All-American Road Trip

When I arrived in L.A. from China, I began a two-week road trip with family. My sister and her husband picked me up at LAX and we drove to Utah. On the way we stopped at the Las Vegas temple and passed by some of the wildfires in central Utah. We arrived in Utah just in time for a family reunion and Independence Day. It was good to catch up with family and friends and see familiar stomping grounds. However, the real adventure began when we headed back to California to spend a week in Monterey with my sister and her husband.

Reno TempleLas Vegas TempleSacramento Temple

In true Kevin road trip fashion, we stopped at as many LDS temples on the way as possible in my quest to photograph each of them. On the way there we stopped in Reno and Sacramento. The whole family made it to Monterey and we had a fun time together.

The Bay Area

One day we decided to drive up to the Bay Area to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and more. Everyone had stuff they wanted to see and we planned a circuitous route to see as much as possible. Our first stops took us to the headquarters of some of the most well-known companies in the world, Google and Facebook. We drove through Silicon Valley looking for the giant ice cream sandwich and other Android statues outside one of the Google buildings and the giant “Like Button” outside Facebook on Hacker Way.

Facebook Like Button at headquartersAndroid headquarters at Google

Golden Gate BridgeFrom there we drove into the fog that hovers over San Francisco and made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge, which is celebrating its 75 anniversary this year. When we arrived the tops of the towers were hidden by the clouds, but as we made it to the middle the clouds began to clear and the sun crept out making for some beautiful images of the red bridge, the water below and the city in the distance. From the bridge I also saw my first wild dolphins.

YodaOur next stop was another corporate headquarters with a life-size statue of one of the most revered aliens of all time. We went to the home of Lucas Film where there is a life-size Yoda gracing the top of a fountain outside the main lobby. We went inside where there are full costumes of the dark lord Darth Vader and bounty hunter Boba Fett as well as other great Star Wars and movie memorabilia.

Next we drove through town and found the Painted Ladies, a row of beautifully kept colorful Victorian homes, then down Lombard Street, the world’s most crooked street. Finally we found our way to Pier 39 where we were sorely disappointed by the lack of sea lions. Supposedly, they were down the coast somewhere making baby sea lions, so they weren’t on their normal floating lounges. On our way back to Monterey we crossed the Bay Bridge and found another entertainment company’s headquarters, that of Pixar, my favorite movie making entity. The trip also took us passed Tesla Motors and the infamous Solyndra.

Pixar HeadquartersThe Painted Ladies of San FranciscoSan Francisco

The Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf

sea anemone at fisherman's wharf in MontereyA couple of times we found ourselves down at the fisherman’s wharf. Lots of little shops and restaurants make the wharf worth a visit, but the part that makes it exceptional for me is the sea life that you can find like the sea lions, pelicans, seals, otters, and starfish and anemones clinging to the posts of the pier. The fish and chips are pretty tasty too.

17-Mile Drive and some old churches

Carmel MissionNear Monterey is 17-mile drive, an amazing stretch of coastline with beautiful forests, rocky coves, wildlife and world-famous golf courses. Before we hit the trail we stopped at the mission in Monterey, a charming old Spanish mission. Then we started the scenic drive up the coast stopping at various pull-outs to see seals, rocks, otters and championship golf course Pebble Beach. This was the highlight for my brother and dad. For me the highlight was at the end of the journey in Carmel at another Spanish mission. The Carmel mission was beautifully restored.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

I had only heard good things about the Monterey Bay Aquarium – that it is one of the best aquariums in the world. I’ve found similar reputations to be very disappointing so I was prepared for a letdown. I didn’t get letdown. It lived up to everything I had heard and was a great adventure. I only wish I had more time to explore this well-designed and fantastically curated aquarium.

Jackson watching jellyfish at Monterey Bay AquariumThe Kelp Forest at Monterey Bay AquariumJellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The kelp forest and deep ocean exhibits were my favorite sections of the aquarium, however, my favorite part of our visit was watching my nephew gazing at seahorses and jellyfish and sharks in amazement. He was so excited to see the birds, especially the swimming puffins. I could have watched him for hours staring through the glass in awe of these interesting and magnificent creatures.

Whale Watching

Whale TaleI’ve always wanted to go whale watching, and in Monterey I did. I was worried the whole time that we wouldn’t see anything, but we ended up seeing a bit of action. The first ones the cruise took us to were the world’s largest animals, blue whales. We found a small pod and followed them for a bit while they breached and even did a rare tale slap, rare for blues according to the boat people anyway. Next they took us to a pod of the more common humpback whales. They were also active with lots of full breaches and fluke sightings.

Our time together in Monterey ended and we all went our way. Several of these could make for great everyday adventures or day trips if you live in the area. Four of us drove back to Texas, four back to Utah and two stayed home.

11 responses to “All-American Road Trip

  1. Kevin, I’ve been fortunate to explore much of the US this summer, and your post reminded me of some of our adventures in San Fran (but the Golden Gate was shrouded in fog when we visited there). Your tales about the whales and Monterey Bay Aquarium have me wanting to visit there too before we leave the States. How magical!

    • It was fantastic. I wish I had the time to visit the aquarium again while I was there. Someday, I’ll make the trip back. How much longer do you have in the States?

      • I was only in China for a year, but I think I may go back soon. There is so much more to see in China, let alone seeing more of Asia. I now live and work in Scottsdale, AZ.

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