Oh, California. My adopted home of the last 26 years. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart. I’d always felt like I had seen a lot of it, having grown up in Orange County, gone to school in San Jose, and had friends in San Diego.

But, boy, I’d been missing out on some awesome spots.

First, the familiar.

My adventure started in Big Bear, where I spent the weekend galavanting around the lake on a boat, hiking (down) the slopes, playing Cards Against Humanity until my face hurt, and hanging out with good friends (Joe, Justin, Jenn, Isaiah, and Kat).

Big Bear is such a beautiful little retreat from reality. It’s close enough to LA to make it easily drivable for a weekend, yet far enough away that it feels like a proper vacation. A few years ago, it started becoming one of my regular escapes from the daily grind, going both for trips for my friend Joe’s birthday, as well as other random little weekends throughout the year.

I wanted to start here both because some of my best friends would be there for the weekend, and also because I just love it. But since I’m all about discovering new things on my trip, I made a point of finding something new while there. This time around, I stopped at a place called Kirby’s Custom Carvings. As the name implies, they do all sorts of wooden carvings using chain saws and other much more intricate woodworking tools. They take huge chunks of wood, and over the course of days, go from things like this…


to finished products like this…


In this day and age, it’s pretty easy to judge a finished product. But stepping back, it’s pretty amazing that people create objects like this with their hands.

OK, enough of that. On to the journey.

But Devin, what route did you decide on?

Sigh. Thanks for bringing up such a painful subject, dear friend.

I thought I was going to have lots of time to chill and work on the route while in Big Bear. Wrong. There were just so many recommendations for places, that it took way longer than I thought to get through them all (I suppose this is a good problem to have?). So, I don’t have the full route done yet.

However, I do know which direction I’m going to head. After fretting over this decision for a few weeks, I decided to go North up the coast, and across the northern states now, coming back across the South on my way home.

The reason for this comes down to one word – weather. Do I want to melt my face going across Arizona and Texas when it’s in the 120’s? Negatory. Do I want to freeze my ass off camping in national parks in September/October? No. Freaking. Way. So, by going North now, I hit the northern national parks while it’s warm enough to camp, and coming back around I won’t fry too badly in the Southern states on my way home. (¿I hope?)

I still need a few days to finish whittling the full list down to a manageable set of destinations (See what I did there? A whittling reference right after showing the woodworking? Good? No? OK, I’ll do better.). But it was pretty obvious what my route would be for the next few days. So, up the coast I went.

The Bay Area

If California holds a special place in my heart, The Bay Area has the tightest grip. It’s where I went to school, made some of my best friends, and really got started in the tech world. But as much as I wanted to hang out for a few days and catch up with everyone I haven’t seen in a while, I just didn’t have the time (choosing the Northern route puts me under a serious time crunch to get back East for a wedding on August 1st). So, after an altogether too brief overnight stop to see my favorite people named Tiko and Becca, it was North I kept going.


Fun fact? Despite living in The Bay Area for 8 years, I never actually drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. I know. This makes me a terrible person. Shrug. So, it was my first stop after leaving Mountain View.

It’s an amazing feat of engineering, and is located in such a beautiful spot. I feel like an ass for never having gone to see it until now. Regardless, it was still totally worth it. Especially spending some time wandering around in the park just North of the bridge.


The Redwoods

Other than flying up Hwy 5 to get to Oregon, I hadn’t really explored anywhere North of the Golden Gate bridge, so I decided to check out the Redwoods after leaving San Francisco. Fun fact? You can drive through some of them. Which. Is. So. Fucking. Cool.


Nature produces some ridiculous stuff up here in addition to these ginormous trees. Nearby Confusion Hill (which is a lot like Santa Cruz’s Mystery Spot) is one such example. It’s one of those places you go, and then start questioning reality. You watch as water runs uphill, you hang at an angle to the ground, and gravity seems to have had a few too many drinks. (Seriously, there’s one spot where you hang from a bar, and it feels like you’re 15-30 degrees off of perpendicular to the ground.)

Confusion Hill

Check it out if you’re ever up that way. Or go to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. At either one, you can’t help but have a “nature is cool” moment (even if some of it is just due to optical illusions).


This also marked my first night camping. I made reservations online for Kamp Klamath in Klamath Falls, but kept stopping on my drive up there – so didn’t arrive until after dark. I had to set up my tent using the headlights from the Jeep because I had neither wood for the fire pit, nor propane for my lantern. (Note to self, seriously, get some propane).


I wasn’t murdered in my sleep, or eaten alive by bugs. So, I’ll call that a win.

Next up… Oregon.