West Coast Best Coast: Leg One of My Great American Road Trip


The first leg of my road trip to Indiana involved me going in the “wrong” direction up the West Coast of the United States. I figured if I was about to drive thousands of miles I might as well take a little extra time to drive up my favorite coast!


I had a short first day, only driving three hours up the coast to San Luis Obispo, CA to visit one of my best friends and to re-visit the town I spent my first year of college in. (And of course, we suck and didn’t take any pictures continuing our long tradition of forgetting to take pictures when we see each other.) The real trek started on Day 2, Tuesday. I drove from San Luis Obispo to Yreka, Ca which is pretty much as far North as you can go in California before hitting the mountains that will take you into Oregon. I had originally planned to make it to Oregon on Day 2 but realized about 8 or 9 hours in that that goal might have been a little too ambitious for what was the beginning of my first major road trip.

I had very brief stops in Monterey and San Francisco on my way up the California Coast, mostly to get gas, food or to use the restroom.


That first big day of driving was mostly that, driving. I couldn’t spend too much time out of the car but lucky for me, the drive up the California Coast is one of the most beautiful drives on this planet.


This trip was planned sort of quickly and by a broke college student so for the most part I kept it pretty budget, I stayed at the Super 8 in Yreka that night. As far as motels go it served its’ purpose. The room was clean and the motel was conveniently right off the freeway. They also had a free breakfast in the morning which is really great when you’re on the road for weeks and want a break from crappy fast food.


My time in Oregon was short but absolutely incredible. Wednesday morning I woke up early in Yreka to start my drive North to Portland. Oregon is gorgeous and it took everything in me to keep myself from constantly pulling over to get a closer look. I did give myself a chance to exit the freeway to take some photos near the Umpqua River.


I got to Portland around 2 in the afternoon and had the rest of the day to explore the city. I’ve only ever driven through Portland so I was happy to get a few hours to check it out. My first stop was Powell’s City of Books which I would recommend to anyone because you will likely be able to find books on any topic. For me, I was on the hunt for Anthropology and Archaeology books since that is my area of study and that’s what gets me feelin’ nerdy. Let’s just say I walked away from Powell’s having spent a little more than anticipated but it’s rare to find a bookstore with a full on Anthropology section that isn’t just a bunch of old, outdated textbooks.


Walking distance from Powell’s was VooDoo Donuts, a place that exists in LA as well but anyone I told I was going to Portland brought it up so I decided to check it out. And yes, I got the a certain shaped donut, if you know what I mean then you know what I mean.


I got in my car and headed toward the river, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for water. If a body of water is nearby I will go towards it. I walked along the river for awhile,  just enjoying the city. Note: The parking near the river ($4 for the day) was actually significantly cheaper than the parking garage I found further into the city near the bookstore which was $12.


As the sun went down I started to head towards my motel to put my stuff inside and to get something to eat besides donuts (which were awesome btw and I totally recommend.) I stayed at the Motel 6 Portland Central. Overall I probably wouldn’t recommend this place to a friend. The room seemed clean-ish but it did smell like smoke even though it was a non-smoking room. The shower wasn’t very clean, to the point where I skipped showering assuming that that would be the more sanitary option. You also had to pay for wifi which isn’t the end of the world but comparing it to every other motel I’ve stayed at for this trip, they were the only ones to charge.)

An unexpected perk of this Motel 6 was its’ location. It was  next to this really great restaurant/bar. I was tired and didn’t want to be walking around the city alone at night so I checked out the restaurant that was literally a 2 minute walk from my door called Hopworks Urban Brewery. I sat at the bar and ordered a drink. (Note: they have a separate section of the restaurant for families if you’re looking for a place to take kids and you don’t want a bar atmosphere.)

They had a decent selection of beers and me, a cider drinker, was happy to see that as an option as well. For dinner I ordered the Hopwork Black Bean Burger which was bomb and I highly recommend! The service was fantastic, I got to talking with a few of the bartenders and Raymond Smith, the Hospitality Leader, actually ended up buying my drink for me saying “Safe travels.” I would 10/10 recommend this place and will return the next time I’m in Portland.


My next day was spent in Oregon for the most part as I drove towards Boise, Idaho. I say “for the most part” because at some point I ended up in Washington and I’m not totally sure how. All I know is that I was driving and suddenly I passed a sign that said “Thanks for Visiting Oregon” followed by “Welcome to Washington.” I had spent my morning walking around some trails near the Colombia River which I now know also serves as the border between Oregon and Washington. So as I walked around Oregon looking across the river I was seeing Washington!


A lot of that day happened by accident which I’m learning is kind of how road trips go. I had driven out to the river to see a waterfall that was recommended to me by some friends and locals in Portland but unfortunately due to a recent wildfire the road to the waterfall was closed. Lucky for me as I was driving back from realizing the road was closed I saw a sign for a few trails that looked cool so I parked my car and got to walking. Neither of the trails were long at all; I would definitely call them a walk and not a hike and they are 100% worth the view!


I spent over an hour walking around this small part of the Oregon woods looking out over the Colombia river and later on in the day in Washington I was able to pick out the spot I had been in the pictures above from my spot in Washington which was pretty awesome!


I crossed the river into Washington and headed towards Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Washougal, WA. The road to get there runs pretty much parallel to the road I had just been on in Oregon and therefore was taking me towards Boise for the most part.


Eventually I had to cross the river again into Oregon to get onto the correct freeway into Idaho. The drive through Washington was so incredible that I had to pull over and take pictures and I’m so glad I did because that’s when I realized I was looking right across the river to the spot I had been standing in a few hours before!


I then crossed over the Bridge of the Gods back into Oregon, it is a toll bridge and costs $2 to cross but it’s pretty cool!


Then I started my drive towards Boise. I didn’t have a room booked yet, my actual plan was just to drive as far as I could because the next day I was driving to Salt Lake City to see one of my best friends so the further I drove through Idaho that day the shorter I would have to drive to Salt Lake in the morning. My drive through Oregon was one of my favorite parts of the trip, it was absolutely beautiful. And it was also the first time on the trip that I came across snow! Keep in mind that I’m a So Cal kid and snow isn’t something we’re used to! There was a little bit of snow on the ground as I started driving into the mountains near Pendleton, Oregon but not a ton and then suddenly I turned a corner and everything was covered! I was so excited that I pulled over at the next rest stop just to mess around in the snow for a few minutes! I even face-timed my little brother to show him! Selfies were taken, I had no shame.



I got to Boise around 7pm and was I tired so I decided it would be a good stoping point for the day, I had also done some research on places to eat and there was a place in Boise I wanted to check out so it worked out. I ate at Bar Gernika in Downtown Boise, just down the street from the Idaho State Capital Building. This place is awesome and the people there (customers and staff) were so nice! At the recommendation of the cook and the people sitting next to me at the bar, I ordered the Lamb Grinder sandwich with Croquetas and OMG I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I left! They also have this BOMB spicy sauce that if you go you should just put it on everything you order.


Short note about how nice everyone was: when the couple next to me found out it was my first time there they shared their appetizer with me (Croquetas with the magical spicy sauce) and they talked to me for awhile. Then after they left a group of girls sat near me and we got to talking and they invited me to hang with them and even recommended a place for breakfast the next morning! (Big City Coffee which I did try to go to the next morning but it was PACKED and I needed to get on the road and didn’t have time to wait.) The cook was also super nice and we talked a lot while I was there. Long story short: if you’re ever in Boise, check this place out! I will definitely be back!


I stayed at the Super 8 in Boise which was clean and the staff was friendly. Not too far from the city vibes and near a gas station and grocery store (Albertsons which don’t exist in So Cal anymore so that was weird.) It was also just a few minutes away from the Boise Depot which is where I got some great views of the entire city before starting my drive to Utah!

On my way to Salt Lake City I made a small detour to Shoshone Falls State Park in Idaho. To get there you cross over the Perrine Bridge, there’s a scenic lookout point under the bridge as well where you can park and walk around, see underneath the bridge and get a closer look at the Snake River Canyon.


Then just 20 minutes away from the bridge is Shoshone Falls which is incredible and definitely worth the short detour!



My time in Salt Lake City was pretty short and since I hadn’t seen my friend Rachel in a long time I was way more focused on catching up with her than I was on taking pictures and being a tourist!


The drive out of Utah towards Wyoming was beautiful, I drove through Coalville and stopped at the rest area to take a closer look at the Echo Reservoir which was frozen because it was so cold! Definitely not something Im used to seeing!





I drove straight through Wyoming to Nebraska to sleep but not without stopping at Fossil Butte National Park first!




I slept in Nebraska that night, you can read about the next leg of my trip in my post about the Mid-West here!

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Leg 1 of my Great American Road Trip

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