Again, countless thanks to cecif, santacruz, MikeS., Jennifer_4, bill voss, and all the RFers who posted to our original thread query about this trip. Without your suggestions, we would’ve used up an awful lot of time and money on mediocre food. And without further ado…
Day 1 (T 8/14): After landing in Oakland, we picked up the rental car (a PT Cruiser, never again if we can help it), and headed for Sequoia on I-580. I thought we could get further for more Roadfood options, but hunger got the best of us, so we stopped in Livermore for In ‘n’ Out for a snack: cheeseburger animal-style (of course!), fries, and a chocolate shake. Having grown up in SoCal, Amy worships In ‘n’ Out, and I’m always amazed with how fresh, cheap, and utterly delicious the food is there. Why doesn’t the East coast have an equivalent? Manteca was next, where we stopped at Nature’s Country Corner on Jack Lore Rd. (thank you, cecif) under the big shade trees and stocked up on fresh peaches, bananas, almond butter, Chardonnay grape jelly:
…and these wonderful lemon-chili pistachio meats:
cecif told us that this was California’s bread basket, and she wasn’t kidding: cropland as far as the eye could see, and down the road in Oakdale was a mammoth ConAgra processing facility. We smelled tomatoes way before we saw them being canned, and they actually had part of the assembly line outdoors here:
It was getting dark by the time we got to Fresno, so we decided to stay there for the night and went to Javier’s for dinner (thanks MikeS. and Jennifer_4) at 5680 Kings Canyon. My green chile enchiladas were better than Amy’s taco and chile relleno plate, but the food was good and very filling (though no horchata to drink!). We slept at the very unremarkable Sequoia Motel (down the street from Javier’s) for $50 and would not recommend it to anyone.
Day 2 (W 8/16): Hungry for a good Mexican breakfast, we first found a spectacular Latin grocery in Fiesta Food Warehouse at 4985 Kings Canyon, where we bought canned nectar, water, freshly baked pan dulce, churros, and jalapeño cheese bread. I asked the cashier about breakfast, and she suggested Tacos Tijuana and Castillo’s, both down the road. The former wasn’t open yet, so we proceeded to Castillo’s at 3659 E. Ventura. We were the only non-Latinos there (always a good sign), and the food was phenomenal, easily the best Mexican on our trip. Our formal review is forthcoming on this site, so please check back!
We stopped for gas in Visalia and found real coffee at the proudly independent Visalia Coffee Company, nestled in their picturesque downtown area. A sign on the door says it all: “Down with Starbucks” (which, unfortunately, had opened a store one block away). Making our way to Sequoia, we reserved a tent site at Dorst Creek campground, then hiked around the big trees:
General Sherman, Congress Trail, Presidential Trail, etc. We then went to Tunnel Log and Moro Rock, and driving back to our campsite, we spied two black bears on the hillside! When we asked if the bears come into the campground, the ranger at Dorst said, “Oh yeah, every night and every day! There’s four bears that frequent these sites, so don’t leave any food, toiletries, scented anything outside of the bear-proof lockers. And if you see them sniffing them your tent, just bang some pots and pans and yell for them to leave. Don’t worry, they don’t like the taste of humans!” Dinner was almond butter ‘n’ Chardonnay jelly sandwiches, after which we packed all the food, etc. in the lockers. We went to sleep pretty early around 9 p.m., and I woke up with a start just after 11 p.m. with someone in a neighboring site yelling, “Get the hell outta here!” Bear, maybe? The site was empty the next morning, so I never found out.
Day 3 (Th 8/17): Packed up and headed for Kings Canyon, where we saw the General Grant tree. Took the tour of Boyden Caverns, then made our way to Road’s End, parked at Zumwalt Meadows, and hiked to Roaring River Falls. On the return hike, we cooled our heels in this river:
The road down into the canyon:
Afterwards, we checked out Knapp’s Cabin and the Cedar Grove Visitors’ Center; we swam at Shady Cove in Hume Lake and camped in Dirty Gulch. Interestingly, the bear lockers seemed optional there!
Day 4 (F 8/18): Packed up and headed for San Francisco. In Fresno, we stopped for gas and found a Jamba Juice, where we got double wheatgrass shots and an Aloha Pineapple smoothie with Immunity Boost. In Modesto, we ate lunch at a Weinerschnitzel, which reminds me so much of the Weiner King of my youth. A 6-pack of Mini Corn Dogs and a raspberry lemonade later, we found Val’s Burgers in Hayward (thank you santacruz!), which we later reviewed for the site. I think of their chocolate malt constantly and how perfect it was: just enough malt with a deep, dark chocolate flavor. Upon reaching the city, we quickly found our hotel, La Luna Inn on Lombard St. That night, we caught the Bart to Oakland for an A’s game; unfortunately, the Kansas City Royals squashed them, 8-2, though we did find a tasty ballpark hot dog and nachos for almost the same price as the tickets themselves!
Day 5 (Sa 8/19): We began our day at Sears Fine Foods for breakfast. I ordered the 18 Swedish pancakes, and Amy had the Sourdough French toast and bacon. I’d give the place a B+: nothing was quite up to the hype but still very good. While Amy went to a psychology conference downtown, I hopped the Bart and spent the day in Berkeley. Passing by suggestions like Blondie’s Pizza, High Tech Burrito, Fat Slice Pizza, I was on a quest for Top Dog on Durant Ave. I ordered the Calabrese (all pork with fennel, spices) with chili (lots of beans), and I added maybe a too generous helping of their hot Russian mustard. The “hot” warning was on the container, and the first bite cleared my sinuses! Though it was way too messy to eat with my hands, it was very, very good—and the last bite (with the largest amount of mustard) made me weep from the heat!
Crossed the street for a donut to cool my mouth from King Pin, and got a chocolate-covered old-fashioned that really hit the spot, and many thanks to cecif for both of those choices. Back in San Fran for dinner, we went to Ryoko Sushi on Taylor St. (on the suggestion of a friend’s father, who knows the head chef there). The Volcano, Hot Tail and Kentucky rolls dominated our table, while the nigiri (Spanish mackerel and fatty tuna) and unagi (BBQ eel) were excellent as well. Took in a performance by Bob Newhart at the Moscone Convention Center, where he showed unaired goofs from both The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart and performed the “Driving Instructor” skit from his 1960 debut album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. He added that it was VERY difficult for a comedian his age to be P.C. about his routines…so he wasn’t! When we got back to the hotel, we went walking in the Marina district and found another great donut spot, All Star on Chestnut St., where we snacked on a chocolate-covered cruller and a maple-covered old-fashioned—both magnificent!
Day 6 (Su 8/20): While Amy was in meetings, I sought out Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers on Post St. and found a sweet parking spot…only to find Pearl’s closed. Bummer! Since all the burrito places I was craving were all 15+ blocks away, I ambled into Chinatown and by chance found the same little bakery (maybe on Powell St.?) that I’d been to a few years back. Filled up on an absolutely delectable steamed BBQ pork bun, black bean bun, and a Chinese donut with sweet red bean paste inside. I saw the movie Sunshine at Loews Theaters on 4th St., which was by far my favorite summer film, even though I spent too much money on very salty nachos and popcorn-to-go. I picked up Amy, and we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, where our friends live in a floating house. They took us to Tommy’s Wok on Bridegway, where we shared steamed pork buns (I can never get enough of these!), green onion pancake, and Singapore noodles—all quite decent and satisfying. We then drove up the coast toward Point Reyes National Seashore and camped at Olema Ranch for the night.
Day 7 (Mo 8/21): Our last day in California, so we were determined to make it last. Checked out the Point Reyes Visitors Center, then hiked the Earthquake Trail on the San Andreas Fault. We drove into Point Reyes Station for lunch and parked at the library so we could print out our boarding passes. The waiting list to use the Internet was an hour, so walked into town for lunch at La Taqueria Quinta…only to find it gone, but an inviting place called Rosie’s Cowboy Cookhouse on Rt. 1 in the middle of town. I had the Catfish Cakes, while Amy ordered the Fish Tacos—both very, very good. Thick tortilla chips and homemade spicy salsa made for a fabulous meal, and we got the dessert special to go: Peach-Blackberry Crisp. Several doors down, we found the Bovine Bakery, where we purchased bounteous baked items to eat the next morning at the airport: an oat bran muffin, chili-cheese scone, and oat-chocolate chip cookie. Amy also got an iced coffee: very strong, made with fair-trade beans. As our food settled, we drove out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse and hiked out to it through near impenetrable fog. We arrived just in time to tour the lens room in the lighthouse; the ranger was very informative, plus we got to go inside the lighthouse, which few ever are able to do. We then hiked out to Chimney Rock for these fab views of the shoreline:
…then drove and hiked down to McClure Beach and saw lots of huge, whip-like seaweed washed up on shore:
We then drove back to Samuel P. Taylor State Park to camp, stopping for dinner at the Farm House in Olema—actually, roped in by their roadsign for “BBQ Oysters” (I thought that was a good idea, since neither of us was hungry for a full dinner). We started with a half-dozen, grilled in the half-shell, and topped with a tangy citrus BBQ sauce. Since we missed the Cowgirl Creamery in PR Station for handmade cheese, we couldn’t resist the Cowboy Nachos with homemade cheese sauce, roasted pork chile verde, and jalapenos. Amy washed it all down with a local pale ale, and we promised to return here with bigger appetites—outstanding menu and wonderful food! And remember the peach-blackberry crisp? That was devoured when we got back to camp and was incredibly fresh-tasting and yummy.
Day 8 (Tu 8/22): Drove back early to Oakland Airport and flew back home to CT via Chicago’s Midway—a layover that we were particularly excited about, because the last time we were routed through Midway, the Superdawg stand was closed! This time, it was open, and there was a line. We shared an original Superdawg, fries, and a chocolate Supershake (only because they were out of malt…pity!). The dog itself was fat and flavorful, though the oversized bun was slightly stale and cracked in several places. The combination of onions, mustard, relish, pickles, and hot peppers earned a grade of B in our book. Amy liked the crinkle-cut fries more than I did, and the store’s menu claimed that the Supershake was so thick that you couldn’t draw it from a straw (hence the included spoon). However, the straw was a noticeably smaller diameter than normal straws (hmmm), but I didn’t have any trouble drawing its creaminess.
Again, HUGE thank-yous to cecif, Jennifer_4, santacruz, MikeS., bill voss, and all the RFers who helped us to have another spectacular roadtrip! Chris & Amy