Category : USA – New Mexico to Seattle

Seattle, Washington

July 10-13, 2022

After 83 days of travelling we arrived in Seattle – our final destination in the US. When we left the UK on 19 April, Seattle seemed a very long way away and it was – a 4,000 mile flight from London to Chicago and then our road trip of 7,577 miles through 16 states. Seattle was a city that we knew a few things about – it’s where Starbucks and grunge music (the Seattle Sound) started and it’s where our mate, Allan, lives.

Pike Place Starbucks was the original Starbucks. It was established in 1971 at Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. We walked past it one day and its early appearance has been maintained. We didn’t actually have a Starbucks there as we just don’t like their coffee but we did have to have a couple of Starbucks whilst in Seattle as our hotel didn’t have an in room coffee machine – the horror!

Given Seattle’s music history we wanted to check out the current music scene. We headed to the Central Saloon which was one of the few places that had live music on a Monday night. It also has a good pedigree; Nirvana played their first Seattle gig there (on April 16th 1988) and many other grunge bands have played there over the years including Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. The headline band had cancelled the night we went but we enjoyed both Glass Noose and the alt-rock band, Frequency Within who gave it everything despite playing to a very small Monday night audience.

Frequency Within at the Central Saloon

We didn’t have much time in Seattle so we couldn’t see all the sights but we managed to get a taste of the city.

  • The Olympic Sculpture Park, a multi-level sculpture park on the waterfront. It has some nice pieces including Alexander Calder’s The Eagle (1971).
  • Pike Place Market and the Waterfront – great for a wander on a sunny afternoon with shops and markets, bars and restaurants.
  • Seattle Harbour Cruise – Getting out on the water is always a great way to see a city. It was a lovely day and on the cruise we had a good view of the skyline including the space needle, Mount Rainier, the harbour and the Port of Seattle.

We spent our two nights in Seattle downtown at the Hotel Max which should have been a funky, comfortable 3 star hotel but sadly it didn’t meet our expectations with non existent wi-fi in the room and flaky morning coffee service in the lobby (essential when there is none in the room). After two nights, we left the city centre to stay with Richard’s friend (former colleague from Intelligent Games), Allan who lives out of the city in Bellevue. It’s been a while since we’d seen Allan as he’s been based in the US for ages, lots of tech talk – but few details as he was working on some top-secret burn-after-reading project. Jo particularly liked meeting Gunner, the dog! Our last night in Seattle was celebrated with a fantastic meal at Jak’s Grill in Issaquah with Allan and Tasha.

The next day after a leisurely breakfast with pastries from the local bakery, Allan drove us to the train station where we would catch our – no, not a train – the replacement bus service (how very British!) to Canada. The Amtrak Cascades which is a well known scenic train route had been suspended since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and didn’t restart until September 2022. Just our luck! It meant our tickets got us onto the replacement bus which didn’t travel by such a scenic route and, worse still, the onboard toilet wasn’t working. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t tell the passengers that there was no toilet onboard until we were underway, leading to an uncomfortable couple of hours before we reached the border for some. We left the US with only a few days left on our ESTA and in the days before we left, we received strong reminders from the US immigration office that it was time to leave! We left the US via the Peace Arch Border Crossing and entered Canada with the bus taking us to Vancouver which would be our home for the next month. Goodbye USA – Hello Canada!

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

July 7-10, 2022

It was time to for the last US state that we would visit on this trip, Washington. It would bring our tally of states we have visited in the last three months to 16: Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington.

Before heading to Seattle, we decided to drive around the Olympic Peninsula known for the diversity of its distinct ecosystems – rugged pacific coastline, massive glacier-clad peaks and a temperate rainforest.

Aberdeen – Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula

Aberdeen is not just the first town you reach as you cross The Chehalis River Bridge onto the Olympic Peninsula, it is the town where Kurt Cobain grew up. A long way to make a pilgrimage to (though I am sure that some people do) but since we were going to drive through it we wanted to make a slight detour from our route to visit the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park. The park in a residential area and as you approach it there is nothing to indicate that you are about to reach a site of historical significance. There was no one else around when we visited except for a couple of residents going about their business. A stark contrast to our visit to Graceland a couple of months earlier. No doubt, on occasion, they must have tour buses parking up and disrupting their lives but not on the day we were there. It was nice to walk around the small park which was quiet and peaceful and think that Kurt Cobain had spent time there and perhaps composed some of Nirvana’s songs under the bridge. The lyrics of the Nirvana song Something in the Way are about the bridge (the Young Street Bridge).


As we drove onto the peninsula the scenery became greener and lusher. At some point we would explore but not today. It was raining so we headed straight to our destination for the night, Forks. Perhaps it was not surprising it was raining, as Forks has the honour of being the rainiest town in the contiguous United States. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty miserable for our entire visit to the Olympic Peninsula which did mean that we didn’t have the optimum experience. Magnificent views were often obscured by rain and cloud and it was just wet and damp. It was still good but with better weather, it would be stunning.

On our arrival in Forks we stopped at the Visitor Information Center. It was an interesting mix with information about the peninsula focussing on all the walks and outdoor activities you can do to explore the area alongside memorabilia relating to the Twilight Saga series of vampire films. Whilst the Twilight Saga is set in Forks and the book contains real locations, none of the movies were set in Forks but why let that spoil an opportunity to promote tourism in the town!

We stayed at the perfectly acceptable two star Dew Drop Inn. Accommodation prices had been rising as we headed north, but they sky rocketed when we reached the Olympic Peninsula where there is limited accommodation and we visited during peak season. A night in a 1 or 2 star motel went up from £50 in Wisconsin at the end of April to £230 for the Dew Drop Inn on 7 July. We walked around the town and then had dinner at Blakelee’s Bar and Grill which had standard pub fare which was no bad thing. Breakfast in the morning was homely fare at The In Place.

Despite the rain, we spent the next day exploring the Olympic National Forest walking around the beautiful forests, lakes and waterfalls. We walked the Moments in Time Trail by the shore of Lake Crescent and the Madison Falls Trail to see the Madison Falls, a 60 foot waterfall near the Elwha River.

In the late afternoon we drove the long windy road up to the Hurricane Ridge, a mountainous area within the park. At the lower elevations there were fantastic views of the forests and mountains stretching miles into the distance all the way to the sea. However, as the road climbed up the mountain the mist descended and by the time we reached the top it felt like we were standing in a cloud! We had a cup of tea and headed back down the mountain to Port Angeles. We did see some deer by the road and up on the mountain top as well as our first sighting of a chipmunk.

Port Angeles

We stayed the night in Port Angeles in at the Royal Victorian Motel (another over priced underwhelming place). After a nice potter around the harbour, we had dinner at the Spruce and then visited the rather nice taproom, Angeles Brewing Supplies and Taproom which had some interesting and tasty ciders and helpful and friendly staff. We finished the evening with a bit of live music, Sound Advice, at the New Moon Craft Tavern. It had been a while since we had visited a sculpture park so before leaving Port Angeles we visited the Port Angeles Fine Art Center which hosts Webster’s Woods Sculpture Park in its gardens. The centre was closed when we visited but we were able to wander around discovering interesting sculptures hidden around the grounds.

Port Townsend

That afternoon, we reached Port Townsend; a tranquil and beautiful spot. It’s a small city with lots of Victorian buildings and character overlooking a bay and with a lovely harbour. We stayed in the Palace Hotel, which was built in 1889 and was, at various times, a billiard parlour, a saloon, the newspaper office and is most well known for being a hotel and brothel (from 1925-1933). It was nicknamed the ‘Palace of Sweets’. Today a number of the hotel rooms are named after the girls that worked in the brothel. Our room was Miss Pearl and the decor in the room was faithful to a bygone age. The hotel is also rumoured to be the home of 10 (yes 10) ghosts whose sightings are recorded in the hotel’s ‘Ghost Book’.

Finnriver Cidery

Hmm, now which is my favourite cider?

Richard had been taking his job of tasting American ciders quite seriously over the past few months so it was a real treat to visit Finnriver Cidery. It is set in a lovely spot with a large outdoor bar overlooking the orchards and fields. Jo volunteered to drive to the cidery which was a few miles out of Port Townsend. That meant that Richard could focus on the serious job of tasting a range of ciders. There was also live music with the Pacific Northwest band, The Lion of Judah, getting people up and dancing with their fusion of calypso, roots and reggae.

That evening, we headed back to Port Townsend and decided to have dinner at Sirens Pub.

Perfect spot at the Sirens Pub to relax with a sundowner and admire the view

We had a great evening – a beautiful view, good food and a swinging, energy fuelled performance from rockabilly band, The Shivering Denizens. We got talking to a few locals and the staff and the manager was kind enough to present us with two of their rather awesome branded pint glasses to take with us. Port Townsend – highly recommended.

The Shivering Denizens giving a high energy performance at Sirens Pub

The next day, we left Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula and drove to Seattle. We planned to take the ferry over to Seattle which would have saved us a long drive but the queues were so long that we soon bailed out of the queue and drove to Seattle via Tacoma instead. That did mean we got to drive over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a pair of twin suspension bridges. The original bridge (also known as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge but affectionately referred to as ‘Galloping Gertie’) was opened in 1940 and became famous when it collapsed a mere four months after opening, possibly due to aeroelastic flutter (self-oscillation leading to structural failure). It is remembered as one of the most dramatic failure’s in bridge engineering history. A new bridge opened in 1950 but, as an advisory measure, in 2007 an additional bridge was built and now the 1950 bridge carries westbound traffic and the 2007 bridge carries eastbound traffic. We went eastbound so only crossed the newer bridge. After driving south around Tacoma, we headed north again and on to Seattle.

Portland, Oregon

July 3-6, 2022

As well as learning more about the history of the places that we visit and experiencing the food and the culture, we have been keen to explore the music and particularly, the North American blues and folk music. So we were excited that our visit to Portland would coincide with Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival. We were able to go to the last day of the festival which was on the 4th July. Lots of people were celebrating Independence Day on their boats on the Colombia River and to have the music of the festival as their holiday soundtrack. The border between Oregon and Washington states is in the middle of the Columbia River.

Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival

There was a great line-up at the festival and we enjoyed seeing lots of bands and performers including: Femi Kuti & The Positive Force, Brett Benton, Judith Lee, and Toby Lee & Timothy James. It was particularly good to see Cedric Burnside again (who we had last seen in 2019 on home turf at Dingwall’s in Camden, UK – supported by the one and only Jimmy Regal and the Royals).

We’d treated ourselves to a stay in a nice hotel in Portland rather than the usual 2 star motel. The Hotel deLuxe, and it was worth it as we had a nice comfortable (if compact) room. There was a lovely hotel bar and an outside games area (Connect 4 (5/6) anyone?). After a bit of a lie in the day after the festival, it was time to explore Portland. First off, we visited Pittock Mansion, a historic house museum. The house was built in 1914 and the museum gave us a good overview of what it was like to live during Portland’s development from pioneer town to industrial city.

Anyone for a game of Pong?

We walked around the city in the afternoon and particularly enjoyed exploring Powell’s City of Books, Portland’s rightly famous sprawling independent bookstore. It is a wonderful place and if we’d had room in our luggage we would have bought a lot of books! As it was, we restrained ourselves to buying a travel guide for the next stage of our trip, ‘Moon’s Pacific Northwest Road Trip’ which covered the next stage north, and had a good section on the Olympic Peninsula.

One of the great activities which kept us entertained in the evenings in both the Western US and in Canada (as well as live music, stand- up comedy, the odd game of Yahtzee and searching for the perfect cider) was the retro gaming arcades and board game cafes. In Portland, we found a great place called Ground Kontrol. We had great fun playing classic arcade games such as Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Bust-a-move, lots of pinball and Pong (a mixed electronic/analog version). As for food options in Portland, we had great pancakes for breakfast at the Urban Creperie and dinner at the Brix Tavern in the Pearl District as well as classic festival food such as Elephant Ears.

We thought Portland had a really nice vibe and was a city that would be very easy and pleasant to live in but, all too soon, it was time for us to move on and so we headed back to the coast.

Exploring the Pacific Northwest – San Francisco to Seattle

June 27-July 13, 2022

After some welcome R&R in San Francisco, it was time to hit the road again. We would spend the next two weeks travelling north up the US west coast before crossing the border into Canada. We drove the coastal roads enjoying the increasingly rugged and wild scenery as we travelled up through Oregon into Washington. Now and then we made detours inland in order to visit Sonoma Valley, Portland, the beautiful Olympic Peninsula and our final destination in the US, Seattle. The direct route from San Francisco to Seattle is about 800 miles but we drove 1,723 miles on this leg of the trip as we zigzagged to and from the coast and drove the scenic routes whenever possible.

We left San Francisco via the Golden Gate bridge. Once over the bridge, we stopped at the view point to see San Francisco and the bridge from another angle. Only a few miles up the road was Sausalito; a lovely spot where we had a short stop so we could walk along the seafront with an ice cream and admire the views over the bay area (photo at the top of the page).

We headed up State Route 1 (aka the Pacific Highway) admiring the scenery; which was every bit as stunning as along Big Sur. Christy had recommended Nick’s Cove so we stopped there for lunch: six fresh oysters for Jo, a plate of french fries for Richard and a lovely, moody view of Tomales Bay.

View of Tomales Bay from our table at Nick’s Cove restaurant

We then headed inland towards Sonoma Valley. The road went through the very small, unincorporated community of Bodega (pop: 220) and we stopped to look at a couple of the buildings which featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’: St. Teresa of Avila Church and Potter Schoolhouse.

Sonoma Valley

After a lovely day on the road, we arrived at Christy and Scott’s house in Santa Rosa. They had kindly invited us to stay so this would be our home for the next two nights. Christy and Jo had worked together on a global dermatology project for the last few years. We had a wonderful time with enjoying long leisurely dinners on balmy evenings and sharing tales of global travels and adventures.

According to the Sonoma County website, the region has more than 425 wineries. With so much choice, Jo was pleased that Christy had planned a wonderful day for us and selected a couple to visit. We packed a picnic and headed off to Truett Hurst Winery where we spent a very relaxing couple of hours by a beautiful creek. Lucky for us, Richard doesn’t drink wine and so volunteered (or perhaps he was volunteered?) to be our chauffeur for the day. After a leisurely lunch with some lovely wine, we visited Dry Creek Vineyard (where Scott works) and had a wonderful tasting experience.

Sampling Sonoma Vineyard wines in the sunshine – tough day, really tough day!

We had to drag ourselves away from Christy and Scott’s hospitality and the beautiful and peaceful Sonoma Valley but the Pacific Northwest was calling. A little way up the coast we stopped for lunch in Mendocino. Mendocino is a sleepy but picturesque town and a lovely place for a wander and an al fresco lunch. It looked familiar as it was used to portray the fictional town of Cabot Cove for some of the external scenes in the classic crime drama series Murder She Wrote including the outside of Jessica Fletcher’s house.

Redwood Forests

Driving our car through the Chandelier Tree

After a brief drive up the coast from Mendocino, we turned inland to explore the redwood forests in some of the national and state parks. Our first encounter with the giant redwoods was, of course, a tourist attraction. The Chandelier Tree in Drive-Thru Tree Park is a tree you can – you’ve guessed it – drive through. This tourist attraction has a long history; the opening in the tree was cut in the late 1930s so that tourists driving the Redwood Highway who could drive through it. The tree is 84 metres tall with a two metre wide hole cut through it and estimated to be 2,400 years old.

It was difficult to find reasonable accommodation that night, in part because of the lack of mobile reception, and we ended up staying at the Northern Inn in a small place called Redway. Neither the place nor the motel had much to recommend them but the friendly bar next door, the Brass Rail Bar and Grill, did a reasonable burger and cold cider so we managed just fine.

The next day was all about admiring the redwoods up close so we drove along the 32 mile Avenue of the Giants. We stopped at a hiking spot in Humboldt Redwoods State Park for a walk through the redwoods to a river. The scale of the trees was incredible and we spent a lot of time looking up. We might have hugged a tree or two along the way!

There are three types of redwoods: Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum), Dawn Redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostrobides) and the ones in this area, which are Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). These redwoods grow in the cool climate that makes up the coastal regions of northern California.

Then it was time for the Trees of Mystery. This nature attraction had some lovely trails taking us past some lovely examples of redwood trees including cathedral, candelabra and elephant trees. Both Richard and Jo walked along the canopy trail though Richard won’t be don’t that again! Jo also went on the SkyTrail gondola ride to view the trees from above. That night we stayed in Crescent City at the Lighthouse Inn. We had a quiet dinner at the lovely SeaQuake Brewing.

The Oregon Coast

Thrilling dune buggy experience on the Oregon Dunes

The next day it was time for a complete change of scene and scenery. We headed back to the coast, crossing from California to Oregon and from the forests to the wild Oregon coast. It was time for some more adventure sports; this time dune buggies courtesy of Spinreel. We’d driven dune buggies once before near Dubai and we knew how thrilling, fun and slightly terrifying it could be. This time, we were driving them over the dunes and along the beautiful Oregon coast. It was a bit overcast but that didn’t spoil our enjoyment. Luckily, we felt confident in the vehicles and we know our limits so we could really enjoy driving up the dunes and powering down them once over the crests.

It was late afternoon on Sunday 2nd July when we were out in the dunes; two days before US Independence Day and there was an excitement and tension in the air. Big groups were gathering on the dunes ready to party. It felt like it was all going to kick off as the sun set, people partied and drove fast and furiously over the dunes.

We stayed a couple of nights up the road in the small town of Reedsport. The town is not that pretty but it is on the picturesque Umpqua River and you can try your luck at seeing elk at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area. We saw a few on our second attempt but there were too far away to take any decent photos. Highly recommended is dinner at the wonderful Big Fish Cafe; fantastic seafood and steaks; tasty cocktails; friendly service and a lovely view of the river. The Schooner Inn Cafe, also in Reedsport, and Crabby’s Bar and Grill, Winchester Bay, also deserve a mention.

On Monday 3rd July, we headed back inland and up to Portland for three nights. Then we drove back to the coast and northwards stopping at the Cannon Beach in North-West Oregon. An impressively long, sandy shore is dominated by the imposing Haystack Rock. We went for a little walk on the beach but it was a very grey, windy and slightly rainy day so we didn’t stay long before hopping back in the car and on our way.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

We stopped that night in the wonderful resort town of Seaside. Reminiscent of an old English seaside town, it had a 1920’s promenade and a lovely relaxed vibe. We stayed in a wonderful historic hotel, The Gilbert Inn. That evening we took a stroll checking out the beach and then walking along the main street looking in the windows of the art galleries and at the local historical monuments. We had a drink at Seaside Brewing, where Jo’s inner metalhead couldn’t resist buying herself the Brewery’s ‘Seaside Tendencies’ t-shirt.

After a good night’s sleep, we headed north to spend a few days exploring the Olympic Peninsula and then it was onto our last stop of the US leg of our road trip, Seattle.

San Francisco, California

June 15-27, 2022

As soon as we arrived in San Francisco, we found ourselves driving up an down the iconic steep hills as we navigated our way to the airport. We dropped off our car at the rental company office at San Francisco airport and then took an Uber into the city. We were staying for 12 nights at the Holiday Inn San Francisco – Golden Gateway. We’d hoped to stay in an Airbnb but the central apartments were so expensive that, surprisingly, a city centre hotel was the best option. The hotel was well located with a lovely view from our 22nd floor room, an outdoor swimming pool (bonus) and the traveller’s friend, an onsite launderette!

View from our 22nd floor room at the Holiday Inn, San Francisco
Prime Rib at Osso Steakhouse

Our stay in San Francisco was the longest amount of time we had stayed in one place since we left home in mid April (two months earlier). We were excited to take some time to catch our breath, enjoy the San Francisco vibe and meet up with friends.

On our first evening, we treated ourselves to a visit to a premium steakhouse, Osso Steakhouse. They were understaffed so the service was extremely slow but the steak was worth waiting for!

That evening, we also checked out our local area, Polk Street, and, what do you know, we found an incredible cocktail bar just a few minutes’ walk from our hotel. With a great atmosphere, superb cocktails and Golden State Cider, Hi-Lo Club, became our favourite spot for a nightcap on the way back to our hotel in the evenings.

Sightseeing in San Francisco

Riding the cable car in San Francisco

There is so much to see and do in San Francisco and we had plenty of time to see the sights:

  • Ride on the world’s last manually operated cable car system
  • Walk along the waterfront from the Ferry Building to Pier 39 and see the sea lions
  • Hop on a sightseeing tour – we joined the San Francisco Love Tour and travelled in style in a 1970’s funky VW hippie camper van
  • Marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge – the iconic one mile long suspension bridge was opened in 1937 and is purportedly the most photographed bridge in the world
  • Chill out in the Golden Gate Park – we visited this sprawling and beautiful park a couple of times and particularly enjoyed the vibe at the Sunday afternoon free concert held at the impressive Spreckels Temple of Music
  • Take a wander around Haight-Ashbury – the neighbourhood known for being the centre of counterculture and hippiedom in the 1960s. It’s not that anymore but it’s still worth a visit for the shops, bars and restaurants and the nostalgia with nods to its history.
  • Visit Alcatraz Island – the site of the former maximum-security prison where some of the most infamous gangsters have been incarcerated including Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly. and Robert Franklin Stroud, better know as the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’. Many prisoners have attempted to escape but only three are thought to have made it. It’s a great experience to take the boat over to the island and explore the prison and learn about it’s history. The Island has more to recommend a visit as a site of historical significance being the site of the Indian ‘Red River Movement’ and Occupation from 1969-1971.

Meeting friends and enjoying the nightlife

Meeting up with Kishan and family

We had the chance to meet up with Kishan, my founding colleague at UXCam, and his family, as they were staying in Oakland – great to catch up with Roshan again, and meet their parents for the first time after hearing so much about them in the last ten years. Kishan was just getting ready for the birth of his first child, so big changes coming his way.

Stand-up comedy

We’ve always thought that the quickest way to get to know a city is to see some stand-up comedy so it was only natural that we would seek out San Francisco’s comedy clubs. Luckily, San Francisco has a vibrant stand-up comedy scene. We visited a number of venues whilst in San Francisco including comedy night at the Milk Bar in Haight-Ashbury which was a new material night with accomplished acts who kept the room entertained and the wonderfully named, ‘Cheaper Than Therapy’ club [and yes readers, she did buy the t-shirt!].

A night of live music with old friends

It was wonderful to meet up with Jenny and Eddie whilst we were in San Francisco. We hadn’t seen them for well over a decade; the last time being when we met up in Amsterdam for a weekend when they were on holiday. We saw a couple of great bands that evening at the rather wonderful Bottom of the Hill club: Southern Culture on the Skids and the Carolyn Sills Combo and purchased a couple of new albums to add to the soundtrack for our road trip.

After nearly two weeks in San Francisco, it was time to hit the road again. We picked up a new car to take us up to Seattle, a rather lovely BMW 5 Series.

California Highway 1 – San Diego to San Francisco

June 12-15, 2022

After a few days in San Diego, it was time to start our journey up the west coast of the USA all the way from San Diego to Seattle. The shortest route you can drive between the two cities is about 1,250 miles but we made a number of detours to visit sights and see friends along the way and drove around 2,100 miles on this leg of the trip.

The first section was along one of the most famous scenic drives in the world, The Pacific Coast Highway (California Highway 1). We spent three days on the 535 mile journey enjoying mile after mile of beautiful coastline including the 100 mile section known as Big Sur. We were rewarded on the drive with great scenery, beautiful beaches plus lots of wildlife and birdlife, coastal towns, historical buildings and museums and we also made a slight detour for a wacky tourist attraction!

Paradise Cove

We decided not to stop in Los Angeles on this trip having visited when we were on holiday in 2013. However, we couldn’t resist stopping at the aptly named Paradise Cove for dinner. If you drive just past Malibu there is a beautiful beach where the lovely Paradise Cove Beach Cafe is located. We had visited when we stayed in Santa Monica and Jo just had to check if the ginormous seafood platter she had then was as large or as good as the last time she had it. The presentation was not quite as impressive but it tasted spectacular!

Morro Bay

One of the loviest spots we discovered on our travels in the US was Morro Bay; a picturesque seaside town overlooking a lovely harbour. The town is dominated by Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic mound, and there is lots of wildlife to spot including cute sea otters, sea lions and lots of birdlife. We met some friendly locals and enjoyed the restaurants and bars (Richard enjoyed the bars a little too much as was evident the next day!). We stayed at the lovely Harbour House Inn.

Beautiful Morro Bay – overlooking Morro Rock

Hearst Castle and the Big Sur

After a wonderful afternoon and evening in Morro Bay we continued up the coast. Richard was really suffering from his overindulgence in Morro Bay’s bars but Jo was fine so she took the wheel for the drive to Hearst Castle and along Big Sur. In fact, Richard slept through a portion of one of the world’s most beautiful scenic drives! Still, Jo had a great day driving the coastal road and visiting the magnificent Hearst Castle. Hearst Castle was built on the top of a hill with beautiful views down to the coast. The architecture is ornate and Mediterranean in style with Moorish influences and the castle and surrounding buildings are filled with antiquities and art from around the world. It was commissioned by William Randolf Hearst and saw many social events with a guest list of Hollywood stars during the roaring twenties and into the 1930s. On a very hot day, Jo exercised incredible willpower by not jumping into the fabulous swimming pool. A visit to Hearst Castle is highly recommended.

The Mystery Spot

As well as visiting museums and galleries and experiencing culture and art, there are lots of wacky tourist attractions around and we visited one or two on our travels! The Mystery Spot is situated in a forest on the outskirts of Santa Cruz. The site is known as a gravity hill; an optical illusion where a slight downward slope appears to be an upward slope thereby defying gravity. The Mystery Spot is full of fun experiences which confuse and confound your eyes and brain.

Richard climbing the wall!

Later that day, we arrived in San Francisco which would be our home for the next 12 nights.

San Diego, California

8-12 June 2022

We were excited to reach San Diego and to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time on this trip. It’s a beautiful city with lovely parkland and beaches. As we headed west, accommodation was getting more and more expensive so we opted to stay in an Airbnb in a suburb rather than in a hotel in the centre. We stayed in a compact but very nice studio apartment in North Park which is a trendy area with lots of nice coffee shops and bars.

Of course, the first thing we did when we reached San Diego was to go to see some stand-up comedy (at the Mad House in the Gaslamp Quarter). Always a great way to find out about an area though in this case there were almost more comedians than audience members which made for a slightly tense evening! We mainly went out to eat and drink in North Park where we found excellent cocktail bars and restaurants for dinner and brunch (bacon and eggs for Richard and wonderful mexican breakfasts for Jo) and, hooray, a ciderworks, Bivouac Ciderworks. Sadly in the Gaslamp Quarter in the centre of San Diego we saw again the extent of the homelessness tragedy in the US. We would see this on an equal or greater scale in the West Coast cities we visited in the US and also in Canada.

We stayed two days in San Diego; on day one we hopped onto the Old Town Trolley Tour which was a great way to explore the city and on day two we visited Balboa Park.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is a great place to learn a bit about San Diego’s history. It has a number of restored historic buildings and museum exhibitions which you can wander around and you can also watch live demonstrations (such as the blacksmith at work) and live music and peruse the food and drink and souvenir stalls and shops.

We learnt a bit about San Diego’s rich history which has had an influence its culture and food today. It was originally a village populated by the Kumeyaay First People. The first Europeans landed in the 16th century and it became California’s first Spanish settlement in 1769 before becoming a Mexican settlement for the early part of the 19th century and then part of America in 1850.


Is it an island or peninsula? Coronado is a land-tied island meaning that it is connected to the mainland by a spit. The last time Jo was in San Diego (for work in 2018) she took a little taxi boat over to Coronado. This time we were on the trolley tour so crossed the bridge but, either way, it feels like you are going on an island holiday as it has a distinctly different feel about it compared to San Diego. The main attractions are the Hotel del Coronado along with the stunning beaches and the lovely little shops and restaurants. We visited two excellent exhibitions:

  • Uprooted: The Story of the Japanese Americans of Coronado – this exhibition outlined the experiences of Japanese Americans from their immigration in the early 20th century through internment during World War II and post-war resettlement. Their often challenging experiences and terrible treatment during the war was presented alongside exploration of the Japanese-style garden landscaping such as the beautiful Japanese tea gardens.
  • Ice House Museum – this museum was filled with photos, artifacts, memorabilia related to the history of the magnificent Hotel del Coronado “The Del”. Most famous for featuring in the 1959 film Some Like it Hot featuring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis but frequented by Hollywood movie stars of yesteryear (Charlie Chaplin, James Stewart, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn) and numerous presidents and movie stars to the present day.

We checked out the inside and outside of the hotel and then walked across the beach to the shore for Jo to have an obligatory paddle in the sea!

Port of San Diego

There’s lots to see in the harbour area of San Diego. A number of impressive and historically significant vessels are docked there including The Star of India, the world’s oldest sailing ship still in operation, and the USS Midway, a historical naval aircraft carrier and now a museum. We didn’t visit the ships but admired them from land as we strolled along the front.

The trolley tour also took us through other areas of San Diego including the Gaslamp Quarter with its Victorian architecture, Little Italy and Balboa Park (which we visited the next day).

Balboa Park

What a beautiful oasis in the city – 1,200 acres of parkland and gardens, museums and the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t visit the Zoo but we we spent a perfect Sunday afternoon pottering around the gardens and the museums housed in the beautiful buildings. Stark and thought-provoking was a photographic exhibition entitled This Empty World at the Museum of Photographic Arts at the San Diego Museum of Art which envisioned a world overwhelmed by development, where there is no longer space for animals to survive. 

After a lovely few days, the next day we left San Diego on the next leg of our trip – driving approximately 2,500 kilometres, not including diversions, up the west coast of the US from San Diego to Seattle. The first stretch was from San Diego to San Francisco on California Highway 1 – The Pacific Coast Highway.

Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico

June 2-5, 2022

Santa Fe

Before we reached Albuquerque, we left Route 66 to head up to Santa Fe for a few days. Santa Fe is the state capital of New Mexico. We had heard that it was a lovely, chilled out city known for its Pueblo-style architecture as well as its culture, food and arts scene and that proved to be the case.

We stayed in a lovely motel, El Sendero Inn, a one star property but recently redecorated and with very spacious rooms. The cost of accommodation was rising though as we headed west and tourist destinations such as this cost a premium. In this case, it was a gulp inducing USD 200 per night.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Sant Fe

Taos and the Rio Grande

After pottering around the lovely centre of Santa Fe, we spent one day driving a lovely scenic route which took in the town of Taos as well as the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the USA was closed to the public due to Covid. However, we enjoyed the scenery in the region and the views from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The bridge is the second highest bridge on the US Highway System and the fifth highest bridge in the country. On the way back to Santa Fe, we took a different (even more scenic) route. It looked like a surfaced road on the map (don’t they always!) but it was actually a gravel track which took us right down into the gorge with tight twists and steep gradients to keep us on our toes. Well, it wouldn’t be a road trip without a bit of peril would it?

That evening we went for sunset drinks with a wonderful view at The Bell Tower Bar on the 5th Floor of La Fonda Hotel.

We followed the sunset drinks with dinner on the balcony of the Thunderbird Bar and Grill overlooking the lovely Santa Fe Plaza. We had a wonderful evening on the town in Santa Fe sampling drinks at a number of local bars and more than one too many drinks meant that Jo was ‘under the weather’ the next day, so rather than leaving Santa Fe to continue with our journey we stayed an extra night. This gave us the opportunity to experience the extremely wacky Meow Wolf. Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return is a psychedelic interactive art experience. After a fun couple of hours we went for dinner at the Ruffina Taproom where Richard sampled the draft cider.

Finally, we had to leave Santa Fe and continue with our journey. We would love to return to spend more time in Santa Fe and also to visit Taos Pueblo and other areas in this beautiful region in the future.

Our route to Albuquerque was via the picturesque Turquoise Trail. We had planned to go up to the Sandia Crest, a 10,679 foot mountain ridge which is the highpoint of the Sandia–Manzano Mountains, but with it closed due to fire risk, we visited the Tinkertown Museum instead. Tinkertown is… totally hatstand…in a good way. The majority of the contents of this museum are the work of one man, Ron Wood. Over 40 years, he carved, collected (curiosities) and constructed the museum. The majority of the museum is a series of scenes (Western towns, Circus tents and so much more) made up of miniature wood-carved figures. Ron Wood died in 2002 and the family now maintains his legacy. One of the highlights of the trip is proving to be unique and eccentric museums – long may these quirky museums continue.


In Albuquerque we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center which was a great place to learn about the history and culture of the pueblos in the region. As well as visiting the permanent exhibitions, we saw some of the cultural show and also a wonderful contemporary skateboard art exhibition.

That night we stayed in the very basic but acceptable Econo Lodge Downtown Albuquerque. In the evening, we went for a stroll in such of food but found that it was not so easy to find a suitable restaurant open on a Sunday night in Albuquerque.

We did have a drink at the lovely Canvas Artistry and watched the Lowrider crawl going down Central Avenue. A lucky coincidence that the Albuquerque Lowrider Super Show had taken place that day. Finally, we ended up in Sister, a rather excellent live music bar where we had some fast food which just about hit the spot and were entertained by a couple of thrash metal bands.

On the way out of Albuquerque the next day we drove past The Dog House Drive-In which featured in the series Breaking Bad.

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