California Road Trip Adventure

Stretching for 656 miles (1,056 km) along the coastline of California, the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) is one of the most famous and scenic drives in the United States. Driving Highway 1 is a bucket list item for many people, myself included. In 2013, I pitched the idea of a California road trip to my friend Krystina, and she was onboard. Together we planned a road trip mega adventure through California that would take nine days and cover 1,900 miles (3,057 km) of driving.

Planning the Trip

Our plan for the trip was a whirlwind of activity. Starting from Phoenix, we would drive to Los Angeles and see a few sights. From LA we would head over to Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks for a few days. After that, we would drive through California’s Central Valley up to the Bay Area for more sightseeing and exploration. We would then follow Highway 1 south along the coastline down to Los Angeles before returning to Phoenix.

Map showing our route from Phoenix to LA, north through California’s Central Valley, over to San Francisco, and looping back through LA on the way back to Phoenix.

We chose this route because I had read several websites that recommended traveling Highway 1 from north to south. The reason is that it is easier to pull off to the right to stop and see attractions, rather than waiting for cross traffic to clear to make a left turn.

The planned route would take nine days and approximately 1,900 miles (3,057 km) of driving. Because my aging Chevrolet Cavalier was not up to the challenge, Krystina volunteered to drive her 2008 Volkswagen Jetta on the trip. With its automatic transmission, air conditioning and cruise control, the car was well-equipped for the long journey ahead.

DAY ONE

Phoenix to Pasadena, CA
Friday August 2, 2013

We began our adventure on Friday August 2, 2013. I had gone to work for a few hours in the morning and met up with Krystina around noon. We packed up the car and were on Interstate 10 heading west towards California by 2:00 PM. Most people would not be looking forward to a six-hour drive across the desert, but we were buzzing with excitement over the trip. With Krystina at the wheel, the 370 mile (595 km) drive from Phoenix to Pasadena seemed to fly by.

Heading West on Interstate 10 through California’s Palm Desert.

That evening, we arrived at the Comfort Inn in Pasadena. The hotel was in a nice neighborhood with trendy restaurants and businesses up and down both sides of the tree-lined street. We grabbed dinner at the Chili’s restaurant in Monrovia, which was more of our speed.

Our hotel in Pasadena.

Santa Monica Pier

After a day of driving, we were not tired – we were ready to start exploring! We were hoping to see a view of the city at night from Griffith Park in Los Angeles, but the road up the mountain was closed by the time we arrived. Dang it!

Checking out the Santa Monica Pier late at night.

Not ready to go back to the room just yet, we drove to Santa Monica. We parked the car in a parking garage near the beach. The Santa Monica Pier was bustling with people and activity on Friday night. Under cloudy skies, we set up our cameras on the beach and took some pictures of the Santa Monica Pier and its amusement park. I don’t know what time we got back to the hotel, but it was well after 1:00 AM.

Day Two

Pasadena to Visalia, CA
Saturday, August 3, 2013

The next morning, we took advantage of the free breakfast at the hotel. We topped off the the cooler with fresh ice and fueled up the car. It was a 14 mile (22.5 km) drive to the first stop of the day: the California Science Center.

California Science Center in Los Angeles.

California Science Center

The California Science Center is home to many great exhibits, but we were there to see one specific exhibit: the recently decommissioned Space Shuttle Endeavour. The shuttle had flown its final mission in May of 2011 and was transported to its new home in Los Angeles a year later. The Endeavour exhibit opened in October 2012, about 9 months before our visit.

Seeing the shuttle up close and personal was an amazing experience. The orbiter is mounted on jackstands, allowing visitors to walk completely beneath the craft. It was incredible to see the size of the orbiter up close and personal. Additional items on display included the Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25, or Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), the shuttle’s tires, and an exhibit all about the space toilet.

The orbiter is mounted on jackstands, allowing visitors to walk completely beneath the craft. It was incredible to see the orbiter up close and personal. I marveled at the heat shield tiles, the engines, and the overall scale of the craft. It looked so much larger in person than I expected! The shuttle’s overall length is close to the Boeing 737-400 aircraft, though the shuttle’s fuselage is much wider. It was stunning to think that this vehicle has completed 4,671 orbits around the Earth.

Exhibits showing the orbiter’s tires, RS-25 engine, and the space toilet.

Besides the orbiter, we checked out the other items on display, such as: an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engine (or Space Shuttle Main Engine), the shuttle’s tires, and an exhibit all about the space toilet.

The CSC has an impressive collection of air and space memorabilia which covers manned spaceflight from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. We saw the never-flown command module built for the canceled Apollo 18 mission, the original Gemini 11 space capsule, a Mercury-Redstone 2 capsule, a lunar rock sample from Apollo 11, an Apollo 16 spacesuit worn by Thomas Mattingly, and much, much more. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to see these amazing artifacts of space exploration up close.

Exposition Park

The California Science Center is just one of many attrractions located within Los Angeles’ Exposition Park. After leaving the Science Center, we made a quick detour to the Memorial Coliseum. We took some photos of this facility, which hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1984. I wasn’t even born yet!

Elliott Smith Mural

Our next stop was Solutions Audio-Video Services at 4334 Sunset Blvd. This building is home to a famous mural that was featured on the cover of singer-songwriter Elliott Smith’s 2000 album Figure 8. The troubled musician died in 2003 at age 34 under suspicious circumstances. Since then, the mural has become a memorial for fans of the artist.

Visiting the Elliott Smith mural at Solutions Audio Video at 4334 Sunset Blvd.

Visiting this spot was one of those “someday when I am in LA, I will remember to check it out” kind of places. Sadly, a 2017 article says that part of the mural has been destroyed by a new tenant in the building.

While we were there, Krystina and I had a quick lunch at the McDonald’s across the street at Sunset Blvd. and Fountain Ave.

Griffith Observatory

Since our attempt to check out Griffith Observatory fell through the previous night, we decided to give it another try. The thing about Griffith Observatory is that there is not enough parking! Cars were parked on both sides of the two-lane road all the way up and down the mountain. We eventually found a tight space to park the Jetta. The only way to the observatory was to walk uphill. We reached the building around 3:30 P.M.

Built in 1935, the Griffith Observatory is a beautiful building and an icon of Los Angeles. The building and its exhibits are free to enjoy, and it was absolutely packed with people on a warm summer’s day. We found a little balcony where we could see some the Hollywood sign and other landmarks, but the tall buildings of downtown were only faintly visible through the cloud of haze and pollution that hangs over the city.

The skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angeles are faintly visible in the distance through the city’s perpetual haze of smog and pollution.

Once inside, we made our way through the exhibits as best as we could. I thought it was neat seeing a large display of the Periodic Table of the Elements, with examples of nearly all of the elements on display. At times, we squeezed shoulder to shoulder with other patrons as we navigated the crowded facility. The Observatory was neat but it was way too busy to be enjoyable. I would like to visit again when it is less busy.

Drive to Visalia

By 5:00 PM we were in the Jetta and driving towards the City of Visalia. Following Interstate 5, we noticed the scenery start to change as we left the Los Angeles basin. It took about three hours to cover the 190 miles from LA to Visalia, California.

Driving north on Interstate 5 near Lebec, CA we had this view of the Tehachapi Mountains.

We arrived in Visalia after dark and checked in to the Comfort Suites. Our room on the top floor had two televisions, a fridge, and a real thermostat like you would have in a house.

From the hotel, we spied a restaurant called Brewbakers. It was easily within walking distance and we went there for a late dinner at around 9:00 PM. The food was excellent and we both really enjoyed the service and the atmosphere. A quick walk back to the room and we were out for the night.

DAY THREE

Visalia, CA
Sunday, August 4, 2013

Kings Canyon National Park

Day Three of our adventure began with breakfast at the Comfort Suites in Visalia. We made a quick stop for gas at Costco before starting the 75-minute drive to Kings Canyon National Park. We followed CA-198 to 245 out of Visalia, passing through miles of farmland before connecting to CA-180 East. This two-lane highway has lots of twists and turns, and the drive can take a while if you get stuck behind a motorhome or slow moving vehicle. We arrived at the entrance to Kings Canyon shortly before 11:00 A.M.

Posing with my friend Krystina at the entrance to King’s Canyon National Park.

Grant Grove, Gamlin Cabin, Fallen Monarch Tree

Just inside the entrance is Grant Grove and the famous “General Grant” tree. The Sequoiadendron giganteum grows only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California, between 4,000 and 8,000 feet (1219 and 2438 m) in elevation. Grant Grove is one of several groves in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks where these massive Sequoia trees grow.

The General Grant tree in King’s Canyon National Park is the 2nd largest Giant Sequoia tree in the world.

General Grant is the second largest giant sequoia tree in the world, after the General Sherman tree. It stands 267 ft (81.5 m) tall, with a circumference of 107 feet (32.8 m) at the base. The tree is estimated to be 1,650 years old. It was by far the largest tree I have ever seen, and I thought it looked surreal compared to the regular-sized pine trees nearby.

From the same parking area, it is an easy walk to two other attractions: Gamlin Cabin and the Fallen Monarch tree.

Gamlin Cabin was built in 1872 and used by two brothers until 1878. It later served as a storehouse for the National Park Service and was the quarters for the first park ranger stationed here.
The Fallen Monarch tree was hollowed out by fire before it fell. The hollow has been used as a temporary shelter, a stable for the U.S. Calvary, and even as a saloon!

Roaring River Falls

After we had seen everything at Grant Grove, we drove further into the park for about an hour. There are multiple parking areas and trailheads that branch off the main road into the back country, but we stuck to the main road for our visit.

Roaring River Falls

We stopped to check out Roaring River Falls. From the parking area, it was a very short 800 ft (244 m) walk to the Falls. It was peaceful listening to the sound of the water flowing in Roaring River. The water was clear beautiful, and very cold.

A colorful pool of water along Roaring River in King’s Canyon National Park.

Zumwalt Meadow

About 1.7 miles past Roaring River, we pulled over again for the Zumwalt Meadow Trailhead. We did a quick hike to check out the meadow, staying for about an hour. Standing in the meadow listening to the sound of the breeze blowing through the grass, I had a real sense of gratitude for the people of the past who thought to preserve this place. It was a stark contrast to the noise of Los Angeles where we had spent the previous day.

Panoramic view of Zumwalt Meadow.

Zumwalt Meadow is basically at the end of the main road. While you could venture further into the park on foot, this was as far as you could travel by car. We looped around and drove toward the main gate, exiting the park at around 4:00 P.M.

The views at Zumwalt Meadow were stunning in their serenity and natural beauty.

After stopping by the hotel to get cleaned up, we set out in search of dinner. Krystina found a restaurant in Tulare called Cool Hand Luke’s. It was a fun, western-themed restaurant serving American and barbecue food. We had a nice dinner and headed back to the room for the night.

We had a nice dinner at Cool Hand Luke’s steakhouse in Tulare, CA.

Day Four

Visalia, CA
Monday, August 5, 2013

We began day four with the complimentary breakfast at the Comfort Inn. From the hotel, it was a 45 minute drive to the entry gate at Sequoia National Park. We arrived at the park shortly after 10:00 A.M.

Crystal Cave

Our first attraction in the park was to take a tour of Crystal Cave. We bought tickets for the 12:30 PM tour and drove to the parking area in our car. Crystal Cave is a living cavern with flowing water through marble stone. The cave entrance is protected by a unique decorative metal gate that looks like a giant spider web. It keeps unauthorized people out, but allows bats and other creatures to enter the cave.

Crystal Cave was discovered in 1918.

The temperature inside the cave was a refreshing 50 degrees F (10 C). We observed the unique cave formations along the half-mile loop trail inside the cave.

General Sherman Tree

We finished up with Crystal Cave around 1:30 PM and headed over to the Visitor’s Center. Sequoia National Park was MUCH busier than King’s Canyon, and parking was very difficult. We opted to leave the car and explore the rest of the park using the free shuttle buses that circulate between different points of interest.

Though not the tallest or the widest, the overall volume of the General Sherman tree’s trunk makes it the biggest tree on Earth. It stands 275 feet (83 m) tall and has a volume of 52,500 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters).

We boarded a bus to go and see the General Sherman Tree. From the parking area, it was a short walk down a shady pathway to the tree. At 275 feet (83 m) tall, the General Sherman tree is a giant among giants. It is estimated to be 2,200 years old. As the largest Giant Sequoia on Earth, it was stunning to behold. We spent about an hour admiring and photographing the tree from 3:00 to 4:00 PM.

High Sierra Trailhead

After General Sherman, we boarded another shuttle bus within the park to the High Sierra Trailhead. At around 5:00 PM, we set off from the trailhead for a little hike into the woods. It felt good to be out on the trail and we were both in high spirits.

Taking a short hike along the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park.

A short way down the trail, we arrived at Crescent Meadow, which the naturalist John Muir called the “Gem of the Sierras.” Earlier that morning at the Visitor Center, we overheard a conversation between a ranger and another person that Crescent Meadow was a popular place to see bears early in the morning. We did not see any wildlife during our visit.

Crescent Meadow looked picture perfect in the late afternoon light.

Further along the trail is Tharp Log, a rustic cabin built out of a fallen Sequoia tree around 1861. Before the land became a National Park in 1890, a local pioneer Hale D. Tharp lived in the “cabin” during the summer months while he used the nearby meadows as a range for his livestock.

Tharp Log is a fallen Sequoia tree that was used as a rustic cabin by a local pioneer, Hale D. Tharp, during the summer months from 1861-1890.

We spent a little under an hour on the trail, as we weren’t there to do any serious hiking. We took the shuttle bus back to the car and left the park around sundown.

We had dinner at Brewbakers Brewing Co. in Visalia on two different nights. We really liked this place!

For our last night in Visalia, we made our second visit to Brewbakers to have dinner. We really liked that place and still talk about it years later!

Day Five

Visalia, CA to Half Moon Bay, CA
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Drive to San Francisco

We packed up our things and checked out of the hotel in Visalia that had been our home for the past few days. There was a lot of driving ahead as we left the Sierra Nevadas for the Bay Area. We were on the road by 10:00 AM with Krystina at the wheel. We followed CA-99 northwest through Fresno, Merced and Modesto and countless small farming towns in between. We stopped in Dublin, CA for a quick lunch at Chipotle. After approximately 4 hours on the road, we crossed the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge over the San Francisco Bay.

Muir Woods

Krystina and I arrived at the Muir Woods National Monument at around 3:00 PM in the afternoon. Many years before, I had visited the Muir Woods on a family vacation when I was 11 or 12 years old. Muir Woods is a magical place and I was looking forward to seeing it again as an adult.

Muir Woods National Monument was established as a protected area in 1908.

While the old growth Redwood trees are not as large or as tall as the giant sequoias we had just seen, they are still impressive. Visitors to the Muir Woods walk along a wooden walkway which is flanked on both sides by lush, green undergrowth. It looks like a real-life scene from the movie Fern Gully. We spent an hour at Muir Woods, enjoying the ambience of the woods. While I would have liked more time to enjoy, we had more things to see!

Walking along the main trail at Muir Woods National Monument.

Marin Headlands

From Muir Woods, we drove to Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. There is a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and we took lots of photos. The bridge looked stunning from this high angle and we could see across the channel into the city. I was thankful that the weather was clear that day! We did have a little trouble getting a GPS signal in this area and got a bit turned around. We eventually found our way back to Highway 1.

We enjoyed a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge from this viewpoint at Marin Headlands.

Half Moon Bay

At around 6:00 PM we drove across the famous bridge and into San Francisco. We passed through the city without stopping as we headed towards Half Moon Bay, a small beach side community 30 miles (48 km) south of the big city. We arrived at the Quality Inn and settled into our room.

That night, we enjoyed dinner on the patio at the Half Moon Bay Restaurant & Brewpub. While the weather was a little chilly, the food was delicious!

Day Six

Half Moon Bay, CA
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Computer History Museum

San Francisco and the Bay Area have lots of great arts, cultural, and historic sights to see. However, I was excited to check out the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. This one-of-a-kind facility tells the history of computing, from Charles Babbage’s Difference engine to the first Google server. We arrived at the museum at 10:45 AM. The museum has 125,000 square feet (11,613 sq. m) of exhibit space and I enjoyed walking through the exhibits and taking lots of photos.

Visiting the Computer History Museum in Palo Alto was one of many highlights of the trip.

Some of my highlights were: Deep Blue, the machine that challenged world chess champion Gary Kasparov, the exhibit on personal computers, and an original Apple I in a wooden case from 1976! I could have continued nerding out, but we were starting to get hungry for lunch and wrapped up at the museum around noon.

Some notable artifacts from the history of computing on display.

Lombard Street

Leaving Mountain View, we drove 38 miles (61 km) north into the heart of San Francisco. We made a quick stop at Ghirardelli Square, but didn’t stay very long. We were only a few blocks away from Lombard Street, one of the most recognizable streets in the world. With eight tight hairpin turns over a 1-block distance, it is famous for being incredibly twisty. It is also very beautiful with lush landscaping, plants, and flowers lining both sides of the “World’s crookedest street.”

I was surprised at the beauty of San Francisco’s Lombard Street!

Though we were only a few blocks from Lombard Street, we could not find any place to park! The narrow, congested streets were completely lined with cars parked bumper-to-bumper. We ended up parking illegally at a Safeway grocery store, which had a 1-hour time limit. From here we walked several blocks to Lombard Street.

View of Alcatraz Prison, taken from somewhere within a block or two of Lombard Street.

I enjoyed seeing this famous landmark. From this vantage point I could see Alcatraz, the famous prison island in San Francisco Bay. We had to hustle back to the car in order to avoid getting a ticket, but we made it!

Crissy Field

It was a short drive from the grocery store to our next stop: Crissy Field. This is a large and open green space with a fabulous view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The park was bustling with tourists and with people walking dogs, riding bikes, and enjoying the summer weather. We spent about 30 minutes at Crissy Field taking photos and browsing through a small gift shop. The City of San Francisco really does have some great parks.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field.

Postcard Row

As children of the 1980s, Krystina and I both watched the TV show “Full House” in the 1990s. Set in San Francisco, the show’s opening credits feature a montage of sights around the city, including the famous “Postcard Row.” This stretch of Steiner Street is home to seven beautifully colored Victorian homes, which are nicknamed the “Painted Ladies.”

These beautiful Victorian-era homes make for a postcard-perfect image of San Francisco! Taken from Alamo Square Park.

Krystina did an excellent job parallel parking the car at Alamo Square Park, which offers a postcard-perfect view of the homes. It was a bit surreal to be standing in a place that I had only seen on television and it looked exactly as it did on the show!

Around 4:00 PM we started driving back towards Half Moon Bay, but we took a scenic route through the city. We drove past landmarks such as Market Street and the Castro neighborhood. We were marveling at the density of houses in the city and the hilly terrain.

A cloudy afternoon at Roosevelt Beach in Half Moon Bay. It was within walking distance of our hotel.

Back at the hotel, we took a quick walk to the beach before dinner. Under gray skies, we walked in the sand at Roosevelt Beach in Half Moon Bay.

Day Seven

Half Moon Bay, CA
Thursday, August 8, 2013

By this point, we had been on the road for a week. Though we had passed the midpoint of the drive and were heading toward home, we still had a lot of ground left to cover.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Our day began in Half Moon Bay at the Quality Inn. After breakfast, we followed Highway 1 south towards Monterey, which was our destination for the day. About 22 miles (35 km) from Half Moon Bay is an old lighthouse called Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We pulled over to explore this attraction.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located on Highway 1 between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz.

The lighthouse and its 115-foot (35 m) tower were completed in 1871. The original light burned various types of oils, and was converted to electric light in 1926. The lighthouse was automated in 1974 and is still in use today as a navigational aid. I enjoyed the lighthouse and the grounds and got some great pictures that I was quite happy with. We climbed back in the car and continued down the coast.

Cannery Row

We arrived in Monterey around midday, which had us on the hunt for a good lunch spot. We chose the Cannery Row Brewing Company, located in a gorgeous red brick building just two blocks from the water’s edge. The food was good and we were ready to do some exploring.

Cannery Row Brewing Co. in Monterey has been serving up craft beer and great food since 2010.

Krystina and I walked up and down Cannery Row on foot, checking out the shops and the sights. We perused the shops selling gifts, clothing, fudge, and other treats, enjoying a more leisurely pace than we had over the past few days. Cannery Row has a memorial to the American writer John Steinbeck (1902-1968) who wrote many books about California, including one called Cannery Row.

Historic Cannery Row is a popular destination for shopping and dining in Monterey.

Around 3:00 PM, we left Monterey and began the drive back to Half Moon Bay. We stopped at Pigeon Point Lighthouse for a second time to get a few more photos. The 100 mile (161 km) drive took about 2 hours time.

For dinner, we returned to the Half Moon Bay Restaurant and Brewpub for a second visit. All in all, it was a pretty great day.

Day Eight

Half Moon Bay, CA to Lompoc, CA
Friday, August 9, 2013

Day Eight of our California Road Trip Adventure was another busy one. In the morning, we packed up the car and checked out of the hotel. We drove south along Highway 1 for five hours, covering some 280 miles (450 km). The scenery was gorgeous, with views of the ocean and the rugged coastline for mile after mile. There are long stretches between towns with no fuel or services, so be prepared for that.

We did make a few stops along the way, including the Bixby Creek Bridge.

Bixby Creek Bridge

This magnificent arch bridge was completed in 1932 and has become one of the most photographed landmarks on the West Coast of the U.S. It was challenging to get a good photo of the bridge, as the small parking area near the north side of the bridge has an obscured view. The steep cliffs were not worth the risk to me to try and get the perfect shot. The bridge is a must-see item for any Highway 1 traveler.

Bixby Creek Bridge is a must-see item for any Highway 1 road trip!

Hearst Castle

A little before 2:00 PM we arrived at our next stop, which was the small community of San Simeon. This is the site of a palatial home built by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951). I was intent on touring the home, as I knew that it was unlikely that I would have another chance to visit in the foreseeable future.

However, I did not make an advance reservation and space for the afternoon tours was filling up quickly. We purchased tickets for the 3:50 PM tour, which meant we had over an hour to kill before the tour began. If you go to Hearst Castle, I *highly* encourage you to book your tour time in advance!

Check out the vivid color of the water at W.R. Hearst Memorial Beach in San Simeon, CA.

While we waited, Krystina and I drove to Hearst Memorial Beach, home of the San Simeon Pier. We took some photos from the pier and I was mesmerized by the blue-green color of the water.

Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst spent more than 40 years building this palatial estate on the California coast.

At last, it was time to check out Hearst Castle. Guests park at the visitor center at the bottom of a hill. You then board a tour bus that winds its way up to the top of the mountain. A video message by former Jeopardy host Alex Trebek told us about the history of the ranch on the ride up to the top.

The main residence at Hearst Castle, “Casa Grande” is approximately 65,000 sq ft (6,038 sq m)

A tour guide gave us a tour of the home, which was unbelievably ornate and excessive in every way imaginable. The home boasts 42 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, and a dining room with seating for 22 people. The house has every imaginable amenity from a library to an indoor pool. There are three large guest houses in addition to the main house.

Hearst Castle features an ornate Roman-style outdoor pool.

I have never seen anything quite like it. I took a lot of photos and contemplated the level of dedication that was put into building this monument of wealth. By 5:20 PM we were done with Hearst Castle and back on the road.

About two hours later, we reached our scheduled stop for the night in Lompoc, California. We checked into the room at the Best Western, right near the local airstrip. While I was looking forward to a relaxing soak in the hot tub, I was disappointed to find out that the entire pool and hot tub was closed. Dang it!

Day Nine

Lompoc, CA to Phoenix, AZ
Saturday, August 10, 2013

The final day of our California mega adventure was another long one, packed with activity. The day began in Lompoc, where we checked out of the hotel after enjoying the free breakfast.

Solvang

A short drive East of Lompoc is the small touristy town of Solvang. This town is built to look like a Danish Village in the heart of California’s wine country. Though originally settled by Danish immigrants, the town did not adopt its signature Danish provincial architectural style until after World War II.

The city of Solvang is a quaint city in California’s wine country that has many examples of Danish provincial-inspired architecture.

In-N-Out Burger Company Store

We spent the next 3 hours in the car, driving towards Los Angeles. Around 1:30 PM we stopped in Baldwin Park for lunch. This is the location of In-N-Out Burger’s new “Store #1.” It looks like any other In-N-Out location, but adjacent to the restaurant is a large building that says In-N-Out University. This is a training center where the company sends its managers and executives. There is also a gift shop that sells branded merchandise. I bought a T-shirt at the Company Store.

The In-N-Out Burger Company Store in Baldwin Park, CA is the ultimate destination for In-N-Out super fans.

We left around 2:00 PM and were heading east on Interstate 10 towards home. But, there was one final stop left to make.

Madonna of the Trail

Madonna of the Trail is the name given to a set of 12 identical monuments located along the National Old Trails Road, which extends from California to Maryland. The statues were built in 1928 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Each monument shows a pioneer woman with two children looking ahead courageously. We hopped out of the car for some quick photos and were soon back on the road.

Madonna of the Trail statue in Upland, CA.

It was a long drive back to Phoenix. The drive crosses vast stretches of desert and there is not much to look at, particularly in California’s Palm Desert and western Arizona. We spent another 6 hours in the car, finally arriving home in Phoenix around 7:30 PM. With that, our California Road Trip Adventure had come to an end.

Final Thoughts

Krystina and I both have a lot of great memories from this trip. Looking back on it, I think we could have done the National Parks (Sequoia and Kings Canyon) as a separate trip. The thing is, I had planned so many stops that we did not have room in the schedule to stay too long at any one place. It would have been nice to have a more relaxed pace to enjoy certain sights and attractions, instead of grabbing a few photos and running off to the next spot.

We definitely experienced sightseeing fatigue from packing so many amazing, one-of-a-kind experiences into one trip. The longer the trip goes on, the more weary and tired you become and you almost start to become numb to the beauty of these locations.

If you are planning a Highway 1 adventure of your own, I would definitely recommend that you plan ahead and make reservations for key attractions and for hotels. However, don’t pack your schedule quite so full and allow time to explore the unexpected sights and places that catch your eye. I would also recommend planning some personal time for each person on such a long trip.

I think that we had a good balance of natural attractions and man-made attractions on this trip. For every museum and city, we also had giant trees and beaches to balance things out. The California Highway 1 Mega Road Trip Adventure is one trip that my friend Krystina and I still look back on with fond memories, many years later.

About the author

Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman is a writer, photographer, and maker who loves learning new things. His favorite food is pizza. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from Grand Canyon University. He lives and works in Phoenix.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorFreemanAZ, on Instagram at @arizona.dreamin, and on YouTube: TheRealTrevorland.

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