We love this town! We had stopped in San Luis Obispo (SLO) on a trip a few years ago when we rented a convertible Nissan 350Z and drove California Coast, the days before a child seat was mandatory. The San Luis Obispo of our memories was beautiful and full of very friendly people, not a bad combo.
We decided to spend a couple days here in advance which worked out well since there is a highly recommended shop that specializes in Volkswagen campers called Westy Werkz. Our Volkswagen Westfalia had been making some noise while turning left we thought it would be good to have them check it out. It turned out the Westy needed new Axles and brakes and would take a couple days, well at least the timing worked out. A couple days in a hotel in one place would be a nice change.
Once thing we love about San Luis Obispo and is how dog friendly they are. It seemed that most restaurants were welcoming to dogs as long as you dined on the patio. Most of the stores we went to also allowed dogs inside, even finding it odd that we even asked before coming in. The first night our Porty Zucca had been holding in a pee and when we couldn’t find some grass she took the initiative and made due with this bush, felt I need to explain the picture.
While we were in town we celebrated our anniversary at Novo Restaurant on their beautiful Patio. The fact that you can take your dog to a restaurant of this caliber is amazing and the service was fantastic in catering to our needs while dining with a baby. The great reviews online are well deserved, check it out if you’re in San Luis Obispo.
Another great culinary find was a block away from the Garden Street Inn was Batch, an ice cream sandwich store…yup that’s what I said. They make their cookies and ice cream and have have a feature flavour each day. You pick your cookie and ice cream combo and they assemble it for you, simple but so so good. We actually went back 3 times while we were in SLO. When traveling with Children there is a large candy and shop called Rocket Fizz across the street with hundreds of different treats and sodas that the kids will love.
This is one of those places you visit and you wonder for days afterwards why you don’t reside there. The weather, the people, the great VW repair shop, fabulous food, dog friendly, kid friendly and the laid back vibe all add up to make this a great town. It lived up to our memories and to it’s title of Happiest City in America, we love it!
Accommodation Cost: $132.08 per night in San Luis Obispo
Volkswagen Camper Sightings: Vanagons are everywhere!
Note: For some reason we didn’t take many pictures while here, sorry about that.
A good nights sleep in the Westy at the KOA Costanoa and we’re back on the road heading down the Coast. Barely on the road 15 minutes and we were already pulling off of HWY1 into Swanton Berry Farm since I had been craving Pie for a couple of days. This place was very cool and the karma led us to one of the best Strawberry Shortcakes on the planet! To add to the uniqueness of this stop was the fact that they had a Honor Till in an unmanned store, there is still trusting people in this world and that is very refreshing. This is a must stop if traveling this route, must stop!
This drive along the coast through California is beautiful and this clear sunny day was perfect for it. Our trusty VW Westfalia camper has been holding up well and the twisty coast roads definitely taxing it’s 90hp engine.
When traveling on a long road trip with a baby and a dog you need leave lots of wiggle room in your “schedule” for changes of plans. We were starting to realize that our Portuguese Water Dog Zucca hadn’t had any real exercise in a few days and this breed needs to burn off energy regularly. We had been told by someone in passing that the beach in Carmel was one of the few in California that allowed dogs, so we made sure to stop there when passing through. Zucca went bananas and made a few doggie friends on the beach while Archer did his own thing.
One of the key destinations when we planed this trip was Big Sur California and unfortunately we ended up there on a weekend. We called ahead to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and they said they were sold out but informed us there could be spots due to cancellations. When we showed up there it seemed like we lucked out and were given a spot, but upon arrival at camp site 58 it was essentially in the parking lot of a variety store. This park didn’t live up to our expectations, I think it’s popularity has caused it to be over populated and worn out. We did a U-Turn and changed our plan with sites set on San Luis Obispo. I must add that the drive through Big Sur is breathtaking.
After a couple more hours on the road and a few pit stops along the way we rolled into San Louis Obispo a little after dark. Using Trip Advisor to find a hotel downtown we ended up at the Garden Street Inn and were greeted by a very friendly host. We love this town and can’t wait to spend some more time here.
Gualala was a great relaxing camping find, we would recommend it to anyone heading down the coast.
Today was dedicated to mostly travel and taking advantage traveling through a city and getting some free wifi to communicate with home and work.
We b-lined it to Petaluma and set up shop in a Panera simply based on the fact they had free wifi. I hung out with Archer and did some work on the laptop while Connie took the opportunity to get her hair washed and blow dried at a salon, a little bit of luxury after “roughing it”.
While in Petaluma you must stop at one of the coolest craft breweries in North America, Lagunitas Brewing Company. This is great stop if you like craft beer, they also have a ton of merchandise that makes it easy to spend your hard earned. If you can plan ahead it would be awesome to check out a band at their LaguMiniamphitheater.
We headed south in the VW Westfalia and traveled across a the Golden Gate Bridge and passed through San Francisco although we decided not to stop. We chose to not stop in major cities that we have been to before or figured we would return to at some point in the next few years, San Fran was one of those.
We ended our day at the KOA Costanoa in Pescadeno California. This was a very interesting KOA that was part of a resort which included a fancy hotel and restaurant. Since we arrived fairly late we decided take advantage of the Cascade Restaurant and we ended up with a fantastic meal backed up with great service. Overall this was a nice resort with a great view and had very clean facilities, reminiscent of a higher end hotel. You will pay a premium to stay here.
Nothing much to report about our night at Hiouchi RV Resort in Crescent City but they did have Wifi (after moving spots to catch the signal) and the showers were hot. Westfalia away!
When in the land of the giant redwoods on a road trip you must drive through one, just cuz. Well that was the plan when we took the Westfalia to Chandelier Tree in Leggett California. Apparently when they designed this 2400 year old tree they didn’t have the Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia in mind, we didn’t fit through. Oh well at least they had another gift shop to add to our list.
After the indescribable excitement of almost driving through a tree we b-lined it to the KOA in Willits California. We have never stayed at a KOA style campground before and we didn’t know what to expect. The Willits KOA definitely exceeded our expectations even though it didn’t offer the natural environment we’re getting used to in the Provincial and State parks.
It was an interesting change with all of the family programing that they have at this KOA, Fishing Pond, Arcade, Wild West Show, Mini Golf, Pool, Hot Tub, Splash Pad, Playground, Petting Zoo, Dog Park…really, there is more. Our favorite thing was the Ice Cream Social and the Outdoor movie after the sun goes down. Archer had a blast and it was nice to be able to watch a movie while he slept in our lap. I’m not sure if all KOA’s are like this but if they are I can see the appeal, especially for family camping.
Weather’s warmer and it’s starting to feel like California, it’s crazy the distance we’ve traveled so far. ZZzzzzz
Cape Blanco Oregon is a pretty nice place to wake up, a little bit cool and foggy but very nice. Nothing an early morning campfire can’t cure.
We decided to spend the morning at Cape Blanco and go for a hike to the lighthouse. Before a big hike you need a big breakfast, Connie was on chef duty this morning.
Of course when traveling on a road trip with a baby you need to factor in time for naps. Archer loved the Volkswagen Westfalia and was quick to nap on the comfy bed before our hike.
We hiked to the lighthouse and back which is about 2km each way. We took the trails through the park on the way there and on the way back we walked down the beach. We had the whole beach to ourselves so our Portuguese Water Dog Zucca got to run off leash and burn off some energy. Some pictures of Cape Blanco…
We had a great time in Oregon, now off to California. We had our first bout of bad luck when we got to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the park was sold out so we had to stay at Hiouchi RV Resort down the road. Hiouchi is a pretty plain park with not much to review, at least they had wifi…in some spots. Sleep
Loved the Historic Anchor Inn! Such a fun place with nice owners and it even included a real breakfast for the $89 a night rate. Our server was super nice and even brought in peaches from her tree at home to included in our breakfast.
After breakfast and a lazy start we were on the road to Cape Blano Oregon. We chose Cape Blanco based on advice from some fellow Westfalia owners on TheSamba.com a website forum dedicated classic Volkswagens. Since Cape Blanco is a first come first serve campsite we decided to head straight there and try and snag a spot. We did make a quick stop in Newport Oregon at Rogue brewing, unfortunately there’s nothing exciting to report.
Blah blah blah beautiful scenery blah blah Oregon is amazing. Since picking up Archer and Connie this was the longest drive day so far, arriving in Cape Blanco in about 5 hours.
We managed to get a good spot across from the entrance to one of the Cape Blanco walking trails. We set up the Westfalia and got started on dinner. I think I have mentioned the Primus Firehole a few times but haven’t mentioned the MSR Flex-4 System cook set, it’s been awesome and saves a lot of room in the VW camper. We used them both and cooked up some tasty vittles before a camp fire and bed.
Another shameless product plug is the Phil and Ted’s Lobster seat that archer is sitting in (below) attached to a picnic table. This thing is super solid and fits every table we tried it on not to mention it packs down flat taking up little space in the Westfalia camper van. It’s a must for traveling parents with a baby or toddler on a road trip.
We got a good nights sleep considering we stayed in a parking lot at the Cannon Beach RV Resort. The laundry facilities were handy and we’re starting off the day with a Westfalia full of clean clothes.
The drive down the coast in Oregon is beautiful but unlike California the road doesn’t always follow right along the coast line. We headed south towards Tillamook arriving in a little over an hour at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. This place is a tourist attraction in it’s truest form and they have done a great job at it. We had some tasty cheese, took some pictures in their VW bus display and ended it off with some delicious ice cream.
After filling up on dairy products we bought a souvenir Tillamook VW bus and some handy individual packages of Tillamook cheddar for the fridge. Back on the Highway 1 we headed south into Tilamook to search for a barber shop to get a much needed shave. We stumbled upon a cool looking place called Bob’s Barber Shop and thankfully Bob could fit me in. This is a great spot that I would recommend if you’re heading south down the Oregon Coast.
Next stop just south of Tillamook was the Tillamook Air Museum which is housed in a very impressive building originally constructed as a base for Military Air Ships (Blimps). This structure is the largest wooden building in America and it really is a must see if you’re in the area. The planes in the Museum are interesting but for me the building stole the show, it’s huge!
Our next stop was Pacific City for lunch at Pelican Pub & Brewery. The restaurant is located right on the beach so after lunch we had a chance to take Zucca and Archer to the beach for first time on the trip.
Letting a baby and dog play in the water and sand made for a pretty good mess in the Westfalia.
Before we left for the trip Archer just started walking at 11 months. His confidence is increasing very quickly and he has already started climbing around the van. Gotta keep a close eye on the baby.
We hoped to stay in Pacific City but the local accommodations didn’t work for us so we headed south. It was getting a little late and Archer was getting a little fussy so we decided to pull into the next place we saw. Well they didn’t allow dogs so we went to the next, next place which turned out to be awesome luck. The Historic Anchor Inn was one of the most unique hotels we’ve ever seen and it’s a must stay if traveling in the area. Check out their gallery to get the vibe. This was a fantastic day, time for rest.
What a great nights sleep! As mentioned yesterday we stayed at a friends property which had a seemingly endless supply of apples and blackberries. Granola and fresh fruit for breakfast, delicious!
To catch the Ferry to Seattle we headed to Downtown Bainbridge. We had an hour to burn before heading to the Ferry so we stopped at the Blackbird Bakery for a bite and did a little bit of shopping. We really liked this town, it’s on our list of places to return to.
As seems to be par for the coarse we almost missed the Ferry and were the last ones to ssqueeze on. Off to Seattle!
The Ferry docked close to Pike’s Market so we headed straight there to check that off the list. One place that was kind of cool was RGB (Rachel’s Ginger Beer) which had just opened a store in the Market. Since I’m in the craft beer industry it was interesting to check out a craft soda company. Should also note they do serve the sodas with booze in them too.
We decided not to stay the night in Seattle and start heading towards Portland. We put a bunch of miles on using the freeway and it was freeway boring. We ended up camping about an hour from Portland at Millersylvania State Park, really that’s it’s name. The park was nothing special but did have a lake and some hiking trails, it seems like a place used by people not wanting to travel to far to camp.
We went for a walk and then fired up the camp stove for some vegetarian chilli before cleaning up and hitting the hay.
Started the morning with baby Archer in our bed again, cozy. The problem when camping with a baby arises in the middle of the night when your little one wakes up crying. We would usually wait it out a little at home but at a camp site your baby crying can be heard a few sites away, so to quite him down we bring him to us and usually fall asleep before he does. It’s a good little scam he’s got going.
The temperature at night was perfect for a good nights sleep and we arose to a beautiful morning at Goldstream Provincial Park. Breakfast on the Primus camp-stove this morning was Pancakes, mmm pancakes. Connie pre-measured some mix in Ziploc bags and actually wrote the directions on the bags, pretty clever that one is. It’s a great space reducer compared to traveling with a box of mix that you’ll only use a quarter of.
After packing up we headed into Victoria to meet the nice couple that I bought the Vanagon Westfalia from. They had for got their garage door opener on the visor so I figured they would like it back and it would be fun to see their old Westy.
By the time we made it to meet them we only had a few minutes to chat before rushing out to catch the MV Coho ferry to Washington. We got there with no time to spare, we literally held up the boat while they ran us through customs and squeezed us into the last spot. Karma!
Sailing on the MV Coho was great, unlike a lot of the Ferry’s the Coho allows dogs onto the main decks so our Portuguese Water Dog Zucca didn’t have to stay in the car for the ride. We had lunch on the Ferry and took in the beautiful views as we crossed into America. Feels weird to be completing the Canada part of our road trip, time is flying.
We had no problems with clearing customs with a dog and a baby until they found out we had groceries on board. We had to pull over as a guy went through every food item in the van and confiscated various things. Not only did he take fruit and vegetables but packaged products and our dog food. Weird.
From the Coho Ferry terminal in Port Angeles Washington it was a short drive to one of the entrances at Olympic National Park. We headed up the road to Hurricane ridge which was the unfortunately the only thing we had planned for Olympic park. The drive up the mountain is beautiful but some of the corners are downright scary for someone who doesn’t like heights. By the time we got to the top our Westfalia was exhausted so we decided to take in the scenery and gift shop, love those gift shops.
It was beautiful and the wildlife is so tame they walk only feet away from you. It is definitely worth the drive up. Yes the ride down was more nerve racking, remember the comment about Vanagons brakes a couple of days ago.
After leaving the Port Angeles area we set our sites on Bainbridge Island. When I was looking for our VW Westfalia I joined a mailing list for owners of Vanagons to see if anyone could help me find one. A gentleman from Bainbridge Island reached out to me that was originally from Ontario offering to help if he could. We kept in touch and he offered us a place to camp if we happened to travel through his area. Well it turns out our road trip was going right by his place, sometimes things just work out.
Their property turned out to be 2 beautiful acres near the water and only 10 minutes from the Ferry to Seattle. They turned out to be wonderful people and we chatted for a while before we set up the camper and turned in for the night. This is the most peaceful place we have stayed in the Westfalia yet. Zzzzzz
Guest Post– My wife connie wrote this months ago but I back burnered my blog so it never got posted, better late than never:
I can’t believe I said yes.
I can’t believe that I agreed to travel 5,000km with a newborn.
Am I crazy?
Every mom in my mommy group thought so.
My husband is great at trying new things and pushing me out of my comfort zone so that I enjoy “new experiences”. Leading up to these events though, I am always uncertain, asking questions for weeks and days leading up to the event until I believe that I have covered every single angle of what to expect and have assessed contingency plans for every possible outcome when things change.
When we found out we were pregnant, the first (or second) question from the in-laws was, “Are you still coming to Florida for Christmas?” Knowing the little guy was only going to be three months old, I answered, “We’ll see,” and I maintained this answer throughout our pregnancy. But somewhere between the sleep deprivation and the acceptance of so much help within the first two months, the “We’ll see” turned into “Sure”. How could I break the heart of the woman who helped me get back on my feet, picking up groceries, making food, holding our son after feedings so that I could get as much sleep as possible? I could go on & on with all the ways she helped. So we began to plan our journey.
We monitored the impending weather along our route and guesstimated how long it would take us with a three month old who needs to eat every three hours. I repeat, every three hours. Oh, did I mention that we have a dog too?
The evening prior to our departure I started to panic. What on earth was I thinking agreeing to this??! He’s so little. It’s too long to be in the car. He’s going to get a flat head from sitting too long in a car seat. And I had just successfully gotten him on a sleeping schedule. I was about to through it all out the window. I was worried – had those motherly instincts I kept hearing about finally start to kick in?? Memories of someone telling me that they were told by the hospital when discharged to not leave a baby in a car seat longer than an hour and a half occupied my brain. I googled a British study that identified that flathead can trigger vision problems. I took photos of his head from both sides so I could compare upon our return.
The panic continued into the morning but as my husband explained, the plans had already been set so the show must go on. We hit the road. First stop, Windsor. It was cold, it was dark, and we were parked at a gas station. I breastfed in the backseat (thank God for privacy shades) while my husband took the dog out for a pee and a stroll. I need to supplement each feed with formula so we made enough bottles to last the entire trip. What we soon realized was that we should have packed soap to wash the nipples for the bottles, as we only have four that would need to be reused throughout the trip. We also forgot to pack bodywash for Junior in case he had a blowout of a poo during our trip. Off to Toys’R’Us so I could use their change table, buy the forgotten needed essentials and then get back on the road.
Everything we had read said it was best to travel at night. There will be minimal disruptions to their sleep schedule if they sleep through the night. This totally makes sense, except I like to sleep through the night too.
We drove through the night. Every time we stopped, I would feed the kidlet (boob & bottle) and then change his diaper while my husband would walk the dog. If we were lucky enough to stop somewhere that had a washroom with a change table, then I could change the babe inside. If not, I learned to master the diaper change in the backseat, amongst the dog bed, the infant car seat, and the cooler. My husband drove the first leg until about 1am and then I took over until about 4am. When you feel like you are the only car in a sea of tractor trailers and their tail lights look like they are starting to come together, you know it is time to pull over.
The best place to stop along the way is the Cracker Barrel. They open at 6am and close at 10pm (11pm on the weekends). Their washrooms are clean and they are the only establishment that I found (up and down the USA) to have a sturdy table that is specific to baby changing and that didn’t need to be pulled down. McDonald’s is a close second. Their change tables are almost always in the wheelchair accessible stall. Don’t even bother to stop at Krystal (they don’t have change tables) or White Castle (however, the later is based solely on my opinion of their hamburger). I digress.
We lengthened the time between his feedings and followed this routine every four hours. Each stop averaged about an hour and fifteen minutes. By the time we crossed the Florida border from Georgia, it was a struggle to put our little guy back in the car seat. He was wise to our schedule and would wiggle and scream as we tried to strap him back in. I felt bad but we were so close. We strapped him in the seat as quickly as we could and put the pedal to the medal so he would drift asleep to the rumbling of the tires hitting the road.
He was happy when we finally reached our destination, fifty-nine hours after it began (there was an overnighter in Nashville, complements of Santa), welcoming his grandmother with lots of stretching when we broke him free.
For the trip back, we decided to switch the routine up a bit. At the three hour mark I would pump in the car. Yes, I pumped. In public. I would pump and use that breastmilk at his next feeding, followed by formula that I heated up with the assistance of the car seat adaptor. The Warm’n’Go by Diono is a handy little device that actually works pretty good! When we pulled over, I had his food ready and fed him right away, then I would take him inside to change him, then pass him off to his dad so that I could go use the facilities myself. We managed to knock a half-hour off of our stop time. Woo hoo!
We planned two overnight stops on the way back and an afternoon visit with family so it took us three days to get home. Our little man seemed ok at the start of the journey but after a day, likely when he realized there was more to come, he started to fuss again when we tried to put him back in his car seat. Luckily for us, he would usually drift off by the time we merged onto the highway. Funny enough, he only had two meltdowns on the trip, the first was in Alabama (sorry to anyone that may have heard his screams), and the second a half-hour from home. At that point, I moved to the back to sit with him while the dog took over shotgun.
Did we survive? Yes!
Would I do it again with an infant? Not likely.
The frequent stops and having to change him, sometimes in the car, in the cold, and having to rinse bottles and wash nipples along the way made for a long, long, long trip. As did unpacking and repacking all the new essentials when we stopped overnight. Upon our return, it took about a week to get him back on schedule and I still swear to this day that his head is a little lopsided in the back from being in a car seat so long. At least he spent his first Christmas surrounded by palm trees to the delight of his grandparents, and had his first road trip with his new best friend by his side.