Hello dear readers! How are things? I hope you’re all doing well? This post is going to be more of a thinker I suppose than a story of any sort but stick with me anyway!
As you’ll know I got married this year and for that wedding trip I spent six weeks in the USA – spending time in four different states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah).
Idaho and Utah were first-time visits for me so I was state-counting and worked out that I’ve now been to a total of 14 US states (plus DC) which I thought was pretty cool. I’ve technically passed through Arkansas, Wisconsin, Virginia and Maryland too but I don’t count those.
Anyway, it also got me thinking about the length of time that I’ve actually spent in the USA in my lifetime. Six weeks is a pretty significant amount of time for that recent trip but this was my third fairly long trip to the USA so accumulating all of those trips is starting to add up a bit. I decided to work out exactly how much time I’ve spent in the country and this was the result:
8 weeks in Florida – four separate 2 week trips with family in May 1997, December 2002, February 2004 & December 2008
Update! Okay.. so I must have drafted this post at some point between trips because I know that I was pleasantly pleased with how nicely rounded that number was. With 52 weeks in a year, 39 rounded out to an even 75% of a year or alternatively roughly nine months!
Nine months of my life has been spent in the USA – isn’t that bonkers? I don’t know how you travelers compare, I’m sure some of you have had gap years or worked abroad and everything else but as someone who’s only ever really lived in England (nine weeks living in the USA with Haleigh in 2020..), it’s a significant amount of time in a single country that’s not my own.
Alas, back to the present! The visa process looked like it’d drag on for a while and I was missing my wife having had six weeks rarely apart! So I decided to “surprise” Haleigh for her birthday and spent another 1.5 weeks in Washington back in June – having a lovely time of course but ultimately ruining the nicely rounded number that I’d initially started blogging about.
Joking aside, another one and a half weeks now takes me up to 40.5 weeks in total and brings me even closer to a full year!
The plan is eventually for Haleigh to move here, should the UK government ever sort its shit out and process her visa application, but even when she’s permanently in England we’re obviously going to return to the US many times in the future.
It’s impossible to say what the future holds, maybe we’ll even find ourselves living in the USA one day but I’m “only” short of an entire year by 11.5 weeks with the likelihood of many future trips to the US to come.
I don’t know when I’ll pass that threshold but it will happen. At some point I will have spent an entire year of my life on American soil. 52 weeks in the USA, a full 12 months, 365 days give or take a few. It’s a pretty significant amount of time in one country, right?
and I suppose the only real point to this post was maybe for you to consider your own travels. It’s rare that we quantify our trips in such a way but I did pose the question to Twitter a while ago to see how my own 39 weeks (at the time) measured up against other travelers.
Some people take the same holiday every year and I find the concept slightly puzzling and yet here I am, 40 weeks of travel in the USA. Admittedly the US is at the very least a huge country and so diverse, it’s not comparable to returning to the same resort year in, year out but still.. I don’t think I thought that I’d ever be approaching a year in the same country.
Looking ahead, I’ve got two further trips to the US planned coming up this year so I’ll be ticking off another two weeks in the country and also adding a new state to my tally!
One week in Virginia / DC in October 2022 – I’m going to a wedding in Roanoke so unlike my last visit to DC I’ll actually properly get to see some of Virginia this time. State number 15!
One week in Washington – Thanksgiving 2022!
I’m slowly closing in on the year. I do hope in the years ahead that there’s much more non-US related travel than there has been in recent times. I usually try and visit at least one new country every year. That said, it’ll be cool hitting that impending one year landmark when the day comes.
Moving on from the USA, I did ponder where else my travels have taken me. My runner up would be Spain at around 4-5 weeks, with Germany not too far behind that. Nowhere comes close to the scale that I’ve visited the US.
So WordPress, play along. Where’s your most frequented destination? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a different country, it could be a neighbouring state or a coastal retreat or whatever but anywhere that might surprise you with how much time you’ve spent there?
Shock aside, I love visiting the US and I’m excited for the two trips in the next couple of months. Getting a chance to see more of Virginia and explore DC a bit more (I was sick on most of my last visit) will be great. I’m also looking forward to reuniting with the American family and eating good Thanksgiving food!
Welcome back my dear readers! It has been a while! Ironically I’ve been pretty rubbish at blogging for most of the pandemic – you’d think with more time I’d have found it easier but no.. Weird, right?
Anyway, those of you following along on this journey have read countless posts on this particular series – from the early planning stage to the farewell to the rubbish summary in the immediate aftermath of the trip.
The next step of blogging about the trip was determining the “right way” to relive it. I have a habit of rambling and my concern was that breaking it down by location would see an enormous post on destinations such as New Orleans or San Francisco and then a four word post about other parts of the trip, so in the end I decided I’d post a day-by-day retelling which has worked well (I think).
However now that we’re approaching the finish line I’ve been conflicted on whether to stick to daily posts for the last few days or just wrapping this up with one last post – I’m leaning towards the latter.
I was asked many times after this trip “what was the highlight?” or “favourite place?” or whatever but I sincerely loved every minute of it. The end to this trip was just as special as the start of it and it was quite nice to wind down for a few days before heading home. Given I’d be landing in England on Monday and returning to work on Tuesday after an entire month off, it was quite nice having that downtime at the end of this trip.
That said four days in Moses Lake of not doing much won’t make for particularly exciting reading so here we are! One final post to wrap this trip up!
After leaving San Franciso, California on Monday morning we’d made it back to Moses Lake, Washington on Tuesday evening. I wasn’t flying home until Monday so in spite of everything I just said about a relaxed end to this trip being nice, I would have loved to have had a few more days traveling and extended our travel right up to Sunday night.
However Haleigh teaches and some genius decided sending the kids back to school on a Thursday after 3 months of vacation would be a good idea and lead to a really productive two day first-week back. Consequently we had to cut our traveling short and make sure we were back to Moses Lake on Wednesday at the latest.
In hindsight I do actually believe it worked out for the best but before this trip I was probably more bitter that the schoolyear’s calendar was so inconvenient for me (that’s not the first thing they consider?) and that I’d lost 4-5 days that I could have been traveling instead.
Anyway, we woke up on Wednesday morning back in familiar surroundings and Haleigh was off to school – last minute preparations for the new school year!
I had the choice of staying in bed or joining Haleigh and getting a small glimpse of the school life from the “other side”. I’d only ever experienced school as a young student – you turn up on day one and everything is in place. That’s obviously the same for the teachers, right?
Well let me shock you right now – apparently there are no magical school fairies that do it all! It’s actually teachers and other school staff that are the ones going in before the school year to get things set up for the year! Who knew!?
After grabbing breakfast (pancakes) at one of our favourite breakfast spots in Moses Lake we headed on over to Haleigh’s school and I got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of teacher life! I met various other teachers and administration staff over the next couple of hours – one little academic family working their own magic.
The main reason I’d tagged along was to hope I’d be of some use. Given that my time in the US was running out I figured the sooner Haleigh was done, the sooner we’d be out of there and spending quality time together so I helped where I could before Haleigh was satisfied that she was all good to go for tomorrow!
We grabbed a late lunch but didn’t do too much with the rest of our afternoon – I think we may have even napped! A little later our focus switched towards dinner and we decided we’d return to another Moses Lake favourite – “Rock Top” – a restaurant downtown and also host of mine and Haleigh’s first proper date roughly a year earlier. It’s a nice place with nice food so it’s always somewhere we enjoy visiting.
On this particular occasion they seemed to be having issues with their beer availability. I ordered a particular beer with my dinner and then two minutes later my waitress returned to to say they were having some issues and that particular beer wasn’t available.
No bother I thought as I ordered a different beer instead but then a couple of minutes later she again returned apologetically telling me that wasn’t available either – nor was any other beer – but she’d personally buy me a cider for my troubles.
I’m not much of a cider drinker but who am I to turn down a free drink? It was a sweet gesture and one I appreciated – infact I probably tipped better than I normally would do (still generous) so I guess it balanced out a little. It was a good reminder of why this place had proven to be a favourite though with some great service despite the problems they were having with their stock!
The next day it was “back to school” and this time I had no desire to wake up early. As Haleigh got herself ready for the first day back, I snuggled up under the duvets and basked in the cozyness of a nice, warm bed.
I didn’t really end up going back to sleep but certainly made the most of a lazy morning before pondering what to do with the day. I’d been to Moses Lake before – twice infact and it’s not a big town, there isn’t an awful lot to do. Nevertheless I didn’t want to sit around the apartment all day on my own so I figured I’d have a wander, grab some lunch and maybe catch the football if I was lucky enough.
One of the unique things about returning to such a small place is that the differences between visits perhaps seem more noticeable. On my walk in to town was this apartment complex which had been pretty much nothing when I first visited (Sep 2017), construction when I returned (Feb 2018) and something glimpsing more of a finished product (Aug 2018) come the time of this trip.
The rest of town seemed much the same. I noticed a couple of new statues that I hadn’t seen previously but otherwise it was business as usual in Moses Lake. I popped in to my favourite little coffee shop and ordered myself some tea and took my “usual” spot by the window.
Following on from some tea I decided to go grab lunch at a favourite bar from a previous visit. It has a nice atmosphere, a lunch menu and more importantly a bunch of TV’s so I was hopeful I’d be able to watch some Europa League football which kicks off at 8pm in the UK and would make perfect lunchtime viewing.
Sadly it seems no US network has picked up coverage for the competition so I settled for some lunch accompanied with some beer. The food was good, the atmosphere as friendly as ever and to my surprise I was even recognised!
“I remember you! You’re the guy from England with the teacher girlfriend..”
Or something to that effect anyway. I have to say I was a little surprised by it. I’d only been to this bar once – six months ago – so to be remembered was a real sign of how few out-of-towners a place like Moses Lake attracts. Brits are certainly few and far between so I was subjected to a taste of the “rockstar” lifestyle – remembered and welcomed. It was an experience that added to the feeling that I was at home here. I’m very much a “big city” person but small-town life definitely comes with its perks.
I could happily have stayed in that bar all day but I thought better of getting too drunk and made my way back to the apartment for another relaxed evening with Haleigh.
Friday started pretty much as Thursday had. Haleigh’s alarm went off in anticipation of the school day and as she got ready, I once again snuggled up and had a little more sleep.
I didn’t really have any idea of what to do with my day, however as it was my last full day in Moses Lake for quite some time I figured I’d go make the best of it and again made the trek downtown.
I decided to wander a little further today and find somewhere new for lunch. I’d never noticed it previously but this restaurant / bar popped up on Google Maps and I was intrigued enough to check it out.
“The Hangout” as it’s called looked anything but from the exterior. It didn’t give off the impression it really wanted to be found and as I walked up to the doors I did ponder if it was even open – there was no inkling of what laid beyond the front doors.
It was a weird little place. The “stay away” exterior vibes didn’t really change as I walked in with pretty much every head turning towards the door to give the intruder a look.
“Were we expecting anyone else?”
I must have been 30 years younger than anyone else inside, staff included, and certainly felt like I stuck out a bit – that’s before I’d even opened my mouth. I took a seat at the bar and gave the menu a quick glance before ordering myself a burger.
Hearing the English accent came as a bit of a surprise and caused another “rockstar” moment! Brits always seem to be welcomed with open arms in the US – particularly in tiny towns such as Moses Lake.
A guy at a stool sat to my left took a bit of a shine to me and actually welcomed the company. Its standoffish exterior and interior did a fine job of scaring away the Instagrammers hunting photogenic spots but once you got past the appearance, it was actually a pretty friendly place and you could tell customers and staff alike all knew eachother and in some cases probably saw eachother daily.
My new friend was reminiscing of his youthful trips to England and how much he was fascinated by all things London (Kent included). I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that London didn’t stretch quite as far as Kent but it was still a pleasant experience and nice to have the company whilst enjoying my lunch.
I didn’t stay beyond lunch. I wanted one last stroll by the lake before heading home and then took a detour via the local museum on the way home. I’d been to the museum before (Sep 2017) but it’s free to visit and I was hopeful that the exhibit would have changed by now.
Fortunately it had and I was treated to an exhibit on Bigfoot, Sasquatch and a few other bits and pieces that made for some interesting reading. It’s not a huge museum but for a freebie it’s worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Moses Lake (why would you be?).
Happy that I wasn’t going to be mistaken for Bigfoot on the way out, I called it a day and made my way back to the apartment and soon afterwards Haleigh was home. We decided we’d go out for dinner for our final night in town and chose to visit Rocktop’s partner restaurant – “Michael’s On The Lake”.
Unsurprisingly given the name, it’s a restaurant that sits overlooking the lake and offers some pretty views. We timed it pretty well as we got to enjoy most of the sunset whilst we ate – a perfect setting to end our time in Eastern Washington.
After dinner we went and played some bowling. I managed my best round of the trip (Portland, Klamath Falls & Moses Lake) which was rather unfortunate as Haleigh also bowled her best game which would have probably beaten me on any other occasion.
and that was that for Moses Lake.
The next morning I woke up fairly early. With Haleigh still sleeping I packed up the last of my bits and prepared myself for another Moses Lake farewell. I knew I’d be back at some point but it’s always tough leaving when you feel so at home somewhere.
Before this trip I was worried I might end up feeling homesick but the reality is that I could have stayed much, much longer. I was in no rush to be going back to work and reality. Nevertheless it had to be done – time was almost up.
We grabbed some breakfast before hitting the road and making our way Westbound towards Seattle. The realness of the situation had hit! It was the third time I’d had to say goodbye to Washington and it just got harder every time it reached this point of a trip. I knew I still had the rest of the day to enjoy with Haleigh but the fact that we were going to Seattle meant I knew time was nearly up.
The music didn’t help.. Our self-created playlist seemed particularly cruel and had synced perfectly with the occasion. On came the next song with lyrics of “Jason’s going home and you’re never going to see eachother again..”
Admittedly it might have been something a little more subtle than that but it was certainly something tauntingly cruel that only helped ram hope the point that I was leaving. We ended up having to make a stop somewhere close to the Colombia River to get some fresh air. The tears were streaming as we got out of the car but a pretty view helped get our emotions back in check – it was too early to be sad!
We hit the road again with Haleigh suggesting we stop for lunch in Ellensburg – a college town in central Washington. She really wanted to revisit a restaurant and we figured we could also check in on our friends Maddie and Cassie before going home.
As it was it seems the restaurant was closed for the holidays and Maddie and Cassie were ironically in Seattle having taken a friend to the airport so I didn’t get a chance to see them before heading home (our fault for winging it last minute!).
We ended up heading downtown and grabbing lunch elsewhere, plus checking out a couple of stores downtown before getting back on route to Seattle. Ellensburg is the last major stop on the East side of the mountains, once you get past Ellensburg the scenery really begins to pick up. It’s a journey I’ll never tire of – particularly as a passenger able to just take it all in and admire the views.
Soon enough we’d arrived at our hotel for the night. I wasn’t actually leaving until tomorrow but I had an early morning flight so I figured it was convenient to be staying by the airport for my final night in the US.
We didn’t end up venturing in to Seattle itself. Had we not been to Seattle before we might have reconsidered it but I don’t think either of us felt like doing much and just wanted to enjoy our final few hours together.
After a bit of relaxation our focus switched to heading back out for dinner somewhere. A quick look on Google suggested this Thai place would be a good place to check out. Unfortunately we drove over there and finding somewhere to park was impossible which was when we spotted a Cheesecake factory across the street.
Rather than struggle to park we crossed over and ended up eating at the Cheesecake Factory instead – a second on this trip after San Francisco.
Much like in San Francisco it was really busy. I’ve seen mention of them in TV shows and things but they’re a fairly big deal in this part of the world. I could understand the wait in San Francisco given the time and day and central location but this was nowhere really – it’s clearly an American favourite with a host of options to take your fancy.
Unfortunately we weren’t sat with the best of company and ended up next to the most obnoxious guy which spoilt the atmosphere a little. On the plus side some of the members at his table seemed equally displeased with his company so at least we weren’t stuck with him for the evening haha. The food was good and we made the best of enjoying our last meal together for the foreseeable future. After another tasty meal and dessert we headed back to the hotel, chilled out for a bit and got ourselves an early night. A 7:40am flight meant an early start to the day!
The alarm started going off at silly-o-clock. Rather stupidly I was flying home from Chicago. I’d flown in to Chicago on day one and for a multitude of reasons I thought it made good sense to just book a return flight home but in hindsight that was a mistake.
The second I booked the flights I seemed to instantly regret that decision and should have just flown home from Seattle. It’s the second multi-city US trip that I’ve done this for and I regretted the inconvenience on both occasions. In 2017 it robbed me of a few more hours in Dallas and on this occasion it robbed me of a little more time in Washington with Haleigh.
Haleigh came with me to wave me off at the airport, extending our time together by a few more minutes but eventually it was time to separate. We said our painful goodbyes (yet again) and I made my way through to the other side and breezed through security.
Sidenote – the Seatac staff were particularly cheery on this day so that was something at least!
Reversing the cycle of the holiday, I ended it as I started it. On day one I kicked things off with a pre-flight beer or two and despite the silly time in the morning I did likewise here.
Unfortunately the task of finding a bar that was open was a little trickier at Seatac than it had been at Heathrow. I eventually stumbled upon one but despite being a pretty busy airport, the bar was relatively empty. I thought you Americans liked a beer? I think it further highlighted what a drunken little island we are – you’d find any good Wetherspoons airport bar back home packed no matter the time of day!
After a couple of beers I figured it was time to go and find my gate. It was at this point that I noticed the TV’s behind me had been showing the English afternoon football and I’d needlessly been checking for updates on my phone – oops!
Soon enough I was boarding my flight to Chicago and back in the Windy city. I had a mini layover, probably three hours or so before I’d have to be back at the airport so I was in two minds about going in to the city. I wanted to but I also realised I needed to eat and with a 30-40 minute journey each way I pondered if it was even worthwhile.
First things first, I figured I’d try my luck at the bag drop off point. I didn’t want to be lugging my suitcase around with me but to my surprise they were happy to check my bag in extremely early so going in to Chicago was that little more tempting. Nevertheless it didn’t seem worthwhile to go all that way given I wouldn’t really see anything and the only plan was to eat. I’d also avoid any mishaps so stayed at the airport and made my way through security.
It actually took quite a while getting through O’Hare’s security but given I had all of the time I wasn’t too worried – it was actually pretty appreciated on this occasion as I knew I’d be fairly bored for the next few hours anyway. Eventually I got through, found a little shop and bought some postcards to take home with me before switching my attention towards getting something to eat.
I opted for a sit-down pizza place and to my absolute horror, they had no Chicago-style pizza on the menu!
We’re in Chicago!! How can you not have Chicago-style pizza on your menu? It was a travesty! Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means my favourite style of pizza but there should be laws against such wrongs in the world!
In the end I grabbed food elsewhere which wasn’t a much better choice really. The food wasn’t great, service was rubbish and topped off by a waitress deciding I needn’t receive any change. I waited a while for her to return but to no avail. I didn’t particularly want the change because who really wants loose change in a foreign currency to take home after a trip but nevertheless it was a sneaky move – one way to ensure you receive a generous tip I suppose.
The rest of my time passed pretty quickly. Given I was at the airport for so long it felt a lot shorter. I popped in to a bar but only seemed to have time for a couple of beers and I was then boarding.
The trip was over – reality was near! I landed in London and knew it was “back to work” tomorrow.
Nevertheless, what an experience! It’s undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever done and despite a blog series that never looked like ending at one point, I don’t think I’ll ever adequately summarise what a special summer it was. Thirty days spanning six states with countless faces and memories – what a celebration!
I know at some points it seemed like I wasn’t doing much but I suppose that’s the perk of longer travel. I had the right balance of busy and time to wind down and it was just an incredibly perfect trip that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
If you made it to the end (even of this post alone, let’s be honest I like a ramble) then thank you! I still don’t know that I really did the trip justice but I feel really grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to embark on this adventure.
If you’ve missed any of the previous posts I’ll link all of them below – from start to finish but next up on the blog? Travels from a trip other than this one! Stay tuned!
Welcome back my dear readers! After my much-needed rant on the football last time out on the blog, it’s back to travel and more importantly the final few days of the “big 3-0” trip.
Those following along will know that in the summer of 2018 I’d planned a trip spending 30 days in the USA which coincided with two friends getting married and also my 30th birthday.
Having run around all over the country, this was to be the last big day on the road. We were making our way back to Haleigh’s apartment in Moses Lake, with Haleigh set to go back to work and for me to see out my final few days in relatively relaxed spirits.
Before thinking about Moses Lake however, we had a full day of driving ahead of us. On the previous night we’d made a relatively unplanned stop in Klamath Fall which was our halfway point from San Francisco – a convenient place to break up two days of driving.
One of the attractions to stopping in this particular area was its proximity to Crater Lake in Oregon. We figured it would be a worthwhile stop on the way home.
I can’t really remember why we skipped it. Much of the West coast was up in smoke that summer (as it is every summer really..) so the conditions at the time weren’t the greatest. That might have been one off-putting reason to skip it but I think we were just keen to get going and get on the road early.
In hindsight perhaps we should have just committed to it regardless of how terrible the conditions were. That said, there’s no doubt that much of our future will be spent visiting the West Coast so it’s hard to imagine us not having an opportunity to return in the coming years.
So skipping Crater Lake, we drove onwards and soon enough found ourselves arriving in a city called Bend. Before knowing what the school schedule looked like we had contemplated staying in Bend for a couple of nights and meeting up with Haleigh’s best friend. In the end it didn’t materialise but Bend still seemed like it would be a good place for us to grab some brunch and we found ourselves a little pancake place on the outskirts of the city.
After fuller stomachs we hit the road again and around half an hour later Haleigh spotted a “must stop” roadside attraction – an alpaca farm with baby alpacas!
Haleigh insisted that we stop so we pulled over and headed in to this little gift shop to pick up a bag of food to feed them.
It’s a funny feeling having alpacas eating out of your hand. It was a first-time experience for me, I’m not sure what I was really expecting. I liked it initially but I think the second or third alpaca I fed was so slobbery that I left Haleigh to it after that. Haleigh laughed at my reaction so it felt like some sweet form of justice when she was getting slobbered on by the same alpaca a minute later.
We did a full lap of the farm with Haleigh continuing to feed the many alpacas we met whilst I stuck to taking photos. They’re so cute! Although some of them didn’t seem too impressed that I was wasting my time taking photos when I could have been feeding them instead!
Aside from Haleigh getting sneezed on, it was a fun little stop and I’m glad that we’d pulled over. Sadly we couldn’t stay there all day and had to hit the road again.
The rest of the car journey was pretty uneventful. In parts we could really see how devastating of an effect the forest fires had had on the West Coast with burnt out trees becoming quite a regular sight. It wasn’t really until we hit the Colombia river that the scenery started picking up again.
Soon enough we were crossing back over the river and crossing the Oregon / Washington border for the umpteenth time on this trip. Back in to Washington we knew it wasn’t too much further to go but the long drives of the past two days were taking its toll on Haleigh and that final stretch probably felt much longer than it actually was.
Good music kept us going for that final stretch before we’d eventually arrived back in Moses Lake after another long day of driving. We’d been away for the past few weeks so had no food in the apartment. Additionally we didn’t feel like heading back out for dinner so in the end we settled for ordering a pizza and finishing off our night by enjoying some Netflix.
Again, it hadn’t been a hugely eventful day with the alpacas being an unexpected bonus! However it was just nice to be back in familiar surroundings and sleeping in a familiar bed again after three weeks of sleeping in various hostels, hotels and AirBnB’s.
The last few days would be spent trying to make the most of the little time we had left together in Washington before I’d have to head home.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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!
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!
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!!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
P.S – if you want to catch up on previous days of this trip, see the links below!