This trip to San Francisco was one of our first real road trips. There were many stops along the way that each have their own story. The beauty of driving is that you can see so much more than you do when you simply hop a plane. If you have the time, taking in the details along the way makes the trip special. It is all about the journey, not just the destination.
Pick a Direction
This was a surprise trip for Brianna, so I created a set of little strips of paper that gave clues on what was coming up. She loves surprises, so this made every step a little more exciting not quite knowing what was around the next corner. I timed them for an upcoming stop or adventure. The first of these strips were simply labeled, “pick a direction, any direction.” Luckily, I was on a loop highway so it didn’t really matter which way we went, we would ultimately be heading south from Portland. Brianna suspected this, so she deliberately chose north.
Cape Blanco State Park
We stopped off at Cape Blanco State Park to take a break from our long drive, get some fresh air, and enjoy the scenery. Being a lighthouse enthusiast for most of my life, this one did not disappoint. The surrounding area was beautiful and the lighthouse itself was accessible with a great view from the top. We had plenty of time for silly pictures too.
This beach is one of the places we’ve always wanted to go to but never had the chance. While we are spoiled with Canon Beach – a short drive from Portland – Gold Beach has so many more rock formations to view out in the water with much smaller crowds. There are also many state parks nearby that are nothing short of phenomenal. Liquid eye candy!
Near Gold Beach is the Rogue River, which has a jet boat tour operator called Jerry’s Rogue Jets. The thought of riding on jet boats during our trip sounded fun after researching what to do in the area. We knew we would get wet, but we did not think it would start pouring during our ride. This is Oregon after all. We are sure it would be a lot more fun with sunny weather, but instead we’ll just call this an experience that we survived.
Since we live in Oregon, seeing big trees isn’t completely unusual. The redwoods in California truly are giants in comparison, though. We drove up the Avenue of the Giants on highway 101 and also stopped in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park to get a closer look. The tallest redwood is 379 feet and 24 feet in diameter. You will definitely feel small when you stand next to one of these trees. The beautiful lines of bark went straight up the trunk of the tree. It was quite an incredible experience and we would highly recommend seeing these in your lifetime. Just don’t forget to look up!
We stopped near Mendocino to take in some of its coastal beauty. There were many outcroppings as well as other rock formations to view out in the ocean. The lighthouse was also a bonus to this wonderful area. Brianna tested the boundaries of my fear of heights and decided to get way too close to a cliff to get some epic pictures. I tried not to watch.
Golden Gate Bridge
For as long as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with bridges. This is especially true from my childhood growing up in Portland, which is completely lined with bridges. My most sought after bridge outside of Portland was the Golden Gate Bridge. It unbelievably lived up to my expectations and beyond.
Sausalito, CA Bike Ride
We rented a two-person bicycle and did a self-guided bike tour from Blazing Saddles. This started at Fisherman’s Wharf, then to Sausalito and back to Fisherman’s Wharf by ferry ride. This was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in San Francisco. The bridge was incredible and we had a nice lunch after we crossed over the bridge. With this route you can soak in the views of the bridge before and after you cross it. Without a tour group you can move at your own pace not being bound to someone else’s timeline. This was a very memorable bike ride that we will never forget.
Most people do not want to end up in prison, especially one on a remote island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Thankfully, it is not in operation and we can go see how life used to be for those prisoners on the island. We enjoyed taking in the views from Alcatraz and experiencing first-hand what the prison was like. I had fun impersonating a hardened criminal within the facility, but I looked more like a hardened tourist.
It seems you can’t go to San Francisco without stopping by Lombard Street. It snakes down what looks like a bed of flowers. Cars are continuously streaming down this brick road as it is high on the list of tourist activities. It was a little too populated for our taste, but still worth a look.
San Francisco Bay Duel Fireworks
For a special anniversary treat, we went on a bay cruise on the 4th of July. Included was a fantastic meal (we ate too much), a great reason to dress up, and dueling fireworks displays. We had an incredible time and will never forget it. It was a well received surprise for Brianna.
The last surprise on the way back to Portland was Crater Lake. Since we also enjoy seeing volcanoes, this gem was always on my list to see. It was the perfect relaxing finale to the trip. The water was so incredibly blue, and even though it was July, there was still snow. We stayed in a nearby lodge which gave us easy access to the lake.
This trip was completed in 2012. We would love to visit some of these locations again and have visited a few of them since then. These places don’t get old easily and are worth all of the extra travel time.
Enjoy the journey.