Playing prostitutes and robbers at Pioneertown, CA

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Playing prostitutes and robbers at Pioneertown, CA

4 Comments 16 March 2013

After two years of wearing cowboy boots in hot and non-western countries, my footwear finally came in handy in California.

Thanks to my readers’ advice, Ric and I made a quick stop at Pioneertown after a day in Joshua Tree. The old western movie set was built in the 1940s and used for TV shows like The Crisco Kid. Today it remains intact for tourists, with a few shops, a hotel and Pappy & Harriet’s, a restaurant and music venue that’s worth stopping at on its own, open for business.

Since Ric and I visited in the winter (out of season), there were no scheduled gun fights or crowds of people, so we decided to make our own fun. After all, if you show up at an old western film set in cowboy boots and a plaid shirt on you have to take advantage of it. So what did we do?

Impromptu photo shoot!!

Doors swinging, Bobbi busts out of the Pioneertown Bank after a robbery gone wrong. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Without knowing it, she leaves her Clyde behind. The sheriff catches Ric, loot in hand, and locks him up. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

No money and no man, Bobbi’s forced to work at the local bath house. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Months later, Ric is released and he’s looking for revenge. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Besides pretending to be locked-up thieves and whores, we also fit in an epic meal at Pappy & Harriet’s. Ric had a chilli-steak burger with cheese fries and I had an obscene amount of unsweetened iced tea with lemons. Basically the makings of a perfect day.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Pictures of famous visitors to Pappy & Harriet’s, including one of Ice Cube wearing a sombrero. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

All I need in life is a mason jar of iced tea with loads on lemons. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Have you ever visited Pioneertown in California? Share your story below.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Jucy Wheels out West: the good, the bad and the budget

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels out West: the good, the bad and the budget

No Comments 01 March 2013

We’ve been driving higher and higher on Highway 180 en route to the Big Stump Entrance of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, elevation markers letting us know we’ve reached 2000, 3000, 4000 feet. The last few miles have not been easy. The fog is so thick I can’t see more than 15 feet ahead. Then it disappears and reveals one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.

I’d tackle any hard drive for this view. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Rocky mountains and trees fill the scenery to my left and ahead, two my right, the tips of a few mountains peaking above the clouds. I realise I wasn’t driving through fog before, but those clouds below me right now. If that’s the case, then this must be heaven.

It looks like it anyway.

It’s next to impossible to justifiably sum up my three-week road trip with Jucy Rentals in Western USA. I met so many characters, fell in love with so many destinations and the number of moments that almost brought me to tears driving in this beautiful country, well most of those moments will remain within me.

For me, this wasn’t just a road trip through California, Nevada and Arizona, but a chance to reignite the flame with my homeland. I’ve been away from it for three years now. In that time, I started to forget just how incredible it is. This trip was a serious reminder of that.

So while I can’t possibly share with you all my best moments and stories from the road, I can explain this trip in terms of numbers and figures and a few of my favorite things along the way.

Route and destinations

I kicked off this three-week road trip in Los Angeles, headed straight for the Pacific Coast Highway and never looked back. After a night in Santa Barbara, I continued onwards to Morro Bay then to Big Sur with a quick stop at Hearst Castle. After a three-day love affair in Big Sur, I headed up to San Francisco, to visit Alcatraz and take advantage of all the free things to do in the Bay Area.

Sunset at Morro Bay made me wish I had more time to visit the waterfront town. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The furthest north I hit on this trip was Napa Valley. From there I headed east to Yosemite National Park, then along the west side of the Sierra Nevada to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, after which I spent a night in the Mojave Desert. I spent one day cruising through the state of Nevada and one night in Lake Mead National Park.

I drove for about an hour on Route 66 on the way to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. A night in the national park there and I made my way back to the Pacific Coast with a few stops in between.

Three nights in Las Vegas, a day in Joshua Tree National Park then I was spreading my toes in the sand at Huntington Beach, CA. I beached it up during my last weekend with my Jucy Champ, visiting Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu.

Distances and travel times

Altogether I covered just under 3000 miles around three states in Western USA: California, Nevada and Arizona. This took about 44 hours driving time in total, but fitting it all in three weeks was really tight. My longest drive in terms of distance was from the Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ to KOA at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, NV, 277 miles over about four and a half hours. The longest drive in terms of time, excluding inside national parks, was from Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA to Fernwood Resort in Big Sur, CA, only 66 miles, but took about five hours, because of the routes winding roads and I kept stopping to take photos.

We made it to the Grand Canyon just before dark. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Budget (fuel, accommodation, food, activities, rental and insurance)

I spent a total of $559.94 on fuel. It cost me $505.71 to camp out 15 nights during the trip. I stayed with a friend for three nights in San Francisco, got a hotel room for one night at $70 in Napa Valley and used American Express points to spend two nights in a hotel in Las Vegas, which would have costs $60 total.

I went to the grocery store three times on this trip, which cost a total of about $150 in total. I spent about $400 between snacks, eating out and alcohol.

Between five National Parks ($90), various tours and tastings ($111) and one show in Las Vegas ($89), the total of activities adds up to $290.

Three weeks with my Jucy rental with unlimited mileage ($1,410), plus 21 nights of partial insurance ($189), since I was already covered for Supplementary Liability Insurance because with my own car in the USA cost a total of $1,599, plus taxes etc. All trip prices vary depending on how long you’ll be renting for, how many miles you’ll be traveling and what kind of insurance you require, so it’s best to get a quote for yourself.

This brings my trip to a grand total of $3,574.65. This is a basic budget you could use if you are interested in doing a similar road trip of the USA, but consider how many people will split the cost of fuel, camp fees, entrance to national parks, etc. Plus you know yourself best, how often will you be eating out or going out for the night. I did very little on both.

Favorite drive

There’s a reason why my drive from Hearst Castle to Big Sur was the longest in terms of time. The drive alone is stunning, sun setting on the Pacific Ocean to my left, rocky mountains to my right and to add to the thrill of it, this drive is along a cliff with a massive drop to the sea. But I also got to see some really cool things at stops along the way, elephant seals, whales, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Henry Miller Memorial Library.

I must have stopped ten or twenty times in Big Sur to look at the sights. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Least favorite drive

After a long day of driving through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, I went through the worst driving conditions I’ve ever experience on Route 58 in the Mojave Desert. Fog so thick, you could only see about two lines on the middle of the road ahead. This happened at night as well, when all I wanted to do was park up and sleep.

Favorite stop

This is a very hard one, but overall Joshua Tree National Park was best for me. I’ve wanted to see the National Park for a very long time and it was even more interesting than I anticipated. The town of Joshua Tree is small, but quality. The people in this area are really unique and fun. Plus we came across some random things in on our drive through here, like a drummer in the desert and an old western Hollywood set.

Make like a Joshua Tree. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Favorite RV park

During my trip I stayed in 13 different campgrounds and RV resorts. I can honestly say that they were all friendly and special for different reasons, but my favorite is going to have to be Fernwood Resort in Big Sur. The woods there are beautiful and I was parked up right next to the Big Sur River. The bathrooms are heated. Plus the Redwood Grill attached to this resort is cosy and filled with really friendly and interesting locals to talk to.

Colorful lights line the bridge across the Big Sur River at Fernwood Resort. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Best lesson

Buy a national park pass if you plan to road trip Western USA. The $80 “America the Beautiful” pass will allow you to enter and leave all National Parks in the country for an entire year. It be dumb not to visit National Parks in the USA and they each cost $10-25 to enter. We visited five in three weeks, which cost a total of $90, which means we could have saved $10 if we had known about this pass.

Want to read more? All posts about my trip out west can be found here. Enjoy and safe travels!

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to cooking like a champ

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to cooking like a champ

4 Comments 27 February 2013

Being a budget traveler and just enjoying cooking in general, it means a lot when I can cook while traveling. That’s why the best thing, for me, about traveling with my Jucy Champ in California had to be the full kitchen in the back. I loved waking up and making breakfast in the middle of a Cachuma Lake Recreation Area or cooking as the sun sets next to me in Big Sur.

The nice thing about cooking on the road is not only that you eat more affordably, but also that you can pick the best seat in the house.

I mainly ate what was cooked from the back of my Champ on my tour out West. No matter how equipped the kitchen, cooking from the back of a vehicle is a lot different than cooking at home. This guide will name the essentials that should be on your first shopping list, things to keep in mind and my personal road trip recipes.

Cooking essentials

Do you often catch yourself saying, “Oh no, I forgot….”? Road trippers should purchase these three things on their first trip to the grocery store to be used throughout the trip.

  1. Salt and pepper
  2. Dish soap and sponge
  3. Olive oil or butter

Boiling some water from the back of my Jucy Champ for coffee in the morning at Cachuma Lake. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Make sure you have

You think soup would be something inexpensive and easy to make on your road trip, until you get back to the car to find you don’t have a can opener! Luckily, my Jucy rental came fully equipped, so I didn’t have to buy any extra appliances, but it’s always good to be sure. Before planning out your meals, make sure you have these key items.

  1. Can-opener (soups, tuna, sauces)
  2. Sharp knife (meats, vegetables)
  3. Cutting board
  4. Colander (pasta, rice, vegetables)

Tips and reminders

Some things that are obvious to seasoned road trippers are unknown to newbies. Keeps these things in mind when cooking in your RV or camper van.

  1. No illegal dumping. This applies to anything and everything coming out of your vehicle, not just bathrooms. If you are emptying your waste tank ask people on the campground where to dispose of it.
  2. Consider how long things take to cook. The butane gas cartridges used for portable gas stoves pack quite a bit of cooking time, but be realistic with how long your meal idea with take.
  3. Wash up immediately. This is the golden rule in all kitchens, but especially those in cars. It’s not a good idea to drive with things floating around. Wash up and put everything away after eating, so you can go as soon as you want to.
  4. Cool off. Make sure your stove top and any pots or pans have cooled down before putting them away.
  5. Plan ahead. Purchase all your groceries etc. in advance of visiting national parks or secluded areas. These places have few choices and most are more expensive than say in the suburbs or big towns.

Three meal ideas

There are so many things you can cook from the back of your camper van. My advice is to keep it simple, but still have fun. These three videos were all shot from the back of my Jucy camper van and will give you some ideas of things to cook on your road trip.

Breakfast: Eggs California

Lunch: Nachos Grande

Dinner: Creamy fettuccine with three-cheese sausage

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to Las Vegas

Destinations, Guides, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to Las Vegas

No Comments 22 February 2013

The whole idea of Las Vegas, a mirage in the middle of the desert, makes it the perfect road trip city.

Its centrally located campgrounds allow road trippers to park up and leave the car for a few days. But for those who want to keep exploring there are plenty more interesting road side attractions, like the Hoover Dam, located less than an hour from Las Vegas Boulevard, otherwise known as “the Strip”.

Since the city packs so much, the only real problem is choosing what to do with your time here. This guide will help you decide that.

KOA at Circus Circus is the only RV Resort in Las Vegas located on the Strip. Perfect for road trippers. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Sleep

Las Vegas has quite a few campgrounds and RV resorts, but only a couple are located either on the Strip or right next to it. If you want to camp and be close to all the action, check out KOA at Circus Circus or Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort.

Further options can be found in the city, but Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Red Rock Canyon are two conservation areas located just outside the city that offer camping, making them ideal places to escape the 24/7 party, but still be within reach of it.

However, if there is one city you might consider ditching the RV or camper for a few days and staying in a hotel, it’s this one. Las Vegas has a very wide range of hotel rooms, some as low as $19 and centrally located. Staying in a hotel can be more affordable than camping in Las Vegas, but make sure to weigh out the two options.

Best part about road tripping into Las Vegas from the West? Passing the “Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas sign” on arrival. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Go

Vegas is a lot bigger than most people expect. The city limits stretch out much further than just one road full of casinos, so look into locations when booking or planning things here. It’s very easy to get around the city by car. Fuel is fairly affordable all over, though the further from the city center you are, the more affordable it becomes. Don’t forget to check out traffic reports during long weekends and holidays as this holiday destination will be a lot busier at those times. Always expect to drive slow down the Strip.

RVs or campers with height restrictions might have trouble finding parking in certain areas, especially Las Vegas Boulevard, because the parking is often in garages. Be mindful of this and plan ahead. Those who want to travel the Strip without their car, should purchase a one day pass for $7 with The Deuce, a double decker bus that runs up and down the Strip all day and night. Also look into what free shuttle services your hotel or campground offer.

Try Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr, which allows people to visit a famous chef’s joint, but at a decent price. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Eat

Fine dining in Sin City is endless and delectable. Some of the world’s best chefs work here and the city is known for its unique restaurants. For those on a budget, there are a lot of grocery stores, like Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s, just off the strip to stock up food before parking up or heading out.

How about a drink of Absinthe? Or you could just see the show! Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Drink

Those who intend to take part in this city’s renowned nightlife scene should stay on the Strip to be closest to all the action. This will help you avoid expensive taxi fares or the hassle of worrying about public transportation on nights or days out, which you’re likely to have several of during your stay. Plus it’s easy to find nice, affordable rooms in this area, so there’s no reason not to book here.

Drinks are free to gamblers, whether they’re spending pennies on slot machines or Bejamins at poker tables. Tips are expected and you might have to wait longer for the following drink if you don’t. Another idea for affordable drinking is to check Spy On Vegas, which organizes open bars around the city during the week.

Walk across the Memorial Bridge for the best and scariest view of the Hoover Dam. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Play

Though visitors don’t really need to leave Las Vegas Boulevard during their stay, it would be good to also check out Downtown Las Vegas. This is the original Casino strip in Vegas. It’s great to check out the funky signage on Fremont Street here, though you probably won’t feel much like Sinatra walking through the somewhat cheesy enclosed area.

Remember that there is a lot more to do in Vegas than drink. If you’re getting a bit tired of the constant boozing, check out the city’s spas and shows, which are among the best in the world.

It’s amazing how many great things are within reach of Las Vegas and several tour operators use Vegas as a starting off point to see the Southwest. Less than thirty minutes from the Strip is Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir in the USA, and Red Rock Canyon, which is known for its rock formations and Native American history. Beyond Lake Mead on Route 93, about 45 minutes from the Las Vegas city center is the Hoover Dam.

One final trip people often take from Las Vegas, but is very far out is to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It takes about four hours to reach the South Entrance of this National Park and under three hours to reach the entrance to the skywalk, which goes out over Grand Canyon West, though this is not open all year.

Road tripping to San Francisco or Los Angeles? There’s a guide for that!

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to Los Angeles

Destinations, Guides, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to Los Angeles

2 Comments 19 February 2013

More than any other city, people need their own vehicle to tour Los Angeles. Getting around on public transportation is extremely time consuming and can be quite complicated. The city is very spread out and public transportation is, unfortunately, somewhat unpopular here. To make matters worse, because of how large the city is, taxis can be expensive as well.

So by choosing to road trip to Los Angeles, rather than just arrive by plane and spend a few days here, you’re already one step ahead.

Basing your trip on the fact that you will need a car, makes things like picking a campground to stay a lot easier, because location doesn’t matter. On the other side, it makes things like planning nights out a bit more difficult because either someone must volunteer to be designated driver or you need to split the the cab fare. This guide will help you understand the city of LA better, from a road tripper’s point of view.

The view from Malibu Beach RV Park. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Sleep

Since Los Angeles is very spread out, finding the perfectly-located accommodation is not as much of a concern. Most of your camping options in Los Angeles are going to be on the coast, which makes for some gorgeous beach locations, slightly out of the city. Dockweiler Beach, a state park close to LAX, is a favourite among campers. Malibu has quite a few camping options, including Malibu Beach RV Park, which is located right on the Pacific Coast Highway with an incredible view of the coast. Plus there are options outside Disney Land in Anaheim.

Staying at a campground or RV will save you a lot of money in LA as they average about $35 for partial hook up per night, whereas you’re looking at spending at least $60 per night on a hotel in the city. But if you choose to stay in a hotel, whether or not they’ll have free outdoor parking depends on their location, so call ahead to find out if they do and if there are any height restrictions.

Go

Those driving in LA should avoid doing so during rush hour. Since almost everyone here drives, the traffic is horrendous. If you can, always have at least one passenger in the car so you can use the carpool lane on the freeways. There are a lot of parking options here, usually affordable ones depending on the area. However, fuel is not. Stay away from wealthy areas like Beverly Hills and Malibu when fueling your car.

A crab cake sandwich from Neptune’s Net, located right on the Pacific Coast Highway. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Eat

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods rule this city, as well as a few high-end grocers. I would say Trader Joe’s is the most affordable and plentiful option to choose from. It’s very easy to find grocers with parking inside the city. It might be better to go during the week rather than the weekend to avoid any kind of rush by locals off work.

For meals out, take advantage of having a car by visiting restaurants on the coast with the perfect view of the sunset in beach towns like Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice Beach. A lot of these are going to be pricey. A popular option that’s very affordable is Neptune’s Net in Malibu.

Whiskey A Go Go is a major venue in music industry. The Doors were the house band here for a while. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Drink

While there is no one party area in this city, there are plenty of places to party. LA is known for its trendy and unique bars and clubs as well as a few timeless rock venues like Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Blvd. If you want to have a big night out, research LA’s most popular clubs at the moment, choose one then plan your night around getting to and from there whether it be by public transit or sharing a taxi. If using public transit, check to see if your service runs late.

Having a car in LA makes it a lot easier to reach spots up in the hills like Griffith Observatory. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Play

Arrange your trip by accomplishing everything you want to do in one section of the city in one day. For instance, spend a day in Hollywood doing the Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater, Hollywood sign and any tours you fancy. Let another day be all about Disney Land. This will avoid you wasting money and time going back and fourth to an area.

Some musts for those with cars include cruising on the Pacific Coast Highway, driving up to the Griffith Observatory and visiting famous homes like the Getty Villa.

Road tripping to San Francisco or Los Angeles? There’s a guide for that!

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to San Francisco

Destinations, Guides, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to San Francisco

8 Comments 14 February 2013

Road tripping to San Francisco is a thrilling experience. Driving around this city, you’ll feel more like you’re on a roller coaster than a street due to the extreme incline of its hills. But other than a few scary moments on the road here, this city is a dream destination for California road trippers.

Find out what your best option is for camping in the city, some much-needed tips to driving around it and a number of the city’s best attractions that you might not be able to visit without a set of wheels.

Sleep

San Francisco only has one centrally-located campground, which is at Rob Hill. Only two sites are available to groups here from April until October. But you will find a lot of options just outside the city. One stunning option is the San Francisco RV Resort in Pacifica, located on the ocean about 15 miles south of the city center.

Those who wish to stay in a hotel instead, as the city has some affordable options centrally-located, make sure to see if the hotel has free and outdoor parking. A lot of hotels in the city do have outdoor parking, so there are no height restrictions, but some have an overhang at the entrance, limiting certain vehicles, so make sure to ask.

Go

Once in the city, getting around is fairly easy and fun. The traffic is not too bad in the city center, it’s highways connecting to areas like Silicon Valley that you really have to worry about. As you would expect, there are some serious hills in San Francisco. Be very careful when switching from your brake to gas pedal at red lights on hills. The incline is so dramatic, you will fall back as soon as you lift from the break. Also remember to turn your wheels towards to curb when parallel parking on hills.

Affordable parking is hit or miss in this city. Sometimes you’ll find free or cheap parking on the street, but you’ll also find lots that cost $5 per hour. Take the car when heading up to Twin Peaks or hitting Baker Beach. Ditch the car when visiting popular tourist attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf. Make sure to try out San Francisco’s famous cable cars at least once. Also, look into whether or not the campground or RV resort you stay offers free or affordable shuttles to and from the city.

My Jucy Champ cruising down from Twin Peaks, San Francisco in the background. Photo by Garret Standrowicz

When not using your own car or public transportation, try out Lyft, which is a ride-sharing application on your phone exclusive to San Francisco. You’ll know these drivers by the big, hot pink moustaches attached to the front of their car. Book your Lyft through the app and pay a suggested donation at the end.

Eat

Some affordable grocers to visit, so you can eat back at the campground, include Safeway and Trader Joe’s. Safeway offers free membership cards which gives its shoppers access to tremendous discounts. Visit this grocer prior to entering the city, where there are more parking options. Those who like to check out local city markets should try the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

San Francisco is definitely a food city. Some places to check out include Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. Also try North Bay, a local secret, for incredible Italian food.

Drink

Ready to ditch the car and try the wines that this section of the state is known for? Your best bet for drinking in the Bay area is heading to the USA’s most famous wine country, Napa Valley. Several companies offer tours with pick up from wherever its guests are staying in the city. Another option if you have enough people would be to rent a car, limo or shuttle for the day and tour Napa on your own.

No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Napa Valley. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

More of a beer person? Anchor Brewing, San Francisco’s most famous brewery, offers free tours and tastings. This is a very popular activity so register in advance.

Play

There are a lot of great things to see and experience in this city on foot, but having a car gives visitors an advantage in San Francisco sight seeing. Take a drive up to Twin Peaks for the best view of the city. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge and explore Golden Gate National Recreation Area on both sides of the bridge. Legion on Honor can be a pain to reach for those without wheels, but for those with a vehicle it’s a great museum with even better views of the city

Visit Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay to check out the bluff and watch the sun set. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Finally, take a trip to Half Moon Bay, located about 30-minutes outside the city. This is a vacation destination for people who live and work Silicon Valley. Plus, home to Mavericks, a well-known surfing location.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Road tripping to San Francisco or Los Angeles? There’s a guide for that!

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Las Vegas: Hotel vs. Campground

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Las Vegas: Hotel vs. Campground

3 Comments 09 February 2013

If there is one stop on your road trip around Western USA that you’ll consider hopping out of your van or RV to stay in a hotel room, it’s Las Vegas. Over 140,000 rooms available, Sin City constantly makes the list of US cities with the highest number of hotel rooms in the world. With rates starting as low as $19 a night for a standard room at Circus Circus and soaring up to almost $40,000 a night for the Hugh Hefner Villa at Palms Resort, there’s something here to suite everyone’s budget and interests.

But is a hotel room in Las Vegas right for you or are you more suited to camping out?

I tried both on my recent trip and found both have their perks and limitations. Inevitably one is not better than the other, but more right for the visitor. Before getting swayed by cheap prices or visions of how you’re suppose to spend your time in Vegas, consider these questions when choosing between staying at a hotel or campground on your next trip to Las Vegas.

Head away from the new hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard for funky hotel signs. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Where is it located?

Hotels easily have more options on the Strip, for less too. You can find a few campgrounds in prime locations either on or near Las Vegas Boulevard, such as Circus Circus KOA RV Resort and Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort. Most are located within two miles of the main attractions in Las Vegas. So if you want to be where all the typical Vegas action is taking place, you’ll have more options with hotels.

But this might not be for everyone. Visitors to this city of debauchery might not realize all the natural beauty that surrounds it. When you only see Vegas at night or stay indoors lost in casinos throughout your stay, you might not even realize the mountain scenery that surrounds the desert city.

If you’re looking for a calmer, naturally pretty place to stay not far from Vegas, you would be best off camping in national parks like Red Rock Canyon or Lake Mead. Both these places offer an array of camping options, surrounded by stunning scenery, no more than 20 minutes from the centre of Las Vegas.

Circus Circus has an adorable dog park and k-9 washing facilities. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What does it include?

That depends how much you’re willing to pay.

Las Vegas boasts some of the most luxurious and expensive hotel rooms in the world. Suites with their own personal concierge and hot tubs, even pools. So if you’re looking to go that high end, there really is no competition, but if your tossing up between camping out or staying in a budget to average priced hotel, here are the things you should consider.

Overall you can easily find campgrounds and hotels at the same price that come with free wifi, access to pools and spas, concierge services, shuttles and security. That said, really look into what is included with both options. Hotel rooms in Vegas don’t cost $20 for no reason. Some literally only come with a bed and there is a wide range of campgrounds, so do your research.

Some perks of staying in a campground include dog walking and washing facilities (most hotels will not allow you to have a dog) and easy parking (most parking at hotels is in a garage, which have height restrictions usually lower than the height of RVs and camper vans, if you have either, call the hotel of your choice ahead to find out if they have any outdoor parking options). Some perks of staying in a hotel room, I’m going to be blunt and say it’s really nice to have AC and a bathroom that doesn’t require a code when you’re hungover and feeling awful.

The Bellagio is one of Las Vegas most expensive casinos to stay in. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

How much is it going to cost me?

It depends.

If you’re staying near the strip you will almost always find staying at a hotel is your cheapest option. The amount of competition allows for really affordable rooms, ranging from $20-$60 for a budget or average room depending on the time of year. It depends on the time of year you visit and the size of your camper, but expect to pay anywhere from $40-$90 at a an RV park, most containing similar amenities and services as a hotel.

When staying off the strip, hotel rooms usually will not go much lower than the rate mentioned above. but campsites will. At Lake Mead National Park, camp rates start at $10, on top of a $10 entrance fee which is good for seven days.

Now there are some other things to think about when it comes to cost. Guests usually cannot cook in basic hotel rooms, whereas people can in campgrounds. The cost of eating out in Vegas will be much higher than cooking for yourself. Some hotel rooms require guests pay a resort fee on top of how much they pay per night. A lot of campgrounds and hotels come with shuttles, but if they don’t, you need to think about the costs of public transportation, fuel, parking or taxis. Finally, think about the extras, such as internet. Does the place you wish to stay include the extras you want? If not, how much more is it going to cost?

This is the adorable set up at Circus Circus KOA RV Resort. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What’s the major difference?

The great outdoors or the neon lights of the casino floor.

It’s possible to never go outside during your stay in Vegas. The major hotels and casinos have a wide range of food options, means of gambling, shows, bars, spas, rooms and people can smoke inside. This is an actual nightmare for some. While some casinos do things in style, a lot are  dimly lit, noisy, and lost in time (meaning there are no clocks). It can often take a half hour just to find a door to the outside world.

Staying in a campground, you get to breathe real air, whether it be in a national park or just in a parking lot outside. You’re forced to see the sun and there’s a certain level of genuine hospitality that is lost in some hotels in Las Vegas. Everyone at the campground I stayed at were very friendly and helpful in a way in which I wasn’t being forced to pay more or sign up for a casino card. At the average hotel, I was pretty much shuffled around, three counters at check-in, which felt like a method they took to get the most out of their guests. It took at least an hour.

But this was an average hotel. High-end hotels and casinos are known for the caliber of their hospitality.

Ric didn’t really care where we slept in the end. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

So where should I stay? (Final thoughts)

It really depends on what you want, who you’re traveling with and how much money you have to burn in Las Vegas. If all you need is a cheap bed to rest your hangover, go for a hotel. If you’re on a budget with a family and/or dog, a campground would probably be best for everyone. If money isn’t an option, well it really comes down to what you prefer.

There are so many things to do in this city and so many ways to see it. Your trip may center around camping or staying in a particular hotel, but if you get lucky (i.e. on a roll or, well, I don’t need to explain…), a bed might not even matter.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Jucy Wheels Out West: Las Vegas to LA

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels Out West: Las Vegas to LA

5 Comments 06 February 2013

Laying in bed inside my Jucy camper van, Santa Monica Mountains in front of me, the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean behind me as well as my favorite chef cooking away back there, I can’t help but get sentimental about the last three weeks. I’m spending the last night of my Jucy Wheels Out West tour in Malibu, California. Probably the only night I’ll ever be able to afford in Malibu, but definitely not the last night I’ll ever spend in a Jucy.

It was here that I really started my trip. I saw this RV Park one day short of three weeks ago when I hit the Pacific Coast Highway from LA en route to Santa Barbara. It’s hard to believe tomorrow I’ll be giving my Jucy wheels back. There’s still so much left to say about this trip and my experience out West. That will all come in the next few weeks. For now, here is how I spent my third and final week out West.

I ended the last post in the Grand Canyon. I had just seen one of America’s most epic sights at the last hours of the day. It’s a good thing I saw it then too, because the next day it disappeared.

Behind that layer of fog is the Grand Canyon. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We woke up at about 6 a.m. last Monday hoping to see the sun rise behind the Grand Canyon, but the National Park had been hit with so much snow, we could barely see anything. Between snow and fog, you could only make out bits of the 1,218,375.54-acre canyon. It was like David Copperfield had thrown us a treat before we even arrived in Vegas.

After playing in the snow, we hit the roads as soon as possible, because the weather report was not getting any better.

You know what one of my favorite things about the Southwest is? You can go from freezing in the snowy mountains in the morning to wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt in the desert by early afternoon. This area of the world really does have it all.

We arrived at Las Vegas KOA at Circus Circus, an RV park located right on the Strip, just in time for a quick dinner and bottle of wine before hitting the town. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, so I’ll just go over some quick points.

You don’t often see photos of Las Vegas during the day. Here’s the Las Vegas Strip from the top of the Stratosphere. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Ric and I did just about everything a person is expected to do in Sin City: drink, gamble, eat, see a show, visit a strip club and get hitched…

Just kidding!

Our first night was an interesting one and both nights that followed just got better.

Night two I met up with Abby Tegnelia, The Neon Jungle Princess, for dinner at D.O.C.G. at The Cosmopolitan. She’s one of those Twitter friends I’ve been talking to for almost three years and knew I would like right away. So glad we could finally meet, drink wine and share my first truffle experience together. Try “The D.O.C.G. Pizza”, which comes with fonduta, egg and truffles, but make sure they don’t lose the egg on your pizza.

It was Abby’s suggestions that made night three in Las Vegas so incredible. First stop was Yellowtail at the Bellagio for a “Big Eye Tuna Pizza”. Everyone raves about this menu item. It’s really different (tuna, truffle oil and micro shiso on a crispy base), but it works.

Next, we went to see Absinthe, located in the white circus tent outside Caesars Palace. I’ll go more into this circus/cabaret spoof on Thursday, but for now I’m just going to say that it was one of the best and most unique shows I’ve ever been to. We ended the night at BURGR, Gordon Ramsay’s gourmet burger joint at Planet Hollywood. I had truffles yet again. Truffle fries with truffle aioli, how do you say no to that? Amazing, yet very affordable restaurant on Las Vegas Boulevard.

This is only a preview of Absinthe. Come back Thursday to read about the show and see more photos from it. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We left Vegas Thursday with only a tiny hangover, but empty pockets. A quick stop at Downtown Vegas then to the “Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas sign” for a photo with Elvis and we were off to Joshua Tree National Park.

The towns surrounding this park, seem very strange, since they literally pop up right out of the desert and are all home to some interesting characters. We stayed in the town of Joshua Tree and I kind of fell in love with it. It doesn’t have many shops, bars or cafes, but what it does have are independently-owned and quality. Visit bulletin boards located near Grateful Desert to find out about drum circles and parties at random locations in the desert.

Me, acting like a Joshua Tree. Photo by Richard John Hackey

I’ve wanted to visit Joshua Tree since college, when a professor showed us photos from a family vacation there in a media class. Then there was the Entourage episode in Joshua Tree, and well…

There is something about deserts that intrigues me, but this one especially. The National Park is one of the most interesting places you’ll ever see. Desert with random rock formations and yucca trees (Joshua Trees) that look like people waving their arms like they’re at a concert. To top off what is already an incredible place, all of a sudden a guy with a decked out bike and funky hat would drive by us waving, or-boom-a drummer on the side of the road.

They definitely do in Joshua Tree. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This is my favorite of all the National Parks we visited on this trip. It’s one of those places you hear about, but think, “No that couldn’t exist.”. We visited Wonderland of Rocks (rock formations area), Keys View (where you can see the San Andreas Fault) and Barker Dam (where you can see Native American Petroglyphs) in the Park, then made our way to Huntington Beach, but not without first stopping at Pioneertown for a chilli burger at Pappy and Harrietsand impromptu Western photo shoot in the old Hollywood film set.

Ric doing his best John Wayne at Pioneertown, California. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It was nice to see the beach again in Huntington, which is the ideal California beach town to spend a few days. We saw bonfires as we entered and took photos with surfers the following day while doing Jucy promotions.

After two nights in Huntington, we made our way back to Los Angeles, visiting Venice Beach along the way. Sorry to say, but this was the first place on this entire trip that disappointed me. There is a lot going on in Venice Beach. In fact, there’s too much going on there. Yet all we really wanted to do was find a nice affordable restaurant and we couldn’t do that. And muscle beach-I saw no muscles there :(

But if that was the only thing that disappointed me in three weeks of touring Western America, well that’s pretty good I think.

The sun came out strong on our last day of this trip and we got to see Malibu at it’s best, though I’m not sure this place really has a bad side. Tomorrow I go from Jucy Wheels to Homeless Heels. Though after touring California for almost two weeks, I can think of worse places to make the transition.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A special thanks to Spiegelworld for welcoming me out to see Absinthe.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Wine, nature, design and burgers (what!) in Napa Valley

Destinations, Favorite Things, Road Trip, USA, USA, Wine and Coffee

Wine, nature, design and burgers (what!) in Napa Valley

7 Comments 01 February 2013

While wine is definitely Napa Valley’s claim to fame with almost 950 wineries, about 450 of which you can visit. That isn’t all the Northern California destination has to offer.

For instance, did you know that Yountville, a town in the Valley, has the most Michelin Star restaurants per capita in North America? Did you also know that Napa is a geothermal area, home to one of three Old Faithful geysers? Finally, were you aware that there is an actual castle in this wine region?

From food to nature to architecture, and obviously to wine, Napa Valley surprised me on every level, and this is after only one day of visiting the area.

Since, I only spent a day here, I’m not writing a full guide about it, nor am I writing a piece highlighting Napa’s must sees. For that, I recommend visiting The Napa Wine Project or yTravel Blog. I’m merely going to explain why I chose the stops I did, and why I think you should consider them too.

Before I begin let me just make one thing clear, my day with Ric in Napa was extremely random. We started out only planning to visit, tour and taste at three wineries, some of which are located over a 30-minute drive from Downtown Napa, where we spent the night at Skyline Wilderness Park.

I chose to do this, because I wanted to actually be in the places where wines I had heard so much about are being made. I knew this meant I would be spitting out my tastings, which just feels wrong, because I was driving. But I’ve discovered that there are a million ways to see Napa and on my first time there, this is how I wanted to do it.

So I got to see a lot of the Valley and Ric…well he got pissed, as he was drinking for two, which would explain the last visit on this list.

Ric watching Old Faithful erupt in Napa Valley. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Nature in Napa

It’s impossible to miss this. Venture out of downtown Napa and you’ll start to follow roads lined with California Oak Trees, catch your ears popping as you drive higher and higher into the hills and maybe even spot steam coming out of the ground.

This area is home to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where visitors can see indigenous trees, such as coastal redwoods, Douglas-Fir and Tanoak. Those who are lucky might also spot deer, foxes and bobcats.

Napa is also a geothermal area. Ric spotted Old Faithful Geyser on the way out to our first stop on the agenda. We were really confused as we both thought it was in Yellow Stone National Park.

We found out there are actually three Old Faithfuls. If you’ve seen the one in Yellowstone, don’t bother with the one in Napa as you will be very disappointed, but if you’ve never seen a geyser before and you’re not on too tight a budget (this attraction is $14 per adult) it’s worth a stop and you’re guaranteed to see it erupt as it does so every five to ten minutes. Plus, they have a petting farm there with lambs. Need I say more?

Chateau Montelena winery was built in 1886 and French-inspired. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Chateau Montelena

This is the winery that put Napa on the wine world’s map. In 1976 Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay won a blind taste test held in Paris that put French wines against Californian wines. This tasting was huge. Not only did it prove that France was no longer the only place capable of making great wines, but it also proved that the vintners in California knew what they were doing.

A basic tasting here costs $20 per person. Visitors can see a bottle of the winning Chardonnay from 1973. They can also check out the winery’s old-world architecture and a very unexpected Japanese garden.

I felt like a princess as Ric photographed me on the steps of this Napa Valley castle. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Castello di Amorosa

Driving up a small road, lined with Italian Cypress Trees, vineyards to both sides and forests separating the property from the outside world, a building begins to appear.

“That’s an actual castle,” were my words to be exact, and I’m sure the words of many who visit Castello di Amorosa.

This 121,000-square-foot castle was a dream to create for owner Dario Sattui, who also owns V. Sattui Winery. His Italian heritage, fascination with Tuscan and medieval design and determination to create something spectacular have made this a dream come true for visitors to Napa as well.

Enter the castle up stone steps and across a drawbridge. A small information office will be to your right, where you can purchase tickets to tour the castle and taste its wines. Otherwise, visitors are allowed to roam certain areas of the castle on their own and sample the wines for a general admission price of $18.

It was easy to see how much our guide Jeff loved coming to work at the castle every day and be in the California sun. I think touring the castle would have been wonderful no matter how we did it, but Jeff made the experience incredible.

Jeff led our group of eight through the castle’s main dining area, courtyard, caves where barrels of wine are kept and even a torture chamber, all while talking about the history of the place, how it was made and characteristics about the wine making process. Everything in the castle is hand made and designed after medieval times. The wine is even made in a traditional Italian method, fermented in barrels, residue scraped out, instead of being filtered.

The wine at this boutique winery is wonderful, but most people visit to see the castle. Luckily, with Castello di Amorosa’s castle tour, visitors can tour the grounds and try ten different wines from their collection for $33.

There are so many ways to see this winery. It’s a given that any visitor to Napa should tour the grounds their first time. After that, look into the castle’s many parties throughout the year.

It’s incredible how much thought was put into the design at Darioush and continues to be put into the vineyard’s wine and hospitality. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Darioush

Walking into this winery, which is actually based off a castle as well, I had mixed emotions. Everything about the open room visitors walk into is perfect. A nice mixture of modern pieces and ancient design, all somehow mixed together in a way that just works.

Though in other places I might have, I didn’t get that museum, do-not-touch feeling, nor did I feel like I didn’t belong. Maybe it was the warm lighting in the room or the smiling faces all around, but walking into the classiest winery I’ve ever been to, I immediately felt right at home.

I felt the warmth in Darioush’s welcome within seconds of entering the winery. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This is one of the many details proprietor Darioush Khaledi thought about when he found his winery in 1997. Hospitality is one of the most important aspects of Persian culture, and Khaledi, who emigrated to the USA from Iran in the 1970s definitely made sure to highlight this at his vineyard, as well as several other characteristics of Persian culture.

The design of the cellar door at Darioush is actually based off Apadana Palace constructed by King Darius in Persia’s ancient capital city, Persepolis, which is near modern-day Shiraz, Iran where Khaledi grew up. Pomegranate trees welcome visitors as the front entrance. There is an amphitheater in the back. A collection of Khaledi’s maps of the Persian empire line the hallway to the bathroom. Plus they serve Persian-roasted pistachios, made with lime and salt.

This attention to detail carries over to the wine at Darioush. Khaledi plays a strong part in the wine making process, which is led by Steve M. Devitt. Our hostess, Michelle Romaine, who is extremely knowledgeable about the wine and history at Darioush, guided us through a tasting of their Signature Flight, which includes five different wines for $35.

For it, Ric and I sat down on leather chairs in our own personal tasting area in the main room. Each wine was clean and tasty, but my favorites were Duel, a cabernet/shiraz blend, and Capataz, which is a Malbec made from the Argentinian grapes.

I think it’s the traveler in me that is so drawn to Darioush, stepping onto this vineyard, feels like stepping out into another world, another time. Khaledi’s global influences, his interest in history from his homeland and wine from around the world, makes this winery a very special place to visit in Napa Valley.

Big D Burgers

Anyone who follows this blog or me on other networks, knows Ric has a thing for American burgers. Unless he is in Philadelphia, in which case he only orders cheese steaks, he will order a burger for almost every meal at almost every restaurant we visit. So for him to say Big D Burgers is his favorite in America. That means something, even if he was a few wines deep.

The burger shack looks like it hasn’t changed since the 50s, nor has its prices. He bought one quarter-pounder with cheese, curly fries and a drink and got another quarter-pounder free. You can bet I stole quite a few bites and sips of everything and-wow. The burgers are pretty standard, but made to perfection.

There are so many places in Napa known for culinary excellency that you should definitely take advantage of, but when you want to save money on a good meal during your stay, this is the best place we found to do it.

If you don’t want to worry about driving, some good options include, hiring a designated driver, booking a tour, purchasing a wine tasting card and sampling at various wine houses all in walking distance from each other in downtown Napa, taking the wine train or paying $1 for a single journey to various wineries on the Calistoga Shuttle.

All of my stops might already be included in the options above. Otherwise, I highly recommend making an effort to see each on their own or to convince one person in your group to take one for the team and follow this one day itinerary. Thank them with a burger, you’re going to get one for free any way.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A special thanks to Castello di Amorosa and Darioush for sponsoring my visit to Napa Valley.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Jucy Wheels Out West: Napa Valley to Grand Canyon

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels Out West: Napa Valley to Grand Canyon

6 Comments 29 January 2013

In week two of my Jucy Wheels Out West tour, I traded beaches for forest, sunshine for snow and the Pacific Coast Highway for Route 66. Yes, this week I stretched from Napa Valley, California, down the Sierra Nevada, hitting Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, through Nevada, all the way to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

In one week I racked up over one thousand miles and while all the long drives, curvy roads and harsh driving conditions were worth it to watch the last hours of sun light up the Grand Canyon, this was not an easy journey.

As mentioned, my week started in Napa Valley, where the struggle began. Ric and I arrived in wine country very late and the RV Park we planned to spend the night (RV Expo Center) didn’t accept vehicles without toilets. We ended up in a hotel, because we were just too exhausted to keep looking around, if only we would have searched a few miles forward we would have found Skyline Wilderness Park one of the very best campgrounds I’ve visited yet.

The night’s drama didn’t matter though, as we woke up the next day with a full list of vineyards to visit in Napa Valley, but we also left room for a few surprises along the way. We started the day driving 45 minutes out to our furthest point in the Valley, Chateau Montelena. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed in the downtown Napa area, as most of what I saw was made up of highways and strip malls, but venturing further out, these things gave way to two lane highways lined with California Oak Trees, nothing on the horizon but vineyards and forest. On the way to Chateau Monetelena, we stopped at one of three “old faithful” geysers in the world.

I felt like a princess sitting on the steps of Castello di Amorosa, a real castle in Napa Valley. Photo by Richard John Hackey

From Montelena, we visited Castello di Amorosa to tour a real Medieval castle in Napa Valley. The castle even has a torture chamber. After the castle we made our way to Darioush, which has its own royal influence. The “cellar door” here is based off the Apadana Palace constructed by King Darius during the Persian Empire. The wines at both vineyards were even better than the scenery, if you can imagine.

It’s a good thing we had a day of relaxation in wine country, because the next four days included very heavy driving.

I think I bit off more than I could chew with this trip. Four national parks and three states in four days, if you’d have told me I would have accomplished this last week, I would have said you were dreaming.

From Napa, we made a three-hour journey to Yosemite Pines RV Resort, which is located about 2o-miles outside Yosemite National Park. While the scenery up to about two hours after Napa wasn’t that impressive, the last bit of our journey as well as the entire drive through the park was incredible. We even saw a coyote on the way in.

Massive rock formations, towering trees and the highest waterfall in North America? You can’t help but be impressed by Yosemite National Park. Here we played in the snow, went photo mad at certain lookout points and hiked to Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America. We spent a good four hours in the park, which costs $20 per vehicle to enter. (This fee, as well as all other entrance fees mentioned in this piece allows visitors to stay or come in and out of the specific park for up to seven days.)

From the village area, it’s only a twenty-minute walk to Yosemite Falls. There are two options on the walk, one way will take you to a viewing point to see both Upper and Lower Falls, the other will just get you up close to Lower Falls. This photo is from the first walk mentioned, though you can only see Upper Falls. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It’s extremely important to look into road conditions at Yosemite and all national state parks during the winter. Expect several road closures during the winter months, so either go with it or plan ahead.

We planned ahead and just stuck to the Western side of the Sierra Nevada, doing a loop through Yosemite then making our way south to Lakeridge Campground, about ten miles outside of Kings Canyon National Park. It’s at least a three hour drive from Yosemite to Kings Canyon.

The following day I woke up and hit the road to find out just how unforgiving roadways near the Sierra Nevada can be.

We entered Kings Canyon from the Highway 180 entrance and drove through the park to connecting Sequoia National Park then exited much further south to continue our journey onwards. Since these two parks have a road through them that covers quite a bit of ground I would plan to go through the park in one go, then continue your journey onwards, instead of backtracking through the park to stay at the same place you spent the previous night.

The drive from Lakeridge to the entrance of Kings Canyon was winding and at one point so foggy, I could only see 10-15 feet ahead. Once the clouds disappeared, we found ourselves on top of them looking out to mountain points peaking through.

If there is a heaven, I’m pretty sure it looks something like this. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks cost one fee of $20 to enter both. Along the way we saw the Big Stump, General Sherman Tree and ended up in the middle of a serious snowball fight. I’m not sure how we did it, but we missed the General Grant Tree. Everything happens for a reason though and missing that tree meant catching a wild bobcat hunting for prey near Hospital Rock.

I spotted this bobcat in the distance at Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park. Pretty sure the little guys had his eyes on some deer, which we also got up close to. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Any drive through this park, must be at a cruise. Otherwise you will go nuts. At around 3 p.m. we started to wonder where we would spend the night. We made it our goal to get to the Mojave Desert, which is three hours south. Even if I wanted to rush it, I couldn’t. The roads in Sequoia National Park wind, bend and wrap around, all with a massive drop to one side. This is not a place to speed.

But things could have been worse. We made a quick stop at Jerky This to buy 1/2 a pound of teriyaki beef jerky (obviously) and the owner of the shop was astonished that we actually made it through the park without snow chains. You really must look into weather conditions and park regulations when planning a visit to these places in the winter. We were very lucky everything worked out in our favor.

The road woes didn’t end there.

A bit of traffic, rain, winding roads, were nothing compared to what I experienced on Highway 58 in the Mojave Desert. Everything was perfect and then…white.

Thick fog to the point where all I could see was white and maybe two of the yellow lines that separate lanes ahead. I would hit traffic, then all the cars would disappear, so I would to speed up and all of a sudden-boom-red brake lights in front of me. No idea how far they were away, but I would slam on my breaks just the same. I came very close to just pulling over on this major highway and waiting for something to change.

I only mention all these things, so people interested in road tripping this area know how unforgiving the weather and the roads out here can be. I was warned before my trip, but I didn’t give my plans a second guess. I want to say I would have planned it differently, but to be where I am as I write this post, I’m not sure I would.

After a night at Sierra Trails RV Park in the Mojave Desert, we headed further east through Las Vegas to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, where we spent the night. I thought nothing could top the sights in Big Sur, but I have to admit the scenery starting in Lake Mead wowed me just as much. Large red-and-purple-colored cliffs that look like they’ve been chipped away at by the gods, a sculpture in progress.

This is the view we got to wake up to in Lake Mead. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The next day we made one last long-haul drive out to Grand Canyon, stopping at the Hoover Dam along the way. You will be amazed at what human beings are capable of after seeing Hoover Dam in person. It’s huge! We drove over it and even walked on the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in front of it, where I actually felt myself getting sick the vertigo is that bad and I’m not even afraid of heights.

A view of the Hoover Dam from the Memorial Bridge that runs over it. This bridge will give you serious vertigo. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Now we thought the journey to the Grand Canyon would only take two hours from Lake Mead as we had our GPS set to Gran Canyon West. Turns out the journey is four hours at the least to reach Grand Canyon South, the National Park entrance that is open all year. I felt a bit defeated when I my GPS announced that I’d reached Grand Canyon West and all I saw was sand and bushes.

But I couldn’t feel bad for a second, because I was driving along America’s world famous Route 66 and only two hours away from seeing the Grand Canyon, which is in my opinion, America’s most sought after attraction.

The Grand Canyon in the last hours of the day. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Open roads, straight highways and pretty remarkable scenery along the way made the trip fly by. We made it to Mather Lookout Point to watch the sun light up the red in the Grand Canyon from the opposite direction. Tomorrow, we’ll see the sun rise just behind that same spot.

Pretty sure this is the best jump shot I’ve ever done, at Route 66 heading east. Photo by Richard John Hackey

No matter how hard or long the drive, you can’t have a single complaint seeing things like this.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A special thanks to Castello di Amorosa and Darioush for sponsoring my visit to Napa Valley.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Follow on Bloglovin
Powered by Unanchor.com
blogger badge (1)

© 2013 Heels and Wheels. Powered by Wordpress.

Daily Edition Theme by WooThemes - Premium Wordpress Themes