LA & San Francisco, California

Sunday 16 October – Monday 24 October 2016

Around lunchtime we caught the Greyhound bus from Vegas to LA. Although Greyhound buses have a bad rep in America this trip was absolutely fine and we only paid $5 each. Everyone on board had just been to Vegas for the weekend so similar to us. The trip was roughly 6 hours and the views were incredible. We travelled for hours through the Nevada desert and saw so many mountains. It was one of the best scenic bus journeys we’d taken.

We hadn’t actually booked anywhere for the night as we were relying on ‘couch surfer’, a website which had been recommended to us where people offer their couches. Unfortunately we didn’t have much luck and nobody could host us. Luckily the Greyhound station had wifi so we spent some time searching online for somewhere cheap to stay. After around 30 minutes looking we found a place on Air BNB, called the PodShare. It was located in downtown LA so only several miles from the Greyhound station. We booked up an Uber and went straight there. First impressions of the Podshare were really good. It was cool. An open space in an industrial unit with lots of Pods fitted in. They also offered free bike use which would have been great however we only stayed for one night as we were due to collect the camper the next day. After a comfy night sleep we hung out at the Podshare and used the wifi to start planning the first couple days of the California road trip!

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Day 1: 3pm came round and it was time to collect the camper. We opted for a JUCY camper as we had heard about them in New Zealand, plus we found they were the cheapest (after hours of comparing the prices of other companies). The first night was a little rough as the area suggested by the advisors in the pick up centre was now illegal to park up! The lady also suggested Walmart car parks were legal to stay over night, however new enforcements stated otherwise.

Day 2: After a rough and sleepless first night we got on to Highway 1 to re-start the road trip! We drove less than an hour to Zuma beach which provided free road side beach parking. We decided to set up camp there for the night after a day chilling in the California sun. It was also our first opportunity to utilise the stove in the camper, we cooked pasta!

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Day 3: Although we slept on the roadside we slept surprisingly OK. I expected it to be a lot louder but lucky for us there weren’t many cars on the road. We were woken around 6am by surfers who had arrived to catch the morning waves. This felt like the real California! We got up and went for a morning swim, the water was colder than expected but it was so refreshing and definitely woke me up! For breakfast Sal cooked up scrambled eggs and sausages. It was tasty! We chilled out for the morning and enjoyed the sun. I jumped into the drivers seat and we carried on the road trip north, stopping in Malibu and various other beach towns. After 150 miles we stopped at Shell beach, a cool little town with little hidden coves. We decided to stop here for the night and enjoyed the sunset.

Day 4:
We woke up around 7.30am and got straight on the road. Continuing our trip up highway 1. The views were amazing and the weather was so great. You could see miles of sea and different shades of blues. We stopped off at various viewpoints to take in the views and admire the Californian coast. One of our favourite stops was at San Simeon (around the Big Sur area) where we saw Elephant Seals. It was a great place to see seals at a safe distance and in their natural environments. They looked so happy! There were hundreds of them! After an hour or so watching the seals we hopped back in the camper and continued driving. We had found the camping side of things a tad difficult. Recently there have been lots of overnight parking enforcements and restrictions on where you can stay. There are various websites and forums you can look on to get tips etc. however, it is hard to tell whether the recommendations were still legal. We drove to a couple of suggested sites but new signs had been put up and you were no longer allowed to park between 8pm and 6am. After a couple stressful hours trying to find somewhere we drove 100 miles to ‘Lapsey Road’ which was beyond Monterey near Marina. It was just a random road off the highway. We had a very peaceful sleep!


Day 5: We woke up early this morning and drove further North towards Half Moon Bay. Again, the views en-route were amazing. Mountains, State Parks and Forests land. We stopped off near one of the state parks for lunch, cheese sandwiches and carrot sticks! The van was great, as well as a stove it came with a fridge, so storage wise we could keep foods fresh and make lots more things. Once we arrived at Half Moon Bay we had a couple of beers on the beach and relaxed. McDonalds was also nearby so stopped by to use the free wifi. McDonalds became one of our best friends during the road trip, for a $1 you could get a large coffee so some mornings we would swing by to get a coffee and use the wifi to get directions etc.

Originally we were going to stay in Safeway car park at Half Moon Bay as it was a suggested free site for overnight campings, however after checking with the store manager, she said it was illegal and that if we did an external company would probably ticket us. So it was back to the drawing board and back to McDonalds to find out where else we could stay for the night. If you didn’t mind paying you could find plenty of RV parks or campsites however these were extortionate, you’d be looking at $60 at least for one night stay. We refused to pay and were determined to freedom camp the whole trip. In the end we found a truck stop roughly 30 miles north from where we were, near San Mateo. It was around 11pm but it didn’t bother us as we were planning on heading to San Francisco the next day so we would be closer!

Day 6: The truck stop was actually great, it wasn’t just trucks as we imagined, there were lots of people like us in camper vans doing the same thing. There wasn’t much there except toilets and vender machines, which was fine for us. Anyway, today we carried on the journey to San Francisco, a city I wanted to visit from a very young age. Before heading directly into the city we parked up near Mussel Park for breakfast. We made scrambled eggs and beans. After we had eaten we just sat down with a coffee and enjoyed the views. A local man came up to us as well and started chatting about our camper van and asked questions about our trip. He was very knowledgable and gave us lots of tips! He also told us a few earthquake stories and said that our car was parked up right on the San Andreas fault line which was really interesting. After breaky and a sit down we carried on the extra few miles into San Francisco and headed for Ocean Street. Ocean St. was right on the beach so we went for a walk and stumbled upon a Corgi Convention. It was so random and I had never seen so many Corgis! There were so many and lots were dressed up, there was even a cut out queen.

After our walk we got back in the car and drove further up the coast towards the Golden Gate bridge. If you made the error of going on to the bridge you would have to make sure you paid the Toll bridge fee the same day otherwise you’d receive a hefty fine! Plus a $50 admin fee as we were in the camper! So we decided to park up and walk part way across. The sky was really clear but could definitely feel the change in temperature. It was a lot fresher than LA so jeans and jumper were essential. After admiring the bridge we bought a coffee and headed back to the car to find someone to park up for the night.

Day 7: We had parked up by a beach and were unsure whether we were allowed to stay there so had an anxious night sleep. As I mentioned earlier, if we wanted to stay in a RV park it was pricey! Especially in SF, it would have cost $120 for the night. In the morning we were up early and drove to a nearby park called Chrissy Park for another nap. After catching up on some much needed Zzzzs we headed to Starbucks to use the wifi and plan our day. Instead of planning our day we ended up booking a few nights in the Grand Canyon and planned a 2 day road to get there! Exciting stuff! But before starting another road trip we wanted  couple more days in the big SF. In the afternoon we walked from Starbucks to the famous Steiner St. in Pacific Heights to see Mrs Doubtfire’s house. This was definitely a highlight for Sally! It was one of our favourite childhood films. When we got to the house we chatted about different scenes. You could definitely tell by the steep streets and views we were in San Fran so I’m glad we walked the 4 miles from Starbucks as we got a real feel of the city locally.


Day 8: In the morning we went back to Chrissy Fields for breakfast. Lots of people were out running this morning, there must have been some kind of park run going on. Central San Fran was about a 50 minute walk from the park so we decided to walk it as we knew parking would be tricky. First stop on our walk was Fisherman’s Wharf, this was a really cool quirky area on the harbour. There were lots of tall ships and lots of places to buy sea food. Sal loves sea food, me not so much. I personally loved San Fran, it was so different to the other cities we had been to. For lunch we went to Boudin Bakery, the home of the original San Francisco sourdough bread. Sal had clam chowder, a locals favourite and I had a sough dough pizza, my favourite! On the way back to the car we walked along the water front and saw Alcatraz Island, the maximum high-security federal prison which is located 1.25 miles out at sea.  I would have loved to visit Alcatraz, and participated in one of the tours however they get booked up weeks in advance, which we didn’t realise! So I was gutted I missed out. It was however, interesting to see from a far.

Day 9: The first day of our next road trip to Arizona! Last night we left San Francisco and headed back to the Truck Stop near San Mateo, we had a peaceful night sleep so decided it was a good place to stop and relax before the next leg of or camping adventure. 

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