Our Epic California Road Trip

Thanksgiving Week Trip to California

We had an epic road-trip over Thanksgiving Break. The five of us spent 9 days in California and found out a few things about ourselves. Typically, the Ford Family spends Thanksgiving week in Big Bend National Park on the border of Texas and Mexico.

After five years enjoying that same trip, we decided for 2019 to fly from Dallas to San Francisco and rent a car to explore California for nine days.

Our trip was nothing short of awesome. We were dealt some curve-balls with two enormous snowstorms, but the snow caused us to be resourceful with our time and also allowed us to focus in on beautiful places we didn’t anticipate visiting.

We traversed more than 1,500 miles, saw three national parks, multiple state parks, learned about the “State of Jefferson”, figured out we love waterfalls and lighthouses, and most importantly created many memories for our blessed family.

Couple of ways to view how great this trip was. First, this blog post. I have separated the images by the day they were taken. The second way to view the trip is via a Story Map. The interactive map will show you the location where the picture was taken with a few details about the picture as well. This is a great way to get perspective on how much of the state we covered in nine days. Click here for the interactive map.

Day One Highlights

We spent the first day in and around San Francisco. We discovered Golden Gate Park, which rivals Central Park in size and activities. We made our way to Sausalito for lunch and then onto two of the many beautiful lighthouses along the California coast.

Day Two Highlights

We left San Francisco on day two and headed south to Monterrey, Pebble Beach, and Big Sur. Big Sur was a high-point for me, as was the ending of our day with sunset on Pfeiffer State Park Beach. The sunset produced beautiful purple and orange hues in the sand and sky.

Day Three Highlights

We drove well into the night on Day Two and arrived at our cabin in Sequoia National Park well past midnight. What we didn’t realize was that our cabin lacked some of the more ideal amenities….like a heater and bathroom. We spent the night in well below freezing temperatures and awoke early the next morning to go explore. As daylight came in, we quickly realized that in the corner of the room we had a wood-fired heating stove in our room. In the immortal words from The Wedding Singer, information that would have been useful yesterday.

Day Four Highlights

The snow came in over night on Day Three and it was heavy. It made for a beautiful day in Yosemite National Park. The trip up Hwy 41 was a white-knuckler and included a road checkpoint comment from a California Highway Patrolman that “since we had tire chains, he could not stop us from going in”.

We also got to appreciate a snap decision to upgrade the rental car from a planned mini-van to a 4×4 Nissan Armada. We would have missed so much if we didn’t have this vehicle. It was worth every penny over the next few days as we worked to adjust our trip around the big winter storm.

While we weren’t able to stay for the three days we wanted (since roads were going to get worse and ultimately close), we definitely saw enough of Yosemite to know we have to come back. In fact, it looks like it needs a whole week all to itself.

Day Five Highlights

Day Five was Thanksgiving so we started our day with a visit to Shari’s Cafe in Red Bluff. The west coast chain was pretty good and hit the spot on Thanksgiving. The meal gave us the fuel to have what was arguably our best day of exploring. The day took us to McArthur-Burney Falls State Park, which is a must see in northern California.

Day Six Highlights

The drive to start day six actually took us into southern Oregon and around to the coast of northern California. Our server in Red Bluff on Thanksgiving Day suggested with go to Trees of Mystery since it was fun for the kids. While we don’t typically do the touristy things, we decided to try it since it had a gondola ride through a redwood forest. The tour around the property was worth the price of admission.

We also found a herd of Roosevelt Elk along Hwy 101. It appears they are regularly there if you want to stop by Valley Green Camp Road. There is lodging there if you want to wake up to a herd of elk.

Day Seven Highlights

We worked our way down the northern Californian coast on Day Seven. We drove the scenic route along the Avenue of the Giants, where we found lots of locations to hop out and view areas of redwood trees.

We ended our evening in Fort Bragg. What an awesome downtown they have. Lots of independent shops and restaurants. We grabbed a pizza and then ended our evening with ice cream at Cowlick’s.

Fort Bragg is an interesting case study in economic and community development. The town saw its major employer (lumber mill) close in 2002 and take with it a thousands of jobs. Now, the town is working to re-develop the site which is more than 500 acres and sits along the coastline near the vibrant downtown.

Day Eight Highlights

Deanna woke up early and took the kids out to explore the Fort Bragg coastline. She was treated to a beautiful double rainbow. Once I woke up, we explored Glass Beach in Fort Bragg and then worked our way down to Point Arena, which is a must-see lighthouse.

Blessed Are The Curious For They Will Have Adventures.

Lovelle Drachman

Trip Summary

As you can tell, we had an amazing trip. It was refreshing for us to spend more than a week together. Ultimately, northern California was worth every minute we were there. No regrets about choosing it as a destination for our 2019 Thanksgiving trip.

Click here if you want to see a map of the various places we visited with the pictures highlighted along the way.

Have a great Christmas! Bradley Ford bradley@fordinsights.com

Published by Bradley Ford

Local government professional in Texas that enjoys discussions on data, analytics, and leadership.

One thought on “Our Epic California Road Trip

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *