Driving the California Coast!

Thanksgiving 2016 "Calication Trip"

So Ryan and I were able to take off 10+ days for Thanksgiving break, unusual for Ryan mostly. We didn't really have any firm Thanksgiving plans so decided to plan a trip up the coast! We camped in Ryan's truck (with a cover on the back) for half of the trip and booked hotels for the other half to save money. We both compromised some.. Ry wanted to camp the whole time lol and I had NEVER been camping before this so I was hesitant. Oh, and Franklin was with us the whole time!

My lovely husband booked the entire trip one rainy day to where we only drove 3-4 hours max each day from San Diego to San Francisco to take our time and be able to explore :) I posted about each day below with some of our favorite pictures. 

Day 1: Nov 15 – San Diego  Venice Beach

Tuesday morning we woke up and finished packing up the car full of bags, blankets, pillows, snacks, wetsuits, surfboards, camping gear, etc.. We left around 10 am after the rush of traffic died down and Ryan had to pick up his surfboard that was in the shop on our way out. We went and they said it wouldn’t be done for another 1.5 hours which was a buzz kill on the initial excitement of heading out, but we got some coffee and walked the dog around the area to wait on the board. Finally finished and we were on our way!

We stopped first at Ryan’s Dad’s friend from college’s house to say hello and grab a quick smorgasbord style lunch. His golden retriever, Bear, was Franklin’s new bestie. We were back on the road before we knew it to Santa Monica and Venice Beach for the night. Got to our Airbnb around 3 pm, which was one block from the boardwalk, AWESOME location, unloaded our shiz and went for a walk around the beach to the Santa Monica pier. Franklin loved the beach vibes, like he never left home.

The sunset was amazing that night and what better spot to watch it than on the beach in Santa Monica! Venice beach definitely has some creepy vibes though – lots and lots of homeless who are not afraid to go right up to you or make a scene with each other. There was one whole strip on the beach where camp was set up and was kinda scary to walk through, not going to lie. We went for dinner and drinks on Market Street to a place called Venice Bank. Super chill and low key for some Taco Tuesday then walked home and cuddled with our puppy watching Dirty Dancing haha and Ryan waxed his new board for his early morning surf sesh *rad bro* Franklin found himself right at home. 

Day 2: Nov 16 – Venice Beach  Leo Carrillo State Beach

Ry guy woke up at the crack of dawn to go out and surf even though it was like less than 50 degrees. I slept in cuddled with Franklin, brewed some coffee, bundled up, and walked out to the beach to try and find him and take pics. I followed the footprint trail, literally the ONLY footprint trail in that vicinity, out to the beach thinking obviously it was Ryan’s, the only one out this early. Franklin was running around like a mad man, the only one on this HUGE beach. There were two other people surfing together and then a lone guy, which I thought was Ryan. I started taking pictures and videos of him and waving to him like a crazy person surprising him that I had come to watch.  Literally stood there for probably 15 minutes watching “him” only to realize it was some random guy that I had been waving to and stalking after he caught a wave and got closer to shore hahahah embarrassing… Ryan had walked south like a half mile down to a different spot I didn’t know about, to surf the south Venice jetty.  

Ran home after that (literally) and made breakfast, English muffins with peanut butter and banana, snacks we brought in our tub of food. We got ready and packed up and headed out! We went to the Hollywood trail and hiked up. It was a pretty easy 2-3 mile hike and wore Franklin out a little bit. There is also a horse farm close by you can ride horses up. With horses come horse pies (is that a thing, like cow pies?) so yeah definitely wear boots or old tennis shoes around there.  Saw some girls walking up when we were leaving in jeans, a cute top, and cute strappy sandals haha good luck with those pies.  

After the hike, we rode through Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive just to look around and gawk and all the amazing houses. Made our way to Malibu and Ryan convinced me to get in the water to surf with him in the *famous* Malibu wake. They were baby waves, still hard for me haha. May or may not have held onto Ryan’s legs as he paddled us both out. Props to surfers man, that stuff is not easy. Franklin slept in the back of the truck the whole time.


Getting out of the wetsuit was totally the worst part; that is so not fun. After hyperventilating and making Ryan get it over my feet, we made our way to our first campsite, Leo Carrillo, right across the street from the ocean. We set up camp and got take out salads and sandwiches and cracked open a bottle of wine. We walked to the beach and the cliff area for a super windy, but absolutely beautiful sunset. Franklin had the beach to himself but stayed right by our side trying to cuddle and get warm. The super moonrise was absolutely breathtaking, especially being out in the wilderness under the stars. We slept so cozy in the back of the truck on a platform and air mattress Ryan had built, Franklin included.

Day 3: Nov 17 – Leo Carrillo  Morro Bay

Woke up to the sunrise over the mountain and it was the perfect temperature with all of our blankets cuddled together. Outside of the car was SO windy!! Like unbearable windy and cold which I did not have the appropriate gear for. Ryan made oatmeal and coffee on our little Colman burner, which was actually really good and warm. I bought dinosaur egg oatmeal, the best kind duh. We got out of there heading to Santa Barbara to meet up with my girlfriend for late lunch/dinner. We were passing Emmawood and Ryan found a break he had to surf so we pulled to the side of the road and he went out while I got in the back in bed with Franklin and read my book, Eight Hundred Grapes, with an ocean view. Unreal.


Got some pictures and videos of my surfer boy and we packed up and went to Santa Barbara around noon to walk around the wharf and made our way to the beach where Franklin played for the longest time running up the sand hills and digging holes haha he is so funny to watch in the sand which is 100% his favorite place to be in the world.

Christina got off work and came to meet us for a bite to eat down by the beach. We ate at Brophy Bro’s, right on the water and obviously got seafood, sooo delicious, especially the clam chowder; our first clam chowder of the trip, tasting and ranking them. After a good lil’ meet up we headed to Morro Bay and took the scenic route for sunset, getting to our campsite just after dark. Starting up a fire and cracking open a bottle of wine we relaxed around the fire before turning in early that night. It was so cold that night, like 40 degrees, but we were so warm still with all the blankets and Franklin warmth. He is the biggest baby ever, getting under the covers and right under your arm, with his head on the pillow haha. He is SUCH a cuddle bug but I love it.

Day 4: Nov 18 – Morro Bay  Big Sur (Riverside)

Woke up in Morro Bay campground to some more coffee and Dinosaur egg oatmeal, compliments of the chef, and went for a little walk exploring Morro Bay. This area was Ryan’s favorite place out of the whole trip. It was a very calm morning looking out over the harbor. We went back and packed up camp before exploring further, leading us to Morro Rock where there were little otters were everywhere!! They were just floatin’ around on their backs eating oysters! I died they were so cute. What a life right?! We walked around some more and went around to the local surf spot where the waves were so big and the current was crazy, warning signs everywhere. Oh and don’t forget the water was freezing. Everyone was in full wetsuits with booties and hoods on them to protect from the cold water, well, everyone except Ryan. He had to literally jump from the rocks and paddle into the current after watching some of the locals take the lead. I stayed in the bed/car with the pup and read my book :) So peaceful.

About an hour of surfing, Ryan came in from the cold and got dressed into dry clothes and we were on the search for some LUNCH. We found a mom-and-pop seafood shop and got clam chowder, casino style oysters (with bacon), scallops, and shrimp! Omg that clam chowder though… I dream of it still.  We wandered (scoped out) a homemade saltwater taffy shop and got one of everything haha but seriously. We got like 5 bags of saltwater taffy.. for Christmas presents… ;) In no time we were back on the road.

This drive was the prettiest of the trip, all along the Pacific Coast Highway. We passed the Hearst Castle (planning on going to that sometime without the pup), miles and miles of beautiful coastal waters, and zebras! Literally a zebra farm in the middle of the coast highway with nothing else around… LOL. I thought I was hallucinating. We stopped around sunset at McWay Falls, close to Pheifer Beach in Big Sur! Def a must see on the trip… the lagoon was one you only see in movies and I was waiting for a mermaid to swim up any second. Wish we could have gotten closer, but it is kind of on the side of a cliff, so I guess I understand. Got some good pictures and made our way to Riverside, Big Sur, our campsite for the night.

This was my favorite campsite. It was hidden in the woods, a hard turn to get to the road and you drive through the woods a little, over a small stream and bridge, to a cute forest-covered campsite all dressed up in Christmas lights. It was so magical and totally what I expected when I thought of “camping.” Mind you, this was my first time camping… ever. And this is Day 4! We had campsite #14 and our back yard was this absolutely beautiful running stream. We got some firewood and talked, drank wine, ate cheese and crackers, roasted chicken sausage, and taste-tested saltwater taffy by the fire for the whole night. Woke up the next morning with sore abs because we laughed so much, good memories <3

Day 5: Nov 19 – Big Sur → Carmel

We woke up and had breakfast facing the stream and taking the early morning crispness in. Franklin had so much energy that morning and was running around in the leaves back and forth like a crazy person, trying to dig out branches on the side of the cliff into the stream haha quite the entertainment. He loved the freedom. We finished our oatmeal and green tea and packed up for our Big Sur hike! We hiked on the old pacific coast highway (what it used to be a long time ago) in through the mountains with amazinggg views of the coast and hills. Not sure how far it goes total, but we went 5 miles in and then 5 miles back, 10 miles total for Franklin and us. We pretty much had the whole hike to ourselves, Franklin off the leash roaming around and scoping out these deer/antelope looking things. On our way back, about 6-7 miles in it started raining and the winds picked up exponentially. We were so cold and didn’t prepare for the rain at all haha. Eventually got back to the car and went over to a local lodge to warm up with homemade soup and hot chocolate.

We had planned to stay in Riverside campgrounds in Big Sur for two nights and go on another hike, but the rain made it sooo muddy and nasty and with Franklin sleeping in the truck with us, that could have been real bad. Luckily, they refunded us the second night and we drove up to Carmel…. My favorite place of the trip :)

We didn’t have any reservations so kind of just showed up in Carmel and I was overdue for a shower… yeah I didn’t shower this whole time camping until now. *cringes* So we found a little hotel, the La Jolla Village Inn, RIGHT in downtown Carmel for only like $130 for the night, AND dog friendly. Win. We unpacked and I was so excited for a shower and a real bed for the night.  Franklin passed out the second we got there and slept through the whole night, exhausted after the hike. We showered, got dressed in regular clothes and we out for dinner in Carmel J First, stopped at The Pine Inn for some bruschetta and a glass of wine then found our way to an oyster bar with the BEST oysters. We got half a dozen, some clam chowder, calamari, and an artichoke for a dinner to share, not really sure what we wanted lol. After dinner and drinks we walked around the town for a little bit before retiring to our much needed real bed and a good nights sleep.

Day 6: Nov 20 – Carmel  Monterrey

Woke up pretty early like always and got dressed for a day in Carmel. We took Franklin to Carmel Beach and Pebble Beach, dog friendly and beautiful. He loved running around and digging and playing with the other pups. We walked about 3 miles on the beach and around all the beautiful million dollar houses on the coast. #goals.  Then we walked through the town again, shopping for Christmas presents and stopping for coffee and lunch. It was so cute and one of my favorite days.

Originally planning on getting to Carmel this day, we had extra time to poke around before going to our Airbnb for the night in Monterrey, only like 20 minutes away. We drove through Monterrey around the shops and restaurants and the coast, Ryan checking out the surf spots. It was still kind of rainy and cold, not the best conditions for him to go out in. We got to our little apartment for the night and bundled up to go walk around Monterrey pier and check out the area. Not a lot of the places were dog friendly so we ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for dinner on the patio right above the crashing waves. Still pretty tired, we went home early after dinner and literally watched Stranger Things on Netflix for the night haha so crazy.

 Day 7: Nov 21 – Monterrey  Santa Cruz  San Francisco

We left Monterrey in the am and drove to meet up with our NAVY friends, the Mendenhalls, who were camping for the week with their family and about 8 other Navy families and their kids in their amazing camper right on the ocean. Livin’ the dream. After playing on the beach with them and Franklin, we headed up to Santa Cruz for a little bit and watched some surf and checked out a cute surf shop. Not very dog friendly on the beaches so we drove to our final destination, San Francisco!

Made it to our amazing hotel, the Marine Memorial Hotel, in Downtown San Fran for literally $100 a night… unreal. They were 100% dog friendly and the rooms actually came with a king size dog bed and dog bowls for food and water! We were all in heaven, Franklin included. ALSO, they have a FREE happy hour for active duty and retired military from 4-6 in their rooftop bar overlooking all of San Francisco. We had just made it in time, literally ordered drinks at 5:59, lol and sat there enjoying the view and already reminiscing on our trip.  We showered and got dressed for dinner, a sushi restaurant around the block and went out to a few other places for drinks after, one including a peanut butter chocolate beer. Don’t knock it till ya try it.  The whole trip was so nice because we made it during the week, on the off-season, so we had almost everywhere to ourselves.

Went back to our hotel and slept in the best bed ever, Franklin cuddled up between us snoring.

 Day 8: Nov 22 – San Francisco

Slept in for once with our blackout curtains and went for free buffet brunch in the hotel rooftop restaurant, again for active and retired military. Navy perks. We drove over to Baker Beach and parked to let Franklin run around on another beach. Loved it as usual and we walked up to the Golden Gate bridge around the pathway and to Crissy Field, a beautiful open field and sight to see with hardly anyone else there. After walking 5+ miles around sightseeing, Franklin was struggling and was desperate for a nap. We took him back to the hotel and he passed out instantly.

We got ready for a private tour of LinkenIn headquarters thanks to Ryan’s friend Phil, who had an internship through the Navy with them, living in San Fran for two years. Wow, what a place… we got there and signed in with the check desk before heading up for a free lunch, all you can eat, anything you want, all farm fresh… There was a stir-fry station, taco station, fresh wood-fired pizza, salad bar, and Ryan’s favorite, lemon and lavender infused water haha. Everything free! For everyone! Every day! Including us, outsiders just touring the area. After an amazing lunch, we went to their free coffee shop and got some coffee to go outside and talk on the rooftop lounge… different life. We caught up with Phil for a while and then let him get back to “work” ;)

We left and made our way down to Pier 39 for some sourdough bread bowl clam chowder, a must in San Fran. We ubered home and relaxed for a little bit before heading out for dinner at an adorable authentic Italian restaurant with Ryan’s friends from his prep school, Peddie, where he went for one year before college. He hadn’t seen them since then and seemed like they never missed a beat. We went out that night to the local bars and basically had the whole place to ourselves because of the cold rain.

Day 9: Nov 23 – San Francisco  San Diego

We woke up and went to brunch that morning, amazing again, and went to the hotel to pack up. My bucket list included seeing the painted ladies so we drove by and the whole park you walk around was closed for construction :( So we just saw and passed, stopping at a local surf shop, one of Ryan’s friends’ friends owned lol say that five times fast.

We planned on stopping in Joshua Tree this night, to break up the 8+ hour drive home, but decided against it about 4 hours away from home, when Joshua Tree and our nice warm bed were the same distance away. So, we made the call to drive all the way home, about a 10-hour drive total. Stopping only twice to let the fam (Franklin included) go pee and again to get Chick-fil-a for dinner. Ryan had drove about 8 hours straight and was starting to get too tired to drive so I took over the last 2 hours from LA to San Diego and got us home around 12 pm that night, Happy Thanksgiving!!

calication 2016 success!

This was one of the best weeks of my LIFE!! So much fun being FREE and exploring and traveling and being together with absolutely no cell phone service at times. 

PLEASE send any favorite spots in California!! We love to travel and do day trips and camp :) 



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