After a very cold week in the Alabama Hills & Death Valley, we headed to the sun and warmth of Southern California. We had the pleasure of spending a week with my best friend, which is one of the perks of van life. We have gotten to see many of our loved ones along the way. It doesn’t hurt that they let us do chores at their places either.
During the weekend, we explored yet another National Park on our quest to see them all! Read about our lovely week in LA, our magical experience visiting the Channel Islands, and taking one of the best drives in the US!
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Where We Went This Week
We had an amazing and exhausting weekend in Death Valley, so we needed a night to recover before the work week began. We drove from Death Valley to Santa Monica and slept along the promenade. Watching the sunset over the ocean is one of my favorite parts about the West Coast.
Over the next couple days, we worked from coffee shops in Santa Monica and Silverlake, because we needed time out of the van. We didn’t get to explore much, but we did get to meet up with my cousin for a great dinner in Silverlake.
That night, we drove to my best friend’s place in Santa Monica and parked Vinny on her street. Spending time with my best friend (Marisa) was so refreshing and rejuvenating. During the days we worked at her place, while she went to work. During the nights we stayed up far too late at night chatting and catching up.
Some of the highlights of spending time in LA included a delicious Korean BBQ meal at Park’s, a morning hike in the Palisades with an Instagram friend (Faith from @prettylittletraveler), and a decadent Italian sandwich from Bay Cities Deli. Dylan and I loved escaping the winter and soaking up the sun for a few days.
On Saturday morning, we woke up early to drive to Ventura, California for a day at sea. Marisa, Dylan and I spent a half day exploring the seas of Channel Islands National Park (NP #16) on a wildlife cruise. I didn’t have high expectations for our journey, but I was blown away.
To say it was magical, is a bit of an understatement. We got on the boat and 20 minutes into the ride, we were completely surrounded by a pod of dolphins. Dolphins were dazzling us with their graceful leaps and their playful nature near the boats. I have never experienced anything like it. Then, we saw two gray whales migrating down the coast. Water shot up from their blowholes and their tales flipped out of the water as they dove beneath the surface.
Although we didn’t make it on the land of the islands, we were able to view them from a distance. Their imposing cliff sides create a dramatic landscape and remind me of the Hawaiian mountains. One day I’d love to go back to camp on these remote islands.
Once we made it back to land, we rewarded ourselves with a decadent meal of fried food. We went to Andria’s in the harbor and ordered towering plates of fish and chips (or in my case chicken tenders and chips). We gobbled it down and then we reluctantly said our goodbyes to Marisa before hitting the road once again.
Pacific Coast Highway
We started driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on Saturday evening and were welcomed by a warm sunset over the coastline. We only drove a short distance to Morro Bay before finding a place to camp for the evening. Unfortunately, camping along Highway 1 is illegal, but we found a spot to rest for the night in the dark.
When we woke, we were greeted by cotton candy skies over rolling hills and the ocean beyond. It had turned out to be yet another gorgeous camp spot. We left early to try and see as much as we could along the PCH before the super bowl began (3:30 pm PCT).
Every time I drive the PCH, I am reminded of why many people believe California is the most beautiful state. The cliffs that drop down into the ocean below are stunning and the whole drive down Highway 1 seems like it’s straight out of a postcard. In the morning, a fog covered half the ocean and looked almost mystical. Soon, the sun burned the fog off and we were rewarded with bright blues and aqua colors.
Some of the highlights of our trip included seeing Elephant seals fighting at Elephant Seal Vista, climbing the rocks on Pfeiffer Beach, and viewing the iconic Bixby Bridge from above. If you haven’t done this drive before, then you have to add it to your bucket list. I would do it 100 more times if I could. Every time is something new and exciting.
After a few hours of driving and exploring, we finally made it to another friend’s place to watch the Super Bowl. Read the next van chronicles to hear more about our time exploring Northern California.
Where We Stayed:
- Santa Monica Promenade (34.01930,-118.50392)
- Echo Park Deep Pool (34.06438,-118.25974)
- Outside my Friend’s Place (Santa Monica)
- Near Pacific Coast Highway & Cambria (35.54831,-120.93541)
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