Take a Brake
One would think that traveling America’s tallest paved road, Trail Ridge, would prove the most major driving feat for the Little Blue Bus but we soon realized that it was our California escapades that prove to be the hardest on her. Let’s start at the beginning shall we? The Pacific Coast Highway. This 655 mile stretch of road follows the dangerously tantalizing edge of the majestic Pacific Ocean and all her glorious charms. What seemed like an obvious choice for our thrill ride seeking driving habits, truly did not disappoint as our highway 101 route from Los Angeles to San Francisco took us in and out and in and out and in and out of the most dramatic views of the oceanside and its adjacent orchards, vineyards, farms, and fisheries. We saw elephant seals, zebras (a remnant of Hearst Castle decadence), otters in Morro Bay, sea lions in Santa Cruz, and many posh and proper pooches in San Francisco. Like most of our ride through the US so far, the scenery was ever-changing and a delight for our every sensory organ, the sights, smells, and fresh fish eats of the coast has been a real highlight of our trip so far.
Besides the ever winding roads of PCH, the other thing that proved problematic for our journey in the great state of California, were the strict overnight parking policies. In an effort to cut down on homelessness and the eyesore of “vanlife” in this expertly taxed and governed state, overnight parking is harder to come by then a gallon of gas less than $4.50. This, ultimately forced us to get crafty with our skoolie lifestyle as we did not want to make reservations at campsites in case we decided to mix up our schedule and be spontaneous. (Or the bus decided to break down in Utah – cough, cough, still not over it---). So we Airbnb-ed, asked permission of truck stop owners, and timed our public parking so meticulously it had us suspiciously cruising the steep roads of San Francisco at 4 am. Don’t let the chill, surfer aesthetic of Cali fool you, living remotely out of our hippie bus is harder to do here than you would think.
But alas, we pushed forward, off the coast and into even harder driving toward Yosemite National Park. Pro-tip don’t drive into this part of the state at night. We FINALLY found our campsite and spent the next day hiking the Yosemite Valley. From the wooden giants of Mariposa Grove to the jaw dropping sights of both Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, we followed in the glorious footsteps of John Muir and I learned how easy it was to fall in love with the natural world around you. Of course, a blue bus blog would not be complete without our mechanical failure du jour. Today’s special? Our smoking break system. We learned very quickly that you should not always trust your GPS system as she ignored the newly built switchback style New Priest Grade, and took us down the much quicker, disastrously steeper, 1000X more terrifying Old Priest Grade. In first gear, we road our brake pads down to sheepish nubs and our pine tree spoiled nostrils now bared the stench of a fried brake. Word to the wise, always drive these tricky roads during the day and carefully read warning signs. But somehow, some way, we survived and, after I cried on and off for twenty minutes in shear post traumatic shock, we carried on.