Only 24 hours after my adventures on the Olympic Peninsula, I was back on the road for a casual 2,700-mile drive from Seattle, WA to Austin, TX!
Given the year we were having in 2020 and the fact that I’d already been missing my friends and family a ton before we were all in lockdown for the better part of a year, I decided that it was time to move back home to Texas after 3 1/2 years in the Pacific Northwest. Despite how much I love the PNW, it was time for me to head home, knowing that I can go back to visit all the time (when travel is safe again)!
My main motivation for taking this long road trip was my dog, Misha, as she’s too big to take on a plane. So my mom and I loaded up my car with a couple of bags, Misha, and my cat, Maggie, and we were off!
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We decided that while driving through Oregon, we would stay along the coast, since the drive is absolutely gorgeous. Then, we would take the more direct route when we got to California to save time, though we wished we could’ve driven down the coast the entire time.
We left my apartment around 8 PM on Friday after the movers came for my stuff, and we made it a short 45 minutes to Tacoma that first night. The movers had packed up my bed and couch, so we figured we would drive just enough to get a head start in the morning.
We booked all of our lodging the day of for this trip, after we had a good sense of where we were going to be stopping for the evening. For the most part, we weren’t staying anywhere glamorous; our main criteria was that they allowed pets, and we tried to keep the price around $100 a night if we could, given we would only be there for a few hours to sleep.
On Saturday morning, we had our first scare of the trip when we woke up and Maggie was nowhere to be found! I was panicking that I’d lost my cat on the very first day of our trip when my mom thought to pull the mattress off the bed. Of course, Maggie had somehow figured out how to get into the box frame under the bed and was hiding out silently under there.
Once that was resolved, we stopped for coffee, and then we headed out of Washington toward the Oregon coast. Our first stop was a lunch break in Tillamook, Oregon about 3 1/2 hours away. You may recognize this name even if you’ve never been to Oregon because Tillamook is famous for its cheese and ice cream.
The Tillamook Cheese Factory that we were hoping to stop at was closed due to COVID-19, but we were able to find The Blue Heron French Cheese Company to stop at instead, and it turned out to be one of our favorite spots of the trip!
The restaurant was a little farm house with a large shop that had any sweets or snacks you could think of inside. They also had a ton of local goods for sale, which obviously included a nice cheese selection, as well as many specialty items. We ended up buying huckleberry licorice, which was bright purple, and black licorice caramels. These became our favorite treats and thankfully, lasted most of the trip!
For lunch, we ordered from the deli counter and both got the Tilly Grilly, a classic grilled cheese sandwich made with Tillamook Medium Cheddar cheese. It was to die for!
We took our sandwiches outside to eat at the picnic tables, happy to get some fresh air, and we saw that there was also a petting zoo with various animals. We didn’t participate, but there were some chickens and a peacock walking around our tables while we ate. It was very interesting to see my dog meet her first peacock!
After lunch, we continued down the coast, and I showed my mom a couple of options to consider for our overnight stay. The first was Florence, OR, which I had read about in another blog and was excited about because there’s a sea lion cave that you can visit.
The second option was an extra couple of hours away in Coos Bay, OR. When I told her the name, her face lit up. Unbeknownst to me, Coos Bay is where her running inspiration, Steve Prefontaine, was from. He was an Olympian in 1972, and she had a poster of him with one of his famous quotes, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”, in our garage growing up.
Clearly, this resulted in us driving a little more to get to Coos Bay that night. It was actually a bit difficult to get a hotel here because we were driving through the forest most of the afternoon and kept loosing cell phone service. Plus, it’s such a small town that our first options were sold out. We ended up staying at a Motel 6, but we made up for it with a really nice dinner when we got there.
We ate at Restaurant O and made reservations beforehand so we could get a table with the COVID restrictions they had in place. We had a super delicious meal of scallops and mixed vegetables; after all the cheese earlier in the day, we were definitely craving something healthy!
In the morning, we got breakfast at a diner, and as we drove over, my mom started shouting, “there he is!”. Mind you, Steve Prefontaine died years ago, so I was a bit perplexed until I looked over and saw the huge wall painting of him.
After we ate, we went to walk around the boardwalk to enjoy the gorgeous views before getting back on the road.
We then continued on our drive, heading toward Berkeley, California, where we were planning to meet my friends for dinner. Our entire trip was organized around meeting up with a couple of family and friends along the way, which really helped to keep us on track.
We arrived in Berkeley and checked into our hotel, after which we met up with my friends, Sarah and James, for a late dinner.
That night, we were planning out the next day when I discovered that my mom had never been to San Francisco before! We were already in for a long drive to Riverside, CA to meet up with her brother, my Uncle Ray, but I decided we should take an hour or so detour to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and to visit the Painted Ladies houses at Alamo Square Park, also known as the house from the TV show Full House to us 90s kids!
We loved this detour, and it was so worth the extra drive time.
Then, our day took a bit of a turn, as we realized the wild fires were really starting to pick up across the state. When we researched it a bit more, we learned that if we had gone the fastest route rather than sticking to the Oregon coast the day before, we would’ve been driving right through the wild fires. They’d been bad near Berkeley as well, so we were being extra aware and careful while driving.
As we got closer to Riverside, it was harder and harder to avoid. We ended up stuck in traffic, and the thick smoke was staggering. We couldn’t see the fires themselves, just dark clouds of smoke in the distance.
My Uncle Ray had to drive past actual flames to come meet us. Like me, he lives alone and had been in lockdown for almost a year, so he was clearly excited to see us to take that risk!
He got to the hotel only 15 minutes or so after we did, and we were originally planning to go somewhere to get dinner but ended up just staying in the room talking, drinking and eating various snacks from the car throughout the night.
Uncle Ray had never met my dog before, and Misha usually takes a little while to warm up to men, but they were instantly best friends and had so much love for each other.
We decided that we would leave after lunch the next day, so we could get a little more time with Uncle Ray, and in the morning, we drove about 15 minutes from our hotel to hike Mt. Rubidoux. The trail itself is supposed to be for any skill level, but it was harder than we expected because it was super windy. We didn’t go all the way to the top because of the wind, but the views of the town were incredible.
When we got back, we grabbed sandwiches from The Upper Crust Sandwich Shoppe, then showered and changed. It was sadly time to say goodbye and get back on the road onwards to Phoenix, Arizona.
Once we left California, we made much better time because the roads were pretty flat and speed limits were higher heading directly east toward Texas. And, when I was looking for a place to stay in Phoenix, I found a deal for a 4 star hotel, The Clarendon – a huge upgrade from most of our other nights.
We were exhausted from being on the road for nearly a week, so we decided to “splurge” and get a suite here. The hotel has a Latin fusion restaurant, Fuego Bistro, on site, so we decided to sit on the patio and enjoy our meal before heading back to our cozy room. The hotel also has a rooftop sky deck with skyline views of Phoenix, but we were pretty wiped out and just wanted to get some rest.
The next day, we were headed to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where one of my best friends from college lives. We planned on leaving late, but Maggie disappeared in the room again, and we again turned the room inside out looking for her. Finally, I pulled the couch away from the wall and discovered she had somehow gotten herself into the lining of the couch and was hiding again.
When we finally got her in her carrier and got back on the road, we stopped for some salads and then started driving to Las Cruces. We made one pretty big error this day though because we forgot that we would be changing time zones.
We finally noticed when our arrival time changed from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM after a short stop for gas. We were now running against time and ruined our dinner plans a bit. Las Cruces has a ton of really wonderful Mexican food, but due to COVID, a lot of restaurants closed by 8PM, and we weren’t going to make it.
The only thing that was open to 10 PM was the local Chili’s, which was fine, since we were really going to see my friends, though the good food would have been nice! We got to spend about two hours catching up, and it had been years since we had, so that was really wonderful.
In the morning, we were off once again, headed to Fredericksburg, TX. Even though we were only an hour and a half away from Austin, we had already driven about 8 hours, so we decided to stop for the day – plus, my furniture wouldn’t be ready for us until the following day anyway.
We decided to have dinner at a restaurant on Main St., and we honestly almost left because of how lax they were around COVID-19 restrictions. The hostess wasn’t even wearing a mask! We only stayed because they had a separate area with just four tables and only one of those other tables was occupied; our waiter luckily was wearing a mask.
After dinner, we spent some time back in the room with my animals, excited to get to Austin the next day to move into my new house! I bought a house in Austin before I moved and had never seen it in person before, so I was super excited to get home!
All in all, we had a very successful drive over the course of one week, and it was great to be back in Texas close to family and friends. The drive itself was actually pretty great; we drove between 400 and 500 miles each day, which was never more than eight or nine hours, during which we took in shifts.
If you are interested in driving down the west coast, I would highly recommend it! I will definitely go back again – without my cat – to soak it up a little more.
Check back soon to see where our next adventure takes us, and for more on other adventures in the U.S., check out our blog posts below:
- A Summer Getaway to Sun Valley, Idaho
- Solo Adventures in the Pacific Northwest
- A Long Weekend in Gulf Shores, Alabama
- Two Days Exploring the Olympic Peninsula
XOXO Travel A-Broads