The Grand Adventure, January 2017

My hire car, which I drove from Phoenix to San Francisco in 2017, parked up at my hotel in San Simeon on the Californian Coast.Welcome to what I called at the time, “The Grand Adventure”, which was part of a larger trip to America which took place in January and February 2017. This began in Phoenix (for work), and then had me criss-crossing America, visiting the West Coast, Chicago, Miami (work again) and finally New England, from where I flew home.

The Grand Adventure of the title was a week-long drive which I took in January near the start of the trip, taking my hire car west from Phoenix, stopping off first at Joshua Tree National Park, then Los Angeles. From there, I drove the length of the Californian coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with stops at Hearst Castle and Santa Cruz along the way, finally arriving in San Francisco almost exactly seven days to the hour after I left Phoenix.

At least, that was the plan, but as you’ll see, landslides in the Big Sur had closed State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, and I was forced into a long, long detour inland (a route I pretty much ended up taking in parallel by train two years later). As a result, I didn’t actual achieve my ambition, which had been to do the coastal drive…

After a long weekend in San Francisco and San Jose, I flew to Chicago, which is covered in a separate page devoted to the wider trip. The Grand Adventure itself is covered in the Travel Spots below, while you can also read about the Coffee Spots I visited along the way in Los Angeles, Seaside and Santa Cruz.


Header Image: sunset on the Californian coast at Estero Bay, south of the Big Sur, looking out to the Pacific Ocean


Travel Spots

You can read about the trip in the following Travel Spot posts, the first of which I wrote during the trip itself. I had originally intended to update the post as I went along, but, honestly, I was having too much fun, plus I still had work commitments, such as conference calls, so the idea of sitting in my hotel room, writing posts after a day spent driving, quickly lost its attraction…

As a result, the first post ended rather abruptly with my arrival in Joshua Tree National Park, which is how things remained for four years until the start of 2021, when, stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote the remaining posts in the series (with the final instalment to come this week).


Brian's Travel Spot: The Grand Adventure, Part I

My hire car for the drive from Phoenix to San Francisco, parked up on the side of the road in the Joshua Tree National Park. The striking blue paint job made it easy to find in car parks!Welcome to The Grand Adventure, the latest in the occasional Brian’s Travel Spot series, which document my various travels. This is part of a wider trip which I took in January/February 2017, the first two parts of which covered my first visit to Phoenix in October 2016 and my return in January 2017. This post marks the start of The Grand Adventure itself, a road trip that would ultimately see me driving over 1,200 miles, starting in Phoenix and ending, almost exactly seven days later (to the hour!) in San Francisco.

However, I'm getting ahead of myself. After spending a week in Phoenix, where I was attending a four-day business meeting, I set off in my hire car, a rather striking blue Ford Fiesta, to drive west to Los Angeles, via the Joshua Tree National Park. After a day in Los Angeles, the plan was to drive north along the California coast, mostly along State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, with several stops along the way, ultimately ending up in San Francisco.

This post, Part I of the Grand Adventure, covers my drive west from Phoenix to the Joshua Tree National Park, where I arrived on the evening of the following day.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Grand Adventure, Part II

A stand of Joshua trees in the Joshua Tree National Park in California.Welcome to the second instalment of The Grand Adventure, part of a series of Travel Spot posts covering my trip to America in January/February 2017. The Grand Adventure itself is the week-long drive I took from Phoenix to San Francisco via Joshua Tree National Park and Los Angeles, a total of 1,2000 miles.

In Part I, I left Phoenix, driving via Wickenburg, Arizona, to Joshua Tree, California, where I arrived in time for a short hike in the park at sunset. In this, Part II, I spend a day in the park and then continue my drive to the west, arriving in Los Angeles after nightfall.

The remaining parts of The Grand Adventure detail my day in Los Angeles and the drive up the Californian coast to San Francisco, while the remainder of the trip, where I flew from San Francisco to Chicago, Miami and Providence before flying home from Boston, is covered by a separate series of posts.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Grand Adventure, A Day in LA

The famous Hollywood sign on the hills behind Los Angeles, from my first visit to the city in 2017.Welcome to the next instalment of The Grand Adventure, part of a series of Travel Spot posts that form part of a larger trip to America that I took in January/February 2017. The Grand Adventure itself is the week-long drive I made from Phoenix to San Francisco via the Joshua Tree National Park and Los Angeles, a total of 1,2000 miles.

Part I covered my drive from Phoenix to Joshua Tree, while Part II details the day I spent in the park, followed by an evening drive to Los Angeles. Today’s instalment is all about the day I spent in Los Angeles before I drove up the Californian coast all the way to San Francisco.

The fact that I spent any time at all in Los Angeles was all down to a chance encounter with Lee Gaze, owner of Silhouette, shortly before the trip. I’d originally planned to skip Los Angeles, and just go straight onto my drive along the coast. However, Lee was horrified when I told him, insisting that I had to have at least one day in the city. He was so persuasive that I relented, replanning my trip so that I would spend Monday in Los Angeles before carrying on with my drive.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Grand Adventure, Part III

The picnic area at Sycamore Cove Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway just west of Los Angeles.Welcome to another Travel Spot, part of my series detailing my trip to America from January/February 2017. These particular posts are all about The Grand Adventure, the week-long drive which I took from Phoenix to San Francisco. So far, I’ve described my drive from Phoenix to Joshua Tree National Park, followed by a day hiking in the park and an evening drive in the rain to Los Angeles. After spending a day in the city, I was on my way again, driving along the Californian coast on my way to San Francisco.

This post, Part III of The Grand Adventure, covers the first part of the drive, from Los Angeles to San Simeon, following SR 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) and US 101. The route I took followed the coast as much as possible, with some spectacular views along the way. In all, I covered 260 miles which, including stops, took me just over six hours.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Grand Adventure, Hearst Castle

A view through the "Portal on the Big Sur" at Ragged Point Inn, looking north along the coastline.Welcome to another instalment of The Grand Adventure,  the week-long drive which I took from Phoenix to San Francisco, part of a larger trip to America in January/February 2017. The journey began with a drive from Phoenix to Joshua Tree National Park, followed a day spent hiking in the park. That evening, I drove to Los Angeles in the rain, then spent a day in the city before setting off on the last leg, following the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to San Francisco.

The first part of the drive took me as far as San Simeon, where I’d planned to spend the day visiting Hearst Castle, before carrying on through the Big Sur to Santa Cruz, my last stop before San Francisco. However, California had other plans for me...

Rainstorms had been battering the coast that winter, resulting in a large landslip in the Big Sur which had taken out the Pacific Coast Highway. Unfortunately, I only discovered this when I arrived at San Simeon at the end of my day-long drive from Los Angeles, leading to some hasty rescheduling that evening. The following morning, I’d worked out my new plan and was all set to go.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Grand Adventure, Part IV

Enjoying a flat white at the Big Sur bakery, looking out over the mountains of the Santa Lucia Range in January 2017.Welcome to the fourth part of The Grand Adventure, my week-long drive from Phoenix to San Francisco, which I made in January 2017. I went from Phoenix to Joshua Tree National Park, spend a day hiking there, then drove to Los Angeles. After a day in the city, I took the Pacific Coast Highway to San Simeon, where I spent another day, this time visiting Hearst Castle. I had planned to carry on up the coast, through the Big Sur, to Santa Cruz and from there to San Francisco, but winter storms had washed out the road.

This led to a sudden change of plan. Instead of driving through the Big Sur, I doubled back on myself, cutting over the Santa Lucia Mountains on SR 46, before picking up my old friend US 101 for the drive north through the Salinas Valley on the other side of the Santa Lucia range. However, I was determined to see something of the Big Sur, so rather than carry on north to Santa Cruz, I doubled back on myself at Salinas, driving south down the Big Sur as far as I could go before turning around and heading up to Santa Cruz.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Grand Adventure, Part V

The sun, directly behind the lighthouse at Pigeon Point, on the California coast, south of San Francisco.Welcome to the final instalment of The Grand Adventure,  my week-long drive from Phoenix to San Francisco, which I undertook in January 2017. So far, The Grand Adventure has taken me from Phoenix to Los Angeles via the Joshua Tree National Park, followed by a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, with a stop at Hearst Castle and a detour around the Big Sur due to landslips, which got me as far as Santa Cruz on the northern edge of Monterey Bay.

This last post in the series covers my final day, which started with a quick exploration of Santa Cruz and was followed by the last stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, which took me north to San Francisco (where the highway continues north over the Golden State Bridge). However, it was the end of the road for me, as I had to return my hire car in downtown San Francisco. In the middle of a very busy Friday afternoon. Which, I’ll be honest, went about as well as could be expected. It was not, I have to say, my finest bit of planning. Before that though, I had some more coast to explore.

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Coffee Spots

You can read about all the Coffee Spots that I visited during the Grand Adventure (all four of them!), all listed alphabetically by city, starting with Los Angeles, then followed by Seaside and Santa Cruz.

Los Angeles

You can read about the pair of Coffee Spots I managed to visit during my day in Los Angeles.

Go Get Em Tiger, Los Feliz

A classic cappuccino in a non-classic glass, along with two samples of filter coffee from Go Get Em Tiger on Hollywood Boulevard, LA.That I ended up in Los Angeles in the first place, let alone having coffee at Go Get Em Tiger, is entirely down to Lee of Silhouette, who, while I was discussing my current trip, simply would not believe that I was going to drive past Los Angeles and not call in. So, I decided to change my plans and spend a day in LA, visiting coffee shops and being a tourist (Lee, I loved it!).

Go Get Em Tiger is on Hollywood Boulevard, in the Los Feliz neighbourhood, sharing a space with McConnell’s ice cream parlour, which is on the right, with Go Get Em Tiger on the left. Long and thin, there’s no seating inside, just “standing” down the left-hand side at various broad window-sills. To sit down, you need the raised terrace in front of the shop, which is normally a good option, unless you arrive on one of the (rare) days when it’s been pouring with rain…

Go Get Em Tiger is a multi-roaster, with two options on espresso and two more on batch-brew. It also has a good range of cakes and an impressive brunch menu (7am to 4pm) cooked in the open-plan kitchen at the back on the right.

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Intelligentsia, Venice

The brick arch leading to the front of the Intelligentsia coffee bar on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Los Angeles.This is a first for the Coffee Spot. Almost four years ago to the day, I was in Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Los Angeles, following a recommendation from Lee Gaze of Silhouette. It was during my first visit to the city and, while I really liked it, I didn’t have time to finish my write up during my busy trip, so it languished on my hard drive instead. As weeks turned to months, and months turned to years, it seemed increasingly pointless to publish an out-of-date Coffee Spot, so that’s where it stayed, languished on my hard drive.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to limit both my travel and my ability to visit (and hence write about) coffee shops, at the start of the year I decided to return to my backlog of Travel Spots, which led to me to continue writing up The Grand Adventure (as I call my drive from Phoenix to San Francisco, undertaken in January 2017). And that, in turn, has provided the perfect excuse to dust off my notes and old photos of Intelligentsia…

So, let me present Intelligentsia’s Venice coffee bar, exactly as I found it three years and 363 days ago.

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Seaside

Check out the coffee shop I visited during my drive along the Californian coast, when I called into the wonderfully-named town of Seaside.

Acme Coffee Roasting Company

The Acme Coffee Roasting Company logo from the front of its coffee counter in Seaside, CA.Just off State Route 1 in southern California, east of Monterey, in the delightfully-named town of Seaside, is a parking lot. Not just any old parking lot, mind you. This one’s special. Although I did wonder, as I pulled in, if I’d come to the right place... However, there, at the back of the lot, in a low, garage-like building, is the Acme Coffee Roasting Company, purveyors of fine artisan, small-batch coffee.

Acme, which was established in 2004, roasts all its own coffee. Indeed, this used to be the roastery, but as the company grew, the roaster was moved to a dedicated facility, leaving this space as a lovely little coffee bar. There’s a blend and single-origin on espresso, plus a filter bar, where the drip coffee is made to order using pour-over cones. There’s also the obligatory bulk-brew if you’re in a hurry and a selection of cakes and sweet-treats.

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Santa Cruz

And finally, I managed one more coffee shop visit in Santa Cruz.

Verve Coffee Roasters, Pacific Avenue

A packet of Verve coffee, a Guatemala Pulcal Typica, taken from a public cupping at the store on Pacific Avenue in Santa CruzI visited Verve’s flagship store on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz at the start of 2017, part of my road trip from Phoenix to San Francisco via Los Angeles and the Pacific coast. Santa Cruz, home of Verve Coffee Roasters, which still roasts in the town, was my final stop before the trip ended at San Francisco later that day and, to not visit at least one Verve branch would, have been very remiss of me.

Back then Verve had four branches in Santa Cruz, three in Los Angeles and one in Tokyo. Since then it’s opened its first San Francisco store (which I missed by a few weeks, but visited on my return in 2019) and two more in Japan, where I’m headed in two days’ time. Hence my desire to get this published before I go.

The Pacific Avenue branch is lovely, a large, open, high-ceilinged space with twin Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines, serving a house-blend, guest and decaf, while three Modbar pour-over systems serve multiple options through the Kalita Wave. Finally, if you’re in a hurry, there’s another option on bulk-brew. All the beans (and more) are available in retail bags, while if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cake.

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