Travelog XIV: PNW Roadtrip
One of my favorite ways to travel has to be by car. Even though road trips can be long and the drive can get mundane, I love the ever changing landscapes while visiting small parts of places as I pass through. Recently, my friend, Yen, and I committed to the idea of doing a crazy road trip from San Francisco to Vancouver, Canada and back to San Francisco along the coastline. That’s about 2,000 miles roundtrip of driving! So we mapped and planned out everything a few weeks before then packed up the car and hit the road on a late Thursday afternoon.
Tip: Find a podcast that you like on Spotify and download all the episodes, this will keep the road trip lively. I like Spotify because you can download the episodes and it’ll be accessible even when there are no signals. We went with Crime Junkie and I absolutely love the storytelling, as well as learning about cold cases that are not well-known. Another tip, make sure you have some upbeat music playlist prepared as well because you do not want to be listening to a murder podcast while driving at night.
San Francisco, California → Crater Lake national park
The first leg of the trip was driving to Crater Lake National Park and staying at Union Creek Resort for one night. Essentially we drove straight from San Francisco to Union Creek and it took us 8-9 hours with a few pit stops. After 417.5 miles of driving, we arrived late in the night (12AM) to the cabin and rest up for more driving the next day, as well as exploring parts of Crater Lake. Check-in was easy, there was an envelope outside the main office with the cabin key ready for us when we arrived very late. A few years ago, I made a similar trip to Southern Oregon and stayed at the same cabin! From Union Creek Resort to Crater Lake National Park is roughly 20 miles away (30 minutes). It’s the only decent and affordable lodging in the area, that’s also dog-friendly. Hence why I went with it again!
We woke up bright and early to pack up our things on the following day. After checking-out, we drove to Crater Lake National Park. The weather was constantly changing on us as we drove into the park. It started out sunny then the rain came and suddenly there was snow falling. Even though it was mid-June, there were still a ton of snow left along the rim. Upon seeing Crater lake again, the caldera was and still is as magnificent as ever. Just like how I remembered it! I love how mysterious and eerie it looked with the fog and occasional snowfall. The last time i was here, it was clear and sunny so this change in perspective was refreshing.
We spent a good amount of time at Crater Lake, about 2 hours. The north entrance was still closed so there was not much to further explore for us. Dogs are only allowed on paved road and along the rim, so I knew there weren’t many trails for us to hike. We left at around 12PM that day and started the second leg of the trip from Crater Lake to Portland!
Crater Lake National park → Portland, oregon
The drive was smooth going from Crater Lake to the OR-138 E and to the US-97 N, the surrounding forest made for a relaxing road trip while the murder podcast played. It was a serene drive until we got on the OR-58 W that it turned slightly insane. We were going through the mountains and was faced with low fog and pelting rain. Road visibility was non-existent with every turn and changing grade. At some point, it started hailing as well. We were on this highway for a good 86 miles. Definitely quite the Oregon experience. It was back to normal once we got back on the I-5 N. Thanks for the weather show, Oregon.
Eugene was our quick pit-stop break before Portland. After driving for 2 hours in bi-polar weather, Tailored Coffee Roaster was a great pick-me-up. It was pouring rain in Eugene and the coffee shop was nice enough to let us take shelter with Cooper. He was well-behaved and stuck to me like glue. Following the short break, I made sure to get my Prius filled up on gas. The great thing about Oregon is the fact that self-serve gas stations are banned. Yes, it is illegal for you to pump your own gas. There will be a gas station attendant that comes by and fill up your car for you, no need to leave the comfort of your seat. Most of the gas stations also have doggie treats as well! Win-win.
By around 4PM, we finally made it to Portland and immediately checked-in at my favorite hotel, Kimpton Hotel Monaco Portland. Their warm hospitality and eclectic decor made us felt very welcomed. Cooper felt right at home with his hedgehog and proceeded to exploring the suite with a big smile. They had a dog bed and bowls ready for him in our hotel suite. He’s really living his best life. After the wonderful stay with Hotel Monaco during our first time in Portland, I trusted them to stay again while we were in town for one night.
While it was still daylight, we took a nice stroll around downtown as a way to stretch our legs and get some walking in after being in the car for hours. We headed over to Wailua Shave Ice located at Union Way arcade shop because I really needed to taste the triple coconut shave ice again. It was everything I remembered it to be. Cooper gave his best puppy eyes while waiting outside the store and it was just the right amount that got him his own shave ice (just regular shave ice really). Yen got the pinacolada and we were all pretty satisfied from the light dessert.
Right before we headed to Pok Pok on Division Street for dinner, we did a quick shopping detour at a Nordstrom Rack that was right around the corner of our hotel (gotta take advantage of the free sales tax when in Oregon). Following the Nordstrom Rack rendezvous, we went back to the hotel to pick up my car and left for dinner.
Like I mentioned before in a previous blog post, Pok Pok isn’t exactly dog-friendly despite them having outdoor seatings. Luckily, Cooper was tired from the long day and the nice walk around downtown that I was good with him staying in the car while we grabbed dinner quickly. We found a spot that was right around the corner of the restaurant, it was nice and cool out that I knew Cooper would be fine in the car by himself. I would advise to do this if your pup is comfortable being in a car by themselves and you have a crate for them to safely be in. Cooper normally sleeps while he waits in the car. I have never (and will never) leave him unattended in dangerous situations and conditions. Please do not leave your dog in the car if the weather is more than 65°F, a car can heat up very quickly and in a matter of minutes. Use your best judgement, don’t leave your dog in a car under dangerous conditions.
Yen and I ordered four dishes that were well-known. When you’re at Pok Pok, the Vietnamese fish sauce chicken wings are a must! The wings are marinated in fish sauce and sugar that are then deep-fried and tossed in a caramelized fish sauce. Absolutely amazing flavor and it was very well-coated. This dish can get salty quick so make sure to take cucumber bites in between. Next up was the Papaya Pok Pok. If you can handle spice then the papaya salad is the dish for you! It was refreshing but very spicy. And if you’re more mild when it comes to food then the Khao Soi Kai (Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup) would be an ideal dish for you. This dish was okay for me to be quite frank, I wished the curry taste was stronger with some spice to it. It is Northern style after all (I’m used to Central and Southern). As for the Khanom Jiin Naam Phrik, this rice vermicelli topped with prawns and mung beans was unique but very deliciuous. It didn’t take long before we were full and satisfied. We were in and out of there within 30-45 minutes. Cooper was happy to see me when I returned to the car and I rewarded him with some of his treats for being a good boy.
We headed back to our hotel, I fed Cooper his late dinner, and then we all called it a night. Cooper passed out completely before the humans after playing with his hedgie and doing some zoomies.
Following a good night sleep, Cooper and I were up early for a morning walk to a coffee shop. Yen was still in bed while we were out. Part of downtown was shut down for a street parade that morning, and many people were awake as early as we were. Cooper made sure to sniff every tree and leave his mark as we moseyed over to Stumptown Coffee Roasters on SW 3rd Ave for morning coffee. It was definitely a nice way to start our morning before we hit the long road again.
Portland, Oregon → Vancouver, B.C.
From Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, B.C., it took us approximately 5 hours (this included pit-stops for gas and leg stretch) and 316 miles. We drove right through Washington with rarely any traffic and trouble. We were also back to self-serve gas stations. Although Washington’s scenery was just as gorgeous as Oregon, full of trees and mountains. Entering the border to Canada was a swift and easy process. All we needed to do was present our passports to border control, I also gave the border control officer Cooper’s vaccination records and rabies certificate (with Vet’s signature). After answering a few basic questions (ex. Why are you visiting? How do you two know each other? Where are you staying? etc.), we were allowed to enter.
Tip: Three things to have when crossing border for your dog: printed vaccination records, printed up-to-date rabies certificate with a veterinarian’s signature, and a crate. Cooper calmly stayed inside his crate as we approached border control. The officer did not ask me anything regarding Cooper and simply just glossed over his papers. I did the exact same thing with Cooper when we were reentering into the U.S. from Canada. Super easy!
The vaccination record included the date administered, duration, next due date, and who gave it to Cooper. The list of vaccines that was presented:
We spent 5 days and 4 nights in Vancouver, British Columbia. There were a lot of delicious food that we got to try (ex. dim sum, poutine) and I made sure to bask in the dynamic beauty of Vancouver with its cityscapes and surrounding blue mountains. To read more about our Vancouver trip, check it out here!
Vancouver, B.C. → Seattle, washington
Leaving Vancouver was bittersweet. I wished we had more time to explore the Canadian Rockies and consume more of Vancouver’s best eats. On our last day, we reluctantly packed up the car and began the journey home. There was a heatwave hitting the west coast so when we arrived in Seattle after 3.5 hours and 230 miles of driving, the temperature was already at 90°F.
Our first pit-stop was Seattle, Washington. We allocated 2 hours to explore Seattle and went to the famous Pike Place Market to make use of our time here. This was my first time visiting Seattle, Cooper’s as well! Once we parked our car underground, we then proceeded to explore Pike Place in the heat. The three of us walked throughout the market and the potent smell of fish enveloped my sinuses, as expected of a public market on a hot day. Despite this being a weekday, Pike Place was full of people! We walked past the ever so famous Starbucks and the line for it was insanely long. It wasn’t worth the trouble to stand in line.
In the midst of getting lost trying to locate Pike Place Chowder, we came across the popular gum wall! The Market Theater Gum Wall puts the Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo to shame. I was grossed out actually and carried Cooper to and from areas of the alley to take a couple of photos. The last thing I wanted was for gum to stick to his paws, getting it off would be a bathtub nightmare. Due to the hot weather, the smell of bubblegum was robust. After we rushed ourselves out of the gum alley, we finally accepted that we were lost and asked for directions to Pike Place Chowder.
Pike Place Chowder is home to Seattle’s award-winning chowder and I’m here for it. It’s just a block away from the public market. Yen has been here before so she ended up ordering the 4 sample feast. Why have one chowder when you can have four! The place is dog-friendly and I was able to enjoy some chowder with Cooper by my side. I thought there was going to be a long line but I guessed no one wanted chowder on an exceptionally hot day. The chowder that i enjoyed most was the classic New England Clam Chowder. All the flavors mingled well together and made for a satisfying lunch! The sampler was the right amount of food between me and Yen.
Following the chowder indulgence, I needed to get coffee before we get back on the road. When in Seattle, coffee is a must! There’s a coffee shop nearby that has raving reviews so I went into Seattle Coffee Works and got myself a cold brew. Cooper and Yen was patiently waiting outside for me (this place does not have outdoor seatings). The cold brew really hits the spot while in 90°F weather. And with that, we went back to the car and continued our road trip down the coastline. The goal was to arrive at Cannon Beach for sunset.
Seattle, Washington → Cannon Beach, Oregon
To get to Cannon Beach from Seattle, we took the I-5 S, WA-8 W, US-12 W and US-101 S to the WA-4 E in Pacific County. It was supposed to take us approximately 3.5 hours but the traffic around Seattle was horrendous and the overall estimated time of arrival ended up being 9:20PM instead of 9:00PM (sunset ends at 9:45PM). It was essentially a race against time but we are law-abiding citizens, so no speeding allowed.
The drive was pleasant as we go from Washington and back into Oregon (hooray for non self-serve gas stations again). We made a quick pitstop somewhere along the Oregon coastline before Cannon Beach to fill up on gas and stopped by another Dutch Bros for more coffee. It’s never enough coffee. Just as the sun was going down and the roads getting darker, we made it to Cannon Beach JUST in the nick of time while there was still light out.
And it was GLORIOUS! Such a beautiful and clean beach. I was at awe. Cooper immediately did his zoomies on the sand and ran around with a big smile on his face. He found a stick that he liked and we had a small fetch session because he deserved it for being in the car for so long with us (even though we did pitstops). The photos don’t do the scenery justice. Haystack Rock was glowing in the remaining lights with the low fog hugging its base. Once the sun completely went down, we went back to the car and drove over to Tolovana Inn, where we would be staying for one night.
The inn has a breathtaking view of the Oregon Coast and Haystack Rock. The best part about the inn is that it’s just a couple of steps away from the beach and is completely pet-friendly! They have designated dog areas right between the buildings and each room comes with a small doggy package (treats, bowls, towels). The inn reminded me of a studio in San Francisco that would cost $2500 per month, although maybe more considering this has an ocean view. Each suite has a kitchen next to the living room and bedroom, along with a personal balcony. Once we were all settled in for the night, we were completely knocked out.
Cooper and i woke up early as usual the next day and took a long walk on the beach. As we were looking for entrance to the beach, Cooper and I saw a bunch of small bunnies hopping around Tolovana Inn!
Once we got on the beach, Cooper went off-leash. It was early enough in the morning where there aren’t a lot of people and dogs around. Cooper and I practically had the whole beach to ourselves. We both went to and from Haystack Rock, it ended up being a very long walk. This was by far my favorite beach and I like to think Cooper likes it the most as well compared to all the others he has been to. The both of us was out on the beach for about an hour until we decided to get back to the inn as it was time for us to pack up and hit the road once more. The next leg of the road trip was going to be the longest one yet with 10 hours of driving and 570 miles of nothing but roads and the sound of a murder podcast.
Cannon Beach, Oregon → Shelter Cove, California
To break up the drive better, we made sure to have stops along the Oregon coastline for a better experience and let all our legs stretch. The drive had a lot bridges and we were passing by many harbor towns. For our first destination, we stopped by Luna Sea Fish House for lunch. It was dubbed as the best seafood restaurants on the Oregon coast for for fish and chips. They are very pet-friendly with many water bowls for dogs around. We sat outside in their enclosed patio area and I saw a few people with their dogs.
At Luna Sea Fish House, I had an 1/2 order of halibut and shrimps with the chips. Yen did the same but she got cod and sea scallops with the chips. You can get the fish either grilled or fried. We obviously went with fried. Luna Sea Fish House is known for fresh caught seafood, so definitely no farmed fish here!
Once we were full and happy from our fish and chips, we moseyed ourselves to Yachats to check out Thor’s Well. Along the Oregon coast, there’s a natural hole that looks to be draining the sea and they called it Thor’s Well. Not exactly sure why it was named after the Norse god of thunder. It’s essentially a bottomless sinkhole and you can only see it during high tide. When we arrived, it was at low tide so we were not able to observed the supposedly spectacular drainpipe of the Pacific. Nonetheless, we took some snapshots of the surrounding area and enjoyed the sound of waves crashing into the rocks.
Following the Thor’s Well escapade, we set our sight on the final destination for the day which is Shelter Cove. From Yachats, it’s approximately 8 hours away. The drive was long and relatively straight compared to the California Coast. We made a couple of pitstops along the way to give ourselves a small break but they didn’t last too long since we wanted to make it to Shelter Cove before it gets late.
We took a detour in Eureka, California to grab Thai food for dinner from Siam Orchid. We ordered the crab fried rice and chicken pad see ew. To say this was delicious would be a blatant lie. Both dishes we got togo was bland and not properly cooked. For me and Yen, we ended up going to sleep that night with an empty stomach. So I would not recommend this place for Thai food or any place for Thai in Eureka, no matter how much you’re craving it if you’re around the area. I’ve had better Thai food in Klamath, Oregon.
The road to Shelter Cove is paved with twists and turns. We wanted to get there by sunset but we missed it by 30 minutes and it was too foggy to see anything. For our final stay on this road trip, we booked one night at the Inn of the Lost Coast. It’s pet-friendly and it overlooks the Pacific Ocean with a personal balcony. Similar to Tolovana Inn, there was a kitchen next to the bed and living room area. After a long day of driving, it was nice to get some proper shut eye.
Shelter Cove → San Francisco
We left Shelter Cove early in the morning at around 8AM. I was a little bummed out that we didn’t have time to check out black sand beach since it was nearby but we were aiming to get back to San Francisco at 2PM. Maybe next time. The car was once again packed up and we were all ready to go home.
On the way back, I always make sure to make a short stop at Thuan Phat to pick up a couple of amazing bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich). They are better than anything I have had in San Francisco so this is a must stop for me whenever I am in Santa Rosa. Their đặc biệt (combo) is the best, along with their thịt nướng (grilled pork). Yen and I also ordered Vietnamese coffee as well for the road home.
It has been a week long journey away from home and it was wonderful seeing the Golden Gate Bridge again. There’s no place like home and honestly, there’s no place quite like San Francisco. We were welcomed by Karl the Fog as we drove through the Golden Gate Bridge. After so much driving and racking up nearly 2,000 miles, I will most likely not go on a road trip for a little while. Cooper was excited to be home as well. We both fell asleep after unpacking all our belongings. This was certainly a road trip to remember.
Will I do this again? Maybe.