Vintage VW Road Trip

Welcome to my first blog post! I’m so excited to start this journey with all of you and what better way than to start with my favorite trip of all time! We took a lot of photos so I hope you enjoy following along our journey! Here it is!

Back in September of last year I got to go on the most amazing road trip of all time. It’s because of that road trip that inspired me to start this blog. It all started back in June 2016. I decided I really wanted to do something extra special for Eric and my 2-year anniversary coming up in August. Last year for our 1 year anniversary we did a 4-day 22-mile backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada’s and It was incredible. I knew it was going to be hard to top that trip. Having a van and traveling and road tripping is something Eric and I talk about all the time. It’s a dream of ours to one day own a van and convert it into our own campervan and live on the road for a while. I believe one day it will happen. It might be a little bit difficult with 3 dogs but hey it will make for a better adventure, right?!

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This is hands down my favorite photo of us from our 1 year anniversary at the top of Kearsarge Pass 12,000 ft, August 3, 2015. So ridiculous, look at that hair and those ears!

Eric and I are the type of people that go hiking and camping and exploring every chance we get. We absolutely love the outdoors and nature. Living in Los Angeles can be overwhelming with so many people and traffic, so taking every opportunity to get out of the city and finding some peace and quiet in the sanctuary of nature is essential! My idea of a perfect vacation is one with my best friend, wide-open spaces and unpredictable and unknown adventures ahead.

So, one day I was at work and I had an idea! I know what we are going to do for our 2-year anniversary this year, we are going to rent a van and go on a road trip! We immediately got to work researching van companies and we stumbled upon a company named Vintage Surfari Wagons http://www.vwsurfari.com/ based down in Costa Mesa. We contacted Bill and Diane, lovely couple who own and operate the small business of restoring and renting out classic VW buses as campervans. We couldn’t have found a better van for our road trip.

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Day #1 Here he is, Blue Max the vintage 1978  Westfalia. Loading up right before we hit the road for 10 days!

This was my first time inside of a classic VW van. I gotta say they are much smaller than you would imagine, but so cute! Inside was everything we needed for camping, they really decked the whole thing out for us. There’s a little propane stove inside with a sink hooked up to a water tank, cabinets stocked with pots and pans, cups and bowls, condiments and even a French press! The back-seat folds down to be a bed big enough for 2 people and the top pops up to reveal more sleeping space as well as standing room and zip down windows.

We were on our way! 10 days driving and camping in this beautiful machine! Our plan is to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway as far as San Francisco and see as much along the way as possible. I can’t wait for Big Sur, I’ve been wanting to go for so long!

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The first night we camped at El Capitan State Beach Campground just outside of Santa Barbara. We got in just before the sun went down and gave us enough time to set up and make dinner. I absolutely love cooking outdoors and camping! This is such a huge part of my childhood it brings back great memories of my mother always cooking over an open campfire. She was amazing.

We ate veggie chili hot dogs and took a walk down to the beach with our beers to watch the sunset.

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Day #2

Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway at least once is a must! It’s absolutely the most beautiful coastline you have ever seen. Every minute of our drive in Blue Max was an adventure. In my opinion this is the perfect way to take a road trip. Everything about it was magical.

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We stopped in Morro Bay. It was pretty socked in with fog that covered the top of Morro Rock which gave it another worldly feel.

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After Morro Bay, we traveled on. Next stop was in Cambria where we pulled over to gas up and explore. Cambria is such a cute little town! We walked around and checked out some of the local shops and eatery’s..

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We stayed for the 2nd night in San Simeon Creek Campground.

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Due to the extreme drought, the past year most of the campgrounds shut off the water supply including toilets and showers. We had no idea we would have such a hard time finding a hot shower on this trip, but hey that’s van life!

Day #3 we hit the road with a mission to first find a shower! Since we were in such a small town there wasn’t much available. The only thing close we could find was a Motel 6. We went inside and explained to the front desk guy that we were on a road trip and just needed to shower and would only be a couple hours max. A nice older woman was sitting in the lobby with her dog and overheard us telling the man our story. She was so interested in what we were doing she offered her room to us if he would allow it. But of course, he said that would be against their policy. The woman gave us her contact info and told us that if we had any more trouble along the way or needed a place to stay near San Francisco to give her a call. She lives on a ranch with a bunch of animals and dogs and has plenty of room if we needed a place to stay or shower.

The front desk man was friendly and offered us a room at a discounted rate and even told us we could stay the entire night if we wanted to. We thanked him for the offer but kindly refused because we had more road to cover and more places to see. We got our glorious hot showers and we were off!

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Couple of hot showers and our souls were refreshed! We still had the most amazing part of our journey ahead of us, Big Sur. The coastline of Big Sur is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Absolutely breathtaking views the whole drive along a windy steep Cliffside road. It’s unbelievably epic.

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McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur. The photos are beautiful but not as beautiful as seeing it for real. BTW all the amazing shots you see here are done by my extremely talented boyfriend and adventure partner Eric Fallecker.

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We found a cool spot for lunch at Nepenthe, a restaurant perched on a Big Sur Cliffside. The view was spectacular! Cheers!

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We reached the Bixby Bridge and I gotta tell you it’s so much more than I imagined! The bridge was magnificent, the skies finally cleared up, the water sparkling and blue and the nice cool ocean breeze was perfect. Everything about this place was worth it.

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Like most places by the ocean, it was windy up there on the cliff! It was a delicate juggling act trying to keep my hat on and my dress down, all at the same time look natural. It made me laugh. I must have flashed a few tourists by accident that day.

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During the time of our road trip there was a massive wild fire devastating Big Sur. We were there about a month and a half into all of it but the drought-fueled wildfire continued to burn for 83 days and charred 132,127 acres’ total. The skies were hazy from all the smoke and our visit was limited to mostly beaches and a couple state campgrounds, but we were not disappointed.

This is Point Los Lobos Beach. Stunning! We took so many photos here because the sun was going down and the light was just perfect and we needed to get some good shots of the van.

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The sun was going down and it was time to move onto the next camp spot for the night. We didn’t want to camp in Big Sur on the way up because we were saving it for the way back down. Our friends had reserved a campsite 6 months prior to our road trip and we had already planned to camp with them for 3 days so we just added that to the last part of our road trip.

If you’ve never taken a road trip where you didn’t plan all the details I highly recommend it! It’s such a fun adventure to just hop in the car and go and not stress about getting somewhere or doing everything on a list. We had a couple stopping points that we knew we wanted to check out and places we would like to see but other than that we were just completely winging it, and it couldn’t have turned out better. Yes, we did have some unexpected issues and hit a few bumps in the road but that is what the adventure is all about. I think without them it wouldn’t have been as good of a trip.

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This is where we camped on the 3rd night. We drove from Big Sur through Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea and made it to the small farming town of Watsonville. We were so exhausted by the time we got to our campsite it was already dark out. We popped the top and set up camp for the night. We didn’t even have the energy to cook dinner. We sat outside on the picnic table and stared at the stars and ate triscuits and cookies for dinner and passed out.

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Day #4 we woke up to a wonderful surprise! As soon as we pulled out of the campground we saw a beautiful green field lined with Sunflowers right across the street! We totally missed all of this coming in late the night before. Such a lovely sight to see with the early morning fog. Little Miss Sunshine.

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We drove into the small little farming town of Port Watsonville and found a cute little diner, we decided that we had earned a real breakfast since we didn’t get to have dinner the night before. Let me tell you we got the best damn breakfast our money could buy to! It was a small little booming café, called the Cowboy Café, and I highly recommend it if passing through. It was soooo yummy and cheap! Blueberry pancakes, biscuits and gravy, eggs and potatoes, oh my!

And on to the Redwoods…

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There are three species of redwood: Coast redwood, giant sequoia, and dawn redwood. Each grow in very specific areas. Coast redwoods are found only in a short and narrow strip of the west coast, from California’s Big Sur to southern Oregon. Coast redwoods are the tallest of the three redwood species and the tallest trees in the world and can grow over 350 feet tall. I won’t bore you with all the scientific details but these trees are magnificent! They can live to be thousands of years old and play such an important part of the unique ecosystem. It is so intricate that researchers are still studying and learning about these amazing redwoods. When you’re here you can truly feel the magic. It’s like you’re among ancient beings, dinosaurs even! It’s hard to tell what time of day it is from down here. It’s like you’ve entered a totally different world.

Soo, we missed getting a campsite by ONE person! There were no available campsites anywhere for the night in the Redwoods. On top of that we were starting to have trouble with the van. It kept breaking down and dying on us. We made it back down to Boulder Creek, a small town nearby, to see if we could find a mechanic or someone to help us. The only auto body shop in town was closed by then so we parked it on the side of the road on the main street of town to figure it out.

Little did we know that Boulder Creek was the best possible place to have broken down in a VW because not only are the people here so friendly but they all love VW’s and apparently know a lot about them. We were looking at the engine trying to figure out the problem when a guy walking by came up and asked if we needed help. He just so happened to work at the auto body shop! After a few adjustments, he figured out the problem with a loose connection and this baby was running great again. Meanwhile people kept walking by taking pictures of the van, asking to look inside and talking to us about it. Everyone was so nice!

After the guy fixed the van we went into a little Brewery for a beer and some food. We were starving and this place was hoppin! All the locals were there. We were invited to sit at a communal table with a bunch of people and they were all so awesome and nice to us. We exchanged stories had beers and cheers with the locals and shot the shit for a couple hours.

We met a nice young woman, a single mom with her cute little nine-year old daughter who invited us to park our van at her place for the night since we didn’t have somewhere to stay. The woman and her daughter lived just a few miles up the mountain into the back woods with no cell phone reception, no running water or electricity. Which come to find out that’s pretty much how a lot of people lived in Boulder Creek. They had a big piece of property with a motorhome parked on it and a big outdoor living area with couches and furniture underneath a makeshift awning. It was pretty rad! They had built an outdoor bathroom and shower connected to a propane tank tied to a Redwood tree. We sat under the stars and talked about conspiracy theories and life and the little girl showed us all her things. In the morning, they made us coffee and pancakes with no eggs or dairy because as the little girl said, “It’s hard to keep that stuff here”.

It was far better than any campground. I love this town, so many friendly amazing people. That was definitely a night to remember for us and we won’t be forgetting this little town anytime soon.

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Exploring the town of Boulder Creek and the Redwoods. Antiques shops are always the best in these small mountain towns.

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Day #5 Back on the road. Next Stop, San Francisco!

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We spent a few hours exploring San Francisco. We walked around the Fisherman’s Wharf and got mandatory fish and chips and oysters at a nice restaurant on the bay overlooking the ocean. It was a little foggy and very windy but it wouldn’t be the full experience without it! After cruising around SF for half the day we had to start making our way back down. We couldn’t find anywhere to park the Van for the night inside the city and all the campgrounds were full. We didn’t want to risk just parking it along the streets so we decided to look for another place to crash on our route back home.

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We found a lighthouse.

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Once again, all the campgrounds were full in Half Moon Bay. That is the only thing we didn’t really plan for was the timing of our trip was at the end of the tourist season on the west coast. So, campgrounds were booked up almost everywhere. Laws in California are very strict about where you can park a camper vehicle and sleep in your car. We got a tip from a ranger that a couple miles down the road is a Pub, he said he would probably let us park our van on his property.

What the hell, it was worth a shot! We drove down to Cameron’s Pub and I walked inside. I asked to speak with the manager and sure enough Cameron himself came to greet me. He was a very nice guy with a warm smile. I explained our situation, that we just needed a place to park for the night and we would be on our way in the morning. He said, “show me your van”. So we walked outside and I pointed out Blue Max. He smiled and said, “aw yes, that one. Ok, no problem you can stay the night. AND tonight is Karaoke night so stay and have some food and drinks and enjoy yourself!” Awesome.

Come to find out Cameron owns the Pub and a small hotel attached to it, as well as a huge RV park right next door. You just can’t plan these things! Sometimes it feels like you’re having bad luck and it’s not turning out the way you plan and then it ends up working out way better than you expected.

We ate dinner and had some drinks and watched the locals sing karaoke until we couldn’t laugh anymore. Then we retired to the van in the parking lot, made our bed and fell asleep to the sound of a really bad version of Rihanna being sung by a tone def woman. When we woke up in the morning we discovered a couple other vans, one of which was another Westfalia, who had joined us in spending the night in the parking lot.

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That red bus is actually an extension of the restaurant with tables inside! This place is so cool. If you’re passing through Half Moon Bay you gotta stop at Cameron’s Pub.

Day #6 Now on our route back to Big Sur where we had planned to meet up with a group of our friends and camp for a few days.

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This was probably my favorite beach of the whole trip. Shark Fin Cove. From the road, high up on the cliff you can look down and see the whole cove and the iconic shark fin rock where it gets its name. I was such a cool spot! The cove and the tunnel and the formation of all the rocks is really something to be seen.

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Travel On…

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Just some gorgeous scenery for ya!

Our next stop was in Santa Cruz. We stopped at a laundry mat to wash some clothes and pick up food and supplies from the grocery store. It’s so nice to have fresh clean clothes!

On to Big Sur again, this was our one and only planned camping spot. A group of our friends were meeting us there to spend a few days in Limekiln campground. It was one of the campgrounds still open and not effected by the fires. We had so much fun there with our friends, they sure know how to camp in style! We show up in our minimal camping gear van and they have the works. I mean look at all the camping stuff! We cooked and ate like kings! We sat and drank around the fire, explored and hiked the coast and the forest, and mostly just enjoyed being outdoors.

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Hiking and exploring the cliffs

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Giant Redwood trees!

Due to the extreme droughts and the fire the waterfall was very low but still pretty cool.

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We hiked to the Lime kiln ruins.

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It was really fun to spend a few days in Big Sur with good people.

Day #10 After packing up at the campsite and saying goodbye to our friends we continued the drive back home. We decided to drive as far as we could down the coast not taking as many stops and then find a place to camp for one more night before returning to LA early in the morning.

We passed a tiny little town named Harmony, population 18. We had to stop. Just a few little shops but they were so cool! I went inside a glass shop and talked to a man blowing glass in the back of the store. He showed me what he was doing and what he was making. It was rad! I definitely recommend stopping here if you pass by!

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The final campground we chose for the last night of our amazing unforgettable road trip was in Ventura right on the beach. We were pretty exhausted from the last 10 action packed traveling days so we just spent the last night here relaxing and enjoying the last sunset.

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At the end of a great road trip your hair should be messy, your feet should be dirty and your eyes sparkling.

7 thoughts on “Vintage VW Road Trip

  1. So freaking amazing! I know in person it was even better, but these pics!! Thank you for opening up and sharing this with everyone! You know what they say… the best is yet to come!

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  2. That sounds like such an amazing time! And Eric’s pictures are so beautiful! I can’t wait to read about the next adventure!

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  3. April, this was an excellent read! Sounds like quite a fun adventure you guys had!
    This was very well written, and as always the pictures you guys take are amazing.
    I can’t wait to see another blog for your next adventure 🙂

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  4. April, this is just so awesome! I am so proud of you for doing this, for sharing, for all of the time and effort it had to take to put this wonderful blog together, for the beautiful photos (you know i LOVE the ones here that you shared on Instagram, and all here are so perfect and stunning), for opening up, and for being a bright, witty, adventurous person – all truly inspirational things in their own right – and collectively here even more so. This is so well written, perfectly recounted and detailed – I feel as if I was with you and Eric along the way. Beautifully done my friend. I greatly look forward to future adventures. 🙂

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