Welcome to the final leg of the California experience!
By the time we finished our Yosemite adventures, it was mid May, and our trusty minivan Odie the Odyssey had been dutifully shuffling us from state to state with no air conditioning since January. Not a problem! We strategically planned our entire route around good weather, and it’s no accident that we’ve been coasting along thus far without a freon thought in the world.
All of that to say that you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and our eggs were fried well-done in the sun as we drove due west towards Fremont, California. It was HOT. The sun was blazing and Odie was a sauna. Resourceful innovators that we are, Mitch’s zip-off pants were now doubling as sun shields for Hailey’s arms, and the windshield sun shade was working overtime as strap-on headgear. This is what misery looks like, folks, and it ain’t pretty.
We popped into Safeway just to feel 10 minutes of frosty, grocery store air conditioning, and then finally found our sweet, sweet Planet Fitness haven for a cool shower as the sun was setting. Crisis averted and crankiness subsided.
Mitch showered, grabbed a tootsie roll, and left me to my own devices in Planet Fitness as he darted out to meet AJ, a buddy from his Cleveland days who is now living it up out west in Fremont. After AJ was caught up on the details of Rogue Trip, he insisted on hosting us for the night — pretty darn gracious considering he only got a thirty minute heads-up from us as we rolled into town. The pit stop wasn’t pre-planned, but it was most definitely appreciated! Friends reunited; night sweats avoided!
As a side note, our good weather trends MOSTLY continued well beyond California, but check back in with us during July’s record high temps in Iowa to see how we’re doing with that A/C situation (#foreshadowing).
Hey! Want to visit Chernobyl but not a fan of radiation poisoning? Check out the San Jose History Park on a Monday afternoon. On the one hand, preserving a block of historic buildings from the early 1900s is a really cool idea, and a great way for visitors like us to walk through San Jose’s history. On the other hand…get us the heck out of here because it is freaking scary. The two of us made up the entire tourism population of the History Park that day, so we meandered through an abandoned town of prop houses and businesses all by ourselves. “Hello, gas station attendant. Nope! You are a mannequin. Good day, sir.” Every door we opened had us looking at each other like, “UH, are we supposed to be here?” But sure enough, each one was unlocked and ready to transport us back in time as we strolled down San Jose’s memory lane.
Ok, lets skedaddle before one of these mannequins starts chasing us with a hacksaw.
We had some time to kill before our scheduled San Francisco dates, and we didn’t want to miss any of California’s coastal gems, so we headed further south before continuing on up the coastline. By way of the lively town of Los Gatos–a fortuitous discovery and worth a visit–we cruised into Santa Cruz.
(Photo cred: Not us)
The air became notably cooler as we neared the water, and we welcomed the breeze with open…windows.
Our most interesting stop in Santa Cruz was to Natural Bridges State Beach which features, well…you can probably guess…
(Photo cred: Not us)
That’s right. A strong sense of history of the Ohlone natives prior to the Spanish colonization. Oh, and also, natural bridges.
Another fortuitous destination was Davenport, which was initially meant to be a quick pull-off because we noticed that our cell phone signals were strong around here, so we stopped off to catch up on work and send some texts to the fam, but then we stumbled upon the beautiful Shark Fin Cove.
California’s cryptic naming systems for places like “Natural Bridges” are confusing, so let me decode this one for you: it’s a rock shaped like a shark fin.
Aren’t those wildflowers just beautiful?!? *sneezes self into oblivion*
Ah, San Francisco. Where the sidewalks go uphill in both directions and the homeless folks are banking $200k startup salaries. We rolled into The Golden City with an agenda built around seeing the awesome people we love and avoiding the crazy ones that tend to congregate here.
The first awesome person on the list was Krista who hosted us for 5 nights (!!) in her beautiful Menlo Park home. The initial exchange went something like this:
Us: Hi Krista! We’ll probably be arriving on 5/24, give or take a day. We’ll confirm with you ASAP to make sure it works.
Krista: It works. Come anytime. Key under the mat. Wifi on notecard by the bed. Clean sheets and towels. This ain’t my first rodeo–I’m basically running a youth hostel over here.
Add to that the fact that she greeted us with pizza, beer, and Netflix and you’re looking at a Rogue Trip superhost, folks. Here she is in her pit stop pic with Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes, which was a much more topical joke at the time, but still funny.
Next on our San Fran Tour du Friends was Mitch’s buddy Jeremy. Jeremy is the co-founder of a successful startup called Plethora which is kind of like a short order kitchen for custom machine parts. We got to tour the factory in our safety goggles, which made us feel very cool and dangerous.
More friends! Our pals who recently moved to SF from NYC, and who obviously don’t know how to identify reasonably-priced rental markets: Tim and Jess.
The four of us picnicked in Dolores Park with a handful of other (thousands of) folks.
Finally, we popped over to Danville to catch up with Hailey’s former colleague Mark and his wife Nancy who treated us to a home-cooked dinner and a game of country club bocce ball.
Mitch and I were bocce spectators only, as the stakes were too high in their tournament game for us to go screwing it up. We happily sipped our drinks and heckled the opposing team.
Although the two of us have spent a fair amount of time in San Francisco over the years, we still made sure to see some of the city’s highlights including the Painted Ladies (Full House, anyone?) and the Golden Gate Bridge. Not pictured at Golden Gate Bridge: more friends! That’s how bad we’ve gotten with the taking of the photos. Our host Christine from Pit Stop #16 — and her older brother, Mitch’s good buddy Rick — are slightly out of frame and/or did not want to be incriminated.
The real highlights for us, though, were all of these great people. Reconnecting with friends is a huge part of what makes Rogue Trip the best year ever… and if San Francisco is where a bunch of our peeps want to congregate, well then, we’re willing to suffer through it to see them.
Dart inland about 200 miles and you’ll find the beautiful, can’t-miss, Lake Tahoe, but a couple of gems that we discovered along the way are worthy of mention first:
1. This knitting shop in Pleasanton, CA where the friendly owners helped me undo a mess-up on the scarf I’m knitting. They were so helpful and got my project back on track! I’m on my way to having Christmas present scarves ready for everyone! (Future Hailey here. Scarf #1 is still incomplete 4 months later).
2. This quiet park in Elk Grove, CA where we broke in our picnic set with the dinner of champions: grocery store sushi, hummus, and limeade.
Thanks for the picnic set, Eileen!
3. This ostentatious grocery store in Sacramento.
We see you, Nugget. Stop acting out.
Back to beautiful Tahoe. Mitch and I are almost always on the same wavelength about the appeal of the places we visit, but Tahoe spoke to us in different ways. I couldn’t get enough of the hikes, fresh air, and scenic beauty. Mitch couldn’t get over the size of the pine cones.
Our Tahoe travel tips are irrelevant here. It’s not a huge place; explore all of it! The photos will do more justice than I can express in words, so please enjoy.
Emerald Bay State Park
South Lake Tahoe
Thomas F. Regan Memorial City Beach
If hiking isn’t your thing, then pedal boat rentals are another option. Our experience was good for a few belly laughs, but we never quite mastered the whole steering mechanism. We did about thirty 360-degree turns in our boat right off of the shoreline, and then quickly returned it to save ourselves further embarrassment.
To cap off our Tahoe experience, we briefly met up with these two crazy locals:
Hi, Cassie and Isabella! Cassie and Hailey were friends from Hailey’s Maui days, but it was our first time having the pleasure the meet sweet Isabella. She showed us the ropes at the playground. Be still, my heart!
If you’ve gone as far as Lake Tahoe, then it’s worth the forty-five minute jaunt up to Reno, Nevada: The Biggest Little City in the World.
(Photo cred: Not us)
Reno offers more than just smoky casinos (although we didn’t fair too poorly at the craps tables), which was a surprise to us. You can find plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, a decent art scene, and a beautiful river walk.
AND, in the middle of the Truckee River, floating on a piece of styrofoam is a great place to take a conference call!
That’s not exactly what’s happening here, but a magician never divulges her secrets.
Back across the state line into California, we made our way to the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park to check out Burney Falls.
It’s sometimes disappointing to visit a waterfall to find that it’s not flowing as strongly as you’d hoped, but Burney Falls is a safe bet because it provides a constant and steady flow rate, even during summer months. The water comes from underground springs above and at the falls, which are 129 feet high. Pretty cool, eh?
Burney is also home to the Lake Britton Bridge, which is better known as the bridge from the movie Stand By Me. Recognize it?
The bridge is in rough shape these days, but it’s still good for the classic Now vs. Then photo op.
We’ve been trying to paint a picture for you over the past three blog posts about how California scenery is one giant melting pot. The state itself is essentially a miniature United States as far as landscapes are concerned. You’ve got your coastline, your farmlands, your mountains, and your lakes. If you need more evidence that Cali has it all, here’s Hailey basking in the sun in Lake Siskiyou, juxtaposed with the snow capped Mount Shasta in the background.
And so ends our trek from tail to top of the Golden State. Thank you for joining for the ride. Next up: Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.