Our Road Trip

 

When we first started looking at electric cars, we knew that we wanted one that would be fun to drive and comfortable to ride in.  We also wanted one that would have enough range for a long journey someday. Still, until recently, our little Kona had spent only a couple nights away from home.

Over the last few decades, relatives and friends have been accumulating in the retirement communities west of Phoenix. (I won’t dox them here, but they know who they are.)  By October of 2023 we were ready to undertake serious travel for the first time in years. We set out for Arizona — and a ballet of route planning, reunions and roadside attractions.

We decided to make the first half of our loop via the freeways, mostly on I-5 and I-10, imagining that we would find better infrastructure and greater efficiency on the main roads.  Then, on the way back, with some experience under our belts, we would have a leisurely drive up the coast, taking in some country we hadn’t seen before. (This plan would also get mountain passes out of the way before there was much chance of snow.)

In olden times this 3,000 mile journey would have been a saga of pluck and determination, but for us it was largely a case study in information management.  Each day began with a clear picture of our route and every possible rest stop and likely optional charging station along the way. The goal was to end every day at a hotel with a Level-2 charger. (There’s information about our car-charging experience on another page.) Associated with each hotel was information about laundry facilities, food options, check-in and checkout times, and the deadline for cancelling its reservation, in case we ever needed to bail out.

These first pictures are from our stay in one of the impressively sustainable-yet-mid-century bungalows at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center on days six and seven of our trip.  Before this we had made one-night stands in Salem, Rogue River, Anderson (near Redding, CA), Modesto, and Bakersfield. The visit to Modesto included a brief pilgrimage.

Our home-away-from-home for six nights was the Hampton Inn at Surprise, Arizona, a neighborhood replete with cousins, old flying buddies, familiar supermarkets and wholesome-but-exotic takeout.  EV charging was free, in a space that was shaded until mid-morning; there’s a Denny’s right across the parking lot for emergency dining.

In these post-pandemic times, since so many stores and restaurants now offer pickup or take-out, menus appear online and it’s possible to know weeks in advance what you’re likely to order on a particular day.  Also, though Alex did most of our route-planning far ahead of time, the car itself offers to find its own way, including locating places to plug itself in.  Until well into our trip we considered GPS to be a distracting gimmick, but after about three weeks we began to rely on it.

On our return trip we spent a night at Cathedral City, near Palm Springs, and then headed toward the coast, aiming to catch Highway 1 at Santa Monica.  There’s always a dearth of highway rest stops in urban areas, but we had learned to look for state parks instead — even small towns often have wonderful parks that they are proud of.  Once past Santa Monica we just turned up Temescal Canyon, spent some time at the park there, and then took Sunset Boulevard back to the highway at Inceville.

The Santa Barbara Inn was our first real attempt at luxury. Our room was above the lobby shown at left, and matched its shape with a wrap-around veranda offering not-one-but-two little outdoor tables where we might have consumed our room-service meal, depending on the time of day and our desire for shade or sunlight. Said repast consisted, in my case, of the spit-roasted chicken with harissa, charmoula, olives, almonds and cauliflower. Here’s a picture of the room:

The next day took us north to Morro Bay, with a stop at La Purisima Mission State Historic Park and a glimpse of what is now the Vandenberg Space Force Base.

This day would require laundry, and so we paused at a laundromat a mile short of the next Hampton Inn, and then made a couple of trips back there before walking over to pick up food at the Taco Bell just across the freeway. Here’s a picture of the famous Morro Rock,  from  a sunset stroll.

After Morro Bay we were off to Big Sur.  We were again without an official rest area, so we chose our own, at Carmel Sunset Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea.


From there we headed south down the coast, along part of Highway 1 we had missed, for a night at the Post Ranch Inn. Only the unavailability of our room kept us from staying longer. The interior design, the food, the service and the provisions there are exceptional. They have eliminated plastic containers — there’s purified water, but in glass milk-bottles; for hiking, there are metal canteens with screw-caps. Snacks, matching our dietary restrictions, also appeared in reusable glass containers. We hadn’t been able to get the roadside sandwiches we had meant to bring for our dinner, so we ended up with room service instead. The ensuing meal was revelatory. The valet took our car, but brought it back charged in the morning, and would have driven us anywhere in a Lexus provided for that purpose. By the way, there are other resorts with guided nature walks, yoga and meditation, but this is the only one we’ve seen that offers falconry.

Since we couldn’t stay longer, we drove north the next day through San Francisco to Tomales Bay, near Point Reyes, stopping at a Chipotle in Daly City for take-out and quick car-charging. That afternoon we drove out to the park, put on our boots long enough to say that we had hiked, and later visited a local grocery store.

Next day we headed inland (the highway does too) and drove to Garberville and the historic Benbow Inn, another opportunity for luxury, or at least gentility. (We, on the other hand, brought sandwiches we had picked up at Amellia’s in town.) Here’s a picture from our balcony. At the right edge of the lawn there’s a path down to the pleasant bank of the Eel River.
The hotel is also a headquarters for seeing the famous redwoods (in California, even the trees have drive-throughs). We did stop at Founders Grove the next day and walked around its pleasant loop trail. We finished the day at the Beachfront Inn, in Brookings, Oregon. Here’s another sample of a do-it-yourself rest stop from the next day:

After that we spent two days in Newport, doing a bit less visiting and a bit more walking on the beach than we had planned. Here’s a view from our room at the Hallmark Inn:


We weren’t through with sightseeing! The Oregon coast is famous for its beaches and big rocks; here, a few miles north of Newport, is the Devil’s Punchbowl. It’s possible, depending on the tide, to walk down for a closer look.
We were on our way to Astoria. Here’s our favorite place to stay there, the Cannery Pier Hotel (partly for the excellent restaurant at the other end of the parking lot, the Bridgewater Bistro). That window looks across the Columbia River toward Washington and the end of our trip, back home in Seattle.