Summer has arrived, and with it a very sudden onset of “travel revenge!” In case you’re not on the up and up with the new ~lingo~, “travel revenge” refers to the new hoards of people rushing to the nation’s airports and tourist hotspots with a VENGEANCE thanks to the success of our vaccine rollout and easing of travel restrictions. We knew we weren’t the only ones going a little stir-crazy!
After over a year of not really being able to exercise our travel muscles, we knew that the Golden State was the perfect destination for our post-rona maiden voyage. And what better way to experience that Cali magic than by van? Since we sold our darling van, Gully, we knew it would be a tough task for us to find a van rental that measured up. We’d heard about Travellers Autobarn back in 2019 when we first started researching our unfulfilled trip to Australia (thanks ‘Rona) and were instantly drawn to the company’s branding and the vans’ unmistakable sunset colored design. We were so pleased to learn that they had locations in California; it was fate! We picked up our home on wheels from San Francisco with a convenient walk-through and got a strong sense of their amazing customer service. We buckled-up in our “Kuga” van (the largest of their van varieties- and a total babe) and headed for the mountains.
DAYS 1-2: SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
Yosemite is the crown jewel of California outdoor recreation, but even before the pandemic, there were lots of crowds to contend with and many of the popular hikes required permits hit the trail. Now, you need a permit just to enter the park, and they say that this new system is here to stay. If you don’t want to plan your trip at least six months in advance and don’t want to rely on a lottery to determine your hiking destiny, we suggest visiting Yosemite’s neighbor to the south, Sequoia National Park. With the mountains on our mind, we packed up our Kuga van and drove the 3.5 hours to Sequoia from San Francisco. Not only are there stunning mountain vistas, hikes for all difficulty levels, stunning water features, and some truly legendary looking backpacking trails, it is also home to the largest living organism on earth: a giant Sequoia named General Sherman (according to the National Park Service). Sequoias are the thickest and oldest trees in existence, so this national park really does seem to have it all.
We spent one day banging out an intense hike to Emerald Lake and our second day seeing more of the roadside attractions like the General. If you happen to opt for one of Travellers Autobarn’s smaller rentals, like the Minivan, you have the opportunity to actually drive through a Sequoia tree! The drive-through tree was unfortunately too tight of a squeeze for our tall Kuga van.
We recommend camping in the town of Three Rivers for the quickest access to the park. Totem is a cafe/convenience store that is the last place you can find much of anything until you return to town. We happened to visit during a major heat wave and were still quite comfy in our Traveller’s Autobarn van.
Add on an extra day or two to also drive through Kings Canyon National Park, apparently one of the best drives in America according to our campground host. Disclaimer: the area is CRAWLING with black bears. We heard of several sightings and one came within 10ft of Lauren! So brush up on your bear safety and be #bearaware.
DAYS 3 & 4: SANTA BARBARA
While Santa Barbara is by no means a secret, it definitely doesn’t get as much attention as other California coastal destinations. We love finding ways to skirt the crowds, and Santa Barbara delivered as a slightly sleepier beautiful beachside town with amazing food and a dash of wine country. We took our trusty Kuga (which we had by this point named Donnie if you’re not naming your van what are you even doing?) and found a cozy beach campsite in Gaviota State Park. It's location was super convenient and right on the water!
If you’re looking for all things culinary and a bit of night-life, it will be found on State Street. We stopped for lunch at a farm-to-fork place called Sama Sama Kitchen specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine and truly artful cocktails. We STRONGLY recommend the Mie Goreng. For Tuesday evening drinks, you have to visit a bar called Wildcat Lounge- trust us, you’ll thank us later. They hold an event called “Farm to Bar” where the bartender handpicks fresh ingredients from the nearby farmer’s market to make truly incomparable cocktails. The really amazing thing about this place, though, is that you can give just a brief description of what you’re looking for in a drink (ie: kind of liquor; savory, refreshing, or sweet) and the bartender will handcraft a concoction on the spot made specially just for you! Don’t trust us, trust Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, who hired our bartender for their wedding in France!
We opted to drive down the coast to Malibu for sunset and eat some fresh seafood for dinner. Other daytime activities include making an appointment to tour some nearby wineries or spending the day at a pristine beach. We took a pre-opening tour of The Hilt and give the wine and the grounds (set to open to tours in three short weeks!) a glowing endorsement!
DAY 5: DRIVE HIGHWAY 1 BACK TO SAN FRANCISCO
Normally the drive back from an amazing trip is boring and lackluster, but not this one. Highway 1 is one of the most iconic stretches of California, and the beautiful, rugged coastline seems nonstop. The windy, narrow roads with cliffs to one side and jagged rocks
to the other add a sense of adventure and maybe a few twinges of angst to the drive. The speed limit is marked 55mph, and to be completely honest, we don’t know who in their right mind is driving that fast on highway 1. More like a chill 35mph for us, thanks. You can take a day or a couple days to complete the drive; there’s so many places to pull off and explore. One of our favorite things on the road was passing other Travellers Autobarn vans along the way and waving and honking as they passed. Totally felt like we were in a very fun, adventurous club (take that, Jeep people!).
What lucky destination are you going to take out your #travelersrevenge on? If you’re travelling to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, definitely consider enhancing your trip with a Travellers Autobarn van!
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