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Author Topic: California, Arizona & Nevada (Dec '22/Jan '23)  (Read 1948 times)

mistral

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California, Arizona & Nevada (Dec '22/Jan '23)
« on: March 17, 2022, 10:19:07 AM »

It's been a long time since I last visited this forum, mostly because it's been a ridiculously long time since I last drove anywhere in the US. The last couple of times that I've been to the States have just been to pick up cruises from New York, but this December, the first part of our (me & my wife) round the world trip involves 3 weeks in California, Arizona & Nevada. The last time that I did an extensive roadtrip in that part of the world was in 1995, so I'm guessing that an immense amount has changed roadswise in that time.

As to the details, we'll be arriving in San Francisco at midday on December 20th, and leaving there at 8pm on January 10th. Those dates are fixed, as is the fact that we've a rented a 'full size' car from Alamo for the entire trip. Beyond that, it's a pretty open book as to what we do in the time that we're in the States. We're both into wine (we've done wine roadtrips around France, South Africa & Argentina in the past few years), as well as being into theme parks, the occasional museum/historic site and decent restaurants.

I got caught out by the weather once in Tulare County (CA) in December 1990, when I slid on ice, and went 150 foot down a ravine. Fortunately, I got saved by a tree that stopped the fall, and then by the local sheriff & his son who got me out of there! I'd prefer not to risk that type of situation again, so I think that places like Yosemite will be off limits, but beyond that, pretty much anywhere within 1000 miles of San Francisco is a possibility. Any ideas of places to visit, or roads to travel on?

Many thanks in advance,

Graham
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kevinb1994

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Re: California, Arizona & Nevada (Dec '22/Jan '23)
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2022, 10:20:28 AM »

Ever been to Muir Woods? I was there in 2012.

Outside of parks, I have seen Big Sur, Monterey, and Pigeon Point Lighthouse. This was also on the same trip in 2012. There’s some famously jaw-dropping scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway, including (but not limited to) those areas mentioned above on the road. North of San Francisco I was in Sausalito on the same trip in 2012. The Golden Gate with the famous bridge of the same name was definitely worth the trouble to snap photos of.

Roadgeek trivia: Joseph Strauss had earlier worked on Jacksonville’s FECRwy bridge (1925 version that still stands, not the original from roughly 35 years earlier) (with help from Phoenixville, PA) before working on the Golden Gate Bridge with Charles Alton Ellis.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2022, 10:35:18 AM by kevinb1994 »
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NWI_Irish96

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Re: California, Arizona & Nevada (Dec '22/Jan '23)
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2022, 10:31:57 AM »

OK, just stating the obvious here, but the Grand Canyon. Not many places live up to they hype they get but this does. We took our kids on a west coast trip three years ago and the Grand Canyon was one of the highlights.

Never driven there from San Francisco so I can't give you road advice.
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mistral

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Re: California, Arizona & Nevada (Dec '22/Jan '23)
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2022, 10:59:34 AM »

Ever been to Muir Woods? I was there in 2012.

Outside of parks, I have seen Big Sur, Monterey, and Pigeon Point Lighthouse. This was also on the same trip in 2012. There’s some famously jaw-dropping scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway, including (but not limited to) those areas mentioned above on the road. North of San Francisco I was in Sausalito on the same trip in 2012. The Golden Gate with the famous bridge of the same name was definitely worth the trouble to snap photos of.

I have been to all those places (Pigeon Point excepted) many ('80s & '90s) years ago, but they are all definitely well worth another visit. If we do head north of San Francisco, I'd definitely hope to spend some time in the Sonoma & Napa Valley wine areas.

As for the Grand Canyon, I've been there a couple of times before, but never in winter. Are the roads up to the South Rim from Williams & Flagstaff kept ice & snow free in winter, or can they get a bit 'hairy' in severe weather?!
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citrus

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Re: California, Arizona & Nevada (Dec '22/Jan '23)
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2022, 12:59:40 PM »

Sonoma and Napa are close enough to SF that should go even if you end up heading south. My favorite is the Russian River Valley area. If you end up heading down the coast, I'd also recommend the Paso Robles area. Highway 1 is a great drive, although you may want a backup plan (101) if it closes for a rainstorm.

Decent restaurants -> you'll find them in Sonoma and Napa, but if you stay in SF at all, tons of them, and you'll want to try to make reservations in advance for a lot of them. Lots of museums in the Bay Area as well.

If you want to maximize your chances of good weather and some landscapes you won't see in France, I'd head to Southern California, and specifically: Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Anza-Borrego Desert east of San Diego. If you want to head further afield, Saguaro National Park in greater Tucson, Arizona is pretty cool. White Sands in New Mexico is as well, although that may be too far. You could easily spend a week just in Death Valley area if you want to, especially if you rent a 4x4/Jeep locally. Note that all these places are really cool in their own right, but the driving is not particularly interesting unless you like desert highways.

Grand Canyon in winter is a toss-up, weather-wise. I've driven to the area in a day from SF (a long, pretty boring one, mostly on I-5, CA-58, I-40). The roads are open unless there's active severe weather. Unfortunately you'll be in the area when there's the least amount of daylight, so if you want to plan your sightseeing around that!

North of San Francisco... the coast almost certainly won't have any winter-weather problems, but it does get pretty cold and rainy. The big redwood groves in far northern California are impressive - I've enjoyed the groves in Prairie Creek Redwoods state park.

You might hear folks warn about driving in San Francisco, and it's true - car break-ins are a common problem. The general rule is: don't leave anything in your car at all (not even phone chargers or water bottles, and DEFINITELY no backpacks or jackets), and also don't park and just move things to your trunk and leave your car. (This is good advice for the rest of the Bay Area, and not really bad advice anywhere..... Unfortunately, cars that are obviously rentals tend to be more frequently targeted, just because the people who do this know that tourists are more likely to leave a few things inside. I suppose this is our version of pickpockets in Barcelona or something like that. The other difficulty is parking but this generally surmountable with patience and/or money for a garage spot!
« Last Edit: March 19, 2022, 01:03:50 PM by citrus »
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mistral

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Re: California, Arizona & Nevada (Dec '22/Jan '23)
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2022, 10:17:25 PM »

If you want to maximize your chances of good weather and some landscapes you won't see in France, I'd head to Southern California, and specifically: Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Anza-Borrego Desert east of San Diego. If you want to head further afield, Saguaro National Park in greater Tucson, Arizona is pretty cool. White Sands in New Mexico is as well, although that may be too far. You could easily spend a week just in Death Valley area if you want to, especially if you rent a 4x4/Jeep locally. Note that all these places are really cool in their own right, but the driving is not particularly interesting unless you like desert highways.

Of those suggestions, I'm definitely doing Death Valley; we're staying the night before in Inyokern (CA), and heading to Pahrump (NV), which should give us a reasonable amount of time in the Valley, even with the restricted amount of daylight at that time of year. Temperature wise, the end of December actually works for that area; every other time that I've been near there has been in the summer, and I never really fancied the thought of being stranded in a desert in 120° heat!!

CA 78 (east of I-15) and CA 79 give you all kinds of scenery in San Diego County.

Anza-Borrego is an intriguing suggestion. We'll be doing a travel day from Gila Bend (AZ) to San Diego, and taking CA 78 past there, could be much more interesting than just chugging along I-8.

I don't think that I'll be able to make use of the other suggestions this time, but I'll be banking them for any trips that way in the near future. Heading north of San Francisco just started to add too much overall mileage to the trip, once we'd decided to go to Grand Canyon & San Diego.

Grand Canyon in winter is a toss-up, weather-wise. I've driven to the area in a day from SF (a long, pretty boring one, mostly on I-5, CA-58, I-40). The roads are open unless there's active severe weather. Unfortunately you'll be in the area when there's the least amount of daylight, so if you want to plan your sightseeing around that!

We'll be heading to that area from Las Vegas, and we've decided to give ourselves as much of a chance as possible of getting to the Canyon as possible. We'll be staying three nights in Williams, at a place that's actually on the old Route 66, and then a further three nights just outside Flagstaff. Hopefully, we'd get a break in any bad weather at some point during those six days. Fingers crossed!! If not, places like Sedona, Meteor Crater & Route 66 should offer us some alternatives on bad weather days.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2022, 10:07:30 AM by mistral »
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mistral

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Re: California, Arizona & Nevada (Dec '22/Jan '23)
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2022, 03:57:05 PM »


We've changed our plans a bit now. We're now just going to do 10 days in Vegas (with a few side trips), followed by 10 days in Loreto (Baja California) to watch blue whales.

Driving 2,500 miles in wintry weather for three weeks just wasn't appealing enough ... I saw some some pictures of the snowdrifts in Williams in January, and that just led us to looking for something warmer!
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