest to get to and it starts to sink in how difficult it must have been to even think about escaping from. Good luck swimming in the cold and harsh waters of San Francisco Bay!

Each arriving boat to the island gets a little introduction and a welcome before you’re then left to explore at your own leisure. We grabbed a few photos from the outside before heading in.

First look inside

Assuming that, like us, you start from the bottom one of the first rooms you’re likely to encounter are aimed at educating on the history of the island. It might purely be ignorance on my part but I don’t feel like Alcatraz’s past gets much coverage beyond its prison days.

It was fascinating to discover that people lived on the island at various times in its history with Native Americans notably occupying the island for almost two years in protest against the US government. It was really interesting to learn about and in one of the rooms there’s an educational video that plays in this dark room which we both watched.

As you explore more of the island you see homage to those days with graffiti and other landmarks that date back to their occupancy.

Indians welcome..

Today it’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is managed by the National Park Service which allows millions of people to visit every year. The luxury of being able to explore in your own time meant we could slowly admire the views from the island and check out a few points of interest before making our way up to the prison and undoubtedly Alcatraz’s biggest attraction.

View from Alcatraz

Once you enter the prison area you’re handed a little device offering an audio tour. These rarely hold much interest for me and I usually abandon them pretty quickly and end up exploring without one.

However I have to say that I found that the audio tour really added to the experience. Throughout the tour you’re exposed to the history and various stories from Alcatraz and it really brought the prison to life for me – it’s remarkably well done I think and I’m glad I stuck this one out. As you walk around I couldn’t help but visualise what life behind bars would be like – see for yourself!

Behind bars inside Alcatraz prison

As my sad-faced-selfie shows, it’s not a life for me!

The tour takes you through a number of different areas within the prison. Towards the end of the tour you get taken outside for breathtaking views of San Francisco’s skyline which felt like a pretty apt way to round things off and really help transform you in to the life of a prisoner and how tempting it must have been having the city in plain view.

I thought the tour was incredible and worth every penny, or cent rather. Everyone has their own preferences of course but I have to say the mixed reviews I’d heard really surprised me. I couldn’t recommend it any higher and it’s a must-do on any trip to San Francisco in my opinion.

Inside Alcatraz

The view of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island

We popped in to the gift shop for a look at what was a wealth of merchandise and reading material from Alcatraz before slowly making our way back down the island and towards the ferry point. Fortunately we’d timed it pretty well and it was pretty much ready to board by the time we’d arrived.

The mood on the ferry back seemed a bit more pensive than the buzz and excitement that there had been when going to Alcatraz. Perhaps that’s just because it was later in the day and people had had enough adventure for one day but I think there was that added appreciation to be heading back to the mainland.

We’d escaped Alcatraz and were heading back to “the land of the free” . It felt nice knowing our time in Alcatraz had only been temporary. I think as a prisoner of Alcatraz I’d have preferred to have been more remote than the island actually is.

It is a bit of a journey on the ferry but to be that close to freedom and see it every day? That would be so agonising for me. I’d spend my days in envy knowing people were living such normal lives just across the water. I’m feeling pandemic envy as it is seeing people in NZ and Australia for example having a blast whilst we’re in day four billion of lockdown, sod that being a permanent feeling!

We made it back to sunny San Francisco and I do feel like I let out an illogical sigh of relief. Even with the stupid selfie, there was never a part of me that felt imprisoned but Alcatraz is its own little island and consequently very much a bubble. Even for a few hours its easy to forget that there’s a busy city in the backdrop.

After our Alcatraz adventure we decided to grab an early dinner. Our proximity to Pier 39 made it a convenient place to grab something as although a little touristy, there’s a good range of places to eat.

Unfortunately it seemed we picked rather poorly. I don’t know if it was just an off evening in the height of summer because the restaurant seemingly rates pretty highly in Google reviews. That certainly wasn’t our experience though with terrible food and the worst service I’ve suffered anywhere in the US – possibly anywhere altogether!

We’d pondered what to do with the rest of our evening but the unexpected extension on our meal time scuppered our plans a little bit and limited our options. It did dampen what had otherwise been a nice day.

San Francisco dungeons attraction
San Fran’s scariest attraction?

In the end we decided to visit the ‘San Francisco Dungeons’. I’ve seen these in a few other cities – notably London, Edinburgh and Amsterdam but as yet had not visited any of them so I wasn’t 100% sure on what to expect.

It was surprisingly a lot more enjoyable than I’d anticipated. You’re led through a series of rooms where actors play out a number of different scenes depicting various locations throughout San Francisco. There’s a fair amount of audience interaction which makes it quite enjoyable and I’d say pretty family friendly too – albeit a little jumpy in parts.

Towards the end of the experience we were taken “back” to Alcatraz – just as myself and Haleigh thought we’d escaped that pesky island!! The penultimate room then saw everyone interrogated by a prison guard.

I’d managed to avoid all audience interaction up until now so as the guard did his final roll call, row by row, I had to reveal my identity and additionally reveal my accent to all which sent shockwaves around the room as they realised there was a Brit amongst them! I’m sure some witty comment from the guard followed at my expense but I can’t recall what it was now.

The final room saw us escape Alcatraz and head back outside. Overall it had been a surprisingly fun attraction and is something I’d consider doing in other cities – even if only in the UK.

From here we made the slow journey back to our AirBnB. We took a small detour somewhere to grab some food after the disappointment earlier in the day but that was pretty much it for San Fran – our final day in San Francisco was over!

Final night in San Francisco

Tomorrow morning marked the beginning of the goodbyes, the adventure was nearing its end. It was time to say goodbye to San Francisco and California and head back up North.

I’d said plenty of goodbyes on this trip already of course. Goodbye to Chicago, goodbye to Minneapolis, goodbye to friends in New Orleans but every one of those was different as more adventure beckoned.

This time it was different, the faint cries of reality were calling. Haleigh had to be back in Washington for the start of the school year, soon after I’d be heading back to England and time was sadly finally beginning to catch up with me.

Tomorrow we’d be saying goodbye to San Francisco and onwards to..

Well, we didn’t actually know. We knew we wouldn’t get all the way back to Moses Lake but we hadn’t actually booked any accommodation for the next night. Perhaps there was still some adventure left in this trip after all?

I guess you’ll have to stick with this series a little longer if you want to find out! Stay tuned!

Jason

P.S – if you want to read other posts from this trip, see links below!
Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!
Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!
Day nineteen – California pit stop!
Day twenty – San Francisco bound!
Day twenty one – San Francisco begins!
Day twenty two – San Fran continued!

The big 3-0: Day twenty two – San Fran continued!

Welcome back my dear readers! Last time out on the blog I was writing about the start of mine and Haleigh’s time in San Francisco and so on to the next part of the story!

For those of you only just stumbling upon this series, we’re three weeks in to a 30 day trip back in the summer of 2018. I’d flown over to the US for a friend’s wedding, which fell two days before my 30th birthday, so went all out to celebrate with a big trip!

One of the places I was determined to visit on this trip was San Francisco! That said, I didn’t go with a huge list of things I wanted to see or do in San Fran. Me and Haleigh were largely winging it and with the exception of a few obvious points of interest, didn’t actually have much planned for our stay in the city.

Keeping that in mind, we woke up and didn’t really have much of a plan for our day. We’d already seen the Golden Gate bridge, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square. Meanwhile we had plans to visit Alcatraz tomorrow so had a lot of the first-time-visit stuff ticked off.

After a slow and relaxing start to our morning we left our AirBnB and made our way in to downtown San Francisco once again. We kicked off our day by visiting Chinatown – supposedly the oldest in North America and the largest such enclave outside of Asia which is pretty cool!

Given its popularity, I have to say it didn’t feel anywhere near as touristy as London’s own Chinatown. We wandered up and down the streets, snapping photos along the way whilst admiring all of the decorations hanging above our heads.

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Chinatown, San Francisco, California

Chinatown quickly morphs in to San Francisco’s ‘Little Italy’. On the outskirts of both there was this little bookstore I’d read about that I thought Haleigh would enjoy visiting. It was no Powell’s Books and I wouldn’t say it was worthwhile going particularly out of your way for but it was a nice little detour. Haleigh surprisingly escaped without buying anything which was some achievement!

The slow and relaxed start to our morning had set the tone for the rest of the day. There was no rushing around today, we just embraced being in San Francisco and explored at a much slower pace than you sometimes do when traveling. So it was conveniently lunchtime by the time we’d stumbled upon Little Italy.

Little Italy seemed as good a place as any to think about grabbing some lunch! There’s a few places to eat along the main street but we passed this historic and authentic-feeling Italian restaurant which seemed like the best option – our Italian host definitely added a dash of authenticity which was enough to tempt us inside.

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U.S Restaurant, San Francisco

It was a really enjoyable lunch and the service was really good too, it was a great choice for lunch. Rather than grab dessert here, we figured we’d try out a dessert place that we could see across the street.

We grabbed some gelato and then found ourselves a table outside to enjoy the glorious sunshine. A few moments later this funky looking van drove by and I was really beginning to feel like we were in California.

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After a little more people-watching we hopped on a bus and headed across town to the Golden Gate Park. The Golden Gate Park is essentially San Francisco’s Central Park equivalent – it’s huge!

It’s home to botanical gardens, Japanese gardens, museums, windmills and so much more. You could easily spend an entire day trying to see everything the park has to offer. We had a bit of a wander before finding ourselves a patch of grass to sit down, relax and soak up the atmosphere.

This was Saturday afternoon in California in the height of the summer – it was inevitably busy with people enjoying picnics, kids riding bicycles, dogs running around. There was such a feel-good mood around us and it was impossible to not get swept away by it. Me and Haleigh spent an age chatting and people-watching. Why would you want to be anywhere else on a day like this? It was bliss.

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Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Much like the beach spot from the previous day, and Central Park too for that matter, I could see myself spending many a day at Golden Gate Park if I was a local. Nevertheless we dragged ourselves away and caught the bus back towards the downtown area.

We passed the famous ‘Painted Ladies’ before stopping off around the city hall for a look around. We grabbed a few photos but, aside from a couple of outdoor exhibits from the Asian Art museum on the other side of the square, there wasn’t too much in the area.

City Hall

It had been a pretty relaxed day all around. We headed back to our AirBnB for a bit before making dinner plans. We decided to check out San Fran’s ‘Cheesecake Factory’ which was a first for me.

I don’t know what I really expected but they’re seemingly really popular! We had to wait a little while before getting a table, which wasn’t so bad because they had an outside balcony overlooking Union Square and allowed us to enjoy the view.

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Union Square, San Francisco

Eventually we were taken to a table and I got to see why the Cheesecake Factory was so popular. Despite the misleading name, the menu is a fussy eater’s dream! I think they have just about everything you can think of on their menu – it was overloaded with choices. We had a nice evening, although didn’t have the dessert we wanted so we skipped out on that and called it a night.

We made our way back to our AirBnB and watched a little Netflix. Overall it was a much slower-paced day but still a thoroughly enjoyable one and we’d covered a lot of the San Francisco area in our two days. There was just one last “must see” left on our itinerary – Alcatraz!

More on that next time around! Stay tuned!

Jason

P.S – if you want to read previous days of this trip, see below!
Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!
Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!
Day nineteen – California pit stop!
Day twenty – San Francisco bound!
Day twenty one – San Francisco begins!

The big 3-0: Day twenty one – San Francisco begins!

Welcome back my dear readers! We’re in to the final third of this trip which has seemed a little never-ending haha. I’ll be quite pleased to actually write about somewhere other than the USA but I’m glad you’re still enjoying this series!

Anyway, those of you following along will know this was a 30 day trip in the summer of 2018 which coincided with my 30th birthday. On day 20 myself and Haleigh had driven down from Crescent City and finally arrived in San Francisco!

Much of this trip was flexible but San Francisco was somewhere that I was determined to visit on this trip so I was excited to get our first proper glimpse of it. We’d arrived the previous night but not really seen anything beyond the neighbourhood we were staying in.

We had a pretty relaxed start to our morning which is definitely one of the perks to staying in an AirBnB. Our host had kindly left out some sort of home-made bread for us to enjoy before we set off for the day.

We were staying a little outside of the central area of San Francisco but the public transport in the city is pretty good so that wasn’t a problem. Our nearest BART (San Fran’s subway system) station was Balboa Park so we made the walk over to the stop and got ourselves a couple of tickets to get us in to the heart of the city.

Pretty much all Americans drive so Haleigh hadn’t previously used any underground train network. I think it’s easy to get a little frazzled by some of the subway systems around the world and I’d love to say I helped Haleigh master San Francisco’s in preparation of one day tackling London’s famous tube system.

BartMap

However the reality is San Francisco’s is probably the easiest subway system I’ve come across on my travels so didn’t require the greatest mind or navigational skills to get around. Unless you’re leaving the San Francisco area, it really doesn’t matter which train or line you jump on. All trains go to the same stops making it particularly easy to avoid getting lost.

We traveled as far as ‘Powell Street’ which takes you in to the heart of the city. The reason we’d opted for Powell Street is because it’s home to San Francisco’s visitor centre and we thought we’d pop in for some recommendations, pick up some 72 hour travelcards and maybe a map to help get our bearings with where things were in the city.

After picking up our travelcards we had a wander around Powell and Market St which is a pretty busy area, popped in a few of the shops in the area before heading on over to the street car which would take us to Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Fran Streetcar
Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Unfortunately the street car is one of the San Francisco checklist items to do on a first trip and visiting in mid August meant every other tourist in San Francisco had the same idea. The queue was so long that we scrapped that plan for today and instead walked over to the nearest tram stop which would get us over to the pier much quicker.

A short while later we’d arrived at ‘Pier 39’ and were ready to see what all the fuss was about. It was pretty close to lunchtime by the time we’d arrived at the pier and it was inevitably busy. Admittedly this is probably one of San Francisco’s biggest tourist hotspots but in all honesty, this just seemed to be how San Francisco was.

With the exception of the BART which was woefully under-used, it was just busy wherever you went. Hordes of tourists, overcrowded transport leading to long queues, a million cars on the road – it was unavoidable!

That said, we wanted to temporarily avoid it haha. Before tackling pier 39 we decided we’d grab lunch and although the area had a huge range of food options, conveniently right where we’d stopped was San Fran’s very own Hard Rock Cafe!

HRC San Fran
Hard Rock Cafe, San Francisco

Long time readers will know I enjoy visiting the HRC’s around the world and this happened to be in the perfect location to tempt me! All that was left for me to do was persuade Haleigh it was a good idea, who’d yet to visit a HRC herself.

In contrast this would be my 19th HRC and the second of this trip after finding time to visit Chicago’s too! Fortunately it took little persuasion skills and Haleigh was more than happy to have lunch there!

Following on from lunch we wandered down to the pier and admired the views stretching over the bay and over to Alcatraz. It was a beautifully sunny day so we looked to see what boat tours they had on offer and were enticed by a tour for $15 which took us out on the water and a little closer to some of San Fran’s best sights.

It was a fun excursion. Our captain told us a few interesting stories whilst we passed by the famous seals of the pier and then got a closer look at Alcatraz, plus some cool views of the San Francisco skyline behind us.

San Fran Seals
The seals of San Francisco

The boat dropped us back at Pier 39 and we strolled among the busy crowds, popping in and out of shops along the way. It’s definitely a bit of a tourist trap but I feel like you could spend a good chunk of time there and still keep yourself amused. Haleigh ended up buying some fudge to take back to Washington, whilst I settled for nothing more than some window shopping.

The shops and promenade seemed a little less crowded and hectic on the upper deck so we headed up the stairs for a look around up there, which also provided an opportunity to get some nicer photos.

Pier 39
Pier 39, San Francisco

Perhaps going up there was my fateful mistake! We wandered along enjoying the atmosphere below us whilst basking in the gorgeous weather when I suddenly felt a small dropping hit me..

“Please be rain!”

Rain? I looked up and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – just sunshine and bright blue skies.

Nevertheless whatever had dropped was on top of my head so I needed Haleigh to confirm my fears and sadly she did. Some bloody bird had crapped on me! I’d been dreaming of visiting this city forever and on my first full day in this city I get crapped on!

I don’t know how regularly this happens for the rest of you but I’ve been quite lucky in that I can only remember experiencing this on one other occasion – down in Florida!

Both times in the USA? Really!? Those pesky American birds!

So after a quick detour via the public restrooms, we were back on the move and wandered down towards Fisherman’s Wharf which was equally busy. Rather than spending too much time there among the crowds we marched on towards Ghiradelli Square which Haleigh was keen to visit.

There was a much more relaxed vibe here than there had been at Pier 39 / Fisherman’s Wharf. There was still a bit of a buzz in the air of course with people mingling and chatting away, whilst others played a round of ‘Cornhole’ but it was far less hectic and a much more enjoyable place to wander and look around.

Moving away from Ghiradelli Square we meandered down to the beach and just sat and admired the view for a while. It was a perfect spot and I think if I lived in San Francisco I’d frequent this part of the city on many occasions. I could have stayed there for hours I reckon but time was flying by.

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Prime suspect?

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You could easily spend an entire day in the pier 39 area I reckon if you were to combine it with other attractions and excursions. Having had a good taste of things in San Francisco we tried our luck again with the street car. There was a long queue again but we were feeling much less rushed heading back to our AirBnB and it was something we wanted to experience at least once in San Francisco.

Whether you have the patience for the queue is an individual choice I suppose but I’m really glad we did it. I think it’s worth traveling on at least once and had it not been for such long queues I’m sure we’d have rode it more frequently throughout our trip. It’s a great way to see the city as you travel up and down San Francisco’s hilly streets.

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Soon enough we were back at Powell Street and jumped back on the BART in direction of our AirBnB. We relaxed for a bit and then freshened up before deciding what to do with our evening.

We contemplated going back in to down town San Francisco and finding something fun to do. However in the end we decided to stay local and grabbed dinner at a bar just around the corner from our AirBnB.

The upside to not staying in a touristy area was that it felt like we were probably the only out-of-towners in the place with everyone else seeming local and friendly with eachother and in weekend mode given it was a Friday evening.

We took two seats at the bar and ordered ourselves a burger each, accompanied with some drinks which went down equally well. In addition to the good food and good beer, there was also a live band playing which provided the perfect entertainment for the evening.

It was a really nice way to round off our first full day in San Francisco. Aside from the unfortunate bird incident it had been a pretty positive introduction to this wonderful city.

After a couple of drinks we called it a night and headed back to our AirBnB, excited to explore again tomorrow. Stay tuned for more on that!

Jason

P.S – if you want to catch up on previous posts from this trip you can do so below!
Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!
Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!
Day nineteen – California pit stop!
Day twenty – San Francisco bound!

The big 3-0: Day twenty – San Francisco bound!

Welcome back my dear readers! I suggested last time out on the blog that I’d try and “up my game” a bit and get two posts out a week going forward. It hasn’t happened haha. Nevertheless I’m determined to get back to posting once a week so I’m cracking on and posting another day of the “big 3-0” trip.

Those of you who haven’t been following (have missed 19 posts!!) will not be aware that this was a 30 day trip in the USA coinciding with my 30th birthday in the summer of 2018.

One of the places that was a must visit on this trip was San Francisco and we were close! Myself and Haleigh were slowly making the drive down from Washington and had just spent the night in Crescent City in Northern California. After a good night’s rest it was time to hit the road again!

We said goodbye to our AirBnB and hopped in the car – heading Southbound once again. One of the reasons we’d stopped off at Crescent City was its proximity to the famous Redwoods and it wasn’t long before we were surrounded by trees towering over us on both sides.

Northern California Scenery
Surrounded by huge trees!
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Northern California

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I think I spent the early part of the morning just glued to the window, taking photos and videos to look back at someday. On the other hand, all I could think was “what a place to die..”

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some suicidal thinking on my part but with the winding roads, the fog, the towering trees it created that perfect horror-like setting. It was beautiful of course but just a few minutes in to the drive I felt so far removed from civilisation and the rest of the world. You couldn’t help but feel that any minute we’d break down on the side of the road and some axe-wielding maniac would pull over asking if we needed any help.

“No.. no, we’re okay thanks!”

Fortunately the car was showing no signs of failing us so we kept plodding along until we came to the “Trees of Mystery”. I’d read about this attraction when looking for things to do in and around Crescent City and discovered it was home to a 30ft “Paul Bunyan”.

Haleigh was familiar with the tales of Paul Bunyan but the name meant nothing to me. His fame doesn’t appear to have made it over to our side of the pond but it seems that he is a famous lumberjacker in American folklore and travels around with his trusty companion – “Babe the Blue Ox”.

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Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue Ox, Trees of Mystery, California

The giant lumberjacker was difficult to miss on the side of the road so we pulled over and got close up for a few photos of our new friends Paul and Babe. The trees of mystery attraction itself seemed to offer a few trails for hiking but we were content just making it a fun and quick stop.

We got back in the car and as we drove through the forest, the trees just seemed to get bigger and bigger – we were truly in Redwood territory now.

Travel has a way of making your place in the world feel very small but I’d say particularly so here. I was in complete awe of the Redwoods and the surrounding scenery. Even in the midst of forest fires ravaging the West Coast, nature still seemed to be thriving and left me mesmerised.

We passed a sign highlighting the scenic route, which would add a few miles on to our journey, and couldn’t resist the temptation to get off the main highway. We were quite happy to be rid of the traffic and aggressive drivers pushing us to zoom along the winding roads.

True to its word, the scenic route was just that – breathtakingly scenic! We pulled over at one point just so we could properly admire them up close. They’re just incredible! It’s hard to imagine too many other places such as this which really leave you speechless and humbled.

We passed a few other parked cars and consequently a few people who’d seemingly had the same idea we had. Fortunately it meant myself and Haleigh were able to get a photo of the both of us as a nice souvenir and reminder of our time passing through the Redwoods.

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Some kids we’d walked past were less enthused by the experience with one retorting that “it’s only a tree..” and clearly not happy that their parents had forced them out of the car. It left me and Haleigh amused and made me realise that sometimes you don’t really appreciate these things when you’re younger.

I envisaged a scenario in the future where the kids would want to return and being mockingly told by their parents that “it’s only a tree..”

Admittedly those kids weren’t wrong. They are “just” trees at the end of the day but as spectacular as you’ll see anywhere. In the company of trees that have stood for hundreds of years, it was impossible to feel anything other than small and insignificant. They’re a must see on any trip to Northern California!

Redwoods

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After getting plenty of photos we got back in the car and continued with our journey, leaving the scenic route and returning to what was still a pretty scenic highway. I can’t really remember much else of the drive, I presume we stopped for lunch somewhere but I couldn’t tell you where so it was probably just some fast food of some kind.

The only other memorable stop we made was as we passed by a little roadside shop which had loads of these wooden hand-made bears sat on the side of the road. They were pretty cute and available to buy along with a lot of other hand-made items and art.

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Cute bears and a cute Haleigh too!

It was an interesting little stop. We took some photos with the bears and I also found Pinocchio who told me I was the coolest kid around – I couldn’t understand why his nose was so big though?

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Me and Pinocchio, best buds!

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. The thing that really struck me was how quiet the roads were in this part of California. At times it felt like we were the only people on the highway which surprised me – particularly in the summer months but it seems that all of that famous California traffic is reserved for the big cities such as Los Angeles.

The roads started getting busier as we got closer to San Francisco, particularly around Santa Barbara, but even then a good chunk of the highway has a carpool lane which you only need two people to take advantage of so we were flying past all of the single-drivers on the road. Soon enough we were seeing signs for San Francisco and then the golden gate bridge!

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San Francisco – here we come!

We hadn’t really hit any traffic all day but as we approached the tunnel which leads to the Golden Gate bridge things started slowing down and we came to what was almost a stand still. It probably wasn’t the ideal time for us to be arriving in to San Francisco, albeit unavoidable. That said, I have a feeling that the traffic in to this part is probably always like this.

Not that the locals seemed to have the patience for it – the car honking was endless! Puzzling too, where exactly do you want us to go? In to the back of the car in front of us?

“Hit the pedal Haleigh!!”

Oddly enough, Haleigh was unwilling to partake in a game of road rage and smashing in to all of those who blocked our path. Instead we crawled along at a snails pace – which was actually fine by me!

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First glimpse of the Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco

At the end of the tunnel I could peek my first glimpse of the golden gate bridge! I was so pleased that we were traveling in over the bridge itself – even better that we were slow-moving and I could really take it in and appreciate it in all of its glory.

This was the Sydney Opera House, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben “pinch me” moment of San Francisco – there was no doubt as to where we were! We’d made it! We’re really in San Francisco!!

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Driving over the golden gate bridge

I managed to grab a bunch of photos before we eventually escaped the bridge, however there was no sign of the San Francisco traffic easing up. I don’t know why you’d want to drive in a city like San Francisco, much like New York City or London you have to question if it’s even worthwhile being on the road.

Karen, our handy sat-nav, guided us to our AirBnB where we parked up and awaited for our AWOL host to arrive. As it was, she was only in the back garden so not too far away and was quickly letting us in to show us around. We had no intention of driving whilst in San Franciso so swapped the cars around – putting Haleigh’s car in to the garage whilst our host moved hers in front of the garage.

It had been another long day of driving so we didn’t really have any plans for our first evening in the city. Had we been closer to downtown San Fran perhaps we’d have gone and explored but we just settled in to our AirBnB and familiarised ourselves with the local neighbourhood.

In essence we were staying in an unofficial Chinatown. The area was full of restaurants offering Asian cuisine, with a Sushi restaurant on the corner of the street we were staying on. It was far enough away from touristy San Fran that it felt very local and is undoubtedly one of the perks of AirBnB life – this being only my third AirBnB stay – all three of which were on this trip.

We went and checked out a nearby Chinese restaurant which had some good reviews on Google. On appearance it’s probably not somewhere I’d have walked in to, more reminiscent of your typical kebab house you’d stumble in to at the end of a night out.

Nevertheless, appearances can be deceiving and the food was really good. Although I’d originally ordered a duck-dish and they were then out of duck, not that I could complain about my second choice. If there was to be any complaint it would be that there was just too much of it!

Both me and Haleigh struggled to finish our meals and agreed we could easily have shared a meal between us – it felt a bit of a waste to leave so much unfinished. Brilliant value though as it was not only delicious but pretty cheap too.

Following on from dinner we had a wander through the neighbourhood but didn’t go too far. It was beginning to get dark and for the first time this whole summer, it was cold!

Whilst San Francisco was warm by day, it quickly became apparent that you’d need a jacket in the evening as it got quite chilly. Having had a small glimpse we headed back to our AirBnB for a relaxing evening and started making plans for tomorrow – our first full day in San Francisco!

Stay tuned for more on that!

Jason

P.S – if you wanted to catch up on previous posts on this trip, see below!
Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!
Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!
Day nineteen – California pit stop!

The big 3-0: Day nineteen – California pit stop!

Welcome back my dear readers! Thanks to those of you that played along with my recent photo challenge. It was a bit of fun that has helped get me back in to some sort of blogging groove. We’ll see how things go but I’m going to attempt to try and squeeze out two posts a week going forward – certainly whilst we’re in this lockdown era!

Anyway, it’s back to the “big 3-0” trip this time round. Those who have been following this 30 day trip will know that myself and Haleigh were slowly making our way from Washington State down to San Francisco, California!

After a couple of nights based in Lincoln City on Oregon’s coast it was time for us to hit the road again. We still had another 650 miles ahead of us before we’d reach San Francisco so whilst there was still some distance to go, we were inching ever closer!

We effortlessly checked out of our AirBnB in the morning and as a first-time AirBnB experience it had been a positive one. I’d always been a little hesitant to use AirBnB but I’d been somewhat converted – somewhat because I can’t say I’ve used AirBnB since this trip but I’m more open to doing so for future travels.

We said our goodbyes to Lincoln City and started heading South – next stop California!!

California.. I feel like I perhaps do this too often already but I’ve not yet reached that point where the travel opportunities I’ve had don’t still blow my mind a little. In all honesty, I hope I never get to the point where it’s something I take for granted.

My parents did a lot for us growing up and we got fortunate to visit places like Orlando, Florida as kids which not everyone gets to do but I’m very much from a working-class background. A holiday like that took years of savings and sacrifice to make happen.

I digress a little but my point being that if I have a habit of romanticising places a bit too much it’s because deep down, I don’t know that I thought I’d ever visit these places. California always had this allure about it when I was growing up. It was some faraway land that epitomised what I considered to be cool and the pictures of it just looked sensational. To think I’d ever get there in my lifetime was some pipe-dream.

and yet, here we were. In the car and driving South, inching closer and closer to “the golden state”. Ugh even that sounds incredible, doesn’t it?

The drive down was stunning. Winding lanes along the coast offering sea views and a wealth of scenery that is just a dream as a passenger. There’s a ruggedness to the landscape and the fog just added to the atmosphere as we drove along – I truly felt a million miles away from home. I have so many photos on this drive that I couldn’t even tell you where we were but the scenery just left me in total admiration for the West coast.

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Don’t mind me, just admiring the view

Highway 101

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Somewhere along Highway 101

The perk of driving of course was that we could stop as and when we wanted to. We wouldn’t be in San Francisco until tomorrow so we were in no big rush and could stop for the numerous quirky roadside attractions that the US is famous for.

The first instance of this were some 20-30 foot roadside dinosaurs that immediately caught our eye. We quickly pulled over for a closer look and made sure to grab some photos. The dinosaurs were part of the Prehistoric gardens attraction in Oregon. We didn’t check out the entire area but checked out the gift shop and managed to grab a few cool photos before hitting the road again.

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Making friends at Prehistoric Gardens, Oregon

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We continued our journey South along highway 101 which took us through a host of cute cities and towns. I think my favourite we passed through was Coos Bay.

We stopped for lunch somewhere along the way, however we didn’t want to slow the journey down too much so stopped off at McDonald’s for something pretty quick.

Now, having become quite accustomed to temperatures between 30-45C (85-115 F) all summer, we were quite unprepared for our brief stop at the Antarctic! I don’t think I’ve ever walked in to a colder restaurant / bar! I’d love to visit London’s ice bar for some comparison, although I suspect it’s a few degrees warmer than this McDonald’s was! Even anticipating a quick stop, Haleigh ran back to the car to grab herself a jacket! I decided to brave the arctic conditions but was hoping McDonald’s would live up to its reputation as “fast food”.

With fuller stomachs it was back on the road but more importantly, back out in to warmer climates! The scenery continued to impress and soon enough we were approaching the state line – I had to get a photo!

Welcome to California
Oregon – California state line

Admittedly it’s not the greatest effort but in a moving car I thought it came out well enough. It was a landmark moment! State number 3 with Haleigh, state number 6 of this trip and my 12th visited state in total! 12!!

The latter sounds so weird to me, three years prior the only state I’d been to was Florida and now I’d been to twelve!? That doesn’t include the likes of Wisconsin, Arkansas or Maryland either which I’ve only really traveled through rather than stopping anywhere. How have I been to twelve states!?

Anyway, we were here! We were actually in California! We wouldn’t be in San Francisco itself until tomorrow but only had another 25 or so miles until we were in our stop for the night – Crescent City.

It wasn’t a city I knew anything about but it was a good resting place between Lincoln City and San Francisco. Soon enough we’d arrived at our home for the night – again opting to stay in an AirBnB.

After checking in and dropping our things off we took a little drive to see what was in the city itself. We parked up down by the pier and admired the views but there wasn’t too much in the area – other than a fun-looking children’s park which had a few kids playing.

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Crescent City, California

We popped in to the nearby visitor’s centre but it was fairly late in the afternoon by the time that we’d arrived so whilst there’s probably a lot more to do in Crescent City if you have a full day in the city, there wasn’t a huge deal open at that time of the day to make it worthwhile visiting.

The big attraction of Crescent City was its proximity to the Redwoods which we knew we’d be passing through on our drive tomorrow so in the end our only takeaway from the visitors centre was having overheard discussions about some food options for the evening.

We decided to grab dinner at some brewery called Seaquake. The food wasn’t anything special but I was pretty pleased with the beer selection and particularly intrigued by the ‘Citra’ as I often drink a beer of the same name at my favourite pub back home.

After dinner and a couple of drinks we contemplated what else to do with our evening in this sleepy city. We remembered that we’d passed a bowling alley earlier which was close to our AirBnB and felt like that could be a fun way to spend our evening. Sadly it wasn’t actually open for whatever reason so slightly scuppered our plans.

In the end we decided we’d just head back to our AirBnB for a relaxing evening. It’s not like we’d come to Crescent City for something in particular, it had just been a convenient stopping point for the night so an evening relaxing seemed pretty appealing.

Our AirBnB was nice too. We had a decent sized space to ourselves and found some rubbish TV to watch in-between all of the commercials. It was a nice evening and set us up perfectly for another South-bound journey tomorrow – San Francisco via the Redwoods!

Stay tuned for more on that!

Jason

P.S – if you want to catch up on previous days of this trip, you can do so below!
Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!
Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!

The big 3-0: Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!

Welcome back dear readers! Last time out on the blog I hinted at getting back in to the groove and therefore the posts would start coming thick and fast!

Consequently, you’re getting no big introduction this time! If you don’t know what happened in the first 17 days of this trip you’ll just have to go back and find out, won’t you?

On the previous evening myself and Haleigh had arrived in Lincoln City on Oregon’s coast and we were ready to explore! Other than go for dinner we hadn’t really done anything since arriving on the coast so it was our first opportunity to see what there was to do locally.

Or my first opportunity anyway. Haleigh had been to Oregon’s coast a few times on family holidays growing up but for me, this was my first trip where I’d really been able to see any of Oregon. With Haleigh’s knowledge of the area a little better than mine we hopped in the car and drove up to a little place called ‘Tillamook’.

Tillamook is a small ‘city’ with a population of 5,000. I don’t know what rules there are that determines city status but a lot of places I’d consider towns in the UK refer to themselves as cities over there – who am I to argue?

Tillamook Creamery
Tillamook Creamery, Oregon

Anyway the main attraction of Tillamook, and the reason we were visiting, is the “Tillamook Creamery” which is open to the public. As we began approaching the site it was clear it had changed quite a lot since Haleigh’s previous visit. I’m guessing they’d expanded to some capacity but it was much bigger than Haleigh remembered.

In what was quite a busy car park we eventually found a spot to park up and then made the walk in to the heart of the creamery. It’s free to visit which was a nice little bonus.

The building is split in to three main sections. The first area we visited was the more educational part of the place. Having been in business for more than 100 years you get the opportunity to see and learn about the various processes that help create their products with a little behind-the-scenes look at the production line. It’s not a particularly big area but it was interesting nonetheless.

The next main area and undoubtedly its most popular is its cafeteria type room. Specialising in cheese and all things dairy, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the big attraction is to “sample the goods”. With a range of lunch options to tempt us we decided we’d both get something to eat.

As a fussy child I grew up “not liking” cheese. I’m much less fussy now and I’ve no doubt that I would eat some cheeses today but it’s generally a habit that has stuck with one exception – pizza of course!

Fun fact – I was horrified when we made pizza at school one time and discovered we were using cheese to make it!

“Mum..? The pizzas we eat don’t have cheese do they?” – shockingly they did!

Anyway, I digress! The point being is that I’ve never been too cheese-adventurous so whilst Haleigh’s lunch options were a bit more vast, I played safe and ordered their cheese-inclusive-pizza.

I can’t remember what Haleigh opted for but we both enjoyed our lunch choice. The last area to take a quick look at was its gift shop. Neither of us ended up buying anything but it was nice to have a look around and see what they had on offer.

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Tillamook gift shop

Before making our getaway we returned to the “other side” of the restaurant area where they specialise in another dairy product – ice cream! We couldn’t leave Tillamook’s creamery without seeing how their ice cream held up against their other products so we joined the queue and licked our lips at all of the different flavours on offer.

Haleigh, again, had much more difficulty deciding which flavour she wanted with all of the options on display. Ordinarily I’d go straight for the strawberry but I thought I’d mix things up (like the crazy kid I am, right?) and opted for their huckleberry ice cream – a wise decision! Although I’m sure I’d have enjoyed their strawberry too!

With much fuller stomachs we said our goodbyes to Tillamook and its wonderful food and hit the road! It’s probably not going to prove a hugely popular attraction for the vegetarians and vegans but we’d enjoyed our visits.

We made our way back to Lincoln City, zigzagging through the one lane roads surrounded by greenery and had soon arrived back to familiar surroundings on the coast. Pondering what to do next we had a little look around before Haleigh suggested we visit Lincoln City’s ‘famous’ Christmas Cottage.

Unbelievably it was August and I found myself visiting my third Christmas store of this trip! Myself and Haleigh had already been to one in Oregon City a week earlier, meanwhile myself and Crystal had also popped in to one down in New Orleans in the first week of my trip! Would I be all Christmas’d out by the end of this trip? It’s not even Halloween yet!

After some more Christmas-browsing we hopped back in the car and decided to make the short drive down to Depoe Bay – supposedly home to the world’s smallest harbour!

Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay, Oregon

I don’t know how accurate that statement is but Depoe Bay is certainly a small little place. We parked up on the main street and then wandered towards the harbour Depoe Bay is ‘famous’ for.

It’s a pretty little place but I can’t say there was a huge amount to it. It’s apparently the whale watching capital of Oregon but I can’t say that we saw any whales either. We spent the bulk of our time browsing the small little independent stores lined along the main street. Haleigh made sure to pick up some treats to take home with her too including some saltwater taffy – America’s answer to a stick of rock I suppose.

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Depoe Bay, Oregon

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Content we’d explored all there was to do here, we snapped a few more photos and then made the short walk back to the car with the intention of returning to Lincoln City. It’s a nice drive, particularly with both Depoe Bay and Lincoln City being coastal cities. It wasn’t long before we’d found our way back and popped in to our AirBnB for a little relaxation before dinner.

Although Lincoln City has plenty of restaurants and places to eat, as we were only in town for two nights we decided to return to Mo’s. I decided I’d get a different main on this occasion (still seafood) with some chowder on the side which went down as well as it had the previous evening.

Mo's, Lincoln City
Mo’s in Lincoln City, Oregon

A relaxing night followed on from dinner which rounded off our time on the Oregon coast perfectly. Oddly enough we hadn’t actually spent much time in Lincoln City itself but it had been the perfect base for us to explore locally.

Whilst very different from British seaside towns, Lincoln City still had that charm and it’s a place that I’d like to return to. I could see why it had proven to be a family-favourite destination for Haleigh and her family.

In the morning we’d be saying farewell to Lincoln City and heading further South. Next up we’d be crossing the border and heading in to California! Stay tuned for more on that!

Jason

P.S – if you want to catch up on previous days of this trip, see the links below!

Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day 12 – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!

The big 3-0: Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!

Welcome back dear readers! After slacking off a bit in 2020, I’m trying to get back in to the blogging groove this year. Consequently posts for the rest of this trip should start coming thick and fast!

I feel like I need a Netflix-style recap option on WordPress and similarly a “skip recap” option for those of you bored of the story but for any newcomers to this story (go back to day one!) then let me catch you up for the umpteenth time!

Two friends were getting married in Washington State just days before my 30th birthday in the summer of 2018. With two reasons to celebrate and a big birthday, I wanted to celebrate big! So I planned and mapped out a 30 day adventure in the USA! This was going to be by far the biggest adventure I’d ever taken and proof of that is this story!

I say that because we’re only just passing the halfway point in this adventure and yet I felt like I’d done and seen SO much already. Arriving in Chicago on day one seemed such a long time ago – “that was on this trip? Wow..”

Chicago Bean

After running around five different states in the first couple of weeks, last time out on the blog I’d actually managed to slow down a bit! Myself and Haleigh had spent a long weekend in her hometown of Walla Walla, Washington.

The halfway point on this trip just so happened to coincide with Haleigh’s family’s annual BBQ – a perfect opportunity to slow down, enjoy the company, get to know Haleigh’s family a bit better and just spend some time in one place with very few plans.

So after a relatively laid-back weekend, I woke up on Monday morning feeling recharged and ready to go! We’d had a nice weekend but it was time to get back on the road and back to adventuring!

When this trip first came up I anticipated that it would be my first trip and possibly even only trip (HA!) to Washington and the West Coast so I was adamant that other than the wedding, the one place I HAD to visit was San Francisco. I couldn’t go all the way to the West Coast and not visit San Francisco.

As it turned out, this ended up being my third trip to Washington but nevertheless that thought-process remained. I had no idea who I’d be spending this trip with, I had no idea where else I wanted to visit on this trip but San Francisco was non-negotiable. Fortunately Haleigh was more than OK with that plan and so a roadtrip was formed.

We said our goodbyes to Walla Walla and hit the road – San Francisco, here we come!

San Francisco Road Sign
San Francisco – here we come!

Well, in a few days anyway. Walla Walla is up in central-ish Washington and San Francisco was more than 750 miles away so we had a long way to go. Worse yet, I don’t drive so I’m a pretty useless roadtrip companion. With multiple drivers doing the journey in shifts it might have been doable in a day but with just Haleigh at the wheel it made sense for us to make it a relatively slow drive and to stop off at various points along the way.

Today we were heading for Oregon’s coast. Oddly enough it had only been a week earlier where we’d done a similar journey. Somehow on consecutive Monday’s we found ourselves leaving Washington State in the direction of Oregon.

A week ago the wedding festivities were over with so we said goodbye to Poulsbo, Washington in search of Portland, Oregon. After a few days in Portland we came back to Washington for the family BBQ and then after a few days in Walla Walla it was back to Oregon.

Admittedly the back-and-forth was a little inconvenient but we wanted to make the best use of our spare days between the two events. In an ideal world they’d have either been closer together (back-to-back) or further apart so we could have traveled more inbetween.

On the plus side, we were really getting to see a lot of the two states! Usually when I leave Walla Walla it’s to return to Moses Lake or to head further West and on to Seattle which is a particularly scenic drive as you pass through the mountains. Those drives usually take you North out of Walla Walla, this time we’d be heading South and across the border.

The scenery in this part of Washington is really unlike the Western side of the state. It’s desert-like and long-time readers might recall my fascination at the deadly tumbleweed on a tripΒ here six months earlier. There’s no sign of the “Evergreen state” in these parts so in addition to enjoying Haleigh’s company, I spent a good chunk of our drives snapping photos.

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Wait, this is the evergreen state?!

Soon enough we were back in the Dalles, we’d stopped off here for lunch on day 13 and taking essentially the reverse journey back to Oregon it made sense to stop off here again. We returned to the family-favourite restaurant, Cousins, and enjoyed a decent lunch before getting back on the road.

Those of you that read day 13’s post might recall our disappointment that we’d not been able to stop off at Multnomah Falls as the carpark had been full. Well luckily our back-and-forth itinerary meant we were presented with a second chance and this time we were in luck!

I don’t know if it makes a difference what direction you’re heading, what day of the week it is, what time you arrive but traveling from Portland to Multnomah Falls on a Thursday morning had proven unsuccessful. Traveling from The Dalles to Multnomah around Monday lunchtime had proven a little more successful so my advice would be..

I don’t know. Travel East to West maybe? I imagine most of Multnomah’s visitors are coming from Portland so perhaps the carpark stays open going the other way?

It certainly wasn’t any less busy in the carpark. It’s probably one of Oregon’s better known sights and its proximity to Portland makes it a particularly popular one. We could already see it from the carpark but obviously we wanted to get closer to see it in all its glory.

It is stunning! It was busy, probably inevitably so in August, but it is definitely worth paying a visit to if you’re in the Portland area. I think forest fires, among other things, mean some of the trails are no longer accessible but even those of limited mobility can get close enough to get some decent photos and enjoy it up close. I got a fair few, including probably one of my favourites of the entire trip.

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls, Oregon – August 2018

We didn’t hang around for too long. There’s a little gift shop and I think cafe that you can stop at if you’re feeling peckish. I picked up a couple of postcards but we didn’t stick around too much longer as we were hopeful of trying to beat the Portland rush hour traffic.

Surprisingly I didn’t think Portland itself was too bad but we started hitting traffic once we’d got to the South side of the city. Even once you start getting away from the Portland traffic and on to the highway, we seemed to hit a traffic light what felt like every 100 yards and you could be damn sure they were red on every single occasion.

I was feeling sympathetic towards Haleigh as we’d already been on the road a while by this point. Between the excessive number of traffic lights and the constantly changing speed limits we didn’t really seem to be getting anywhere – there can’t be many slower highways around!

Slowly but surely we were creeping towards Lincoln City and the scenery was getting prettier by the minute. Much like Washington, Oregon is bloody gorgeous! So green too! I was selfishly quite pleased that I can’t drive and that I could just sit back and admire my surroundings.

Oregon greenery
It’s so green and pretty in Oregon!

Once I saw a sign for the infamous Mo’s restaurant I knew we couldn’t be too far from Lincoln City and so it proved to be! Soon enough we were driving through this pretty coastal town with shops, restaurants and hotels lined up along the main street of this small little place.

Our trusty friend Karen (our Satnav) guided us to our AirBnB and we were quickly being greeted by our host for the next couple of nights. Despite all of my travels I’d never actually stayed in an AirBnB before. I’ve always been a little bit sceptical and I’ve heard enough horror stories, including from people I personally know, to steer clear.

That said I’ve obviously heard plenty of good stories too and if they were that bad, AirBnB wouldn’t have had the success they had. Whilst I’ve always been a hotel or hostel traveler, AirBnB was a good option for Lincoln City so I was just hoping for a good first experience. The fact our hostess was home to show us around was a good start at least!

It was a nice place, close to the actual coast and with an outdoor patio with sea views! After dropping off our things in our room we stepped outside to enjoy those views.

Mo's, Lincoln City
Mo’s in Lincoln City, Oregon

It was early evening by the time we’d arrived so we didn’t really plan on doing much. Haleigh had obviously had a fairly lengthy drive so we both just wanted a relaxing evening. Our only plan was to go out for dinner and experience Mo’s “famous” clam chowder!

I’d never had clam chowder before but I’d heard enough about Mo’s to suggest this was the place to have it. Whilst it was my first time in Lincoln City, Haleigh had come here on many occasions for holidays at the Oregon coast with her family and Mo’s was a particular favourite so had acquired somewhat of a legendary reputation!

We made the short drive from where we were staying and found the queue leading out of the front door! We had a bit of a wait but it was a pretty good sign that Mo’s reputation was justified. If nothing else, it was situated in a stunning location overlooking the beach and the sea.

Mo's Restaurant
The view from Mo’s, Lincoln City

Mo’s is a fairly decent sized restaurant so the queue moved pretty quickly and we were soon seated. We both went for the clam chowder, I was intrigued to see what all of the fuss was about.

It was pretty good and I’d certainly recommend stopping off at Mo’s if you’re ever in Lincoln City or passing through. As ever, I don’t think my reaction at the time gave any impression I’d actually enjoyed it. Haleigh was unconvinced I’d liked the chowder but I’m just really bad at portraying my enthusiasm I suppose haha, I insisted I had!

So the clam chowder had won my seal of approval, even if it hadn’t looked particularly clear that was the case. Although even as a new chowder fan, I don’t think it’ll be replacing fish and chips on the menu back home any time soon.

Still, it had been a good start to our time at the coast and I’d finally experienced the legendary Mo’s! After finishing our food we headed back to our AirBnB and just wound down by watching some Netflix which was definitely a perk of staying here rather than a hotel.

Every time that I’d been to Washington up to now I’ve tried to impose some British comedies on to Haleigh. Having successfully converted her as a fan of a few different shows, such as Black Books, I was intrigued to see what else we could find to watch.

I think in the end we settled on Fawlty Towers which I’d not actually seen myself. We watched a couple of episodes which kept us a little amused before we turned our attention to making a plan for tomorrow. We were both excited for the fun to start but you’ll have to wait for the next chapter of the story.

Stay tuned,

Jason

P.S – if you want to catch up on previous posts in this series, see the links below!

Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!

The big 3-0: Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!

Welcome back my dear readers, I hope your 2021 is off to as best a start as can be in the current circumstances.

It’s back to the “big 3-0” trip on the blog today with us entering in to the second half of the story! Those of you not familiar with the trip (get caught up!), it was August 2018 and I’d turned 30 years old. As a means of celebrating I planned a 30 day trip in the USA which coincided with two friends getting married in Washington State just days before my birthday!

Anyway, in the last blog post of this trip I’d been enjoying family traditions and specifically the big annual BBQ that Haleigh’s family host every year. It had been a great success with lots of food, wonderful company and plenty of fun throughout our Saturday.

Sunday ended up really being the slow farewell as the stragglers that hadn’t yet left town could get together for one last hurrah before heading home and in their separate directions.

Myself and Haleigh woke up at a decent time in order to go and join the breakfast festivities at the grandparents who’d served up the American favourite – “biscuits and gravy”. This may seem a peculiar combination for any British readers out here but don’t worry, it’s not what you think! They aren’t actual biscuits.. so no digestives required here!

Ironically Wikipedia suggests that ‘biscuits and gravy’ emerged just after the American Revolutionary War. Now I don’t want to suggest that war started over the meaning of the word biscuit and that the subsequent tea-spilling was caused due to disagreements on whether a biscuit should be tea-dunked but can the timing be purely coincidental? I’ll leave you to be the judge.

Anyway, back to breakfast. It was nice and a good way to round off the weekend together, this would likely be my last visit to Walla Walla for some time so I appreciated the opportunity to have somewhat of a ‘farewell’.

WhitmanMission
Walla Walla, Washington

We moved away from breakfast and on to the living room where we relaxed ahead of the weekend’s big climax! Much of Saturday’s entertainment had revolved around tournament play of a game called ‘Vegas’.

Five players, five rounds, five winners. Each winner would qualify for the “grand final” in the hope of claiming family bragging rights for the weekend. Unfortunately one of our finalists was long gone, resulting in one of the hosts of the weekend – Haleigh’s grandpa! – taking up an honorary seat at the final table.

With four finalists ready and raring to go, the race was on for finalist number five (Haleigh’s brother, Ben) to retain his place in the grand final! Threats of forfeiting due to late arrival were banded about but luckily Ben arrived shortly after the scheduled 12pm start time! It was gametime!

Sadly I’d failed to qualify for the big finale and could only look on as an intrigued spectator, seeing who could hold their nerve in this high-pressure tournament and take home the family bragging rights.

Perhaps the long wait had caused some nerves among the other finalists because the late arrival, Ben, was crowned champion! Controversial perhaps given a delayed start but there was no question it was a deserved victory in a truly impressive final performance.

After the game fellow finalist Gina went shopping with Haleigh, leaving me in the company of her family. More importantly it meant a seat at the table had been vacated, another seat opened up quickly after and allowed myself and Rob to swoop in on one last game of Vegas this weekend.

With the actual final over with, the pressure was now off and all that there was left to play for was personal pride. Perhaps I’d benefited from a spectator’s role in the final to really hone in on each player’s weaknesses but I really came in to my own in this game. I ruthlessly blew away the opposition and finished with a weekend high-score, showing little mercy to the family I was supposed to be impressing this weekend!

Oops..

Some light-hearted threats followed with Haleigh’s great Aunt in particular suggesting that perhaps a phonecall to immigration was in order? I’d overstayed my welcome and it was about time I left the country!

TheBig30-Journey
Banished and on the next flight home!

All jokes aside, I felt that I’d mingled with Haleigh’s family pretty well and hadn’t made a terrible impression. It was satisfying to end the family-filled weekend on a high and with a win under my belt too.

The afternoon wound down pretty quickly. Everyone began saying their goodbyes and heading off in their own direction, hopeful that it wouldn’t be too long until the next family gathering.

Myself and Haleigh had already made our own plans with another member of the family, Casey, who we’d yet to see this weekend.

We picked up Casey and drove over to this bar across town to grab a late lunch at. I’d already met Casey back in February when we’d gone to lunch with her and fiance (now husband!) Daniel. Sadly Daniel wasn’t in town this time around so it was just the three of us but it was still a nice afternoon and good to catch up with Casey before leaving Washington.

The food itself was good and the service was decent too, the waiter seemed enthused to have a Brit in town and as ever left me feeling like somewhat of a celebrity when visiting the smaller towns and cities of the USA.

After dropping Casey back off at home we returned to Haleigh’s home and just relaxed for a few hours before one final outing on this Walla Walla adventure. Myself, Haleigh, Ben and Haleigh’s mum went out for dinner. It was a nice way to end what was a really lovely weekend.

It ended another chapter on this trip. I was really excited for what was coming next – me and Haleigh would be making our way down to what was a dream bucketlist destination for me personally – San Francisco!!

That said, despite that excitement I was also sad to be leaving Walla Walla so soon. I wasn’t sure when I’d next be back but knew it’d be 2019 at the earliest which felt like a long time without seeing my second family and second home. It was a bittersweet feeling.

Nevertheless, the adventure had to go on! On day 17 we were hitting the road! Stay tuned for that!

Jason

P.S – if you wanted to read about the rest of the trip, you can find links to all posts below!
Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla
Day fifteen – The family BBQ!

The big 3-0: Day fifteen – The family BBQ!

Alright, it’s time to get back to the big 3-0 trip! As you should know by now, back in the summer of 2018 I embarked upon a 30 day trip in the USA to celebrate my 30th birthday!

So far on this trip I’d done some pretty cool things from firework displays on Navy Pier in Chicago to watching two friends get married on the West coast and much, much more but today felt like a big day on the month-long itinerary!

Every year Haleigh’s (my fiance!) family host an annual summer BBQ and get the whole gang together in the lovely city of Walla Walla in Washington State.

For someone with a pretty introverted personality I’d be lying if I was to say huge social gatherings are an environment I’m particularly comfortable in. Throw in the fact I’d be spending it with the significant other’s family, some of which I’d only be meeting for the first time, and it perhaps wouldn’t surprise you if I said I was dreading this day of the trip.

Yet oddly it was one of the things I was most looking forward to. I was excited, honoured even, to be invited in to this precious family tradition as an outsider. I had some nerves too of course because it was still early enough in our relationship that I wanted to make a good impression upon Haleigh’s family but it was mostly excitement.

Whilst I don’t particularly excel in social situations, that’s not to say I dislike them. I was really looking forward to a day of good weather, good food and good company. Fortunately I’d visited in February already so I hadn’t been thrown completely in to the deep end and I’d already visited Walla Walla and met a few members of Haleigh’s family previously.

Anyway on to the events of the day! I can’t quite remember what time we left but before heading over to Haleigh’s grandparents, hosts of the big day, we quickly went shopping to pick up a few bits and pieces for the BBQ. We then made our way over and were soon parked up outside the grandparents home.

Walla Walla – Nov 2019

Inside were a few people scattered around helping prepare the mountain of food required for such a large gathering, outside people were mingling and getting ready to kick off the fun and games.

The game of the weekend appeared to be some tactical dice game called Vegas, requiring a little luck with the objective of the game to be the one with the most money at the end of it.

It was a five player game and I was quick to jump in on the action and make sure I was in the first round of the competition. Partway through the first game it had been decided that there would be five rounds with the winner of each round qualifying for the grand final and an opportunity to take home the family bragging rights!

Sadly I fell just short in game number one, losing by $10,000 which is the smallest margin you could lose a game by – so close! The winner, Gina on this occasion, vacated her seat in order to allow a new challenger in to the ring.

Two games later we had three finalists before there was a break in play – it was time for the feast! Out came all of the food from the kitchen and it was spread out across this long table in the “yard”. Guests were then split between the “adults” and the “kids” of which me and Haleigh fell in to the latter – all but one of the kids table were genuinely children but it was a large party and too many people to fit to one table.

There was a happy mood in the air, everyone was in good spirits and enjoying themselves. For my first American family get-together it was a great experience and one I hope to enjoy many, many more times in the future. Good food and good company, what more could you possibly want?

It was nice getting to know Haleigh’s family a little better. After stuffing ourselves on food most of “the kids” moved back inside and were quickly playing some fun group games that you played on your phones.

At some point the games switched to a drawing / pictionary-like game which was my time to bow out – not my forte. I have no artistic talent so I was happy to sit this one out.

As it was Rob was keen to get some more games of Vegas going so tournament play resumed with two spots in the final up for grabs! I was keen to make the final cut but frustratingly lost another game by just 10,000. I think the competitive spirit and sabotage-tactics cost both me and Rob a place in Sunday’s grand final. The nature of the game means you can reap the rewards of others battling it out, swooping in and claiming the money for yourself.

Our wonderful hosts were keen to get a family photo to mark the occasion before the sun went down, so we made our way outside and obliged and that really signalled the winding down of the evening. People slowly started saying their goodbyes and were all heading off in various directions.

I haven’t seen any photos from the day and personally didn’t get any of my own, hence this is a post severely lacking any photos. I was just content to enjoy the day and appreciate the opportunity to partake in this special annual family tradition.

Sadly we missed it in 2019 as Haleigh was visiting England and obviously no plans really panned out this year but fingers crossed there’ll be an opportunity to get together for another family BBQ in 2021. I guess we’ll see.

Anyway, that rounds up the big family BBQ. Whilst the main event had come and gone, there was still one more day of family fun in Walla Walla to come before the big roadtrip could commence.

More on that to come soon! Stay tuned!

Jason

P.S – if you want to catch up on previous posts in the series, you can do so below!
Day one – Chicago bound
Day two – exploring Chicago
Day three – Minneapolis
Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
Day five – New Orleans!
Day six – The real New Orleans!
Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
Day nine – Wedding day!
Day ten – To Portland!
Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
Day twelve – Oregon City and Portland
Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
Day fourteen – Walla Walla