North California and San Francisco
The exciting times have begun now that we the campervan. We started our new journey in our green machine in Oakland just outside of San Francisco. We have hired a Jucy rental RV, which is pretty much a pimped out soccer mum Dodge with bed, mini kitchen and a penthouse roof. After a quick (long and exploratory) shop at Walmart we were all prepped with food, trinkets and other essentials ready to take on the west coast. Now to find somewhere to start… We decided a trip up the north California coast was in order to see the lush forests, in particular the redwoods. We headed to Samuel P Taylor State Park for our first official night in the van. Arriving just before dark we were greeted by magnificent trees and serene rivers. It was so quiet you could hear the trickle of the river over the rocks in the riverbed. Our first night I whipped together a scrumptious one pot chili over the fire. It is great to be cooking again, and with just a simple butane powered stove I am sure to be getting creative.
Our van was a little bit tight and uncomfortable the first night as we got our bearings on how best to stuff away our belongings and which way to lay. Turns out we laid the wrong way and had the worst night’s sleep! The best part about a campervan is you have the flexibility to stay where ever; the bad part is in America any campsite with at least a shower is $30 minimum (if you find a cheap one). Granted we are surrounded by incredible scenery, but $35 for our first night and a tiny shower was a bit steep. Waking up in the forest does have it’s bonuses, beautiful walking trails and creative ways to exercise. I made up a circuit using the driveway of our campground, the bench for box jumps and some body weight exercises. I have been lonely in my exercise endeavors of late as my exercise buddy is getting slack, but one must push on. I finally got him out of bed to enjoy the trails before heading off on our next adventure to Muir Woods National Monument. Along the way we stopped at a local farmers shop where I bought some curry squash, butternut squash (pumpkin) and cauliflower as well as freshly cooked wood fired sourdough (yum!). We got a coffee and ripped the sourdough up to lather with peanut butter for a scrumptious breakfast. The road to the Muir woods reminded me a lot of Mt Lofty back in Adelaide with lots of houses and windy roads lining your access before there is randomly a forest. There are no words to describe the wonder of the Redwoods. They tower above you and the canopy creates a rainforest style shrubbery across the floor. Ryan and I chose to do a canopy hike to view the trees from the top.
After an hour or so of climbing we got tired and opted for the nearest trail down before heading for the nearest Wholefoods for lunch. Our previous experience of Wholefoods Ryan got really excited and bought over two pounds of food in his container, so this time we had the wisdom of a bit of control. After our experience of the Redwoods we wanted to experience their bigger cousins the sequoia trees that are found in Yosemite. Ryan did some quick research and found us a campground close to the entrance of the National park. We spent 5 hours driving and finally made it to our campground. Upon our ascent we looked on the sides of the roads where saw piles of snow become increasingly bigger. Having never seen snow I was super excited to staying amongst it. But as we drew closer and the roads became icier we soon realized how unprepared we were for the conditions. The gate to access our campground required chains to cross through which we did not have. So with a slightly scarier decent from 4000 feet we found a free campground to crash. In hindsight it was probably a little bit of a rookie move heading into a massive mountain range in winter. And it turns out the trees we wanted to see didn’t even have access in the summer months *face palm. Our long adventure didn’t go unrewarded as in the morning we woke to snow and it was very exciting. Although not as lush and powdered as at 4000 feet it was still snow. I whipped up apple cinnamon oatmeal before my hands began to freeze over and we headed down the mountain.
Not to be disheartened and miss an opportunity to do some serious hiking we found a mountain on the road back to San Francisco for us to climb. On the way we also got the opportunity to try California’s famous burger chain In n Out. Unlike other burger joints all the products are fresh including their chips which they hand cut each day. I opted for the ‘protein style’ cheeseburger where the bun is replaced by a lettuce leaf, it was delicious.
Again to save a dime we parked our car near the bottom of the mountain and walked our way along the steep roads nearer to the top. I convinced Ryan to sprint half the hills with me before we reached around 2500 feet and decided a further 1000 feet was a bit too ridiculous to muster.
That night we spent our first sleep in a parking lot. I made a delicious veggie curry and we watched a cop pull someone over, hand cuff them and search their vehicle, it was like being in your living room. Ryan and I racked our brains in order to avoid the expense of finding places to stay with little to nothing in return. We decided if a gym was $15 each that would cover a shower and get us a workout, and in terms of accommodation we would continue to crash in the local shopping centers that are lined with other bigger more fancy RVs. The gym was great and so was the shower. We followed this up with an early lunch from a great local Asian joint in Fremont called Green Champa Garden. It was the perfect top up of veggies and fuelled us before heading into San Fran.
San Francisco is exactly like the movies but the hills are worse, much worse. And the parking is horrendous. We honestly had no idea what we were going to do with our van during the days as parking is ether very expensive or restricted to 2 hours. Luckily the Fisherman’s Wharf area had sneaky parking spots only a 15 minute walk from the local crowded areas. We spent the day around the Fisherman’s Wharf and surrounds, as well as seeing the famous Lombard Street; the crookedist street in the world. We met with some friends from back home for dinner at Bubba Gump, a restaurant based on the movie Forest Gump. One of the great bonuses of San Fran is Ghirardelli (the awesome dessert place) is based here and they have a massive square where you can get their desserts. Of course we got a fabulous sundae, with brownie topped with fudge and ice cream, it was great.
The next day I took advantage of the great hilltops to go for a run and concur some horrendous staircases. My legs were absolutely dead from the leg workout the day before, and again alone on my exercising adventure I got something done. For breakfast we had terrific veggie scrambled eggs in sourdough bowls and wraps freshly baked from the Boudin bakery on the wharf. We then met our friends for a ferry to Alcatraz. The audio tour was very informative and interesting and the place itself kind of spooky. With a gloomy day setting in we ventured further into town to the Mission District. We found a lovely park and some beautiful murals lining the allies, but either side of that was a little bit sketchy so we didn’t hang around long. We spent the next night on a cosy street. Having got the hang of packing the van and with the aid of some extra pillows we were getting some better nights rests.
Our last day in San Fran we hired some bikes and rode to see the Golden Gate Bridge. The ride was exhausting to say the least, those bloody SF hills! But it was breathtaking and exceptionally fresh. We again enjoyed some delicious Mexican which is becoming increasingly common as venture more in California, its so tasty and cheap! Ryan and I explored the streets a bit more before coming up with a plan to ensure a shower at least every second day.
For $20 we could sign one of us up to Planet Fitness gym, which have locations all along the coast. This gives us access to showers and the bonus of a gym for super cheap! Having not planned to have gym access for my entire trip it is exciting to have something to alternate running, body weight and plyometric exercises but boy it’s making me sore. Our last night in SF was spent with a friend who is over here playing college softball, we had a great dinner at ‘The Pub”, where I just had a bowl of chili and some brussel sprouts as I was full from lunch. We found a fancy and dark street to stay on before getting up early to grab a bagel and coffee from Chestnut Street. We had missed bagels since the North East coast and were so excited to see them again. We also found a half decent coffee chain called Peet’s coffee, which started in SF but now has stores dotted along California.
SF was a beautiful city, and we were lucky enough to spend most of our time close to the Fisherman’s wharf due to easier parking and all around increased safety. From here we head towards Santa Cruz and onto the beautiful Big Sur and finally some surfing spots for Ryan. We are slowly getting the hang of the van and making adjustments to our days as we go. We are generally going to bed early and waking up early to avoid being annoying or in the way. I am sure we will have many more hilarious stories to tell with the campervan thrown in, as we already accidentally drove 4000 feet into snow on day 2. We hope you enjoy the next stage of our trip and a little bit of slumming that comes with the territory, it is a great experience.
Peace, Love and Food xx