This year will be known for many things but not for travelling. One of the equalizers of 2020 is that very few people across the globe will remember this year for its jet-setter adventures. Fortunately, my Facebook memory timeline is flooded with memories of a once-in-a-lifetime trip Carl and I had the privilege of taking in 2019. Since none of us can go anywhere now I thought I would share the memories of our adventure with you.
For years now we have been dreaming of travelling to the USA. We are spoiled to be well-travelled and wanted a change of scenery on our next adventure. Carl would celebrate a milestone birthday in 2019 so we decided to start turning our dreams into goals. We were blessed with finances from unexpected sources and decided to put it towards this voyage.
There were very few certainties, and the itinerary morphed over and over, but we eventually settled on flying from Johannesburg to New York and then San Francisco; taking a road trip up the Pacific coast towards Portland and Seattle; then flying to New York City and spending a few days exploring the Big Apple. We tend to over-book our overseas holidays and pack them too full for the energy we have in our tanks, but it was an incredible opportunity and I would not cut anything from the journey if I had to do it over again.
After almost a year of planning our looooong flight took off from OR Thambo in Johannesburg. The excitement was palpable and we could not wait to set foot on the Land of Liberty. I had been to the USA a few times before, but this was Carl’s first time. However, this was his dream holiday and he knew a lot more about the places we would visit than I had time to research. After landing in NYC, we had a short layover and then took our connecting flight to San Francisco. The total travelling time was 19 hours. It was a very long journey.
We landed in SF late in the afternoon and took an Uber to our typical Queen Anne Victorian style Airbnb which was a perfect start to our travels. After freshening up Carl almost dragged me out the house to go and explore. He just didn’t seem to be affected by jetlag at all, while I was exhausted. We took the cable cars to Bay Bridge and walked along the Pier. We thought the “area where the action is” will be just around the next corner. Not so much. We walked all the way from Pier 1 to 39 before we reached some restaurants we thought we might be able to afford, only to find out they all closed by 8 pm. The time was 19:55. This was so strange for us, as we were expecting a similar vibe to the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town which never seems to close, especially in summer. Unfortunately, we had to be satisfied with an Applebee’s dinner (similar to Spur in SA – yes, I know). It was so expensive, but it would become a big joke in the weeks to come because the place where stayed was actually quite close to some great eating places.
The next morning we took quite easy and made our way to Sweet Maple where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast with their signature Millionaire’s bacon. I loved the fact that American restaurants bring you water by the glass and fill it up as often as you need to. This is my ideal way of dining since I have an unrelenting addiction to water. For breakfast, you also get as many coffee refills as your heart desires. And on a trip like this, your heart needs quite a bit of coffee.
After breakfast we went exploring, making our way to the Painted Ladies, and then later took the bus to Golden Gate Park where we explored the California Academy of Sciences and enjoyed a pretzel and iced tea in the shady garden. We strolled back over the rolling hills of San Francisco, taking in the Golden Gate Bridge and admiring crazy curvy streets like Lombard Street (where Mark Zuckerberg lives) with all the other tourists. After a long hot day, we went on our first grocery run to Wholefoods, survived a heart attack when we converted the final total to South African Rands and finished the evening quietly at our temporary home.
We dedicated our third day in SF to cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, so we made our way to the bike shop connected to our City Pass and got geared up. I would highly recommend getting the City Pass when exploring a city as a tourist since you can really save a lot of money and jump the lines at most attractions. It was a scorching day in San Francisco which was apparently quite rare but made for a great day for cycling. The 13km ride took us to Sausalito where we ate our packed sandwiches on the lawn by the docks and took the ferry back across to the bay. The ride was tough due to all the hills and the sweltering heat, but it was a definite highlight of the trip.
We rested a bit by the waterfront with some refreshments, before heading back to our Airbnb to get ready for dinner. In the short time it took us to shower and change, the weather transformed completely, and we left for Fisherman’s Warf through a cold and windy mist. We shared some paella and clam chowder at Boudin bakery and finished off our SF leg of the trip with an Old Fashioned. The first leg of our adventure was over and we were ready to carry on with our journey.
Early the next morning Carl went to fetch our rental car for our road trip. We booked a Toyota RAV 4 or equivalent, but when I came out of our apartment with our luggage I was surprised by a gorgeous Cadillac SUV! We were upgraded for free by a kind manager. There can be no better car for a road trip along Route 101!
We set out North with cloudy, misty weather which made the view of the Golden Gate Bridge quite tricky but was the perfect weather for hours in the car.
Our first sightseeing stop was the Avenue of the Giants where we were greeted by massive old Redwood trees which are known as the tallest trees in the world. Many of the trees in this forest are between 600 and 1200 years old, and scientists have identified one of these giants as the tallest tree in the world measuring a height of 115.5 meters – six stories higher than the Statue of Liberty. It was incredible to admire these trees and no photograph can really capture their majesty.
After leaving the forest we drove through a few quaint small towns before making our way to our first overnight stop in Eureka. On the way, I started searching for the best place to get take-aways and decided on Paul’s Live New York Pizza. However, our Google search did not give us the closest branch to our hotel which resulted in quite a drive to the other side of town. We must have stood out like a sore thumb in this restaurant because our long wait for our pizza was awarded a second pizza! Being only two people and the pizzas being super-American-sized meant that we could not possibly finish all the food. It was delicious though, but we gave about a pizza and half away the next day.
The next morning we set out for Newport (Oregon, not the OC like you might think of from the TV show). We were greeted by stunning views of the Oregon Coast which we tried to capture in pictures. By the time we reached Newport, we were very tired but fortunately, there was a charming fish and chips restaurant across from the hotel where we enjoyed a meal and a glass of wine before passing out from road trip induced exhaustion. The weather was still very chilly and not at all what I expected from an American summer.
After a good night’s rest and a plastic hotel breakfast, we began the final stretch to Portland.
More about Stumptown next week…