My California adventure part 2

After dropping off our hire car in San Francisco after driving from San Diego to Monterey we picked up our home for the next 9 days. An RV from Cruise America was to be our transport and home on wheels . I have to be honest our van had seen better days ! Grubby and stained comes to mind with an engine which heated my footwell to crazy levels after only about an hour into a journey.

The first destination was Yosemite national park . Staying at Yosemite pines a beautiful quiet sight on the edge of the park . After picking up provisions and cheap barbeque from Trader Joe’s and Walmart  we made the tough 150 mile trip in our cumbersome van.

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Yosemite national park is a must do , stunning scenery . A place I’d love to return to one day.  11 days into our adventure I really was feeling shattered. I did wonder before taking on this holiday how I would cope , sadly my fears were starting to become reality . For most healthy people of my age this trip would be a walk in the park, but for me this was an enormous undertaking.

The drive into the park itself takes quite some time about 1.5 hours its such a huge place. We chose to take a free coach in , most campsites are a similar distance away.

Gorgeous weather greeted us,  31 degrees which I’m sure helped the old bones !

El Capitan was as awesome as you would expect as was the lower and upper Yosemite falls. We stood in awe watching climbers heading towards the summit.

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On the second day we took the RV up to Sentinel point dome at Yosemite park. Hiked for 3hrs through the glorious park, visiting Glacial point and taking in the views of the two waterfalls and the valley floor. My husband acted as my personal sherpa and carried everything. There is absolutely no way I could have made the trip otherwise.

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At this point I’d not eaten in 24hrs due to Crohn’s flare , which makes the 3hr hike even more unbelievable. I just drank a huge amount . I find for me, a fast helps my body to heal.

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A 4.5hr drive followed the next day through old gold mining towns , passing through Angel a sweet old style town.  Another Walmart stock up for essentials before arriving at Lake Tahoe .

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Sugar Pine camp site Lake Tahoe was unlike anywhere I’d ever stayed before. Basically just in a National park , so exciting !  Greeted by a sign warning of Bear sightings and food theft the day before . In fact 14 bear sightings that week.

Lovely to stay somewhere so away from it all , just us and a bear proof food box next to our pitch. I would love to tell you that night I saw a bear , I stayed up for ages with a mug of tea in the dark listening to shouts of bear! and car horns warning of a bear visit . but sadly they avoided our van. Our neighbours, a group of school children on a field trip with their teachers had an entire family of bears consume 100’s of cereal bars left in an unlocked bear box the night before, while they were on a night hike.

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The joy of staying somewhere like this is eating is easy , Fish taco’s with black beans by the log fire, whats not to love. A fridge and cooker in the van , BBQ in the back and fire pits or barbecues at every camp site . A treat after eating very simply in restaurants for the first 10 days .

Lake Tahoe was truly stunning , crystal clear and ice cold . It was good to explore the beach areas and historic houses. Watching families enjoying the sunshine and chipmunks amongst the trees.

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An early start the following day provided our first bear spot , the large bear was crossing the road, in the distance but a thrilling experience.

After 5 long hot hours in the RV driving through Reno Nevada to Lassen Volcanic park 

We arrived in a thunderstorm to Shingletown KOA Just an overnight stop . We definitely hadn’t quite appreciated the amount of time that would be spent on the road. It was taking its toll on me.

A snow fall that night,  rather spoilt our plans to visit the geothermal area at Lassen national park. Instead a vertical hike through the forest.

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The journey to come was to challenge us both, 6 hrs in all . 3 of which, thanks to the sat nav on unmade roads and tracks in a huge RV over a mountainous area with no way of turning round. I did have visions of staying the night half way up a mountain! Fortunately this didn’t happen .

This was just after spotting our second bear. This time up close at the side of the road a young bear cub was happily relaxing in the grass. Sadly not keen on being photographed he quickly ran away. Something I will always remember and a saving grace at such a stressful part of our adventure.

A detour then followed to what can only be described as a truck stop , where a new plan was made to cut out a couple of campsites and visits . Before bedding down for the night after a much needed gin and tonic.

The Redwoods and Avenue of giants were our next must do’s so we headed straight there. The gigantic wonders of nature certainly wowed us.

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Another 5 hrs and we arrived in Fort Bragg . Here we were able to book a night at a local camp site . The entire journey had been up to now booked in advance of our trip so we had to cancel a few places and re arrange the next few days.

Glass beach was worth a visit , originally a Victorian tip of mainly glass bottles , now a beach of beautiful sea glass . A big whale spotting area and due to the changing climate and ocean temperatures there were still Whales to be spotted surfacing , tail flapping and spurting water from their blow holes.

This part of our trip has been very chilly, jeans and jumper was essential in June . While in Southern California  I had not suffered with aches and pains since moving up north pains and stiffness returned.

After Fort Bragg we travelled to Manchester via Mendocino very reminiscent of a New England coastal town.

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Again here it was 14 degrees with a sea fret definitely helping to keep the temperature down. Such a pretty place and a restaurant serving gluten free Fish and chips. A first on this holiday.

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Rock cod and chips at Flow, well worth checking out if you visit. Followed by gluten free muffin and coffee and the local coffee shop.

I’d been unwell over the few days previous , I think due to the stress and anxiety of the journey over the last few days so it was extra lovely to be eating again.

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Our next campsite was Manchester , during my trip I had been keeping a daily journal but due to exhaustion and fatigue and now tears I started to lose memory of what was happening . Just surviving was all I could manage.

We finally dropped the RV back to San Francisco , I can honestly say I was not sorry to see the back of it. Such a shame as I really love camping and camper vans . I think due the the length of the trip it was just all too much. Ideally the trip would have been better split into two holidays . San Diego – Monterey  and San Francisco round trip via Yosemite etc and back to San Fran.

Our final 5 days were to be spent in San Francisco, I think the sight of a hotel bed a good nights sleep and hot bath just gave me enough of a lift to give me a second wind. I had done a great deal of research before going away about restaurants and gluten free options in San Francisco bay area. I had never been more relieved that all was booked in advanced . My initial thoughts on the area we were staying was that it was very touristy. The Argonaut is very close to the piers and the busy area for tourists .

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We ate out at The Chart house we had eaten at their sister restaurant in Monterey earlier on in our trip.

We of course did the sea lion watching at Pier 39

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Friday evening we had dinner at Fog harbour fish restaurant, even though I had researched before hand, they really did struggled to fed me. Everything it seemed had been marinated or cooked in garlic. Salmon and green beans or broccoli was my go to dish or often the only choice. No starter or dessert again no surprise .

For breakfasts I can thoroughly recommend The Beach street grill,  , this modest family cafe was what I had been searching for all trip. gluten free 1/2 stack and maple syrup with extra bacon was exactly what I needed. Lunches looked great too, plenty of omelettes etc.

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Travelling by Cable car, trolley bus and street car, Uber and on foot we covered many on the must do sights of San Francisco in a very short time .

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The sun shone and we had lovely blue skies.

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Missing out on desserts and treats during our trip it was so exciting to finally visit Mariposa bakery in the Ferry building. Such a choice of gluten free sweet and savoury bakes. Lots of other Artisan stalls too worth checking out.

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Waterfront restaurant an upmarket restaurant with lovely views was a perfect end to the day. grilled prawns in prosciutto followed by whole crab and broccoli . simple but delicious.

We hired a car the following day to explore further afield . Golden gate bridge and the National park Point Reyes a couple of hours away. We were pleased to find Elk, Elephant seals noisily barking on the beach and a coyote crossing our path.

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What better place for a picnic using the goodies from Mariposa bakery than the sea side . Artisan cheeses and cheese crackers followed by the most sensational cherry pie.

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Home as the sun set over the golden gate bridge then another visit to Chart house for my husbands birthday meal .

A day at the races followed , my husband and I are both fans of Formula one and motor racing in general so we took the opportunity to visit NASCAR at Sonoma a 2hr drive away. It was well worth the trip . We sensibly had booked seats in the shade.

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Dinner once again was at The Waterfront in San Fransisco another lovely meal.

Our final day in San Fran was a windy cool day . One final visit to the very special Beach street cafe was a must.

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What better way to finish our stay , a final ride on the cable car this time hanging on the outside . Something I’d always imagined doing if I ever had a chance to visit this iconic place.

Our California road trip adventure was finally at an end. I had made it and really enjoyed seeing most especially the stunning scenery and natural world that California had to offer. I’d most definitely been pushed to my limits physically, but I’m so glad that I achieved this big adventure.

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My California adventure

In June 2018 after much preparation I travelled to California with my husband , this was going to be a holiday of a lifetime . A drive from San Diego to San Francisco along the coast followed by an RV adventure inland to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and up to Lassen volcanic national park .

After a tough time health wise I was more than a little concerned about taking on an adventure of this size . Could I do it ?

I also wondered if i’d ever get the opportunity to take on a big holiday abroad like this again . I was determined to do my very best to have a holiday to remember. With health issues due to Autoimmune disease my energy levels were not what they had been in the past, and physically at times arthritis had begun to make walking long distances a struggle. So we had prepared for this trip like a military operation particularly regarding eating out, as this is difficult for me even in the UK.

Our adventure started in San Diego experiences the noisy buzzy evening scene in the gas light district was quite a way to start . We ate at Lionfish  at The Pendry , just like the streets around, it was dark and noisy.

Almost all restaurants had been researched and pre planned back in the UK. A packed pink folder came with us on the entire trip .

A big highlight in San Diego were the breakfasts at The Mission    

Possibly the best gluten free breakfasts of the entire adventure . Huge as you would expect in America and delicious!

Visiting The Coronado Hotel was for me one of the best visits in this city   , this iconic hotel was made famous by the movie Some like it hot .

A happy accident was that as we arrived in San Diego the Jacaranda trees were in full bloom , beautiful lavender purple flowers decorated the streets . The trees looked absolutely stunning, and such an unusual colour .

Nearby La Jolla beach, is also a must do , memories of pelicans flying over head , pretty houses with front gardens packed to overflowing with summer flowers . Well worth a visit.

Restaurant recommendation for a special meal –Island Prime for incredible fresh lobster and steak.

Also we enjoyed treats at the dedicated gluten free shop the Starry lane bakery it was well worth a trip while were we in San Diego, a diversion following an armed raid nearby didn’t put us off!

Laguna Beach our next quick stop greeted us with heavy cloud and an empty beach . Lunch at Nicks was simple but delicious. Due to my additional food intolerances eating out is super difficult . I find that carrying a card similar to a business card really helps . Staff in almost every restaurant , cafe and hotel thanked me and said how helpful it was.

Our next destination was Santa Monica with its brash brightly coloured pier and holiday makers making the most of the glorious weather. Here we stayed at The Viceroy where we were upgraded to a room looking out to the ocean. This was our base to explore Los Angeles . 

No first visit to La La Land would be complete without a Hollywood tour and Griffin Observatory visit.

True Food Kitchen lived up to my expectation in the evening , a restaurant I had found online . Gluten free fish taco’s , strawberry and rhubarb almond crumble whats not to love ! So good we repeated the experience the next evening .

LA was all we had expected , fabulous photo opportunities and memories to treasure.

On along the coast in our hire car we came to Malibu I’m not sure what I expected , but it wasn’t what we found . The most pretty, quiet, smart pier which wouldn’t of looked out of place on our very own Norfolk/ Suffolk coast in England  . Although we had just stocked up with a large breakfast at Marmalade cafe we were enticed into Malibu farm a smart restaurant on the pier to sip on mint lemonades . Our helpful server gave us a great dolphin spotting tips .

We drove on to the wild beach which was suggested to us and watched dolphin, seals and pelicans in the distance.

One of the top stops on our adventure Santa Barbara was next , staying this time at an Air BnB, I immediately felt part of the community . Laundry sorted and shopping done at the local Whole Foods I could have stayed for a week! Actually by this part of the trip I was beginning to flag and definitely needed a rest day or two. I really enjoyed cooking and being able to eat things that we’d missed on our holiday so far.

In the pretty town we visited Lilac patisserie serving gluten free treats . I can recommend.

Santa Barbara is a place we would love to return too.

Wining best beach of the trip El Capitan on along from Santa Barbara it was everything I love in a beach . Backed by eucalyptus trees and edged with wild flowers and grasses this beach is a driftwood collectors dream . With sea lions bobbing up and family groups making camps under sun shades on golden sand , I wish we could of stayed longer . Not being able to take driftwood with us I spent the time gathering and building driftwood sculptures on the sand , I’m not one for sitting still.

After seven days in the sunshine I noticed a huge improvement in my body. Far less aches and pains and better mobility. Warmth and sunshine is such a great healer.

Leaving the beautiful beach we moved on to Fess Parker vineyard and winery , a stop for my husband . I watched as he tasted a selection of the wines wishing that I could have joined in.

Being Intolerant to yeast is no fun! A quick picnic under the tree in the grounds and then back on the road.

Next stop Morro Bay where it was blowing a gale , making sea otter spotting a freezing job . There were so many all bunched together laying on their backs , lots with babies holding tightly to their mothers in the windy conditions.

On to Paso Robles starving we were glad that steak was on the menu and a gluten free pudding too, result! We stayed at The Inn in the town . I’m sure just reading this you’re exhausted ! Add in Chronic fatigue and you can probably imagine that by this point I was completely finished . Which was such a shame as what was to come up was to be so amazing.

What followed was a monster journey , this was the day we drove the Big Sur You may remember it was in the news a while back due to big mud /rock slides . Most of the roads are now accessible but we did have to make one rather long detour through and over Los Pedro national park .

Another huge high light of our trip happened here . As we drove up the winding narrow roads we were suddenly surrounded completely by millions of Monarch butterflies on their migration , there were thousands on the ground and in the air . An incredible and emotional moment to have witnessed .

Through Carmel in thick fog and on to Monterey exhausted and thirsty I pretty much crawled into Portola Hotel, a large nautical themed hotel and was very glad we had done the research in advance and knew where we were eating . Along at Cannery Row we ate at Fish hopper , a whole Dungeness crab was just what I needed. followed by Creme brûlée , my go to pudding on this trip.

It was Starbucks breakfasts while we were in Monterey , hot coconut milk coffee was much needed as the temperature difference from the trip so far was very noticeable. About 16 degrees in June .

For nature lovers Monterey offers so much sea life,  on one walk we spotted 20 sea otters, 10 seals and at least 10 sea lions on the quay .

When we find a restaurant that works for me , we often go back again Fish hopper was a great choice. Crab salad and otter watching , whats not to like .

Dinner was booked for Chart house cannery row , service was very poor and food was nothing special.

Choices of main courses for me was very small almost everywhere on our trip . Onions , garlic , paprika , yeast make an appearance in so much let alone gluten . Most days my choice was some type of fish or seafood , broccoli and very occasionally a baked potato . Desserts were rare, no surprise there.

Now you might be thinking this trip is about to come to an end , I think at the time my body was definitely ready to take a break . But no ! The adventure had only just begun………….