Death Valley, Pacific Coast Highway and San Francisco

After SEMA and the Optima Ultimate Streetcar Invitational I needed to make my way up to San Francisco / Pleasanton for the Goodguys Autumn Get-Together.
It was the next-to-the-last show of the season.
Instead of driving straight up to San Francisco I wanted to see some sights along the way.
From Las Vegas, I drove north-east to Pahrump, NV and I fueled up.
I always like to have a full tank of gas when I head out on an adventure – especially when where I’m going has “Death” in it’s name.
I was going to Death Valley.
It’s actually Death Valley National Park and I’d been there before a few years ago.
This time I drove north on Highway 160, made a left onto Bell Vista Avenue and took it across the state line into California and into Death Valley Junction / Amargosa.
I had never been through Death Valley Junction before and I had to go and see it with my own eyes.
There’s not much to see in Death Valley Junction, but what is there is pretty cool.
Like the old Amargosa Cafe.

From Death Valley Junction I turned off of highway 190 and onto Furnace Creek Wash Road and then onto Dante’s View Road.
Dante’s View is the highest point in Death Valley.
You get a view of the entire valley and Badwater – the lowest point in North America
I had read about Dante’s View but I wanted to see it with my own eyes.

As the story goes – on clear days you can see the highest and lowest points in the contiguous 48 states from here – Mount Whitney 14,505 feet above sea level and Badwater −282 feet below sea level.
Dante’s View Road alone is worth the drive – it’s narrow, winging and it gets steep at the end.
Back from Dantes View we officially made it into Death Valley National Park.

One of the signs I missed the last time I was in Death Valley is the “Sea Level” sign.

Got it.
From the Sea Level sign we’re heading down below sea level to Badwater.
On September 3rd of this year, I drove up to the top of the highest paved road in North America – the Mount Evans Scenic Byway – 14,130 feet above sea level.
Now we’re headed to the lowest point in North America – Badwater Basin -282 below sea level.
Both in a 1955 Chevy.
You can check out my video driving into Badwater here.

If you do decide to drive into Death Valley – go prepared & bring some spares just in case.
There are no services, no gas and no cell phone reception.
It’s unforgiving out there but it sure is beautiful.

From Badwater Basin I drove into Baker, CA and the world’s tallest thermometer.

When I got out to take my picture I noticed a strange silence.
My electric cooling fans weren’t on.
I popped open the hood, touched the relay and woooooooooooosh – my cooling fans came back to life.
Stupid relay.
I got onto Interstate-15 and headed towards Barstow and then highway 58 to Bakersfield.
In Bakersfield I fueled up The 55 and filled up my belly at Los Aguacates Mexican Restaurant before I went west to Paso Robles.
When I got to Paso Robles I noticed my fans weren’t on again.
This time I used a pair of pliers and pinched down gently on the wire connector to the relay to make sure it had a good connection.
Problem solved.
The next morning when I woke up it was rainy and wet.
Before I got on the road I checked my map application.
I saw that Nacimiento-Fergusson Road from Fort Leggit to PCH was closed.
That was the way I had planned on going – and if you haven’t driven Nacimiento-Fergusson Road put it on your list – it’s fantastic.
It was time for a reroute.
From Paso Robles I went south on Highway 101 for a couple of miles and then took Highway 46 west to Cambria.
At Cambria I turned right onto Route 1 – Big Sur Coast Highway – PCH.
This section of PCH is recognized as an All-American Road which means it’s a destination unto itself.
The All-American Road portion officially starts at Ragged Point Vista – about 15 miles north of the San Simeon Pier.

San Simeon is amazing – so is Hearst Castle but I didn’t stop in this time.
If you haven’t driven the Pacific Coast Highway or been to Hearst Castle – you need to go.
PCH is amazing.
On some parts you drive on a narrow two-lane blacktop with a shear cliff and drop-off to the Pacific Ocean on one side and a steep rock wall on the other.
There are also beautiful meadows, rolling hills and if you’re lucky you may even spot a zebra or two.
Seriously – zebras.
The zebras are descendants of the original zebras William Randolph Hearst had in his zoo at Hearst Castle.
I continued up PCH and stopped at Julia Feiffer Burns State Park where there’s a spectacular waterfall you can pull to the side of the road and view.
It’s a definite must see.

Pretty amazing right?
But the beach down there is off limits so just enjoy it from above.
Every time I see a “View Point” sign I always stop and take in the view.

I stopped in Carmel by the Sea for lunch with a friend.
Then I got this cool shot at Monterey Lanes Bowling Alley.

I continued up Route 1 towards San Francisco.
I drove past Santa Cruz, past Mavericks big wave invitational surf spot and past Pacifica when I realized I needed fuel.
I stopped in Daly City and was shocked at the price of gasoline.

I didn’t realize that Daly City was pretty much right outside of San Francisco.
It was getting dark and I was getting hungry so I found a place to park and eat.
After pizza and beer I was full and tired so I curled up in the back of The 55 and took a little nap.
When I awoke at 1:30am I had to go to the bathroom.
Thank goodness there was a gas station only three blocks away from where I was parked.
I put on my shoes, walked over to the gas station to find out it was closed.
I walked back to my car and started looking on my iPhone map where to go to the bathroom.
I went to a 7-11 – no bathroom for you.
I went to a gas station – no bathroom for you.
I went to a Walgreens – no bathroom for you.
It turns out there are no bathrooms in San Francisco!!
I guess that’s why there are so many signs in San Francisco telling you not to poop on the sidewalk.
As I was backing out of the Walgreens parking lot my steering wheel started making a grinding sound and then started spinning freely.
The steering wheel is spinning freely and the front wheels aren’t moving…
Now what?!?
After calling AAA they asked me where I’d like to have it towed.
I told them to take me to any AAA approved mechanic.
They towed us to All American Automotive.

Rumor has it that the pistons on the sign used to move up and down – pretty cool huh?
At 7:45am I heard someone say: “I bet you AAA sent him here.”
I got out of the car and asked: “Yeah, AAA did send me here. How did you know?”
“Sorry, but we don’t work on domestic cars.” he replied.
“But your shop is called All American Automotive!!!”
“Yeah… We’re working on changing that.”
A garage called “All American Garage” that doesn’t work on American cars!!
What is this world coming to?!?
I was in Northern California so I texted a few of my NorCal autocross friends for help.
David Carrol got back to me immediately and sent me to Marcus Fry Racing, about 25 miles south of San Francisco in Redwood City.
While I was waiting for AAA to return we figured out that the weld holding the rag joint to the steering shaft broke.
Thank goodness it didn’t happen out on the road!!
I mean – what would have happened if it broke while I was on PCH?!?
Once I got to Redwood City, Marcus got to work.
After he welded it up I asked him if I should get a replacement steering rag joint and he replied
“Nope – you’ll be all good to go.”
Best response ever!!
From Redwood City I drove up through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge to Fort Baker.

That’s where I tried some more open exposure shots.

Kind of cool right?
I still need lots more practice.
From Fort Baker I drove up to Mill Valley to spend some time with my high school buddy Brother Shark and his family.
That’s one of the things I love about traveling is getting to see and reconnect with friends old and new.
I spent a few days catching up with them before I left for the Goodguys Autumn Get Together in Pleasanton on Saturday and Sunday.
The autocross in Pleasanton on Saturday and Sunday was awesome as always.
When Monday came around, I hit the road and was headed to the last show of the season – the Goodguys Duel in the Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona, and their 32 car autocross shootout.
I’ll be driving through Oatman, AZ on old Route 66 and then down into Scottsdale.
Did you know Oatman has wild mules/burros that wander the streets?
I’ll tell you all about it next time.
Until then, I’m Jeff Thisted and I drive a 55

4 thoughts on “Death Valley, Pacific Coast Highway and San Francisco

      1. Thanks for continuing to share your adventures Jeff. With the coffee table book I got from you last year for inspiration (along with your continuing sagas), I’ve decided to embark on a Route 66 trip in September. Perhaps I’ll see you somewhere along the route. Stay well Jeff!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks YOU Eric!! I’m glad you like the book – I’ve got a few more in the works. and I’m honored you got some inspiration from my travels. Keep me posted on your Route 66 road trip and maybe I’ll meet you out there on the road. Safe travels my friend.


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