It’s been just over one year since I took this road trip with my mom. It was originally supposed to be a solo 14-day road trip from Los Angeles to Seattle and back, but to my surprise, my mom wanted to join! It had been ages since I went on vacation with her (she’s a bit of a workaholic) so of course I took this chance.
Except she didn’t have 14 days of vacation, she had 7.
So what was a mother and daughter to do?
Well, we had to cut the trip’s length to Portland as its final destination. We (and by we, I mean me) also had to drive roughly 6 hours a day to make it round-trip in time. Along the way, we rested in affordable and uninteresting hotels, and mostly ate Thai food (seriously, we visited something like 6 Thai restaurants during the 7 days), so I will be skipping those details in this report.
Here are the stops we made on our Los Angeles to Portland road trip:
1. 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach is known as one of the best places for golfing, and is located in northern California. Unfortunately we don’t golf. But there’s a gated road called 17-Mile Drive that goes through some residential area and onto Pebble Beach. Admission is $11.25 per vehicle. It can get pretty busy to the point that you’re behind a solid line of cars. But the drive is pleasant nonetheless. There is a limited parking lot by the beach so you can stretch your legs or have a little picnic.
2. San Francisco
We spent two nights in San Francisco, which was the only location to have gotten such an extended stay (otherwise, we hopped to a new hotel every night). I made a dedicated blog post — the San Francisco Photo Diary — that visually chronicled our trip there. But to quickly paraphrase it, we toured one of the largest Chinatown in the States, wandered our way to Fisherman’s Wharf, and woke up early to see the sunrise over the Golden Gate Bridge.
3. Glass Beach
A little over 3 hours north, we stopped at Glass Beach. Some decades ago, this place used to be a dumping ground. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the revival of the beach happened, and people found that the trashed glass, after constantly being tumbled on the shore by the ocean water, turned into smooth glass pebbles.
There are plenty of photographic evidence that at one point, this beach was full to the brim with glass pebbles. But these days, as you can see from the photo above, there’s not many left.
Because of this, I don’t recommend stopping by this beach for the glass pebbles, but that does not stop the beach itself from being breathtaking.
The tall grasses, the small cliffs, the ocean crashing into the scattered rocks – it’s a beautiful scenery. We found a small pond (I’m sure this is the wrong terminology. Marine biologists, feel free to correct me on this!) on the beach where we can watch tadpoles darting about. We went hunting for seashells. And in general, just enjoyed feeling the cool breeze against our skin.
4. Chandelier Tree
There’s a few of these novelty drive-your-car-through-this-big-ol-tree in California, and we serendipitously passed by one on the way to the Redwood National Forest. So of course, we had to stop by. It absolutely is amazing how some trees can get so massive. This particular tree has a maximum age of 2400 years!
5. Redwood National Forest
The Redwood National Forest is a national treasure, and for good reason. These trees are so old, and so tall (the tallest in the world), it is something else to be walking amongst them like little ants. By the way, can you spot my mom?
The weather was nice and brisk when we visited, as if fresh rain had just fallen. We didn’t stay long in the park, but we were able to make through the shorter trail with little effort.
6. Views of Northern California
You know the saying “it’s the journey, not the destination”? That sentiment was felt strongly starting around Redwood National Park. We tried to stick as much as possible to the Pacific Coast Highway (though, frustratingly, the gps would constantly try to revert us on the 101). The more north we went, the windier the roads, and in some parts, were not quite for the faint of heart.
But, oh my, was it beautiful. Like I said, I was driving so I have no photos of this part of the trip. But imagine a two-lane road winding up and down hills full of trees (such as the photo above), and all of a sudden, you’re met with miles of the Pacific Coast to your left – untouched by people. And then, you’re back into the forest, and then back into views of the ocean.
All I can say is, northern California has such natural beauty that has been so well preserved, and I would absolutely take that drive again anytime.
7. Portland, Oregon
Portland was the farthest point on our trip, before we were meant to turn back around. This was my first time to Portland, and I had no idea what to expect.
Our only stop, really, was to the Downtown area. We walked around, visited a few local stores (some very cool ones selling handmade artisanal goods), a luxury Goodwill store, and the art museum.
I have to admit, many of the things that I would find neat would not be what my mother finds neat, and I really tried to focus on her for this trip. It wasn’t long before we headed back to the hotel to call it a day.
8. Multnomah Falls
The next morning, we made a pitstop to the famous Multnomah Falls just outside of Portland. We went around 7am, when the sun was hardly out. It was also foggy, which got me even more excited (I love those moody foggy-filled nature photos), and during the drive, I kept hoping the fog would stick.
I got my wish, because when we got there, we were presented with quite the dramatic photo above. It was so foggy, you couldn’t even see the start of the waterfall. There was also hardly anyone there so early in the morning, making this photo opportunity even sweeter.
As we headed south, we went inland, taking the 101 instead so that we can hit up new locations. Sacramento was a place my mom had not been yet. We stopped by the State Capitol building and roamed around for an hour or so, and then walked around downtown. I was surprised at how quiet Downtown was, with many stores boarded up, but then again, it was still during the pandemic.
We made our way to the Tower Bridge, then ate some really good pizza in Old Sacramento. Oh, and of course, some Thai food for dinner.
10. Yosemite National Park
Our final stop on this grand road trip was to Yosemite National Park. As you can see, there was quite a bit of snow at the park, so hiking wasn’t really an option for us personally. At one point, my mom did slip on ice, fell flat on her back, and hit her head on the ground. So we just drove around the park and got out in a couple of places.
Yosemite is a park that is constantly crowded, and that day was no exception. But that didn’t stop us from admiring the scenery all around us.
This was definitely a trip in a lifetime for me, not just because it was my first time to a few of these places, but because I had it with my 65 year old mother. I learned so much about her because of this trip — because we were isolated from the everyday noise. How did my parents meet? What was it like immigrating to the United States and leaving their whole family, their whole life, and starting fresh? Why did they even leave Indonesia? How did she get by as a single mother when I was just 7 years old, after the passing of my dad?
Like I said, we drove roughly 6 hours each day, and that left us with a lot of time to talk and get to know each other on a different level. My mom was also constantly trying to talk to me so that I was alert on the road. I don’t know when I will get that opportunity again in the future, and because of that, I will be forever grateful for this road trip.