Grand US Tour 2010: Driving North to San Francisco

PauTravels with the whole family in San Francisco

The past 3 weeks of the December 2010 has been a very fun-filled and memorable for me and my family as we take this grand tour of the west coast.  But after Christmas we still had more to visit in our itinerary.   So after going around Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Los Angeles and San Diego, our next target is driving north to the beautiful city of San Francisco and continue to the Lake Tahoe area for a chance to experience snow.

Drive North to San Franciso

Our rented 15-seater Ford e350 van

For this trip, we have rented a 15-seater Ford e350 van from LA Van Rentals from their office near LAX.  This is to fit about 11 of us including my own family, my parents and sister, my brother and his family and my cousin Angel.  My other aunt from San Diego and her family rented a separate 7-seater car for them plus Angel’s mom.  They are driving straight from San Diego.

The way to San Francisco was long, very long.   The travel time was about 8 hours of driving but we had to take a longer trip due to some stops specially when the kids need some rest and to refuel.  For the whole trip, my brother and I basically take the wheels alternately.    I took the steering wheel for the first half of the trip.

One of our stops was for refueling and for lunch.  We made a stop at a Jack in the Box restaurant near an exit of Interstate 5 in Bakersfield near Stockdale Highway.   My mom brought some Jack in the Box coupons from magazines so we had our lunch discounted.  We took burgers and fries.

Drive North to San Franciso

Long way to San Francisco.. I think part of I-5 was our approach to Bakersfield

Drive North to San Franciso

Orange farms along the way

Drive North to San Franciso

The huge stinky cow farm in Coalinga

After lunch we continued our long trip.  My brother Mark now took the wheel for us.   The whole stretch of the interstate from Bakersfield is mostly surrounded by farmlands.  We passed by orange fields, apple fields, wheat, grapes, and other farm products.  Those were huge tracts of land.   But among the farm fields that we passed by, the I5 exit for Coalinga is something we will never forget.  We had our car aircon vent open to get the cool air outside as we pass this stretch and our air-conditioning took in a terrible stench.  Along that stretch of the Coalinga exit is a huge tract of land filled with cows.  The air all around that area smelled with cow dung and it all went into our van.  We had to open our window for the next 5 miles or so to get all the stench out.

We arrived in the San Francisco area just when the sun has started to set.  We had booked our hotel at the Comfort Inn & Suites San Francisco Airport North, through Jen’s relative who works in the same hotel brand.  That night she brought food for all of us in our hotel.   Our hotel is still about 30 minutes drive south of San Francisco itself.

The next morning we drove north to downtown.  It was quite cold that day and it was drizzling a bit.  This was my second time in San Francisco and our first stop is the famous Golden Gate Bridge.  We stopped by the bridge’s viewpoint just before the toll plaza. here is a parking lot right there, specifically for guests wanting to see the city’s iconic bridge.

Drive North to San Franciso

The Golden Gate Bridge from afar

Drive North to San Franciso

the steep sloped streets of San Francisco

Drive North to San Franciso

Golden Gate Bridge almost hiding from the fog in that misty morning

Drive North to San Franciso

My parents, my family and my siblings by the Golden Gate

Drive North to San Franciso

My family and myself on the Golden Gate Bridge

And so we all took our opportunity to take photos with the view of the bridge behind us.  We posed by the statue of Joseph B. Strauss, the bridge’s designer.  We also walked to a lower point from the parking area for a closer shot of the bridge.   We also made our way on the bridge.  We walked upto the south tower of this suspension bridge.  Actually Jen thought that we will walk all the way upto the other end of the bridge but we didn’t.  Anyways, it started drizzling again while we were on the bridge and so we decided to head back to our car to continue our tour.

After the bridge, we originally wanted to see the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre nearby but unfortunately it was under renovation that time.  And so we continued on the next stop which is to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.   Along the way we also saw the Coit Tower and the Alcatraz.

Drive North to San Franciso

Alcatraz Island

Drive North to San Franciso

At the Fisherman’s Wharf of San Francisco

Drive North to San Franciso

At the Pier 39 Christmas tree

Drive North to San Franciso

At Wipeout Bar & Grill in the Fisherman’s Wharf

By the time we reached the Fisherman’s Wharf, it was almost lunch already.  And so we all decided to look for a good place to it.  We all had our lunch at Wipeout Bar & Grill located just by the entrance of the wharf.  We had a long table to fit all 16 of us.  During lunch, the rain fell but it died down to a drizzle by the time we finished lunch.  Luckily Wipeout gave us a poncho each so we were still able to walk out in the drizzle.

Next we planned to try out and ride another of San Francisco’s icons, the cable car. Through the light rain, we walked to the Hyde and Beach Street cable car stop for the Powell-Hyde route.  But unfortunately, there were so many tourists that day and the queue was very long.   And while waiting in the cold rain, we found a small shelter and there Janine took a nap.

Drive North to San Franciso

Cable car station at Hyde and Beach Streets

Drive North to San Franciso

Here we are hiding from the rain while we wait for our turn at the cable car and Janine sleeps through the cold

By the time we got on board, it started to get dark already.  The ride from Hyde Street to Powell Street was about an hour I think.   One memorable part of the ride is when the cable reaches to corner of Powell and California Streets where the suddenly goes downhill.   On that route, we passed by Union Square Park known for high end malls.   It was raining hard when we reached the end of the ride and so instead of taking the same ride back, we opted to ride the electric trams to get us back to the Fisherman’s Wharf where we were parked.

It was a long day in San Francisco but the day after has more to offer as we continue this family trip of us to Tahoe National Park to try to see snow!

3 thoughts on “Grand US Tour 2010: Driving North to San Francisco

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