Lava Beds National Monument to Lake Tahoe (FamilyTrek $ free)
9:20am – 5:30pm = 8 hours
We left our campground fairly early as we wanted to see some of the Lava Beds before our drive to Tahoe. After some discussion with our camping neighbours we decided to visit Skull Cave. This cave has an ice floor and sounded fun.
Well these aren’t no Rio Camy caves, this is not a tourist trap with pre-recorded headsets. This is the real deal. A few warning signs and then you are on your own. Unprepared we attempted to go as far as we could before the phone’s LED “torch” became inadequate for such complete darkness.
The waves of cool air coming out of the cave was daunting enough, then you walk down into a yawning stone mouth. If we had flashlights I would have loved to investigate some more, however both kids were getting scared and there was no option to go further. I never got to see that ice floor, but I sure felt it.
As we escaped the cave into the burning heat I could almost wish we were back in the cool, black depths.
After that we had a quick drive around before making a beeline for the exit. We had a long journey today and it was pedal to the metal.
We stopped for fuel in Susanville and across the way found a Mexican restaurant where we stopped for lunch.
We drove through three states this day – Oregon, Nevada and then California. It was wonderful passing through Reno and we had a quick play on the McDonalds playground in Carson City. The traffic after that was bad, because of a large accident, which set us back about half an hour,
Finally we pulled into an unfamiliar driveway about 5:30pm. We had been following Family Trek’s blog for over a year and were very excited for this meeting.
They had kids similar in age and everyone hit it off. Beautiful Monica made us dinner and we ended up talking late into the night. So they invited us to stay. The house was so cozy and welcoming, although in the back of my mind I still spared a thought for our Jucy Campervan parked outside.... hoping the local bears wouldn't break in for our food.
Lake Tahoe (Family Trek $ bottle of wine)
We spent the day at Lake Tahoe with Family Trek. The area is completely gorgeous and I am keen to return for a few weeks or months next time. We visited the Stream Profile, which is a small hike through beautiful forest to a small hut housing a glass wall for children to look in and see the fish of the stream.
After a beautiful hike through this section we headed to Fallen Leaf Lake for lunch. It was cold and wet, but the views were still phenomenal. The kids had a blast walking along the jetty, while I made a very new friend.
Then we drove to the Emerald Bay Lookout. I tell ya something, this Lake must be might fun in warm weather. Just look at it.
We didn't stick around long, the air was cold and it started to rain. So we headed back to Family Trek's gorgeous log cabin and cooked up some S’Mores, caught up on some work and enjoyed the company of like-minded friends. Have you had S'More, so sweet, I couldn't eat one, but still fun to make.
The kids rode bikes (Mia’s second time ever and she was a pro), had a dance party and just generally enjoyed being outdoors. And it was nice to let them get dirty and have fun.
It was also a wonderful surprise to be offered a rare date night out at the movies. What a delightful family, make sure you check them out.
Lake Tahoe to Yosemite (Upper Pines $20)
10:30am – 2pm = 3.5 hours
We spent the morning catching up on washing, talking and playing. We caught up on the last of our work, as we knew we would be off the grid for our final nights in Yosemite.
Finally we could put it off no longer and bid our new friends goodbye.
It didn’t take long to reach Yosemite, but it did take long to get through it. We arrived at Tioga Pass and paid the $20 entry and instantly fell in love with the park.
We drove for another hour through the park before we decided to pull over for lunch. We picked a winner at Swinging Beach. I cooked up all our leftovers in our Jucy Champ kitchen, and then the kids de-robed and hit the water. It was cold, but that didn’t stop them.
We will have a post dedicated to Yosemite soon since it is too awesome to be confined to a few paragraphs.
After our beach visit we checked into our camp spot in Upper Pines. We visited Curry Village for dinner and Yosemite Falls Lodge for a kids program where they learned about wildlife and coloured in.
Back at our campsite Mia had made friends with our neighbours so we joined them around their campfire cooking marshmallows and seeing who could make the biggest and best without losing them to the flames.
Finally we put the kids to bed and, after making sure every scrap and crumb was out of the car and in the bear box, we fell fast asleep.
Yosemite (Upper Pines $20)
It was a beautiful day and already warm. We hired bicycles and rode to Happy Isles to visit the nature hut of animals and rocks and stuff.
We hiked to Lower Yosemite Falls which was even more glorious up close. My husband made an amazing go out at with our son on his back, while my daughter was a champion rock climber.
After climbing down we took a shuttle around the park. We lazed around in our vehicle and at 3pm won the campground lottery and secured our spot for a second night. The day went fast and it wasn’t long that both laptops were dead and we were asleep before 10pm.
Yosemite to San Francisco (Travelodge $101)
8am – 3pm = 7 hours
We were up early today, packing up our car for the last time. Breakfast was eaten and everything packed ahead of schedule so we departed Yosemite at 8am. It took over an hour to get out of the National Park and that’s an hour of amazing views passing by.
Being in IT my husband could not let our roadtrip finish without visiting Silicon Valley and so we made our way South to visit some of the more well-known headquarters in that area.
If you need a shopping guide to Silicon Valley my husband has it. He enjoyed buying an Apple shirt at 1 Infinity Loop at Apple’s company store, the only place in the world you can buy such paraphernalia.
And then at our next stop Googleplex he bought another shirt. The Google HQ was so bright and colourful. Staff were riding Google-coloured bicycles everywhere and there was even a soccer game going on in a nearby field.
Our final stop was Facebook HQ. Not much to see here, but a big like signboard.
It was 2:15pm when we screamed out of Silicon Valley back to San Francisco’s East Bay to return our Jucy campervan. We stopped to fill up the fuel and also grabbed a bite to eat before having it returned right on 3pm.
The checkout was quick and easy. A glance over the car, a confirmation on return of the deposit and then they called a taxi for us and we were off.
Saying goodbye to the Champ was kind of sad, we will miss our mobile home, it was a super fun way to see the Pacific Northwest.
Our taxi drove us to Travelodge by the airport. The front desk clerk was quite a dishonest man as we had problems with a coupon we were planning on using. But eventually we made it into our clean room.
The kids enjoyed a long bath while Josh and I reorganized all the bags. When I drained the bath water it had 50 shades of dirt. We finished our long day with dinner at Ihop (not recommended) and all hit the sack at a reasonable time for our early flight the next morning.
What an adventure! Similarly to our East Coast road trip, we did drive for 14 days. However unlike those 1,743 miles, we actually completed 2049 miles on this trip. We spent 3 nights in hotels, 2 nights in a friend’s house and 8 nights in our Jucy campervan.
I love road trips so much and the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful location to travel. There is so much to see on the way up and on the way down. In Australia we have the Great Ocean Road, which is a magnificent drive so I didn’t find the coastal road that surprising. Beautiful, yes, but Australia does set a high standard, sorry. On the way down with Crater Lake, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite – that was something special and I would highly recommend that drive to anyone.
In our trip we had several shopping stops to restock food. We went through 75 bottles of water, so I guess we all stayed well-hydrated. There was no need to worry about food going off as the Jucy campervan’s fridge was big enough to hold 2 litres of milk and all our other dips, cheeses, and vegetables.
Our first concern on finding RV parks was unfounded, as the journey was full of them. It was considered high season so we did face moments of places being full or with little choice, but there are so many you are bound to find something. Of course food stops and gas stops are plentiful, and just like the East side there was no fear of going hungry or the kids wetting their pants. Mind you we still had our far share of pee stops in the most unusual places.
There are multiple places we long to return to and stay longer. Road tripping is kind of like a cruise in that aspect, where you get a great overview and discover where you are going to return to and where you are going to skip next time. Campervanning is also a freedom in itself and was also an added excitement to the adventure. Setting up our home, spending time outdoors. I can count on one hand the times I have been camping in my life and this was only the kids second time, the first was in 40°C weather in Australia several years ago not ending well. This time we had a great time camping, the weather stayed mainly perfect and camping in the States is such a great atmosphere with Yankees. We found everyone to be so generous, welcoming and hospitable.
We hope you enjoyed our Pacific Northwest roadtrip and it may be of use to you as a guide if you decide to discover the amazing natural beauty that this region of the US holds. You will find the journey reserves some breathtaking moments that will leave you longing for more.
Day 10 to 14 Lava Beds National Monument to San Francisco
All up - day 1 to 14
2,049 miles (3,297kms)
Read the rest of our journey here:
Previous: Day 6 – Day 9: Seattle, Tacoma, Woodburn, Roseburg, Crater Lake, Lava Beds Monument
Earlier: Day 1 – Day 5: San Francisco, Trinidad, Coos Bay, Portland, Multnomah Falls, Mount Saint Helens, Seattle
All photos can be found in our Photo Journal here.
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
We enjoyed meeting you guys and loved having the opportunity to host you. Love that you loved Tahoe. Love that you loved Yosemite. And I love seeing the photos that you rented the bikes in Yosemite. ;)
That photo of all the kids in our backyard is priceless.
Sounds like it was a wonderful trip. I am driving from home in the Seattle area to San Francisco next week for business, but plan to side track a little and enjoy the trip. Take care.
I really enjoy all of your pictures of your trip. My family lived in Northern California before moving to Seattle. Great memories! We are going to take a road trip soon to reintroduce the boys to their home state.
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