California Road Trip I - Highway 1

Hi,

900 miles in 3 days. That was the plan, to go from Los Angeles along the Highway 1, past Sacramento and Reno all the way up north to Burning Man at Black Rock City. As it was our first time steering a RV that was longer and wider than any other vehicle I' had driven before, this was without a doubt quite an endeavour.

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So after after an 11 hour flight and a short night in a hotel near LAX we picked up our camper van which was supposed to be our home for the next two weeks. We quickly realized that a 21 feet vehicle is far from ideal for the streets of LA so we left the city of stars behind us and headed north onto the famous Highway One.

It took a little while to get the hang of this new way of travelling but once you get used to it it’s great fun. Being able to stop almost everywhere and cook, make coffee or sleep is quite amazing.

The Californian coast is incredibly scenic and diverse. The road takes you along waterfalls and white beaches, steep cliffs and bridges, green fields and orange plantations. The warm and dry climate is very comfortable, and once we left the LA traffic behind us the roads became quieter. It’s a very easy going highway, windows down and music on. Sadly the jet-lag was still in full swing, so we both were very pretty relieved after we reached our first campsite after around 200 miles.

The next day started early and grey. It was still dark when we left the campground but the daily target was almost 300 miles so we had to get on the road.

After around 50 miles we reached the Elephant Seal Vista Point. After coffee and breakfast at the beach including some seal watching we continued the Highway 1 towards the Big Sur.

The Big Sur is the the central coastline of California, stretching between San Simeon in the South and Carmel in the North. It is considered one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and it can be a very touristy area. Luckily outside of public holidays at the end of August we had the road to our-self most of the times.

Along the highway there are plenty of view points. We pretty much drove and stopped whenever we liked, most vista points have free parking and lots of space for RVs.

Just after lunch the sky cleared up and the sun came out. We wanted to stop at Carmel-By-The-Sea for an afternoon break. Carmel is a small village dedicated to arts and crafts, very pretty and quite laid-back. There are plenty of artisan shops and galleries, also there’s beautiful white sand beach.

Just outside of Carmel begins the Point Lobos State Reserve, a small national park along the coast. It costs about 17$ entry per vehicle but definitely worth the visit. As it’s located with a large section of the coast facing west it was the perfect spot for sunset.

So we fired up the stove in the camper and probably had one of the best sunset-dinners at the beach of the whole trip, including breathtaking ocean view.

The next day started warm and sunny. We heavy-heartedly left the ocean road and set course towards land-inwards Sacramento. The landscape quickly changed to a vibrant orange and the curvy highway became much steeper. After around 200 miles we reached Tahoe National Forest and lush grasslands changed to impressive mountain ranges. Some of the passes have an elevation of almost 6000ft, but our RV slowly fought his way up the roads until we eventually reached Crystal Lake.

After a lunch-break and a swim in the lake we continued west along the Eisenhower Highway, past the picturesque Donner Lake and plenty of ski resorts. We hadn’t booked a campsite so we just tried or luck at a campground at the Boca Reservoir. That area had multiple campsites and luckily all of them were pretty much empty. So we picked a nice spot for the night just by the lake.

A lot of the campsites in the National Parks operate on a first come first serve policy. Also most of them are self service, so if you find an empty spot (there’s usually a little sign that tells you if a spot is reserved already) just put the amount for the night in a little safe box at the entrance and put the receipt under the windshield.

Wild bears are still quite common and visit campsites frequently, most of the times attracted by human food. So be advised to never leave open canisters of food as well as any rubbish outside. If you’re in a tent, most campsites have dedicated food storage boxes.

Coming from a big city the night sky was particularly impressive. Far away from any light pollution the sky was filled with millions of starts, even the Milkyway was visible to the naked eye.

The next day should be a big day for us, the reason why we traveled so far in the first place. We would finally make our way to Black Rock City to attend the Burning Man. There was just another 300miles between us and the probably craziest festival in the world. You can read all about it in our blog post What it’s like at Burning Man. Also if you want to see more frequent updates please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

See you soon!