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 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.