April saw us cruising towards our next roadie destination of San Francisco. We were actually pretty darn excited to spend some time in a bustling metropolis for a while, having immersed ourselves in relatively untamed Californian wilderness for the past month. The focus of our extended North American road trip was national parks rather than cities, but could we really pass by an establishment as cool as San Fran?
Cruising towards the city, we were met with the harsh realization that there was absolutely NOWHERE to stay with the RV. San Fran was not an ideal city for a 24 foot motorhome, and what few RV parks dotted the city were already chock full. In desperation, I took the coastal road on Highway 1 and was rewarded with a range of overnight-friendly pullovers towards the rather fishy sounding town of Pescadero. With a sigh of relief, we parked up, and with one look at the view, decided to stay for two nights.
Refreshed from those sweeping seaside vistas, we trundled up through the hills and into Mountain View, just south of San Francisco. Here, we made the most of Sinead and Maryam’s stellar hospitality, who had recently moved from Toronto to the Bay area so that Maryam could begin working her dream job at Google. Little did they (or we, for that matter) know that we’d be camping out on their couch for a solid 2 weeks, recuperating from a bit too much wilderness and soaking up all the great stuff San Fran and the surrounding cities had to offer. Highlights of our stay were:
- exploring Google HQ with our very own tour guide Maryam, and getting treated to not one but two lunches in a couple of Google’s many on-campus restaurants
- strolling the heights above Mountain View
- Seeing Googles “driverless” cars cruise by at all hours
- exploring downtown San Fran by foot and train (the train is SUPER expensive and super slow, but it’s really the only way to get into San Fran if you don’t want to drive your oversized motorhome in…and you really don’t)
- exploring San Fran, the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito by bike (the ridiculously steep streets of San Fran weren’t ideal on my single-brake, no-gear fixie)
- checking out Alcatraz, which is actually super interesting and with epic views back towards San Francisco
After thoroughly immersing ourselves in the many sights of San Fran (and thoroughly overstaying our welcome at Sinead and Maryam’s), it was time to move on. We fired up the RV, gunned it across the Golden Gate (one of the Hunk o Junk’s prouder moments), and headed north.
The plan was to now head towards the fabled wine country of Napa and Sonoma, via the coast. After a quick Tripadvisor scour, I ascertained that Point Reyes National Seashore was suitably epic, so we altered course to include that on our way towards the vineyards. After 3 hours of some of the windiest and shittiest roads known to man, driving in one of the noisiest and shittiest motorhomes known to man, Point Reyes was becoming considerably less desirable. The roads rapidly dwindled into one-lane farm tracks, the RV increasingly protested each new pothole, and we started to worry that perhaps we took a wrong turn somewhere.
Eventually, however, the fog parted momentarily to reveal the somewhat underwhelming Point Reyes. There was a small welcome center (closed by this point), a strange rainwater collection device, and a lookout down towards the lighthouse. Admittedly, the views would have been quite spectacular if not for the impenetrable fog, but it was fair to say that the torturous drive probably wasn’t worth it.
After escaping the foggy lanes of Point Reyes, we made straight for the questionable civilization of Santa Rosa. Here, we managed to grab a half decent (but still horribly overpriced) spot at Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV Park. We hung out here for a day or two, explored Sonoma and Napa, did some wine tastings, then moved on.
We then cruised over to Sebastopol to check out the town’s famous Florence Avenue, which has a ridiculously extensive collection of quirky statues in almost every resident’s garden. If we were honest, this was probably our highlight for the Sonoma/Napa Valley area!
Suitably entertained, we headed back west towards the coast. Here we cruised up one of the most desolate stretches of Highway 1 we’d yet encountered, and it’s fair to say that the views were absolutely epic.
As epic as the coast was, the roads were horribly windy – essentially the arch nemesis of the RV. So after a hundred miles or so of twists and turns, we reached the humble town of Rockport and headed inland. We now found ourselves happily ensconced in redwood country, accessed by well-maintained and comparatively straight highways – we were in heaven!
Passing through Leggett, we paid the $5 entry fee to visit the famous “drive thru Chandelier Tree”. The tree was pretty darn cool, and making the most of it’s less-than-ideal situation of having a great big hole through the middle of it’s trunk. Sadly, however, the hole wasn’t designed to accommodate oversized motorhomes, so we didn’t get to experience the glory of driving through a tree.
From Leggett, we legged it towards Humboldt Redwoods State Park, where we parked up for the night in one of the tightest and sneakiest spots we’d yet to snag.
Next morning, we cruised through the Park and gaped up at the towering redwoods. The coolest part was simply driving through the massive groves and trying not to veer into mammoth tree trunks in the process.
Post-Humboldt, we continued north back towards the coast, restocked and refueled in Eureka (no joke) and continued on Redwood National Park – the jewel in Northern California’s leafy crown. We spent a solid day exploring the many areas of the park, from the glorious Trillium Falls Trail, to the self-explanatory Elk Meadow, to incredible Fern Canyon. Redwood National Park did not disappoint.
Following Redwood NP, we continued ever-north towards Crescent City, the uppermost establishment in NorCal. After restocking here, we turned inland once more and headed back into the mountains. A pleasant night spent parked up above the gorge in Six Rivers National Forest, and we passed into Oregon. Adios California!