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: Update

I’ve had an influx of new followers lately so first and foremost – welcome to you all! It has been a little while since my last post as other things have taken priority but I hope you’re all doing well.

If you’ve been following along for a while you’ll recall that I posted about the early planning process for my summer plans. To recap; I’m attending a wedding on the 5th of August in Washington State and then turn 30 on the 7th of August. Two reasons to celebrate gave me two reasons to make this a summer to remember – I wanted to make this a big trip and therefore I’ll be spending 30 days in the USA! Thirty bloody days! Crazy!

My previous post was speaking about what my early thoughts of planning such a big trip would be, so if you’re planning something similar you can give that a read here: The big 3-0!
However I’m now closer to having a finalised itinerary and I wanted to provide you with an update on what the plan is looking like.

My dates have been relatively set for some time. The date of the wedding has changed a couple of times but all have overlapped with my original plan to fly to the US on July 28th and get home on August 27th (flying home overnight on the 26th).
These dates meant I could attend the wedding, celebrate my birthday and also make the most of August 27th being a public holiday in the UK – i.e one less day of annual leave used. It meant I could get 30 days in the US with only 20 days taken off work which was pretty ideal!

So with the dates confirmed all I had to do was decide where I’d be spending them and who, if anyone, would accompany me. Easy right?

This plan has changed several times over for several reasons. I’ve considered visiting pretty much everywhere across the States and looked in to visiting parts of Canada too but nothing has been particularly set in stone. My only definitive plans were to visit Washington for the wedding and make my first visits to Portland and San Francisco. I’ve been pretty flexible beyond that. So here goes!

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USA bound!

Chicago: July 28th – July 30th
I’m starting the trip off solo in Chicago. This was somewhere I’d thought about visiting but then as the plan developed disappeared from my itinerary.
However flight prices were decent and Chicago O’Hare’s airport was a decent base to get around the country for some of the other places I was considering.

I was debating whether to spend two or three days here dependent on where I’d be going next. It now looks like it’ll be two days.

Minneapolis: July 30th – August 1st
For a 30 day trip, perhaps surprisingly stop number 2 was one of the last pieces of my “”jigsaw”. I’ll be honest and say this wasn’t somewhere I’d given too much consideration in visiting. I knew I wanted to go to destination number 3 on August 1st but was having trouble deciding where to go between Chicago and stop number 3.

I’d considered Minneapolis but it wasn’t towards the top of my list and wasn’t a “bucketlist” city for me to visit. However this week my beloved Tottenham Hotspur announced they’d be returning to the US and playing in Minneapolis on July 31st.

I’d booked my flights to Chicago well before the announcement because I had no intention of planning my trip around Spurs. With that said I had kept this particular date open and it’s just happened to work out that I’m already in a neighbouring state. It’s not a long journey from Chicago so was a pretty logical second stop.

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Potentially country number 8 watching Tottenham!

New Orleans: August 1st – August 4th
Having friends in the US always gives me something extra to think about when planning a US trip. For this particular trip I was keen to try and visit two of my penpals, Crystal (Florida) and Sam (Alabama). I was fortunate to meet the latter in Nashville last year but we’d yet to successfully meet up with all three of us!

Given their locations the easiest meeting point would be somewhere Southern and somehow we got on to the possibility of New Orleans. I still want to visit both in Alabama and Florida but I was sold on the idea of NOLA pretty instantly. I’m hoping I’ll get a nicer welcome in the South than I did in Georgia or Texas (you’ll have to wait for those stories).

This has been on my list pretty early on and the only thing left to decide was how long I wanted to stay here. I’ve opted for 3-ish days.

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Me, Haleigh, Cassie & Maddie!

Seattle: August 4th – August 6th
As mentioned abovve, the wedding is on the 5th so this was a no brainer. It’ll be my third time in Washington though so I’m happy flying in to Seattle on the 4th and leaving just after. I’ll definitely be back to Washington in the future anyway.

I’ll be watching Cassie and Maddie get married and meeting up with Haleigh too! From this point onwards I’ll have Haleigh joining me for the adventure!

Portland: August 6th – August 9th
As soon as I knew I was traveling to the West coast for a wedding I knew I had to find some time to visit Portland. It looks like a great city and I have a few friends locally that I’m hoping I’ll catch up with. I’m a little gutted because my time here doesn’t overlap with a Timbers game but it’s still somewhere I’m so excited to visit. It’ll be a cool place to celebrate my birthday too!

Moses Lake: August 9th – August 10th
Me and Haleigh are driving down to Portland after the wedding and then we’ll be driving back to Washington together before the weekend hits. I don’t know if we’re specifically going to Moses Lake but I figure we’ll probably have a day at “home” to relax before the adventure continues!

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Moses Lake, you’re so pretty!

Walla Walla: August 10th – August 13th
A return to beautiful Walla Walla. I visited here in February and it was somewhere I grew quite fond of – the mountain views certainly helped! Haleigh’s family are hosting their big annual BBQ on the 11th which means we’ll end up spending the weekend here before getting back to the adventuring.

Oregon Coast: August 13th – August 15th
Back to Oregon! San Francisco bound, we (Haleigh) will be driving down the coast and visiting places such as Lincoln City, Newport and wherever else along the way. It looks pretty and gives us a chance to see more of the state and a chance for Haleigh to revisit some places she hasn’t been to for a while.

Redwood National Park: August 15th – August 16th
It’s still a long drive to San Francisco from Oregon so I was conscious of stopping somewhere and this seemed like a suitable choice on route. Whilst I’d love to see some of the bigger parks in the US I still think this will be pretty cool.

San Francisco: August 16th – August 20th
This has been high up on my list of places to visit for a long time. I’m so excited to finally be making my first visit to San Fran this year. We have four nights here which should give us plenty of time to see a lot of what the city has to offer. After the wedding this was probably the part of the trip I was most excited about. Seeing that Golden Gate bridge in particular will definitely be a “pinch me” moment.

Bend: August 20th to August 22nd
A visit to Bend (Oregon) breaks up the return drive from California to Washington and gives us an opportunity to visit a friend too which we were both keen to try and squeeze in to the trip. I don’t know if we’ll spend one or two days in Bend but it’ll be nice to make a stop here.

Moses Lake: August 22nd to August 25th
I’m anticipating Haleigh might be back to work on the 23rd so we’re aiming to get back “home” the day before. After three and a half weeks of traveling it’ll be nice to relax for a day or two. If Haleigh doesn’t have to work we might end up going elsewhere but we’ll see.

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Spokane, Washington

Spokane: August 25th to August 26th
A necessary stop to start making my way home. I went to Spokane last September and it was a nice overnight stop, I’d be fine with a brief second visit. Spokane’s airport is small but meant I could directly reach my next and final stop.

Chicago: August 26th
Departure day. I looked at various flight options but in the end decided I’d fly to and from the same place, so back to Chicago I go! At the minute I’m suggesting I’ll arrive and fly home on the same day but this might change, we’ll see.

Anyway, there you have it! Six states, several cities, one wedding and one 30th birthday spread across 30 days!

This isn’t the absolute final itinerary and there are probably still going to be some slight amendments but for the most-part this is a good glimpse at where I’ll be heading this summer, which is now exactly 100 days away!

If you have any recommendations for any of the above please give me a heads up. With the exception of Washington State, these are all new states that I’m visiting so any tips are much appreciated!

All the best!

Jason