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ROAD TRIP to Get Away
Old 12-01-2008, 01:38 AM   #1
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ROAD TRIP to Get Away

DH and I are thinking about heading south from Seattle all the way to San Diego on a road trip next month December. We'd like to take anywhere from a month or two at most, so we're not in any time pressure really. That means if we feel like driving only 3-5 hours one day, we'll do so. Other days, longer. If we find a place we like to stay awhile, we'll stay while.

Places that we definitely want to see for a few days are Santa Barbara, Carmel and of course San Diego (We've already spent time in San Fransisco and LA). Have any of you done this or experienced a part of the ride? Are there any places or towns/cities you'd recommend, any particular scenic routes and highways to drive (highway 5 or 101 or other?). Are the weather conditions good along the entire route?

Any suggestions or recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks.
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Old 12-01-2008, 04:04 AM   #2
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Stop for a while in Big Sur. Nice scenery and visit Hearst Castle.


Visit San Juan Capistrano (above San Diego).
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Old 12-01-2008, 04:40 AM   #3
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101 will be scenic relative to I-5. You can see a lot of farmland, and this time of year, a lot of nothing on I-5. There are very few places to stop and take a few days to explore. You may want to use 101 for exploring and I-5 as a quick route hope when you are done exploring.

Disclaimer: I have not spent a lot of time on 101, but I have spent a lot of time on I-5, a lot of it is foggy in December.

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Old 12-01-2008, 04:56 AM   #4
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I would try to avoid interstates altogether as there is nothing there except people in a hurry,if you want to explore an inner route check out rt 395,although in December heavy snow can be a problem in the mountains.
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:09 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolette View Post
DH and I are thinking about heading south from Seattle all the way to San Diego on a road trip next month December. We'd like to take anywhere from a month or two at most, so we're not in any time pressure really. That means if we feel like driving only 3-5 hours one day, we'll do so. Other days, longer. If we find a place we like to stay awhile, we'll stay while.

Places that we definitely want to see for a few days are Santa Barbara, Carmel and of course San Diego (We've already spent time in San Fransisco and LA). Have any of you done this or experienced a part of the ride? Are there any places or towns/cities you'd recommend, any particular scenic routes and highways to drive (highway 5 or 101 or other?). Are the weather conditions good along the entire route?

Any suggestions or recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks.
I pretty much wore out a car driving back and forth between Seattle and LA. IMO, that time of year I would get south quickly. Once you are through the Siskiyous on I5 things should be fine. The Siskyous can be an unfun experience in winter.

Enjoy Mt. Shasta to the left once you are in CA, and head straight for the Bay Area. Visit Berkeley and the Sonoma/Napa wine country, but spend most of your Northern California time in SF. Go north a ways from San Francisco on Hiway 1 to Stinson Beach. Visit Sausalito, Muir Woods and Mt. Tam. Definitely spend time in Golden Gate Park. Lots of San Francisco residents on the board can give you more ideas, or correct mine.

Going South is is also fun to go at least part way on Hiway 1 if you have no time pressure. Look at at map, there is a mountain range between 101 and the coast, so you can only switch routes in a few places.There are really interesting things all the way down. I think it is one of the prettiest 400 miles in the world.

Ha
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:37 AM   #6
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Having been born and lived in Seattle and stationed in San Diego for 6+ years, I can tell you the trip from Seattle to San Diego can sometimes be brutal in the winter.

Just keep updated on the weather and you will be fine.

I would pack an emergency kit in case you get stranded...IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME!

Have fun and be safe!
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:54 AM   #7
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Redwoods National Forest
Napa Valley
Yosemite
Joshua National Park
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:51 AM   #8
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Having been born and lived in Seattle and stationed in San Diego for 6+ years, I can tell you the trip from Seattle to San Diego can sometimes be brutal in the winter.

Just keep updated on the weather and you will be fine.

I would pack an emergency kit in case you get stranded...IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME!

Have fun and be safe!
Hi Boxkicker - you definitely have experience here. Can you tell me what you mean by brutal? Do we need snow tires? Is there another route to get to San Diego and bypass any weather issues? Or do you suggest flying instead during this time of year?

Are there any places that you'd recommend yourself to check out?
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:53 AM   #9
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Hmmm - I spent 26 years growing up PacNW coast.

If were young at heart - snow chains, road maps and a sense of adventure - go East over Snowqualmie and dink your way south on the back roads through Eastern Washington, Oregon, Nevada and into Cal .

I drove every Christmas/New Year back and forth from Denver to Portland and then I-5 home for 4 yrs in the 70's. Always hit snow going or coming.

heh heh heh - Mountains , ocean, etc get ho hum if you grew up with it - now doughnut shops in small obscure out of the way towns?
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:53 AM   #10
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One of our favorite driving trips.

Napa Valley (stay at a Band B)

Mendicino (SP)? Very nice ocean side small town with good resturants

Carmel

Redwood Forest
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:11 AM   #11
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Monterey is nice. We took a trip a few weekends ago worth the time to stop for half a day/day.
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:22 AM   #12
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Hi Boxkicker - you definitely have experience here. Can you tell me what you mean by brutal? Do we need snow tires? Is there another route to get to San Diego and bypass any weather issues? Or do you suggest flying instead during this time of year?

Are there any places that you'd recommend yourself to check out?
Nicollette:

The problem is the mountains. Just as in Seattle, some Decembers pose no problems when crossing to eastern Washington, the same is true when heading south through the Siskiyous (or any other mountain range you will find travelling from north to south). Unfortunately, they're there, across most of southern Oregon and northern California.

The drive through the Siskiyous is beautiful when the roads are clear, and brutal, when you have to deal with snow and ice. It is the main line for truck traffic, so you'll be driving along with them. Great in good weather, not so great when the roads are wet.

Snow tires (or all weather radials), along with a pair of chains (as insurance) would be best.

-- Rita
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:30 AM   #13
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It sounds like most of the destinations you want to hit are coastal, so unless you REALLY meander, that would restrict you to the usual coastal routes -- i.e. US 101, CA 1, et cetera.

One north-south route a little out of the way (~3 hours off the coast in the Sierra foothills) is the historic CA route 49, aka the "Mother Lode Highway." It's a nice, scenic hilly drive but generally below the snow line (mostly below 2000'). As I said, though, that requires a bit of a detour from the coast between about Mendocino and Monterey. You do avoid the SF Bay Area and metro Sacramento that way, though, so if you're not in a hurry, I'd recommend that as well -- that would also be a good opportunity for a side trip to Yosemite, weather permitting.
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Old 12-01-2008, 04:20 PM   #14
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I pretty much wore out a car driving back and forth between Seattle and LA. IMO, that time of year I would get south quickly. Once you are through the Siskiyous on I5 things should be fine. The Siskyous can be an unfun experience in winter.

Enjoy Mt. Shasta to the left once you are in CA, and head straight for the Bay Area. Visit Berkeley and the Sonoma/Napa wine country, but spend most of your Northern California time in SF. Go north a ways from San Francisco on Hiway 1 to Stinson Beach. Visit Sausalito, Muir Woods and Mt. Tam. Definitely spend time in Golden Gate Park. Lots of San Francisco residents on the board can give you more ideas, or correct mine.

Going South is is also fun to go at least part way on Hiway 1 if you have no time pressure. Look at at map, there is a mountain range between 101 and the coast, so you can only switch routes in a few places.There are really interesting things all the way down. I think it is one of the prettiest 400 miles in the world.

Ha
It is beautiful (drove it back in the '70s). Be careful and pay attention to signs. There are limited rest stops/restaurants/gas stations/pull offs, so plan ahead.
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Old 12-02-2008, 12:20 AM   #15
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Great places to check out everyone! Perhaps it might be a good idea to take one route going south, and on return up north, take another route. Any thoughts on that?
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Old 12-02-2008, 04:41 AM   #16
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Yeah if you have the time, see the coastal stuff one way, and go I-5/CA-99 the other and take the detour on CA-49, Yosemite, Calaveras Big Trees on CA-4, Sonora, Columbia, Angels Camp...all old gold mining towns, but Sonora has grown up somewhat. Lots of antique stores in gold rush towns, great for browsing.

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Old 12-02-2008, 11:25 AM   #17
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Here's some good pics of Monterey Bay
Road Trip Rip - Monterey Bay - February, 2007

If you go here you can find pics of most of the places already suggested.
Road Trip Rip - Adventures
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Old 12-02-2008, 03:44 PM   #18
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Great places to check out everyone! Perhaps it might be a good idea to take one route going south, and on return up north, take another route. Any thoughts on that?
There are long sections of the PCH in central CA which are very curvy and notched into cliffs 100 feet or more above the water, with almost no shoulder between you and the cliffs. This could make some people a little nervous.

If you think you'd be nervous driving with little more than 5 feet between you and a 100-foot dropoff, travel this road northbound (against the side of the cliff instead of on the dropoff side).

Stunning drive, though.
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Old 12-03-2008, 12:31 AM   #19
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I'd wait until March/April to do this trip, mainly because the weather can really curtail your plan.

In spring, you won't have as high a likelihood of nasty snow on the mountain passes (though it's still possible) and there's a chance you'll see some spring wildflowers in the desert. It's still low season (provided you avoid spring break) so you'll have a lot of the road to yourself.

As far as itinerary, I'd drive from Seattle to Portland and spend a few days in Portland. Then I'd head west on Hwy 26 to Astoria and from there work my way down the coast on Highway 101/1.This will take you all along the most amazing coastlines in both OR and CA. Once you hit San Diego, I'd cut up and across to Joshua Tree and then work my way back up the Central Valley, stopping at national parks. Yosemite will be snowed in, still, but you can still visit. Work your way up the Sierras, maybe go to Tahoe, then cross over into SE Oregon and drive up the east side of the state to the Wallowas and Pendleton. From there, go up eastern Washington into the Palouse, then cut across back to Seattle.

Gorgeous, all of it, but if you go in December and aren't prepared for the winter driving it could be dangerous to take the snowy eastern route back up. Coming down the coast you won't have much trouble -- it's rarely snowy (sometimes icy) but going up I-5 or the eastern roads can be treacherous.

I grew up in western Oregon and now live on the Central Coast in California (with family in the Sonoma County/Bay area) and drive that run frequently, with lots of trips to Oregon thrown in, so feel free to PM me if you'd like more ideas on specifics.

I have to say, though, that I highly recommend spending a couple of days in Newport, OR at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. And, eat dinner there at least one night that you're a guest. I can recommend the Melville and Twain rooms highly.
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Old 12-03-2008, 09:24 PM   #20
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How wonderful! All the above suggestions are great. I would like to add my favorite spot on the n. california coast, Jenner, at the mouth of the Russian river where it enters the Pacific.
Jenner CA Town Information
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