It has been over half a year since Jocelyn and I officially tied the knot! Crazy, right? Our friends and family always ask how married life is for us. I always feel like I should have a better answer for them than my normal, "It's going smoothly!" response. But really, it has been. Or maybe I am really bad at answering open-ended questions. Who knows...
Anyway, come May we took our "Honeymoon"...or rather "delayed vacation". We knew early on that we wanted to take a road trip to Canada (her parents had taken a similar road trip in the past). So that's where we began!
Come a few months after being wed (and celebrating with the most awesomest people on the planet!) we finally started planning our honeymoon. Thankfully, Jocelyn's parents agreed (and trusted) to let us use their Volkwagen EuroVan for this journey. Woohoo! It was great. A pop-up top, propane stove, mini-kitchen sink, and refrigerator... pretty much all you need on the road.
First step - started a Google Sheets one night and created an itinerary of places to visit (with recommendations from a few friends). We also used a nifty site called RoadTrippers.com to help plan our trip (very helpful for planning routes!). Our goal was to drive no more than 4-7 hours per day (we drove about 3,200 miles this trip), and to camp almost every night.
Planning was about as fun as it sounds... so lets start with the fun!
Day 1 - Goal: Petaluma, CA
We started the drive in the early morning hours from Jocelyn's parents' house near Fullerton to the Bay (well, just north of it). Our initial trek took us on the I-5 all the way up towards the bay. We passed some great scenery along the way. Dry hills. Dry brush. Cattle farms. More dry brush. More dry hills. Initially we were thinking of taking a dinner break in Oakland, but decided to forego being stuck in rush-hour traffic and drove through Vallejo instead. Us, being the great romantics we are, and wanting to take advantage of our venture to newly explored lands (at least on our part), ate Carl's Jr. for lunch Chipotle for dinner that day. Aren't we great?
We stayed at the Petaluma KOA campground that night. It was a little on the pricier side than either of us are accustomed to paying for a campground. However, there were heated showers and the campgrounds were extremely well maintained. There were also other cool amenities such as a petting zoo (for kiddos, and Jocelyn), a cooking area with gas stovetops and sinks, a dog park, a pool, and spa. Most of which we did not take advantage of for our one night stay. However, I can see how families like staying at KOA campgrounds since they are comfortable and convenient. The campground was fairly empty since our stay was only for Thursday night.
Day 2 - Goal: Elk Prairie Campground, CA
We woke up a lot colder than we were used to on Friday morning. Even so, we started the morning afresh, closed up shop (put the the van back in order), and drove off before most others in the campground were awake. We filled gas at a Costco in town and shot up to our first actual destination of the trip, The Avenue of the Giants, which is a scenic drive within Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It was a beautiful drive full of towering redwoods... upon redwoods... upon redwoods. Here are some photos from the jaunt. After the scenic drive, we continued northward to Redwoods National and State Parks, and checked into our campground (Praierie Creek Campground) before taking a quick hike around the area before darkness fell. This campground felt much more natural and at home - none of the extra amenities of KOA.
Day 3 - Goal: Gresham, Oregon
The third day was much colder than before! The fog had rolled in and blanketed us during the night and was just clearing up as we prepared to leave. Our next stop was a small hotel in Gresham, Oregon, which is just east of Portland proper. The journey from Redwoods National and State Parks to Gresham was a whopping 10 hours!!! Thankfully we broke up the leg with a scrumptious brunch at Brick & Mortar Cafe near Albany with a couple we knew from our college days (that seems so long ago...). I had tried to find decent RV campgrounds in the area but did not find one that I liked. So, we stayed at our first hotel for the trip instead. It was nice to shower and roll around on a comfy bed after a long day's drive. You may ask why we planned to stay in Gresham that evening? The reason is simple - we wanted to be outside of Portland and closer to the route we were planning to drive along the Columbia River Gorge the next day! We were planning on spending half a day in Portland (post scenic drive) anyway. Given the 10 hour drive, there were not many photos taken this day.
Day 4 - Goal: Riverbend Campground, WA
Proverb of the day - the early bird gets the worm! Hopped straight outta bed, packed up, and started our venture along the Historic Columbia River Highway. It was a beautiful morning with absolutely zero cars along the road (except ours)! Our first stop was at Vista House, which was constructed back in 1917 to serve as a "comfort station" for tourists traveling along the Columbia River Highway. After taking in the views at the Vista House lookout, we proceeded to Latourell (Lower) Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the ubiquitously known... Multonomah Falls. The first two halls were short walks in from their respective trailheads - it was great to stretch our legs a bit after driving so far in such a short time. Afterwards, we finished up the drive by visiting the Bonneville Lock and Dam, drove across the Bridge of the Gods (no photos here :( ) across the border to Washington, then drove back west and down to Portland.
We didn't do tooooo much in Portland proper. Jocelyn really wanted to go to Powell's City of Books, which is literally the largest book store in the world - encompassing an entire city block! Afterwards we checked out the Portland International Rose Test Garden, which was blooming in every color you could imagine. One of the roses is called the Grand Duchess Charlote, which was first planted by the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg in 1941 (if I remember correctly). It has been blooming ever since. We also stopped by Jacobsen Salt Co. to pick up some gourmet cooking salts for ourselves and a Southern California friend. Afterwards, we drove out to our next camping destination (Riverbend Campground) and prepared to cross the USA-Canada border the next day.
Day 5 - Goal: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
It was about a four hour drive from the night's campground to the border crossing. Then it was at least another hour and a half until we crossed the border. I will never forget the father who got out of his car (riding passenger) jogging while carrying his son (probably about 5-6 years old) to the public restroom a ways before the gate. Man, that must have been a great workout.
Anyway, we crossed the border and made our way up to Vancouver, BC! It was a pretty uneventful ride - I didn't take many photos that day. We first checked in to our campsite at Capilano River RV Park (they also gave us a discount for being California AAA members...), which was just north of Stanley Park. With plenty of time to spare in the afternoon, we spent a few hours wandering around the VanDusen Botanical Garden. I've always been fascinated by botanical gardens. I don't know why, though; I can never remember what I learned about the flora after visiting... haha. I think because botanical gardens bring together a wide collection and cultivation of plants from all over the world (or nation). That in and of itself is quite fascinating. Towards the end of our self-guided tour we decided we did not have enough time to visit the Bloedel Conservatory (which I still really want to visit), so we decided on eating dinner at a nearby local restaurant, Chaise on Main. We're such great foodies. Afterwards, we called it a night and retired back to the campground to get an early start the next day.
Day 6 - Goal: Enjoy Vancouver!
WOOOHOOOO! First full day spent in another country! We started off bright and early (sun rises earlier and sets later up north, anyway). Our first stop of the day was at the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (just a 15-20 minute drive out of Vancouver), which was a completely free attraction! The suspension bridge hangs over 160 feet above Lynn Creek. The area was completely empty in the wee hours of the morning. A handful of trails branched off from the other side of the bridge; unfortunately we did not have time for hikes that day. Afterwards, we sat down for breakfast at a De Dutch Pannekoek House closer to Vancouver, which is local restaurant chain centered around the dutch pancake (pannekoeken), which was new to both of us. Photos below are from the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge.
Next stop was the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which in-and-of-itself was made to be a tourist attraction. There are three main attractions within the "park", which include the main suspension bridge that spans the Capilano River, a "treetops adventure" and a "cliffwalk". You can read more about these attractions on their website. We spent a few hours here and watched the tourists pour in by the busload (literally). I'd would advise anyone to visit as soon as the park opens, if at all possible.
After a few hours of being amazed at mankind's innovative engineering feats, we spent the rest of the day biking around Stanley Park. We dropped off the van at a parking lot just outside of the park and rented two cruisers from Spokes Bicycle Rentals. It was pretty convenient to rent bikes because they (and most other bike rental companies, I think) charged by the hour. We pretty much chose Spokes because their prices were reasonable and they were located really close to Stanley Park. We biked around and through Stanley Park twice (in the span of about 4 hours) and also spent some time biking through the city in an attempt to find the Winter Olympic Village... which we did not end up finding. Some photos from the day's adventures below.
Day 7 - Back to the U.S.A.!
We picked up some Lay's Ketchup Chips from a grocery store on the way down for some family friends down in Southern California. Apparently ketchup-flavored chips are a thing, and they are only available in Canada... go figure. The gate to the USA was not as backed up as when we had first tried to cross the border a few days earlier. When questioned by the border guard if we had purchased any foreign goods we told him we bought a few bags of ketchup chips and that was all. He half-joked that he had heard about them but had never had them, and then let us through.
On the way back down we decided to make a somewhat out-of-the-way stop at Snoqualmie Falls, which were just as impressive as any other waterfall we had previously encountered during our adventure. We parked at the top near the visitor's center and ended up hiking down to the lower part of the falls for another great view.
After spending a few hours exploring the area around the falls, we finished up the day by driving to Cougar Rock Campgrounds, which rests on the southwest side of Mt. Rainier National Park. Being May, the campground had just opened and was available for walk-in (or drive-in) campers - it was very empty and peaceful. Jocelyn and I arrived in the earlier part of the afternoon, so we spent a few hours hiking one of the nearby trails and caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier (see below). I'd definitely want to go back during the same season in the future.
Day 8 - The Long Road South
After a restful night we continued our trek back home... this time with a grueling 8 hour drive from the campground to our next destination, Valley of the Rogue River State Park, which is located near Medford, Oregon. I did not take many photos this day, but it was nice that the campgrounds was right next to the Rogue River - there was a small loop that we hiked along the river before calling it a day.
Day 9 - More Driving!
Another 8-9 hour drive was the bestest decision after an 8 hour drive the previous day. This time, we drove from Medford-area to Sacramento to North Yosemite. I found it funny that we would be driving through Sacramento considering that the following week I would be there again for a work trip. This time, we camped at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort, which was situated perfectly along the way to Yosemite National Park. I only took one picture on the drive there... and that is the one below.
Day 10 - Goal: Explore Yosemite National Park
Last day of fun. We spent the entire day at Yosemite National Park. We arrived early - the parking lots were almost completely empty. Most of the day was spent walking around the easy hikes - viewpoint of Lower Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, and Vernal Fall Footbridge. We didn't realize how packed the parking lot had become after finishing our chosen loop - a lot of people were illegally parking... and getting tickets :). After packing up we chose to drive up to Glacier Point. I had no idea that the spot was a drive-to location... I thought it was a hiking trail. Silly me. What gorgeouuuuss views!
Day 11 - The Long Road Home
It was a good 5 hour drive home.
Fun Facts/Things Learned
- We subsisted on canned soups and cold cut sandwiches most days and nights.
- Camping near restrooms is a blessing.
- I miss greenery.
- Ventilation is key when sleeping in a sleeper van. Pop a window or the top, even if it's cold.
- We just purchased a 4Runner that I am trying not to plan on dumping money into for future travel conveniences.
- Ketchup chips are as awesome as they sound.
- It is always worth it to try and catch up with old friends, even on a honeymoon/vacation.
- I am not very good at talking while driving.