Day Eight – La La Land

Oh La La Land. While both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were M.I.A. during our visit to LA, we did see a couple dressed as their characters when we visited the Griffith Observatory. And yes, it was precious.

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In true LA fashion the traffic was terrible so we missed the sunset by a matter of minutes. Undeterred, we fought our way up the hill and were blessed with this incredible view of the city (under a full moon, no less!) Trust us, this picture does not do the view justice. The Griffith Observatory is just one of those places you have to see in person. Don’t be deterred by the lack of parking or the crazy steep hills you have to climb to reach that view! It. Is. Worth. It.

Because, yes, even though our expectations were this:

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And instead we saw this:

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We did not leave disappointed.

– – – Other LA Highlights – – –
Hannah was able to visit her college roommate, Joy, who now lives in Long Beach
Eliza and Sam tried “rolled” ice cream; it was strange and also amazing
Apparently sting rays are easily scared off by shuffling feet
And “oil islands” are sometimes mistaken for Disney hotels


Day Seven – Madonna and Malibu

Before I forget (again), here’s a gorgeous shot of Big Sur that I should have included in the last post (Day Five & Six – The Princess Diaries). That’s Bixby Bridge in the background. It was built in 1932 and is still considered one of California’s prettiest bridges. Due to recent landslides, it is only accessible from the north.

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We started “Day Seven” in Salinas, CA with the goal to reach Calabasas (our LA home base) by late afternoon/early evening. Few stops were planned for this day, so when we spotted a sign for the Madonna Inn we had to pull over to explore.

Years ago, Eliza saw the Madonna Inn featured on a Travel Channel special that highlighted the most unique hotels in our country. We were not disappointed! This hotel was built in 1958 and is known for its eclectic design. Every room has a theme, including the common rooms and bathrooms. Guest rooms range from $209-619 per night.

While we could never afford to stay the night, we loved exploring the lobby, dining room, gift shops, and yes, the pink saloon-style bathroom. This is absolutely a one-of-a-kind stop that should not be missed.

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After leaving the Madonna Inn, we drove south for an hour before stopping to eat lunch in Solvang, CA – a danish village that was packed with tourists. Our lunch at the Solvang Brewing Co. was unfortunately very disappointing. Service was awful and the food was only okay. There was, however, a windmill outside! One of only a handful that we spotted during our drive through town (Actual question: Where are all the windmills?)

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We continued on to Santa Barbara where we stopped briefly at the Santa Barbara Mission to explore and stretch our legs. We didn’t linger long, however, because we were all anxious to reach Calabasas, or more specifically, Malibu, before sundown.

And thankfully, we made it! It would have been heartbreaking to miss such a gorgeous sunset. We reached Malibu through the mountain pass that we quickly coined, “The Bob Ross Mountains” for their exceptional beauty that seemed too stunning to be real.

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For anyone who may be wondering, yes, we did listen to Miley Cyrus’ new single, Malibu. Repeatedly. And yes, it was magical.

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Day Five & Six – The Princess Diaries

Hills. Hills. Hills. And yes, more hills. That’s San Francisco for ya. We climbed the equivalent of forty-one flights of stairs as we explored nearly every neighborhood in this wonderfully gorgeous, wildly steep city. Hannah’s fancy app tracker recorded 19,961 steps over the course of 6.7 miles… suffice to say, San Francisco was breathtaking.

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San Fran highlights included picnicking in front of the famous “Painted Ladies” that were once featured on the television show Full House.

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We also visited Pier 39. Here’s an attempted selfie in front of the whale mural. We were unable to see the Golden Gate Bridge due to fog, so this was our substitute backdrop.

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Alcatraz was particularly ominous this afternoon. Eliza accidentally took this picture as she was putting her phone down, which is why it has a magical swoop effect.

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It should be noted that this day started off with clear skies and promising temperatures, but quickly plummeted to the mid-50s when the fog rolled in. Cindy, a sweet shop owner in Ashbury, explained that San Francisco’s coldest months are July and August. As such, the saying goes: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” This, she explained, is the result of the Bay’s microclimate.

We decided to head back to our hotel for an early night in instead of watching the fireworks. We had been on our feet for hours and were ready to crash into our beds. We purchased It’s Its – a local San Fran dessert (vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies dipped in chocolate) on our way to the hotel and ate those before bed. They were messy and delicious and a true 10 out of 10.

The next morning we were up early for some last minute touring. The Princess Diaries (a true cinematic masterpiece) was, of course, set and filmed in San Francisco. We visited “Grove High School” and the home of Mia Thermopolis before leaving the city.


We continued south on Hwy 1, stopping to visit the Pigeon Point lighthouse. Here we saw a pod of dolphins and some whales in the distance. It was incredible.

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After whale watching, we got hopped back in the car and started our drive through California’s wine country. Many references were made to the 1998 version of The Parent Trap. We stopped at Folktale Winery and Vineyards in Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA and each enjoyed a glass of wine on the patio. It was peaceful and a nice change of pace from the rush of San Francisco.

Two hours later, we were back on Hwy 1 driving through Big Sur. Due to the recent landslides, we were only able to drive about 25 miles before we were forced to turn around and retrace our steps (an event we had planned for in advance). Consequently, we stayed overnight in Salinas, CA. This town was reminiscent of the one depicted in Napoleon Dynamite, i.e. it was charming, but not the most happening place. We stopped at Target and Sam purchased a copy of The Princess Diaries, which we watched that night at our hotel. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Day Four – One Hour From San Fran

“5.5” Hours to San Fran – Redwood National Park

Our morning began with campfire scramble courtesy of Sammie. We packed up our tent and hit the road at 7:30 a.m., ready to experience the wonders of Redwood National Park. It was cool and foggy with periodic sprinkles, but the weather quickly cleared as we moved inland. We reached the Avenue of the Giants at 10 o’clock.


The Avenue of the Giants surpassed all expectations. We visited the park on the eve of July 4th, so it was busy but not overwhelming. We took a slight detour through Rockefeller Forest; this side venture required another laborious, slow drive along a second precarious, pothole-ridden road, but it was absolutely worth it.

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Here in Rockefeller Forest, you can hike to “The Giant Tree” and “The Tall Tree” – which we did, in reverse order. The Tall Tree stands at 359.3 feet with the circumference of 42 feet; it was measured in February 1957. The Giant Tree stands at 363 feet with a circumference of 53.2 feet; it was measured in November 1991.

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We enjoyed the park for several hours, leaving at around 1 o’clock. We said goodbye to Hwy 101 in Leggett, CA, marking our official start on the Pacific Coast Highway as we turned onto Hwy 1. It took all of our Lookout Mountain training to avoid getting carsick during this stretch of our journey. We’ve attempted to find an aerial shot of the road to illustrate just how twisted this mountainous pass truly is. Unfortunately, no satisfactory images have surfaced, so you will have to use your imagination.

“3.5” Hours to San Fran – Fort Bragg, CA

We descended the mountain an hour later, only to have our breath stolen by this view.

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This is when Eliza captured this iconic image of Hannah capturing trip footage for the trip vid (standby for this video – it will be stunning).

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We continued driving south, enjoying a series of vista points along the way. It was impossible to pass by without pausing to take in the view.

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We stopped for lunch in Fort Bragg, eating fish tacos at a local Mexican restaurant before heading across the street to Glass Beach. This beach was once a landfill, but is now a beautiful state park known for its impressive collection of sea glass formed from discarded beer bottles. It wasn’t as grand as its reputation suggested (the sea glass has been picked over by tens of thousands of tourists), but it still boasted more sea glass than any other beach the three of us have visited.

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We made sure to visit Cowlick’s Creamery before leaving town. This ice cream is made from the happy cows of California, and it was delightful. We left Fort Bragg around 6 p.m. excited to cross the Golden Gate Bridge at sundown.

“3” Hours to San Fran – Elk, CA

By this point in the trip, we were convinced that we were an hour away from San Francisco. This, of course, was not accurate. But we believed it nonetheless. We stopped at a lighthouse where the temperature/wind chill was nearly unbearable. We also visited a series of beaches and vista points. Before we knew it, it was 8 p.m. Here’s a picture of Sam celebrating the Pacific Ocean, unaware of the hours and hours and hours of driving we still had left ahead of us. It was a moment of bliss.

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This is a shot of California “sand” also known as pebbles on the east coast.

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“1.5” Hours to San Fran – Valley Ford, CA

If there was any point during this day when we should have gone another way, it would have been at the 1/101 crossroads in Valley Ford, CA. Though it was already dark – the time was 10 p.m. – we chose to continue our coastal route instead of meeting Hwy 101. This was a mistake. This route was plagued with construction and ended with a massive detour on Mt. Tamalpais. Thankfully, one of our best trip moments was born from this mess.

– – – The Story of Norman – – –
We were exhausted and Sam was convinced she saw an owl sitting in the road (yes, just sitting there). Hannah and Eliza did not see said owl, so Sam prayed that the Lord would, “show them the animals” and the next thing we knew, Norman, the fox crossed the road directly in front of us. Relentless laughter ensued (we are still laughing five days later as we discuss the “exact” details of Sam’s spiritual experience). It should also be noted that all three of us screamed at deafening pitches when we rounded the bend and saw Norman staring back at us. Suffice to say, God has a sense of humor.

San Francisco, California – Arrival time – 11:30 p.m.

This was the day when we were “an hour away from San Fran” for a good six hours. According to Hannah’s app, we drove a total of 11 hours and 42 minutes. As a result, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in a state of delusion. It was foggy, so we were unable to truly appreciate the experience. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to reach the city and were excited for all of the adventures our next day would hold. It was our longest day yet, but one we will cherish forever.

Day Three – Dreaming of Waffles

No road trip would be complete without matching t-shirts. This is a statement of fact. Here we are, posing in front of Sam’s car – which we’ve dubbed “the blue whale” in honor of ORCA – sporting our matching road trip warrior t-shirts. It’s difficult to tell in this picture, but we are also sporting warrior braids!

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We left Sweet Home at 10 a.m. with the goal of reaching the Redwoods before sunset. Our first stop was in Eugene, Oregon where we had the most off-the-charts-delicious breakfast at Off the Waffle. Sam and Hannah ordered “The Hey Bob” which was topped with sliced apple, melted havarti cheese, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Eliza ordered “The BMB” which stands for Basil Maple Bacon. It was topped with all three AND cheese.

Man. Alive. Friends.

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After leaving Eugene, we drove through Florence, Winchester Bay, and Coos Bay. We stopped at the Umpqua Lighthouse and enjoyed the whale watching deck. No whale sightings for us, unfortunately, but maybe next time! Apparently this is one of the best places to spot one.

An hour later, we stopped in Coos Bay. This is an adorable riverfront town with a small pier/boardwalk. We got out to stretch our legs but only lasted a few minutes. We have all been surprised by how cold it has been on this trip. Temperatures have hovered around the low 60s since we arrived. The wind was fierce, so we quickly got back into the (warm!) car and continued on our way.

And by “continued on our way” I really mean we drove to McDonald’s for McFlurries… because that’s what you eat when you’re cold (and for the doubters out there, trust us, they really hit the spot)

Coos Bay was our last stop before we reached the Oregon coast. Anticipation was high and Bandon did not disappoint. Here we saw the famous haystack rocks. The beach was gorgeous and Hannah and Eliza enjoyed their first encounter with the Pacific Ocean.

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We stopped to take a quick photo in front of the “Welcome to California” sign before continuing south towards Redwood National Park. Crossing into the park was an emotional experience. Sam cried; Eliza sobbed in her heart. Hannah shouted, “YA’LL!” – which is her equivalent to crying.

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground – our home for the evening – is located inside the park in Prairie Creek, CA. Consequently, it seemed necessary (to Eliza at least) that we each choose pioneer names to be used for the duration of our stay. Hannah chose Kirsten, Sam picked Felicity, and Eliza picked Addie (and yes, those are the names of the American Girl dolls. This was unintentional).

After driving six miles on a precarious, pothole-ridden road, we reached the beach right at sunset! It was stunning and left us in awe of God’s perfect timing. We quickly located campsite 12 and set up our tent before dark. Dinner and s’mores before bed was the perfect way to end the day. We fell asleep listening to the ocean. It was absolutely surreal and a bucket list dream come true for all three of us.

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Day Two – Portland, OR “Thanks, George!”

After a restful and chatty night sleep (Sam shouted, “PHYLLIS,” waking Eliza; Hannah slept through it), we began our morning at Joe Brown’s Cafe. Hannah found this gem via a quick Google search. It proved to be the quintessential small town breakfast locale. We ordered omelets, pancakes, French toast, and biscuits and gravy. Everything was delicious and the ambiance was a 10 out of 10.

After breakfast we enjoyed a scenic drive through Fort Vancouver, passing the officer barracks, army hospital, and Pearson aviation field. Here we found a monument celebrating the first nonstop flight over the North Pole, which began in the Soviet Union on June 18, 1937, and ended in Vancouver, Washington on June 20.

It was nearing 10 a.m. when we ventured back across state lines. Our first “Portland” moment occurred not too long after when we witnessed a girl cross the street chowing down on a head of raw broccoli. That’s about as Portland as it gets, folks!

Since the day was overcast, we were debating whether or not to go on the aerial tram. This is when we met George, an elderly man who gave us great advice to drive to the Council Crest Park instead. It was a beautiful overlook that we enjoyed in both the morning and early evening (we could see the mountains on our second visit!) It has two viewpoints where you can spot four mountains on a clear day – today we saw three: Mount St Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood. We could not see Mount Rainier.

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Later, we stopped at Salt and Straw for afternoon ice cream. Here we met Chessy, the happiest ice cream enthusiast of all time (and Eliza’s kindred spirit). Salt and Straw is known for its unusual, artistic flavors. We each ordered cinnamon snickerdoodle and a complementary scoop; Hannah ordered wild-foraged berry sherbet, Sam ordered ancient heritage’s fresh cheese and strawberry, and Eliza ordered honey lavender.

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In true road trip fashion we then spotted Blue Star, the famous Portland donut shop, across the street. Naturally, we finished our ice cream and then sought out more sugar. Eliza devoured her orange olive oil donut, Sam had lemon poppy seed, and Hannah had blueberry cake (which was good but not out-of-this-world-life-changing).

We walked off our “lunch” in Powell’s Bookstore. Unfortunately, it was crowded and overpriced; the atmosphere was fun, however, so it was worth the visit. From here, Hannah and Sam headed to the Food Truck Village while Eliza went off to visit two of her Oxford classmates, Liz and Kate, who now live in Portland. It was a sweet reunion spent laughing and reminiscing about our time abroad.

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To end the day, we drove two hours south of Portland to Sam’s house in Sweet Home, Oregon. We had a good night’s sleep and are now preparing for our five hour drive to Redwoods National Park. We can’t wait!!

– – – – – fun facts – – – – –
Today is matching t-shirt day
We have spotted 26 license plates thus far
Hannah’s “Throwback” playlist is perfect

Day One – Vancouver, WA

We made it! Hannah’s plane was delayed and Sam got stuck in traffic, but all in all, it was a successful travel day from one coast to the next. After reuniting at PDX, we ventured across state borders to Vancouver, Washington (about 15-20 minutes north of Portland). For a Friday night, Vancouver was surprisingly quiet. We checked into our hotel – Hilton Vancouver Washington – then walked to Nonavo Pizza where we enjoyed margherita pizza and root beer floats. So good!

After dinner, we explored the Esther Short Park and rose garden. We then wandered down to the “Remembrance Wall” – a war memorial consisting of a series of murals depicting World War II and the Korean War. It was beautiful and moving.

Today we are headed back to Portland for more spontaneous exploration and an Oxford reunion for Eliza. Note: this post was written prior to today’s adventures, but saved instead of posted by mistake. Classic.