Our Great American Road Trip – Part 1

For our family vaycay this year we decided to take a road trip to the Redwood Forest.

What a blast!

I spent months on google maps calculating distances and routes in eager anticipation. But in the end we left a lot up to fate (as we always do). It turned out to be so much fun!


Sidenote: Our (my?) philosophy on travel: I know some (most) people prefer to have a trip planned all planned out – where they’re going, what hotels they will stay in, some even want details like where they will eat, what activities will be involved, and how much random things like tolls and bridges cost. When Wyatt and I travel (without other people) we tend to be much more “fly by the seat of our pants!” types. The mere fact that I researched to roads was an amazing amount of pre-planning on my part. The kids did ask a time or three why we didn’t know where we were going the next day – “What are we going to do tomorrow?” “I don’t know, we’ll see.” — the answer I gave them to their questions of our apparent lack of forethought: “We’re trying to teach you emotional flexibility.”

Plus, travel is always more fun when you’re open to the adventure that presents itself!


DAYS 1, 2 & 3


DAY 1 – We left on Sunday after church and after dinner, at about 5 pm. We drove all evening across the Utah and Nevada desert. We stopped at the Salt Flats to check those out. Other than that we were dedicated to the drive. My thought was we’d stop at Winnemucca, NV (5 hrs from Salt Lake) but when the Winnemucca exit signs appeared, and all the kids were asleep and Wyatt was still feeling pretty good, we decided to push on through to Reno (8 hours).   We crashed at the Holiday Inn Express in Reno.







DAY 2 – We got up for breakfast and took a slower morning. Then we headed south about an hour and a half to Lake Tahoe. We spent the day at the Lake, swimming, playing, eating, renting paddle boats. Lake Tahoe was beautiful. Around 4 or 5 in the evening we packed up in the car and again headed south, taking a scenic drive through the California farmlands to a town called Lee Vining, California – just outside the east entrance to Yosemite National Park. There we crashed at one of two pre-planned hotel stays (I figured since it was right outside a national park, the hotels might be full if I didn’t pre-book it).  We stayed at a place called Lake View Lodge, which was adequate, though underwhelming. We ate dinner at this cute little diner called “Nicely’s”  that’s been in business a bazillion years, and then hit the hay.


Entering Yosemite from the East you go over Tiago Pass – 9945 ft elevation!






DAY 3 – We had breakfast at the little diner again, and then packed up to head into Yosemite National Park. The perk of entering from the east side of the park (where I suspect less tourists come from) is that you have to drive ALL THE WAY around and through the park before you get to the visitors center, Yosemite falls, and Yosemite valley. Because of this we were able to see some really fantastic views! Knowing what I know now, if I were to replan this trip, I would have made time to spend two days in Yosemite. We would’ve been able to do more hikes and stuff. As it was, we spent one lovely afternoon in the park:

  • wading in the river (knowing what I know now, I would take an entire day and bring all our swim gear and some tubes and swim in the river for an afternoon!)
  • Hiking to Lower Yosemite Falls
  • Perusing the Ansel Adams museum and gift shop
  • Walking through the visitors center informational displays
  • Enjoying the views!










There was a huge fire going on just outside Yosemite when we were there, so the air was hazy and smokey and pink. It made for some milky vistas and fantastic light!

That evening (about 5 or 6 pm we left Yosemite and headed east towards San Francisco. What was supposed to be 3-4 hour drive turned into a 4-5  hour drive because of the fire. And because we didn’t have a pre-booked hotel we were actually having a hard time finding ANYWHERE that had any vacancies! (We ran into this trouble a few times on our trip). We were seriously worried we would have to sleeep in the car when at 10 pm we still hadn’t found any hotels with a vacancy. But finally Wyatt randomly pulled over and we found ONE room – just ONE room at the Holiday Inn just off the freeway in Pleasanton or Hayward or somewhere. A lady came in right after Wyatt asking for a room, and the desk clerk said they were now full with Wyatt taking the last one. Phew!




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