West Coast Road Trip: Day 9

It’s our last day in Seattle … hard to believe we fly back east tomorrow.

What better way to kick off the last day of our west coast road trip than with brunch at Sky City in the iconic Space Needle? The rotating restaurant gave us a fantastic 360-degree view of Seattle, although Mount Rainier was hiding in the haze, barely visible on the horizon.

After brunch my sister drove us out to Everett, WA to see the Boeing Factory. The tour (which has extremely tight security: no bags, cameras, phones, etc. allowed!) takes you through the largest building in the world by volume where they manufacture and assemble the 747, 767, 777, and 787 (Dreamliner) airplanes. It was Sunday, so the factory wasn’t in operation but it was still damn impressive. We even caught sight of a Dreamlifter parked on the field (a plane to carry plane fuselage parts).

After the tour we drove back to my sister’s apartment in Seattle and started packing up for our return home tomorrow. For dinner we drove out to Ballard and ate at Hi-Life, a cool restaurant inside an old firehouse. Walking back to the car we decided we wanted some ice cream and stumbled upon Full Tilt, an ice cream place with pinball and arcade games … perfect!

Early bedtime tonight … we have to get up early to get to the airport. :-(


West Coast Road Trip: Day 8

So far on this trip we’ve been tourists-for-a-day in LA and San Francisco. Now it’s time for Seattle and it’s the Fourth of July!

The morning started off with an early drive down to Pike Place Market so my wife could complete her pilgrimage to the first Starbucks. While at the market we picked up some fresh Rainier cherries for later, some hot and fresh mini doughnuts for breakfast, and showed my daughter the gum wall (eww). My sister then drove us out to Snoqualmie Falls to do a little hiking. Unfortunately the parks service had locked down the trail leading down to the base of the falls so we had to settle with walking along the river instead (still very scenic). We also drove up to the top to check out the view from there.

On the way back to my sister’s place she swung us past the Fremont Troll for a photo opp. After cleaning up at her apartment, we walked to Seattle Center and had lunch at the Armory so everyone could pick their own meal. Since it was July 4th, it was crowded like we expected but there was also a very large group of people who had just taken the oath of citizenship and were registering to vote (congratulations to them!). After lunch we went to the Chihuly Garden (amazing glass sculptures) and EMP Musem (Star Wars costumes, indie games, and Chuck Jones special exhibits).

We weren’t about to try and brave the crowds at Gas Works Park for the evening’s fireworks so instead we went grocery shopping and grilled dinner up on the roof of my sister’s apartment building (with sunset views of Elliott Bay and the Space Needle). We weren’t able to see the Lake Union fireworks from her roof, unfortunately (though we could obviously hear them) so we ended up watching on TV with the windows open.

Happy Independence Day!

West Coast Road Trip: Day 7

We made it to Seattle! The rental car has been returned after 7 days and over 1,940 miles driven. Our vacation isn’t quite over yet though.

We left Roseburg this morning and passed through Portland around lunchtime. “Lunch” turned out to be standing in line for Voodoo Doughnuts then it was back onto I-5. We made another off-highway side trip to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument where the visitor’s center offered a great view of the volcano that tragically erupted 35 years ago (I was 8).

Arriving in Seattle, we returned the rental car that had served us so well for the past week and transferred to my sister’s car that she had left at the aiport when she flew to meet us in San Francisco four days ago. We dropped off all of our luggage at her apartment and then drove downtown to have dinner at Veggie Grill (my vegetarian daughter’s new favorite eatery). We walked around the South Lake Union area a bit but a lot of the waterfront was fenced off in preparations for tomorrow’s fireworks show. So we drove up to Kerry Park instead to get some sunset views of downtown and Mount Rainier instead.

West Coast Road Trip: Day 6

Today was our longest driving day: from American Canyon, CA to Roseburg, OR (almost 500 miles).

It started out with a beautiful scenic drive through wine country (and Petaluma, home of the TWiT podcasts I listen to) back to US-101. We also made a quick stop at the Benovia Winery for my sister and picked up some of their wines. We grabbed breakfast a bit further north at the Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg and then it was back onto US-101 for the long trek north.

But wow, what a trek! Cell service may have been spotty (like, non-existent!), but the views were 100% incredible. Our first redwood experience was at the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree (and yes, the CX5 barely fit, but it made it through). A few more miles north we diverted from “current” US-101 to take the Avenue of the Giants. Driving through those huge trees was an amazing experience and we had a picnic lunch in a quiet area in the Williams Grove area.

We continued on US-101 up to Crescent City and eventually hit the Pacific Ocean, cold, foggy, and windy. That didn’t stop my daughter from getting her feet wet in the ocean, though! We crossed the border into Oregon around 8:30pm (our first border crossing since Saturday) and spotted the somewhat confusing Sweet Cron signs. It was later than we expected but after a brief stop for a fast-food dinner we made it to our hotel in Roseburg.

Tomorrow is our last day of major driving! Seattle here we come!

West Coast Road Trip: Day 5

Today we were tourists in the City by the Bay, and we saw/did a lot!

Our morning started with a walk to Ghiradelli Square, which turned out to be mostly closed that early. There was heavy fog out on the bay and the breeze was brisk, another nice change from the high temperatures we had seen so far on the west coast. We had breakfast at Starbucks and then walked around the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Based on a recommendation from our friend last night, we sought out the Musée Mécanique, an amazing antique arcade that has everything from coin operated puppets to classic video games like Pole Position. My sister, daugher, and I, re-enacted Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals on a classic domed table hockey pole game (and the “Blackhawks” scored at the buzzer to win).

We didn’t have the time to dedicate going to Alcatraz (and the tickets were sold out anyway) so next we walked to Pier 43 to take a bay cruise on the Red and White Fleet. The boat took us out on the bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, around Alcatraz Island, and back, with narration of the sights via a walkman-like device. Back at Pier 43, we walked across the street to Boudin’s and took the bakery tour, watching their famous sourdough bread get made. The restaurant itself was crowded so we walked down to Pier 49, got a glimpse of a single sea lion on the docks, and had lunch at the Boudin’s there.

Next we wanted to ride a cable car so we walked back to Hyde Street. The cars were stacked up and the line was loooong so we decided to try and walk up Hyde to Lombard instead. It was quite a workout but we made it and showed my daughter one of the most crooked streets in the country. We waited and took the Hyde/Lombard cable car line back down the hill (which was kinda like a roller coaster ride except your standing, crowded into a small space, just hanging onto a single handrail, and it costs $7/person).

Now it was time to drive around to the places outside of walking distance. We had already checked out of the hotel so we packed up the car and started driving. Our first stop was the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square Park, another famous view. We also drove past the Full House house for my sister. All of this driving reminded me of why I don’t like driving/parking on the hills of San Francisco! By now it was time to move on so we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and caught one last view of the city from Vista Point.

The traffic on US-101 and CA-37 to our next hotel in American Canyon was terrible and we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go gridlock for about 2 hours! We finally made it and after freshening up drove to downtown Napa for dinner at Kitchen Door in the Oxbow Public Market, which was excellent. On the way back to our hotel we snagged some ice cream at Baskin Robbins (hadn’t been to one in ages) and then it was time to turn in.

Our vacation is half over. Tomorrow is our longest driving day but it promises to be a scenic one!

West Coast Road Trip: Day 4

We got up early this morning, saying goodbye to my sister-in-law and brother-in law, and were on the road by 7:30am. Originally we had planned to take US-101 all the way up the coast to San Franciso, but at the last minute, after consulting our maps/apps and estimated travel times we decided to take the less-scenic, but faster, I-5 route through the Central Valley. Our only Roadside America stop on this leg of the trip was at Bravo Farms where we picked up some snacks (like fresh farmers cheese!). The valley was more scenic than we expected, despite the frequent water shortage signs.

We stayed to the east of Oakland on I-680 heading to the Jelly Belly Factory tour in Fairfield and made it before the last tour at 4:00pm. No photos were allowed on the tour but it was amazing to see rows and rows of stacked trays of Jelly Belly beans in various states of preparation. And at the end … unlimited flavor samples (three at a time). Our timing was off again and we ended up in bay area rush hour traffic going back south. We made a quick stop to check out Berkeley and then drove across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. While driving to our hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf, we made plans to go to dinner with an old college friend. After a quick stop at the hotel to unload the car and freshen up, we drove out to Noe Valley (can there be a valley in SF with all of these hills?) to meet our friend and grab dinner at Holy Kitchen, which was fantastic.

My little sister was flying in from Seattle to join us for the rest of the road trip later that evening, so after dinner we walked around the neighborhood (it was chilly compared to Vegas and LA!) socializing and enjoying the view of Jupiter and Venus in the evening sky. Finally, after saying goodbye to our friend, we drove to SFO, picked up my sister, and headed back downtown to the hotel. It had been another long day for us but my sister hadn’t eaten dinner yet so we walked to the In-N-Out Burger around the corner from the hotel to get her a double-double. We were in bed and asleep by 11:30pm.

Tomorrow we spend the day in San Francisco.

West Coast Road Trip: Day 3

Today was a relaxing day …

Our gracious hosts had to work today (people not on vacation do normally have to work on Mondays) leaving us to our own devices. We started out with a hike up into the hills on Long Canyon Trail. After cleaning up back at the house we got in the car and drove down to check out Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, grabbing lunch at Momed and some dessert at the Ice Cream Lab. We took the “scenic” route back to the highway through West Hollywood and eventually made our way through rush hour traffic back to Simi Valley. Later in the evening, once our hosts got home from work, we went out for one final dinner together at the Lazy Dog.

This was our last day of no-driving for a while. Tomorrow we’re back on the road …

West Coast Road Trip: Day 2

Today was a touristy day in Los Angeles.

After sleeping in from our long day yesterday, we started off with a late Sunday breakfast at Brent’s Deli (mmmm … potato latkes!). Then my sister-in-law and brother-in-law drove us down to Hollywood Boulevard so we could see the Chinese TheaterHollywood Sign and the Walk of Fame. Hollywood Boulevard was shut down to road traffic because it was being set up for the “Terminator Genisys” premier at the Dolby Theater later that evening. People were lined up across the street waiting to maybe catch a glimpse of Arnold but I managed to sneak a peek at the Terminator they had set up (presumably for photo ops on the red carpet).

On the way home, we stopped at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which was incredible. Reagan’s actual Air Force One jet and Marine One helicopter are the centerpiece in a giant glass-walled hangar overlooking the valley. There was even a piece of the Berlin Wall. It was a very educational and moving experience (regardless of your personal politics).

After freshening up at the house we went out for a nice dinner at the Melting Pot. Tomorrow we’re on our own as our hosts need to go to work (ha, Monday!).


West Coast Road Trip: Day 1

We woke up really early to get downstairs, check our bags, and get through security in time for the 5:30am boarding of our flight from Tampa to Las Vegas. Thanks to our TSA PreCheck status though, we were sitting at our gate with almost 30 minutes to spare.

The flight to Vegas was uneventful and by 7:30am (Nevada time) we picking up our rental car for the week (a black Mazda CX5) and driving out to the Strip. After a quick family photo in front of the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign we headed southeast to the Hoover Dam. It was the second time for me, since I had just come out two months ago, but it was no less amazing. It was, however, slightly hotter! Summer in the desert is no joke. Back at the Strip, we went to Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Ceasar’s Palace for lunch and then walked down Las Vegas Boulevard taking in the sights. My daughter and I rode the Big Apple Express roller coast at New York New York which was neat but in the heat of the day the hot air pretty much slammed into you, not refreshing at all.

We left Vegas in the late afternoon, heading west on I-15 towards Los Angeles. Traffic was fine except for the backup at the agricultural inspection station. We tried Del Taco for dinner since we had heard good things about it but were sorely disappointed and ended up grabbing Starbucks instead. There was also one scary moment, on CR-18, where we thought we were going to run out of fuel and barely made it to a gas station. The rest of the night’s drive was fine, although we were getting tired from the long day considering we started at 1:30am PDT. We safely reached my wife’s sister’s place in Simi Valley and were dead asleep by 10:30pm.

9 more days to go!

West Coast Road Trip: Day 0

We’re on our way to the west coast for a family road trip that will take us from Las Vegas to Seattle over the next 9 days!

Our flight to Las Vegas is really early tomorrow (6am on Southwest!) so after a nice dinner at a nearby Maggiano’s we’ve checked into the Tampa Airport Marriott tonight. This way we don’t have to get up as early as we would if we had to drive to the airport, park the car, take the long-term shuttle, etc. tomorrow morning. We’ve had our nightcap from the Starbucks downstairs in the terminal :-) and are excited to start our travels!