Hello again people of Earth! (and any aliens that may be reading this)
For the past week, I have been traveling up and down the coast of California with 4 of my best friends in the whole world, which makes a great platform for another installment of this blog which I’m sure you’ve all missed greatly (haha sike I’m sorry I’m putting you through reading this). Anyways, let’s get to the “good” stuff, shall we?
Quick preface before I get to the details of this trip: If anybody reading this is looking to road trip in CA, I would highly 10/10 100% recommend Escape Campervans and any/all of the activities we did. We had an amazing time and I don’t think any of us would change our trip even in the slightest 🙂
Our trip began with a flight out of O’Hare at 8 am, which required a 5:30 am group departure from the Ito household. We all excitedly threw our one backpack full of clothes into the trunk (s/o to Frontier for challenging us to bring only one “personal item” for a week long camping trip), got through security, and then promptly fell asleep as soon as we got on the plane.
~Fast forward through 3 hours of us playing M.A.S.H/practicing our autographs on the plane~
Once we touched down at LAX, we took an cab to the campervan rentals place to go pick up our brightly colored van-turned home, later to be named Denise. Picking up the van was a proooocesssss as we had to be trained on how to assemble/disassemble the bed, drive, and use the fridge/sink/other amenities as well as fill out a buttload of paperwork. But, once we picked out which van we wanted, exited the parking lot, and blasted California Gurls on the speakers, we were feeling good.
Our first stop was obviously In-N-Out Burger, where we were meeting my friend and college roommate, Sanya. It was here where Denise performed her first of many 3 point turns that blocked traffic because she was just a little too hefty to make some of the turns that we needed her to (it’s okay Denise, we still ❤ you). After stuffing our faces with some delicious burgers and fries, Sanya took us to Diddy Riese, a local Cali joint that serves up some massive ice cream sandwiches for $2. *puts sunglasses on back of head* Watch out Guy Fieri, I’m comin’ for your job.
With full bellies, we drove to Sanya’s house to park our van, so that she could drive us into LA in a normal sized, parkable vehicle. We ended up parking near our other college friend, John Michael’s apartment, who conveniently lives just a short walk away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater. We browsed this tourist packed area with a slight distain for the crowds, and then made our way up to Griffith Observatory to see the city from above.
Sick of the city, Sanya took us out to Santa Monica to Gilberts, a small, family style Mexican restaurant that was AMAZING. We ordered pitchers of margs (a recurring theme throughout this trip), food, and were delighted to find that they served unlimited chips and salsa as well as pickled carrots which were surprisingly tasty. S/o to Sanya for showing us around LA, and more importantly showing us the best food! Love you lots xoxo
After dinner, we parted ways with Sanya and headed out to Thousand Oaks, a small city near Malibu, where one of Jessie’s cousins lives and where we planned to park our van and stay the night. Thankfully, her cousin allowed us to sleep on his couch and take
showers in the morning our only showers of the week *praise hands emoji*
Clean and eager to get on the road, the 5 of us woke up and departed Thousand Oaks by 7:30 am, armed with hella goodies and snacks from Jessie’s cousin which, in retrospect, we probably would’ve died without.
With our hearts and GPS set to California Route 1, we start making our way towards our first campsite in San Simeon with plenty of time to kill stopping as we pleased along the way. The first stop we made was at El Capitan Beach, where we met the cutest little state park attendant who informed us that we could pay $10 and get a pass that would let us onto any state beach for the entire day. Me being the beach bum that I am immediately took this deal and we headed off to the beach. Sidenote: this state park employee began a long string of 1) me being hit on by old men and 2) people thinking that the 5 of us were a sports team, which I mean, isn’t that far from accurate I guess.
We stopped at a bunch more beaches after El Capitan so I shall just include pictures (click on pics to see location – that one’s for you dad):
When we arrived at Pismo Beach, we decided to spend some time laying on the beach and playing in the water, which felt superb after being in the car all day. Grace and Jessie obviously both left the beach super burnt #whitepeopleproblems but it was a great time nonetheless. We loaded up the van and got ready to hit the road again, but didn’t even make it out of the parking lot because NICOLE (everything is Nicole’s fault), thinking that she was navigating me to the exit, actually directed me into a giant sand pit where our giant van promptly got stuck. I think it took everyone in the backseat a solid 4 minutes to realize that yes, we were actually stuck, and no (although I totally would) this was not a joke that I was playing on them. I wish I had pictures of this series of events, but alas, it was a very stressful time and nobody was thinking to capture the moment.
Thankfully, strangers in CA are the nicest people of all time, and immediately rushed to our rescue. Either that or 5 girls in a giant painted van stuck in a sand pit was just too pathetic for them to bear. SO, if you ever get stuck in sand trap, here’s how to get out:
- Decrease the psi in the rear tires
- Place boards underneath the rear tires to gain some leverage in the sand
- Dig out the sand from underneath and in front of the two front tires
- Have another group of people ask you if you and your friends are a sports team
- Rock the car back and forth (similar to trying to get out of a snowbank) by hitting the gas then letting up to allow the car to rock backwards
- When all of that doesn’t work, have a super nice man with a pickup truck and a rope come and pull your van out of the sand while you give the car some gas and try to drive behind him
Once we were out of the sandtrap, one of the nice men kindly informed us that we now needed to go to the nearest gas station and put air back into our rear tires, which none of knew how to do. We weren’t making a great case for girl power but oh well. We got to the gas station and after 7 minutes of struggling how to figure out how to measure the pressure in our tires, another group of guys came over to us and showed us how to use the tire pressure gauge and put air into said tires. Fun fact: a psi of 10-15 less than what your tires can hold will be the most efficient for gas mileage #themoreyouknow
All in all, it was a very informative day. But oh, it’s not over yet.
We continued on our route to San Simeon and decided to stop in Morro Bay for dinner since we had had a stressful day. We chose a little restaurant by the water called The Dutchman where the food, drinks, and the waiter were straight fire. We munched on seafood and the waiter gave us tips on places to stop during the rest of our trip.
Finally, in the pitch black, we arrive in San Simeon at our campsite for the night. Nicole had informed us earlier in the night that the campsite had called her and told her that we weren’t allowed to have fires due to the California drought, so we didn’t buy any fire materials. Newsflash, we were actually allowed to have campfires and the campsite that had called Nicole was the site for the next night, so we were left with only the lights of our headlamps and small flashlights to set up camp. Jessie began setting up the bed in the van and Victoria and I took on the task of putting together the tent. There were 5 of us, so we had planned on sleeping 3 in the van and 2 in the tent, rotating who slept where every night. Newsflash #2, the campervan rental place DIDN’T GIVE US ANY POLES FOR OUR TENT. So we were left with this; a glorified tarp propped up by the 4 lawn chairs that they provided us
Fortunately, we didn’t have to sleep in our tarp shack because once we put the van bed together, we found that it could more or less comfortably sleep the 5 of us. TG we’re all great friends.
We woke up nice and early and treated ourselves to a delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon made by yours truly on our little propane stove. We then took a morning walk down to San Simeon beach where we SAW A F****** SNAKE. Cue highkey freakout by all of us.
After hanging out on the rocks of the beach for a while, we left San Simeon for one of the days we were all most excited for, the drive along Big Sur.
Our first stop along the coast was at a pulloff point where tons of people were gathered to look at the group of elephant seals that lived along that stretch of beach. Okay let me just say that elephant seals are ridiculous. They’re ginormous (they can be up to 6,000 lbs), make awful noises that echoes the glugging of water rushing into a freshly unclogged drain, and move at a speed of approximately 8 feet/15 minutes. Tbh, I think these animals might be my spirit animal.
Our next stop along this beautiful stretch of coast was Salmon Creek Waterfall, a mini hike recommended by our waiter the previous night. The hike concluded in a breathtaking waterfall that totally made up for the lack of water at the other “waterfall” that we went to. The water was FREEZING, but the 5 of us decided to go for a dip in the little swimming hole at the bottom of the waterfall. We climbed up and under the waterfall and jumped from some of the rocks and swam around and had a marvelous time. This was definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip 🙂
(Pretend I inserted all of the GoPro footage from the waterfall that I’m too lazy to edit here)
We spent the rest of the day driving along Big Sur and frequently stopping to marvel at the gorgeous views. Isn’t our Earth a cool place? Let’s stop killing it!! Sorry, stepping off my soapbox now.
When we finished the drive through Big Sur, we started making our way a little more inland to get to our campsite which was located at Fremont Peak State Park. Little did we know, the ‘peak’ in Fremont Peak was not an understatement. Our campsite was at the literal tippy top of a mountain!!!!! Of course I was driving as we figured this out, meaning that I was in charge of maneuvering us through countless switchbacks on an unimaginably narrow road while my lovely backseat drivers yelped that it looked like we were going to hit the rocks on one side or drive off the mountain on the other (neither happened). We conveniently totally on purpose drove up the mountain right as the sun was beginning to set which provided us with some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen #nofilter. 10/10 would recommend.
Once we successfully made it to our campsite, I realized that I had not been breathing the entire time I was driving up the mountain out of pure terror, so I immediately chugged 7 beers and took a hot minute to calm down. We made a feast of roasted chicken and veggies for dinner and then set out for a clearing to go star gaze. In case you were wondering, viewing a sky full of stars on top of a mountain in the middle of no where with your best friends is 60000% as amazing as you’d think.
The next day we awoke for the sunrise, on the Fourth of July, on top of a mountain, with an awe-inspiring view of America below us, which is how I’ve decided all 4th of Julys should be spent.
We packed up our campsite, and within no time we were en route to San Francisco. On the way, we stopped to look at beaches, buy fresh berries on the side of the road, and appreciate the beauty that is California.
Once we arrived in SF, we found a small church about 25 minutes outside of the city where we decided it would be safe to sleep for the night. We took an Uber to Fisherman’s Wharf and began exploring this foggy, beautiful, hilly city.
We first got clam chowder in bread bowls (major yum) to prevent us from becoming hangry. Obviously I ate the whole thing like a giant bread taco and I don’t regret it one single bit. Next, we walked over to Pier 39 which was filled with tons of little shops for souvenirs (they even had a Biscoff store! @Tori) and restaurants, and we got to view some sea lions sunbathing.
When we were all shopped out, we decided to hike up to the famous twisty-turny, architectural discombobulation called Lombard Street. Of course, it being San Francisco, this street was located at the top of a HUGE hill that we had to walk up. I swear to god at one point we were walking on a complete vertical but it was worth it, the street was pretty dope.
We then headed back down the hill, which “convinently” dropped us off at a restaurant called Las Margaritas. Because Nicole ‘tequila master’ Gardner was with us, we couldn’t turn down a good marg. Or 8….
Once we finished up at Las Margaritas, it was time to head back down to the wharf to watch fireworks. We chose a spot right on the beach and our seats were perfect!! We had an unobstructed view of the fireworks as we all cuddled on the sand and reveled in how lucky we were to be able to spend the 4th like that.
When fireworks ended, Nicole realized that it was only 10 pm and that we should all go to a bar!!! Keep in mind that the majority of us were wearing Tevas/Chacos and socks and Nicole was wearing a blanket cape. So, per tequila masters request, we headed out to a bar on the wharf and had ourselves a grand ol’ time.
To be continued in a new post b/c I’m sure you’re in need of a brain break right about now…
jk it’s because I need a snack