Tag Archives: roadtrip

GAR: Day Five – San Francisco

San Francisco was our oyster today, and we spent most of the day in the city, goofing off and exploring.

Our first stop was Japantown. Siobhan badly wanted to explore this area of SF. She’s really taken a shine to Japanese culture, and this was right up her alley. We visited the pagoda, and wandered around a couple of Japanese malls in the Peace Plaza. She found some manga books she was looking for, and introduced Beck and me to pocky. Pocky’s pretty good stuff… basically a cylindrical biscuit, dipped in a flavored candy, and quite tasty.

With Beck navigating, we found our way to Lombard Street, and took the new Jeep down the path. That was quite interesting! With the nice bricks, and tons of tourists, it sure felt like I shouldn’t have been driving on it. In fact, the tourists were really taking a hard look at us as we wiggled down the lane. This was as exciting a Jeep ramble as we would have in SF. 🙂

With Japantown and Lombard behind us, it was time to visit Pier 39. It was way past lunch, so we stopped at the Surfboard Bar and Grille for a little lunch. The lunch was good, but the more interesting things was watching the people enter the restroom. It was a co-ed facility, with lockable stalls (kinda like an airline stall). Folks would walk in on the opposite sex washing their hands, and jump back, look around to see if they were in the right place, and then ask the waitstaff for the correct restroom. The reactions on folks’ faces were priceless.

Knowing there’s nothing that goes better with seafood than some time on the water, we set up for an hour-long cruise of the bay. That was wonderful! I’d done that trip a couple of times, but it was the first time for Beck and Sio. We ran under the bridge, around Alcatraz, and up and down the bay. Cold air, the occasional churning wave and a taped commentary by “Captain Nemo” made for a great time on the water.

No trip into the city is complete without a little souvenir shopping, so we walked about, picking up t-shirts and other trinkets. We came, we saw, we bought. 🙂

GAR: Day Four – Winnemucca NV to Half Moon Bay CA (422mi)

Today’s drive was a little shorter — only two-thirds of yesterday’s — but it was the first day we’d taken on city traffic as we drove in the San Franciscan ‘burbs.

Leaving this morning, it was really comfortable, with temps in the 60s. We put Nevada behind us pretty quickly, and entered California right around lunchtime. After a quick stop for snacks and bio-breaks, we decided to veer from our plans, and head down to Lake Tahoe for a bit.

The Tahoe area is beautiful, with big hills, and loads of pine trees reaching for the sky. Add to that the beautiful blue lake, and you end up with an idyllic setting. We stopped, looked, shot some photos, and decided to head back to the interstate for the push into San Francisco…. on the worst road ever.

I-80 through northern California has got to be the bumpiest, roughest interstate highway I’ve ever driven. I thought some of the roads in Arizona were bad, but this took the cake. At least in Arizona, you’re travelling on a roughly flat surface through the desert. This road was uphill and downhill, with plenty of bouncing, harsh turns and road construction to make it that much more enjoyable. What a road!

Early rush hour wasn’t too bad, and we made it to Half Moon Bay around dinner time, with plenty of time to catch a meal, and get to a public beach access to watch the sun set into the Pacific. There’s a wildfire burning near here, and I thought that might help color the sunset, but it didn’t really seem to help much. Still, it was a beautiful sunset.

This was the first time Sio was able to see the ocean close up. She said that it was weird to not be able to see the edge of it. I guess I’d gotten past all the novelty of how big the ocean can be. It’s definitely been interesting to see this new experience through her eyes.

Tomorrow is a down day for us, with us planning to be tourists in the big city. Next up is the trek up the coast, with the Pacific northwest awaiting us toward the end of the week.

GAR: Day Three – Rawlins WY to Winnemucca NV (652mi)

The shortness of the day yesterday — driven by the windy battle from behind the wheel — dictated a long drive today. With proper stops and a timezone change, we made this leg with wind left in the sails.

We stopped at a rest area along the way, and took some photos of prairie dogs. Very cute little critters, and fun to watch play and romp. From a big game perspective, this was the biggest mammal we’d gotten close to, and was certainly enjoyable to watch.

Crossing into Utah, we drove to Salt Lake City, and stopped for a bit at the edge of the lake. It was gorgeous! The weather was so much nicer than the weather I endured there a few years ago. The skies were blue, and there was plenty of visibility, with plenty of reflections in the lake. The best was yet to come, however.

As we were winding up our time in Utah, we came to a rest area just at the edge of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Again, three years ago, there were nasty skies, and really bad weather. This time, the weather was wonderful… and there was water on the flats! We pulled up, and found folks wading in toe-deep to ankle deep water atop the crusty salt. We dropped our shoes, and proceeded to wade in the water. The salt was hard, and really rough on the feet, but it was well worth it. We saw folks walking hundreds of feet into the salt desert, wading and exploring. This was by far the best stop of the day.

Another cool thing lay along the roads. Wherever the side of the road was light colored, folks had left messages, spelled out in rocks, for passersby to see. This was a kind of viral graffiti that was really amazing. Some messages were quick ones — someone’s name, or school mascot. Others were pledges of love, memories of other folks, along with some elaborate buildouts made of wire and beer bottles. Mixed in among these were tire tracks entering and exiting the salt desert, testimony to folks who’d spent a little youthful time breaking the law.

The weather was certainly a big deal during this leg. We left Rawlins at 35 degrees, and arrived in Winnemucca at about 85 degrees. In fact, the heat was pretty doggone oppressive, even more so with our room.

The hotel was just adequate, nothing fancy or elegant, and reflected the style of a 60s casino… kinda like it was trying to look like a wild west saloon room. Styling didn’t bother me, but there seemed to be no way to get it cooler. The air conditioner was definitely blowing, but it wasn’t cooling the room off. In truth, the whole hotel was that way. Waaaay too hot and sticky for my tastes!

GAR: Day Two – Kearney NE to Rawlins WY (475mi)

We awoke this morning to relatively clear skies, after a night of pretty amazing rain, thunder and lightning. After grabbing a quick spot of breakfast, we got moving…. and realized that the roof on the Jeep leaks.

I’m not terribly surprised, as this has been a common complaint I’ve seen on some of the Jeep forums. From what I can tell, water may be getting in the channel between the two front halves, and then works its way forward, draining at the windshield onto the top of the dash. It only did it when I stopped, so I assume that there’s something weird about the water path when the Jeep lurches at a stop. Strange thing is that I picked up Sio in some torrential downpours Friday, and had no issues. I’ve gotta do some research on this one…

So, remember yesterday, when I said things were windy? I had no idea how windy “windy” could be until today. We stopped at Tree Rock, and I thought we were gonna get blown over as we walked around. All through Wyoming, we saw signs heralding “High Winds Next 5 Miles”. Really…. 🙂 The winds were incredible most of the day, which made for a really long drive. Fighting the wind all day just ate me up, and I was too tired to go too much farther tonight.

BTW, it’s much colder today. Yesterday, I don’t think the temps dropped below 85 all day (at least, until the storms came through). Today, we started out around 60, warmed briefly to 70, but spent most of the day in the 50s. And I hear rumors of near-freezing temps overnight…. that should be fun!

I’m still in awe of the change in the landscape today. This morning, we left the flats of the Nebraska plains, and shortly after lunch, we got our first glimpse of the Rockies. By the time we landed for dinner, we’d cut into the mountains. What a great, picturesque view of this big ol’ country!!!

GAR: Day One – St. Louis MO to Kearney NE (544mi)

After much scurrying about to load and pack (not in that order…. sometimes), we got underway on the Great American Roadtrip this morning just shy of 9am. Today is the first of three “big push” days, with 500mi being the target. Working hard these three days buys us shorter drives later and more time to smell the roses down the road, so it’s definitely effort well-spent.

And truthfully, it was largely an uneventful drive. The biggest concern we had was the wind. We had extremely strong southerly winds all the way across Missouri, and most of the way across Nebraska. Aside from fighting the wheel, that’s usually not a big deal. In the Jeep, that’s a different story.

I had read in the aftermarket catalogs about third party hood latches for the Jeep. The way the hood works is typical latch, but no handle inside the Jeep, so it’s kinda like the hood’s perpetually “popped”, just not unlatched. To keep it from being too much of a wind sucker, there are rubber hood latches on the hood, left and right. Get the right amount of wind (or buffeting from a big rig in front of you), and the hood dances. A lot.

Did I mention that the hood dances in high wind? 🙂

Needless to say, improved hood latches have moved closer to the top of my list for add-ons to the Jeep. That was really weird to see the hood moving around, and I kept having to tell myself that it was ok, expected, and that it would stay down.

Probably the coolest thing we saw on the drive today was in northern Missouri. A guy was changing a tire on the edge of the road, and standing right there on the stripe was a Missouri highway patrolman, hands on hips, facing the traffic. Pretty imposing look, and it definitely got your attention. Cool that he was watching the oncoming traffic while the guy was changing his tire.

BTW, northwestern Missouri and eastern Nebraska should be renamed “The Land of 10000 Additional Lakes”. The farm fields are flooded, really bad in places, with the lower lands becoming huge lakes with trees popping out of the water far from the shore.

We had planned to pull in at Grand Island NE, but I felt pretty fresh, so we pushed on to Kearney NE. As it ends up, that was a very, very good decision.

We watched Shrek 3 on cable, and quickly learned that there was quite sever weather just east of Kearney which was pummeling Grand Island. There were severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings all night in that direction. We had bad storms, but nothing like what we heard about in Grand Island.

Despite the storms, it was a good day’s journey, and a good start to the trip.