August 11, 2010 – August 22, 2010
Leg 1: Seattle and Mt. Rainer
My boyfriend and I arrived at SEATAC around midnight Thursday and jumped on the free airport shuttle to our hotel, the Skyway Inn. Skyway Inn was fine for the $50 price—it was clean, had a continental breakfast in the morning, and an airport shuttle. Plus the location was very close to I-5 (a fact that will come in handy later).
The next morning (8am), Friday, we left our suitcases (locked) behind the front desk, hopped on the airport shuttle, and headed back to the airport where we jumped on the light rail system and rode it all the way into downtown Seattle (45 minute rail ride, $2.50/person). While downtown, we walked around Pike’s Street Market: bread bowl at the Soundview Café (not the best bread bowl but a very nice view of the sound), had Starbucks coffee from the original Starbucks while overlooking the sound (make sure that you stop at the original Starbucks which is located inside the market, across from all of the flower stands), smelled the flowers, and viewed all of the fresh fish.
After leaving the market, we had mid-day martinis at Vons Grand City Café, just a few blocks away from our Duck Tour departure location. The Duck Tour ($57 total) was fabulous! The tour took us on Lake Union and we were able to see the entire sky line. We skipped the Space Needle (b/c, let’s face it, there is one in Vegas!)
After touring the city (until approx. 4pm), we hopped back on the light rail system and took a cab to Hertz’ downtown location ($765 for a convertable for 1+ week, drop off different location). We rented a Seabring convertible, perfect for our coastal drive. From there, we drove South on I-5, picked up our bags at the Skyway Inn, and drove off toward Mt. Rainer. The rush hour traffic was not too bad, we managed to miss most of it since we drove out of the city around 4pm.
Mount Rainer, here we come! We could see the mountain in the distance for our entire drive.
After a few hours of driving (prob. 3 hrs), we finally arrived at the entrance to Mt. Rainer ($15 entrance fee). Thirty minutes later, we arrived at Paradise Lodge ($175/night) at twilight, a pink sky, crescent moon, and orange glow on the mountain. Make sure to get the Paradise Lodge, not the National Park Inn. You must book this a few months in advance b/c it fills up very quickly! About 9pm we heard the ranger talk and as we retired to bed, swatted some mice out of our room. What-a-long-Friday!
The next morning, Saturday, my boyfriend woke me up at 5:30 am, yaaaawn, so we could watch the sunrise over the mountain. The reflection on the lake was beautiful. We joined several photographers for this “event.” The sky was crystal clear. After dabbling in a little hiking (we’re not much for that), we headed on our way on Highway 30. But, we had a choice---drive South to Mt. St. Helens & stay in Portland thereby missing the northern part of Oregon…..or drive straight to Oregon’s northern coast. We chose the latter (although I would recommend that you choose the former).
Summary: Take the light rail system from the airport into downtown Seattle, have a drink at the original Starbucks while overlooking the sound, stay in Mt. Rainer National Park at the Paradise Lodge, and if you must choose between St. Helens/Portland and Astoria/Seaside then go with St. Helens.
Leg 2: Oregon
Astoria was rather unimpressive except for the large green bridge, perhaps the column, and the fishing museum. What “saved” the city was the Wet Dog café---we sampled the local brews and ate a round of raw oysters, yes redemption!
Next came the city of Seaside…what a hoppin’ little town! The weekend we were there was a pro volleyball tournament, we loved the action and excitement of this cute beach town. The only problem was…..no hotel rooms for miles and miles. We had to drive about an hour East on Highway 26 until we finally found an Extended Stay in Beaverton—moral of the story, make sure you book a hotel room on a Saturday night!!!
Sunday--The next morning we grabbed coffee at the Picnic Basket in Cannon Beach and explored Haystack Rock. Muscles and starfish adorned the rocks. In the distance you can see Tillamook Rock lighthouse. Tillamook Cheese factory was packed (although we did manage to get in 2 cheese tastings, yum!) and the ice cream line was long so we walked across the street and had some more raw oysters at a fresh fish deli. We drove the 3 capes loop although we were not able to see Cape Mears lighthouse. We stopped in Depoe Bay and saw 2 wales from the side of the road! We arrived at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse about 1 hour before the park closed (6:30ish). We then drove into Newport and ate at Moe’s Annex, overlooking the bay and fishing boats. We should have stayed in Newport but because we booked too much into our Sunday (and b/c we were scared about not getting a room again), we stayed at the Fireside Inn in Yachats—the hotel boarders a black rock beach and has fire places in each room. I highly recommend staying at the Fireside Inn!!!
Monday—Drove back to Newport, saw the Seals on the docks downtown and watched fishermen sell “tuna” (it looked more like Bonita) from their boats, toured the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and took photos of the beautiful Newport Bridge. The drive from Yachats to Florence is outstanding, make sure to drive this during the late morning/early afternoon. YOU MUST STOP AT CAPE PERPETUA—from 101, drive the 2 miles up to the top of Cape Perpetua, and you’ll be amazed. This was the most beautiful view I have ever seen! Stop at Umpqua River Lighthouse and Heceta Head Lighthouse.
In the afternoon, we hoped on a dune buggy with Sandland Adventures ($56 total) and got a tour of the dunes. Stop at Coquille River Lighthouse. That night, we stayed in Bandon at the Inn at Old Town ($90), the woman who works it (Ruby) is very nice. My boyfriend had a weird spooky feeling about this town, and felt the Inn was haunted…it turns out that a fire destroyed most of the town in the 1930’s. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any ghosts.
Tuesday Morning—Sampled the local beer in Port Orford at Riff’s on the Dock and had oysters and more local beer at Sporthaven Marina in Brookings. We saw & toured Cape Blanco Lighthouse.
Summary: book a hotel room for Friday/Saturday night, stay at the Fireside Inn in Yachts, eat at Moe’s Annex in Newport, don’t miss the sea lions on the Newport docks, make sure you stop at Cape Perpetua, try to view every lighthouse, and make sure you fill up on beer and oysters!
You must must must get this mile-by-mile guide: http://visittheoregoncoast.com/
Leg 3: Northern California
Tuesday – Stopped in Crescent City at the National Park Visitor Information Center, saw Battery Point Lighthouse (on an island). Drove through the Jebediah Smith Redwood State Park (some of the biggest and best redwoods). Continued on through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Drove through our first Redwood tree in Kalmath ($5), you can’t miss the big yellow sign. Stopped in Trinidad in hopes of finding somewhere to sleep, but all we saw there was the absolutely stunning coast line and a memorial lighthouse called Trinidad Head Memorial. Finding a place to sleep was difficult (because it was freshmen move in weekend at Humboldt State University in Arcata) but we finally found a place in Eureka called the Eagle House ($125). I liked this place—it was very Victorian and eclectic, and was connected to an excellent Irish pub called Gallagher’s Irish Pub.
The next morning, Wednesday, we took the Avenue of the Giants (just outside Scotia) and saw some stunning trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park—we saw the Dyerville Giant here ($5). Another drive through tree in Myers Flat—the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree (You can probably skip this one, it’s not as impressive as the others b/c it’s about dead). We stopped at Riverbend Cellers and did our first wine tasting, purchased the Rose for $12.99. Our third and final drive-thru redwood was in Leggett, the Chandelier Drive-Thru tree ($5)….this one was the best.
Since we were making such good time on our drive, we decided to take highway 1 out to the coast---beware, this road is extremely twisty but well worth seeing the small quaint beach town of Menoncino. Ahhhh, our last glimpse of the beautiful coastline. Sadly, this was also the end of the majestic redwoods. On highway 20 back to route 101, we began to see wine vineyards in Mendencino County!
Leg 4: Wine Tasting
Wednesday afternoon -- We arrived at Asti, tasted a few grapes from their vineyard, stopped at Francis Coppoula, and then arrived at our hotel in Healdsburg—America’s Best Value Inn (nearly vacant but very clean, $239/2 nights). We ate at the Bear Republic Brewing Co. and tasted their beers.
All day Thursday was wine tasting…by bike (Wine Country Bikes, $66 total)! I would not recommend doing this if you’re not in good shape—wine tasting and biking in the hot sun do not mix well, especially if you want to purchase wine from the vineyards. We rode 25 miles total: Bella, Zichichi, Passalacqua, Truett Hurst, and Dry Creek. This region, called the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, is known for its Zinfandels. Eat at Bici Cafe & Wine Bar--the ravioli is excellent!
Friday morning---Took the Sonoma Highway/Highway 12 through Sonoma, tasted Kenwood’s wines, and rode the Benziger tram ($15/person) around the vineyards (do not miss this!) in Glen Ellen. We ate in the Sonoma Square at the Sunflower Cafe. We drove an hour on 101 into San Francisco and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge ($6)!!! Next was the adventure of finding our hotel…
Summary: Healdsburg is perfect for people who want a more intimate, less expensive, and less crowded wine tasting experience. Do not take a bike tour unless you know you’re capable of it! Ride the Benziger wine tram / take a tour of their vineyards and wine cave. Leave yourself an extra hour to navigate your way into San Francisco.
Leg 5: San Francisco
Friday afternoon- After driving down the 1-way streets in San Fran, we finally arrived at our hotel, the Union Square Plaza Hotel ($159/2 nights), and attempted to unload our baggage in a no parking / tow-a-way zone while immediately getting begged for money from one of the numerous street folk. This was hectic…we devised a system of me staying with the car while my boyfriend checked in and curried the bags up to the room. We then jumped back into our convertible (not in the convertible position b/c we were scared for our safety) and drove toward Fisherman’s Wharf. We dropped our car off at the Hertz location in Fisherman’s Wharf and explored the area…definitely not one of my favorite places—it was dirty, very crowded, and everything was under construction. We viewed more sea lions on the docks, ate a bread bowl, rode the cable car back to Union Square ($5-10/person), took a Duck Tour ($34/person), and retired to our room…which was decent for the price.
Saturday—Up up up for the 1st ferry to Alcatraz (you must book these tickets at least 1 month in advance). In the afternoon, we rented a tandem bike from Bike & Roll ($60), biked over the golden gate bridge into Sausalito, and took the ferry back to San Francisco ($10/person). That night we rode the cable car back to Union Square and ate Ramon noodles at an excellent oriental place immediately next to our hotel called Katanaya.
Sunday – Early AM took a $15/person airport shuttle (which we booked at our hotel) to SFO airport and my boyfriend flew home while I flew into Vegas and rafted on the Grand Canyon for 5 days/4 nights.
Summary: Dump your car off at a downtown location b/c it’s cheaper than paying for parking and paying the airport drop fee. Purchase your Alcatraz tickets at least 1 month in advance. Bike over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito, take the ferry back.
Here is a list of hotel/tour prices:
RIDE THE DUCKS OF SEAT$57.76
SKYWAY INN SEATAC SEATAC WA $55.24
PARADISE INN HOTEL ASHFORD WA $175.21
SANDLAND ADVENTURES FLORENCE OR $56.00
FIRESIDE MOTEL YACHATS OR $131.23
INN AT OLD TOWN BANDON OR $90.95
THE EAGLE HOUSE EUREKA CA $126.50
AMERICA'S BEST VALUE I HEALDSBURG CA $239.68
DRY CREEK VINEYARD - T HEALDSBURG CA $10.00
WINE COUNTRY BIKES HEALDSBURG CA $66.00
ZICHICHI FAMILY VINEYA HEALDSBURG CA $20.00
PASSALACQUA WINERY QPS HEALDSBURG CA $10.00
TRUETT HURST WINERY HEALDSBURG CA
BELLA VINEYARDS HEALDSBURG CA $14.00
KENWOOD VINEYARDS KENWOOD CA $10.00
HERTZ RENT-A-CAR SEATTLE WA $765.07
UNION SQUARE PLAZA SAN FRANCISCOCA $159.40
RIDE THE DUCKS SAN FRA SAN FRANCISCOCA $64.00
BENZIGER/IMAGERY WINER GLEN ELLEN CA $30.00
BIKE AND ROLL_JEFFERSO SAN FRANCISCOCA $60.23
KATANAYA QPS SAN FRANCISCOCA