Road Trips

EpicBear is always my copilot on road tripsI have taken countless road trips around the country, and in Germany over the years. Several were done during moves from one place to another. Others just because of my passion for exploring.

Here’s just some of the highlights. Many other road trips I’ve been on aren’t listed because we’re talking about decades of exploring and adventure. I’ll add more as I remember them!

New York to California, Ended Up Spending 3 Months in Oklahoma

  • Rode along with my brother and a friend of his in an old pickup they had built a basic, square wooden camper in the bed of.
  • The day we left to go west, was the day I was supposed to report to be sworn into the Coast Guard. So much for my dreams of being a rescue helicopter pilot!
  • We ran out of money in Stillwater, Oklahoma
  • Ended up getting a job as a ditch digger at a coal generating plant construction site.
  • Learned expert Foosball techniques from OK State students
  • Entire town was a single road, a couple blocks long
  • Biggest events while I was there were turtle races
  • This was my FIRST attempt at full cross-country driving, and I ended up going back home to Long Island. Defeated.

Bus from New York to California

  • Go West Attempt #2 !
  • Had to eat vending machine sandwiches more than once because the bus depots were closed
  • Read “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” along the trip (1 of many books that have changed my life). On a trip this long, in a confined space, definitely bring books!
  • This was my first road trip to California where I actually made it all the way.

Amtrak from Oakland, California to Las Animas, Colorado

  • If you’ve never been on a double-Decker Amtrak train cross country before, I highly recommend it as a unique way to see the landscapes.
  • So many mountain, river, Native American village landscapes!

Pennsylvania Amish Country

  • Pennsylvania countryside is, itself, beautiful. Rolling hills, endless flat farmland, little hidden gems of nature spread throughout.
  • Amish country is a whole different world. Their reliance on old world craftsmanship and cooking is fascinating. Yet getting to eat “family style” at a long table, will create memories for a lifetime.

Tampa, Florida to Miami Beach

  • There’s nothing like driving for four and a half hours in heat and humidity. Unless you want to add several minutes or more, to the drive, like I did, the time I drove from Tampa to Orlando, and THEN to Miami Beach.
  • Warning – depending on the drive, you will encounter miles upon miles of highway surrounded by parkland where controlled burn fires happen frequently.
  • And you’ll likely see countless billboard signs for injury attorneys and several more for churches or advocating anti-abortion.

San Rafael, California to L.A. or the Reverse

  • Multiple Times (I love driving PCH!)
  • Big Sur coast is magical
  • Heading down into Malibu along the PCH always charges my soul
  • From time to time, instead of the PCH, I took the inland route (the 5 freeway). And many times, I mixed it up, partway on PCH, partway on the 5. The scenery and people you meet along the way are very different and worth the change-up!
  • The feeling you get as you enter San Luis Obispo on the southerly trip, is invigorating. You know you’re getting close! Pismo Beach is the next town. Which means you’re back at the Pacific ocean.
  • On trips heading north, if you don’t time it well, and hit Silicon Valley in the late afternoon, you’re going to be in bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way through San Francisco. It’s a brutal drive at that point.

San Anselmo, California to Lacey, Washington

  • After working as an independent consultant, I got a job offer up in Washington several years ago.
  • NorCal PCH is amazing (though I prefer central coast to SoCal PCH more)
  • Venturing off the highway in the top NorCal into Oregon region leads to amazing natural landscape discoveries and quaint little shops. Most selling chainsaw wood carvings.

Folsom, California to Oro Valley, Arizona

My planned route, with stops along the way, moving to Arizona

When I make major moves, I rough-out a plan. It never ends up being precise. Yet it’s a good guide for timing and overnight stays.

  • A multi-day adventure, with a stop in Las Vegas to spend time with a good friend
  • After having been live-in caretaker, for a full year, to a dear friend after she had a massive cycling accident, I needed to get away to someplace new and grounding so I could process the heaviness of what I’d experienced that year. So I ended up moving to Oro Valley, in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon. Sleepy little town, yet just north of Tucson so I still had access to city life.

Oro Valley to Encinitas

After Arizona, I decided the next adventure would either be Encinitas, California (north San Diego County), or Oahu.  At the time, I was afraid of moving all the way to Oahu. So I chose Encinitas. While I DID move to Oahu after Encinitas, living in a tiny little old-town right at the beach was beyond magical and worth it. I loved that little town (and my beach/ocean view)!

  • Driving along US 10 through Arizona into California was fun! Sure, a lot of open desert, yet beautiful in its own way nonetheless.
  • I had my trusty EpicBear (a stuffed panda) to keep me company, so I wasn’t alone.

Mattituck, Long Island

When I was a young teen, my mom was in the hospital many times due to a heart condition complicated by several other diseases.  One year, she had to have open heart surgery.  So my dad, my brother, and I all spent each day she was there, at the hospital. And on the day of her surgery, my sister was with us (she’s 13 years older than me, and lived far out east on the island, in Mattituck.

That day, she saw how upset and worried I was. So that night, she invited me to join her at her house for a few days, to get away and process.  That was the most magical adventure I had had up to that point in my life.

  • Mattituck is a tiny little town. She lived in an apartment above the general store.
  • I loved how quiet and peaceful it was. Except for when the train came through. Yet even that train was just part of the blended-in experience.
  • In an “Alan in Wonderland” experience, I got it in my head one morning that I wanted to go fishing off the dock. Except I had no fishing pole, let alone gear. So my sister gave me some string, and an old Volkswagen key she had, which we bent.  And off to the dock I walked.  I was determined to catch a fish.  Must have looked silly to the actual men and women fishing near me. But I didn’t care.  It was a glorious, sunny and warm morning.  And I stood there, visualizing a fish biting into the key.  Probably an hour into it, it happened! I caught a snapper, off the dock in Mattituck, using only a string and a bent Volkswagen key. That night, that fish was delicious!

Russian River

When I lived in Marin, I became best friends with a woman whose family had stayed up at the Russian River every summer for years.  One year while I was in Marin, she said “I want to rent the house I used to stay at growing up. Want to join me?” Of course, I was in!  She then invited several others.  It was a big house with many bedrooms and make-shift sleeping spots.

  • We spent endless days playing, relaxing, reading books, grilling, and frolicking in the river.
  • I got to experience solo kayaking for the first time in my life. The water wasn’t rapids where we were. It was more just fighting occasionally strong currents. Yet it was a lot of fun and challenging.
  • We had many water-gun fights on the river.
  • I got to observe fly-fishing for the first time in my life. While friends fished, I took pictures. The multi-color glistening water at the crack of dawn was mesmerizing.
  • We went back a year or two later, and it was equally special.

Northern California ( many road trips!)

Having lived for several years in the San Francisco Bay Area, I got to go on many adventures and road trips.

  • I can’t speak highly enough of what it’s like to explore Napa wine country. So many wineries, and the rolling landscape is better than what you may have seen in movies.
    • There’s so much to see and do and explore in wine country, one day, or even a week isn’t going to suffice if you can afford to take the time off.
  • Lake Berryessa is itself, a getaway destination. Actually, a reservoir, the lake is massive. It covers 15.5 miles in length by 3 miles in width.
  • Little tiny towns along the way are stop-overs that will delight. Healdsburg and Guernville are my favorite.
  • Bodega Bay (a short drive from Freestone), is at the water’s edge. The rocky, windy landscape is worth it.
  • Point Reyes, in Marin County, is another favorite for the dramatic beauty where cliffs meet the Pacific.
  • If you want a real treat, head out to Osmosis Day Spa, in Freestone, CA. It’s the most relaxing and spiritually rewarding getaway one can imagine.
  • Sebastopol is an adorable little town
  • Lake Tahoe – wow!
    • Sure, come for the skiing in the winter. Don’t sell it short in the summer either though!
    • Renting a cabin at Northstar one summer was one of the best recharge of the mind and body experiences I’ve ever had. Some of the shops in Northstar village were closed, yet I never needed to leave the resort the couple weeks I stayed in the cabin (although I made multiple drives down to the Lake while I was there).
    • North Lake Tahoe is more quaint and laid back
    • South Lake at the NV border is way more touristy
    • A full drive around the lake is definitely a full day excursion if you want to really experience it. Anything less and you’ll miss some spectacular lake views and little ice cream shops / markets tucked along the way.
    • Plan ahead – in deep winter, parts of the route are closed due to landslide prevention. In late summer, the entire lake can be inundated by endless days of hazardous smoke from regional fires. Mid-summer, north lake can be packed with tourists and short-term-rental stayers.
    • Respect the bears. We are living on their land. Learn about bear safety BEFORE you come up.
    • Respect fire safety rules regarding open fires at campgrounds AND short-term rental properties. Too many wildfires in the region have started because people ignored this reality.
    • What you bring, take it with you. Lake Tahoe is a delicate and priceless treasure. The eco-system is in jeopardy though because too many tourists leave behind trash (not secured in bear-safe bins), and a lot of it ends up on the beach, or worse, in the lake itself. So be respectful stewards of the land while you’re at the lake.
    • If you buy a house up here, don’t expect mail delivery to your house. For example, in Kings Beach, we have a small post office and you have to get a PO box (free for residents). You can get shipments via UPS and FedEX to your home address. Nothing sent by USPS will be delivered to the house though.
    • Driving outside Lake Tahoe, with a heavy fog, where you end up deep in the forest, low on gas, is an adventure itself. Especially when you finally find a gas station, with nothing else around. And when you pull up, there’s nobody in sight. Except you see the security cameras pointed at you. And you wonder if you’re going to be murdered by the locals.
    • Speaking of driving around Tahoe – if you’re coming up in the winter, PLEASE only come up if you have 4‑wheel drive. Sure, you can convince yourself that “all wheel drive” is good enough. Or you may have heard it is. Except snow storms can hit the area in the blink of an eye. And more people have accidents, or become stranded each winter because they weren’t in an actual 4‑wheel drive vehicle.
    • Driving the Tahoe basin and surrounding Sierra mountains in winter, you need to be prepared. The gear and equipment you fail to have will be the gear and equipment that you just might end up needing. Being stranded, at night, in a heavy snow storm without extra blankets, or enough water, miles from the nearest town or stop, is something you want to avoid. Failing to have the proper tires, and not having the proper chains (ladder chains are useless in some situations in the region), is just as bad. Learning and knowing how to drive “in a manner appropriate for the conditions” is no laughing matter in the winter around here.
    • Did I tell you about the first winter I lived here? Where I ended up with four feet of snow surrounding my house? If it wasn’t for my Jeep Latitude, with the winter package (engine heater, remote start, heated seats and steering wheel), I’d have been screwed. If it wasn’t for amazing neighbors who have lived here for years, and all have heavy duty snow blowers, I would have never gotten out. Yet it WAS a winter wonderland, to be sure!