Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where Do You Want To Go Today -- Road Trip travel planning Q&A (Part 1)

Hello Jamie;

I heard that you answer questions about road trips....

I was wondering if you know where I can find someone to drive with me (in my car with my dog) from the east coast to the west coast in the summer?

Thanks so much

Miss J



Hi Miss J --

Ride sharing is a great way to cut costs and maybe get some extra shut-eye on a long road trip. I used to see rides offered/wanted in the back pages of local newspapers (back when there still were local newspapers...!). Also, there are often "Ride Boards" in university libraries or student unions.

One other good source of contacts is Craigslist, like this listing from the Boston area.

To be safe, make sure you check references from your potential travel companions -- obvious, perhaps, but better safe than sorry.

Happy Trails, and hope this helps!

-- Jamie Jensen

Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two Lane Highways

April Road Trip along the Pacific Coast -- SF to LA

Hi Jamie !

It's been 12 years (ish) since I first bought your book, with a plan to drive cross-country in the year after I graduated college. I finished college dirt-poor, and moved back to England, where I'm originally from, but refused to throw away your book! My sister and I have been planning our week long road trip along the California coast for months now, but I've only just read your blog, with your offer of free advice, awesome!

We are trying to decide if it's worth driving north of San Francisco on Sunday night or Monday morning to see Mendocino/Anderson Valley/Point Arena/Gualala or take an extra day to spend around Big Sur.
The rest of the trip we'll be loosely following your California coastal trip, but not knowing the area at all, I'm not too sure which places are "worth it" and which will take a half-day, or a whole day.

Here are the details: (last week of April 2009)
Two days in San Francisco
Mon-Fri down the coast
weekend in LA

We're looking to get in a mix of nice towns, hiking/beach, and any "fun & memorable" type places. I'm a photographer, so really want to get some great shots on our trip (anything- scenic, quirky, cool, whatever!) We're not too bothered about our accomodation, we're bringing a tent & sleeping bags, happy to camp/hostel or hotel if it's worth the money. We're up for fitting a lot in one day, I've got four kids, so I'm used to getting up early, and staying up late.

Love your book, love your website, they are both awesome!

Sincerely, AH


Hello AH –

Thanks for very much for your email – and for keeping Road Trip USA on your mind all these years.

The California coast is a great place to travel (I’m an LA boy, so I may be partisan, but there aren’t many prettier or more enjoyable places to spend your vacation time).

It seems to me you have 4 or 5 days to do the trip – which should be plenty, but I don’t think it really leaves you with enough time to add-on a trip north to Mendocino (which is also gorgeous, but a good 3-4 hours away, each way, from San Francisco.

You say you have 4 kids, but didn’t say whether they will be joining you – I’ll assume you’re planning a “girls’ road trip” with your sister, but if the kids are coming along it just means you’ll probably have to stop even more often.

I’ll try to do a day-by-day highlights to help you outline the journey – and if you get a chance to pick up a copy of my ** brand-new Pacific Coast Highway ** book, there is a lot of new and improved information in it that should help you have even more fun along the way—all for around $10, way less than the cost of cheeseburger at the Fog City Diner.


Here's a suggested itinerary:
Day One: Santa Cruz
You say you like quirky, cool, whatever – well, there’s no place more quirky, cool, whatever than Santa Cruz, a good first night stop from SF. There’s the one-of-a-kind Mystery Spot, a lively surfer / skate scene, pretty good food, quaint older motels (I like the "Seaway Inn"), and the West Coast’s last great historic beachfront roller coaster.

On the way, be sure to take it slow along the San Mateo coast – stop to see the giant elephant seals at lovely Ano Nuevo reserve, and check out the photogenic lighthouse at Pigeon Point (which is also a HI youth hostel, with a clifftop hot tub! – but often booked up a long time in advance.

Day Two: Monterey
No matter what you’ve heard about the Gold Rush, this is where California was born – capital of the West Coast during Spanish colonial era, Monterey is a living history lesson with great views out over the Pacific Ocean. The main event is the internationally famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The ultra-ritzy art galleries and golf courses of neighboring Carmel aren;t really my "cup of tea", but the beaches there are beautiful, and there are plenty of remnants of the days when Robert Louis Stevenson, Robinson Jeffers, John Steinbeck and other creative types called Monterey home.

My favorite place to stay is the wonderfully rustic, state-run resort at Asilomar, at the very tip of the Monterey Peninsula.

Day Three: Big Sur
Make sure you get out of the car and take a hike (or three or four!) away from the road – Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, with dense redwood groves, crashing surf, enormous quantities of wildlife and just about anything you could ask of Mother Nature.

A word of warning – avoid contact with Poison Oak, which is everywhere along the trails

For a place to stay, try the state park lodge – kindof a 1960s throwback, but better value than the generally pricey inns elsewhere in Big Sur. Or if you want a real change of pace, consider staying the night at the New Camoldoli retreat, a silent Catholic hermitage with overnight accommodations.

Day Four: Hearst Castle & Solvang
The southern half of Big Sur is a fantastic drive, but there isn’t as much to stop and see as there is further north. Keep an eye out for hang-gliders launching from up in the mountains, and for yet more Elephant Seals on the shores at Piedras Blancas, near San Simeon. The main stop today should be Hearst Castle – the Xanadu of "Citizen Kane" fame, and an unforgettable sight to see.

Overnight at the over-the-top Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, or at the ersatz Danish kitsch capital, Solvang, just down the road from Michael Jackson’s ”Neverland” ranch should prepare you for entry deeper into Southern California.

One last stop: Mission Santa Barbara, a very historic location that’s also one of the prettiest places in the Golden State. And be sure to follow PCH along the coast thru Malibu – most of the traffic will feed onto the US-101 freeway, so be sure to follow Hwy-1 thru Oxnard to stay within sight of the Pacific.

Have fun!

-- Jamie Jensen

Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two Lane Highways


Keep those cards and letters comin'


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