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Author Topic: Road trip report: West Coast trip (Portland to L.A./Palm Springs)  (Read 184 times)

A.J. Bertin

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Road trip report: West Coast trip (Portland to L.A./Palm Springs)
« on: September 15, 2018, 10:29:11 PM »

There were a few people on this forum who had commented on my topic in which I was looking for advice on this trip that my husband and I just got back from, so thanks to everyone who offered their advice. :) I figured I would post a report on how the trip went.

On the morning of Saturday, Aug. 25, we flew into Portland from Chicago. Instead of getting our rental car from the airport rental center, we ended up getting a much better deal by renting a car from a Hertz rental office a few miles away from the airport so we took a Lyft from the airport to the rental office. We stayed at the DoubleTree east of downtown Portland... across the Willamette River.

We didn't do too much driving around Portland the few days we were there, but we have multiple friends in the area... including a married couple with whom we went to Historic U.S. 30, Vista House, Cascade Locks, Hood River, and Multnomah Falls in the morning and afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 26. I-84 along that stretch is quite scenic, and the towns of Cascade Locks and Hood River were quite charming.

On the morning of Monday, Aug. 27, we walked over to the Lloyd Center Mall which was basically across the street from our hotel. Then we went to explore downtown Portland for the rest of the day. We drove across some of the bridges and I got a bit of mileage on U.S. 26 east of downtown.

On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 28, I had the car to myself for a few hours so I decided to clinch I-205 and I-405. In order to do this, I left the downtown area by going north on I-5, crossing into Washington, getting off at Exit 9, turning back southbound, and doing my clinch of I-205 southbound. It was all during the morning rush hour, so the traffic on 205 was slow for most of that stretch. I got back on I-5 from the southern terminus of I-205 and headed north. At some point I got off I-5 again and then turned around and went south. Then I clinched I-405 southbound. That's a neat little freeway and it wasn't as slow as I-205 had been. There were a few other areas around Portland that I had time to check out before I had go to back to the hotel where my husband was waiting for me, get all of our belongings, and hit the road going south.

Our route for the rest of the day on Aug. 28 entailed southbound I-5 to westbound U.S. 20 (we had lunch at Burgerville in Albany) to southbound U.S. 101. I was driving on the I-5 and U.S. 20 portions of the trip. We stopped for gas in Newport at the junction of U.S. 20 and U.S. 101 which is where my husband took over the driving. U.S. 101 down the Oregon coast from that stretch was very nice. When we eventually made it to Gold Beach, that's where we had dinner with a friend of mine and his wife. Our stopping point for the night was a roadside motel in the town of Brookings.

We knew we had a long day of driving ahead of us on Wednesday, Aug. 29, so we got up early and were on U.S. 101 before 6 a.m. We stopped for breakfast at McDonald's in Crescent City CA and continued along making a stop or two through the redwood forest. When we made it to Leggett, we stopped at the drive-thru tree park and then I took over the driving from there. We got on CA 1 and meandered our way to the coast. (I loved all the switchbacks on CA 1 between U.S. 101 and the coast.) We made it to Fort Bragg for lunch (a seafood restaurant along the Noyo River, Silver's at the Wharf, that had a good view of the CA 1 bridge over the river). We were going all the way to San Francisco and had heard that CA 1 is slow from, say, CA 128 down to the Bay area. So we left CA 1 at CA 128 and took 128 over to U.S. 101. Wow... CA 128 was a lot of fun to drive... right through another redwood forest and then through a lot of switchbacks. My husband took over driving again in Cloverdale, and we made it to the Bay area around 4 or 5 p.m.

When we parked at our hotel in San Francisco, we just left the car there and didn't move it at all during our time in that city. We stayed at the Lombard Motor Inn and were happy to not have to pay for parking. On Thursday and Friday (Aug. 30-31), we did touristy things in San Francisco.

We got up early on Saturday, Sept. 1 (my birthday!) and left San Francisco around 6 or 6:30 a.m. We took U.S. 101 south and grabbed breakfast at a Jack in the Box somewhere around San Jose (I can't remember offhand which exit). We took CA 156 west to CA 1, stopped for gas in Monterey, and did the 17-Mile Drive around the Monterey Peninsula before continuing south on CA 1. CA 1 in the Big Sur region was amazing!!!

We knew we wanted to visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon, but it was the holiday weekend and the castle was packed with visitors around 12:30 or 1 p.m. when we arrived. We had lunch in the visitor center and inquired about tickets for the next available tour of the castle. Unfortunately we would have had to wait until 2:50 for a tour, but we were trying to hit up a beach that day not far from San Luis Obispo (almost an hour south of San Simeon). There wouldn't have been time for the tour and the beach, so we decided to buy tickets for a 9 a.m. tour the next day. We stayed in Pismo Beach that night and didn't mind driving an hour north again back to San Simeon on Sunday morning, so we did that. Our hotel in Pismo Beach was the Hilton Garden Inn just off U.S. 101.

Sure enough, on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 2, we headed north back to San Simeon along U.S. 101 and then CA 1. (I was in the driver's seat.) We were at the castle for a few hours and then started heading south again. We took CA 1 to U.S. 101. We grabbed lunch at In-N-Out Burger in Arroyo Grande and then continued south on U.S. 101. We stayed on U.S. 101 all the way to Oxnard. We could have "cut the corner" northwest of Santa Barbara and taken CA 154 but I wanted a full clinch of that section of U.S. 101. There's a point northwest of Ventura where CA 1 (Pacific Coast Highway - PCH) leaves U.S. 101 (Ventura Freeway) and basically parallels it... providing beach access. There were lots and lots of people at the beaches along this stretch. We wanted to continue along CA 1, so we exited U.S. 101 in Oxnard at Exit 60... although there's no overhead signage on U.S. 101 telling you that Rice Road is the exit for CA 1 south. We didn't see a CA 1 reassurance marker for a few miles after we'd gotten off U.S. 101.

The PCH (CA 1) between Oxnard and Santa Monica was pretty neat. But being that it was a holiday weekend, there was a lot of beach traffic in that area... especially around Malibu and the western end of Santa Monica. Funny story about Malibu... I really had to use the restroom, and we were having difficulty finding a place where I could do so. Eventually we found a gas station with a nasty restroom. (California doesn't seem to have a lot of gas stations that have nice, big convenience stores with clean interior restrooms. Many gas station restrooms in California are the kind where you can only access them from outside the building, and they're usually disgusting.) So yeah... other than the beach crowds, the first impression I had of Malibu was a disgusting gas station restroom. Haha!

It was getting closer to evening by the time we left Malibu and approached Santa Monica. We got on I-10 at around, say, 5:15-5:30 p.m. Traffic wasn't too bad but we were going all the way to Palm Springs (about 120 miles away). By the time we arrived in Palm Springs, it was around 7:30 p.m.

On Monday and Tuesday (Sept. 3-4), we did a lot of relaxing and touring around Palm Springs. We stayed at a resort for gay men which was really nice. On the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 4, I once again had the car to myself for a few hours - so I explored the Palm Springs/Cathedral City/Rancho Mirage/Palm Desert/Desert Hot Springs area for a few hours. One of the things I did was visit the Westfield Mall for about 20 minutes or so. (Heck... I'm a mall geek so I figured why not.)

On the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 5, we purposely waited until 9 a.m. to leave Palm Springs because we were heading back to the L.A. area and wanted to avoid as much of the rush-hour traffic as possible. We took I-10 west to CA 210 west (which becomes I-210 at some point). Then we took CA 134 west to I-5 north and got off in Burbank. We explored downtown Burbank and went over to check out the "Wonder Years" house. (I loved that show as a kid and used this opportunity to see the house where parts of that show were filmed at.) We then went to Griffith Park to check out the Hollywood sign, grabbed lunch at a Panda Express on the east side of Hollywood, and had to get to our hotel to drop off our luggage because we needed to turn in our rental car. (In L.A. we stayed at the DoubleTree on the northeast end of downtown... very close to Little Tokyo.)

On Thursday and Friday (Sept. 6-7), we did touristy things around the L.A. area including a bus tour which took us to places like Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice, etc.

On the morning of Saturday, Sept. 8, we flew from LAX to Chicago. Then we drove from Chicago back to our home in Grand Rapids MI that night.

All in all, it was quite an adventure! I got a total of 27 new counties (1 in Washington, 12 in Oregon, and 14 in California). I still need to update my Travel Mapping file for Jim Teresco's website so I can capture my new highway mileage. (I only county highway miles as being clinched if I was the one behind the wheel.)
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-A.J. from Michigan

Max Rockatansky

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Re: Road trip report: West Coast trip (Portland to L.A./Palm Springs)
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2018, 11:58:02 PM »

Looks like I missed your path out in Big Sur, I was out there on the 24th taking photos of the newly opened road over the Mud Creek Slide.  Out of curiosity how was the traffic on the holiday weekend?  I heard how nuts things got during the Grand Reopening and didn't think that would necessarily be my speed with Labor Day crowds...being somewhat local helped a great deal in that regard.  Too bad there wasn't enough time for the Devil's Slide region of CA 1, that would have been hard to do with Monterey, 17 Mile Drive, and CA 1 in Big Sur all mixed in. 

A.J. Bertin

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Re: Road trip report: West Coast trip (Portland to L.A./Palm Springs)
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2018, 11:04:35 AM »

Out of curiosity how was the traffic on the holiday weekend?  I heard how nuts things got during the Grand Reopening and didn't think that would necessarily be my speed with Labor Day crowds...being somewhat local helped a great deal in that regard.

Traffic along the Big Sur stretch of CA 1 on the holiday weekend wasn't too bad at all.

Too bad there wasn't enough time for the Devil's Slide region of CA 1, that would have been hard to do with Monterey, 17 Mile Drive, and CA 1 in Big Sur all mixed in. 

Yeah no kidding. There was part of me that wanted to try an entire clinch of CA 1 (all stretches of it north and south of San Francisco), but yeah... there wouldn't have been enough time for all that. As far as the Devil's Slide region is concerned, it probably would have still been pretty dark if we would have driven through there because it was around 6 or 6:30 a.m. when we left San Francisco.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Road trip report: West Coast trip (Portland to L.A./Palm Springs)
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2018, 11:40:55 AM »

Out of curiosity how was the traffic on the holiday weekend?  I heard how nuts things got during the Grand Reopening and didn't think that would necessarily be my speed with Labor Day crowds...being somewhat local helped a great deal in that regard.

Traffic along the Big Sur stretch of CA 1 on the holiday weekend wasn't too bad at all.

Too bad there wasn't enough time for the Devil's Slide region of CA 1, that would have been hard to do with Monterey, 17 Mile Drive, and CA 1 in Big Sur all mixed in. 

Yeah no kidding. There was part of me that wanted to try an entire clinch of CA 1 (all stretches of it north and south of San Francisco), but yeah... there wouldn't have been enough time for all that. As far as the Devil's Slide region is concerned, it probably would have still been pretty dark if we would have driven through there because it was around 6 or 6:30 a.m. when we left San Francisco.

Heading southbound on 1 through Big Sur definitely helps.  Most of the out of state crowds is intimidated by the cliff-side drive and try the road northbound.  Personally I think that 1 is pretty tame through Big Sur all things considered, itís fairly easy to hold 45-60 MPH provided there is no traffic. 

The Devilís Slide Area is pretty nice but really I would put it behind the North Shore and Big Sur segments you did.  The actual slide is a pretty mellow hiking trail on the former 1 roadway.  Iím kind of partial to the Pigeon Point Lignthouse but it definitely isnít open before 8 AM.  I made the mistake in 2014 driving 1 northbound from the Santa Monica Pier to CA 68 in one shot.  It didnít help that I went all the way to Pinnacles National Park From there.  I want to say that I was driving a solid 10-11 hours which got tiring. 

 


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