In November 2012, my dad and I traveled to San Francisco for the Thanksgiving holiday. We had already done both of our family Thanksgivings, so it was the perfect opportunity to get away. Even without many plans, we were able to take a drive down the coast to Monterey, explore San Francisco, and see the beautiful college town of Palo Alto, all at our own pace. Our trip started with a morning flight from Little Rock to Dallas. After a two-hour layover, we departed Dallas for San Francisco and arrived around 8:00 pm. A full day of flying, navigating airports, and finding a rental car wore us out. We didn’t even get a proper dinner the first night before we went to bed. The next morning, we decided to drive down the coast on Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, to Monterey. It was an amazing drive! I was surprised that California was so beautiful. Towering redwood trees lined much of the drive, along with farms for almost any fruit or vegetable I could imagine.
When we could finally see the coastline, it was breathtaking. We passed through a few small coastal towns and saw countless fresh produce stands on the side of the highway. We stopped for lunch at a Thai restaurant in Moss Landing, CA. The food was amazing, and we could see the ocean from our table! The day was already a success in my book. When we arrived in Monterey, we drove down to Cannery Row and parked the car. We strolled around all of the different shops for a couple of hours, and then we headed even farther down the coast. We stopped at a parking area that overlooked quite possibly the most scenic place I had ever seen. There were huge waves crashing on giant boulders in the ocean. We just sat there and watched the waves crash for at least an hour. The salty smell of the ocean, the noise of various birds, and the sound of the waves just overloaded your senses in the best possible way. We headed back to our hotel in Palo Alto.
Before we made it back, I spotted my favorite fast food restaurant, In-N-Out Burger and to my dad’s dismay, that was dinner. We crashed not long after making it to the hotel; we were exhausted after driving and exploring all day. The next morning, we woke up refreshed and ready to explore some more. We headed into San Francisco early. I was surprised that there wasn’t very much traffic; I guess we were after the morning rush hour. The drive north was almost as pretty as the drive down the coast. California should be “The Natural State”, not Arkansas! Once we made it into the city, we had to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. As we emerged from Golden Gate Park, the goliath appeared before us. We just crossed it both ways, but I was in awe of how big the bridge actually was. I had never appreciated it until I saw it with my own eyes. When we came back into the city, we drove around to many of the different neighborhoods. San Francisco is incredibly diverse.
We drove through “Little Japan” and “China Town”, and we parked in North Beach. North Beach is where an established population of people with Italian heritage lives and work, “Little Italy” in any other big city. We were craving some good Italian food, and we definitely found some. The restaurant didn’t have a name on their sign, but we risked it and stopped there to eat. It was authentic Italian food from scratch. They made their own noodles, sauces, bread, and dressings. The dish I had was the best Italian food I’d ever eaten. My dad felt the same way about his dish as well. After our delicious lunch, we decided to drive around the city a little while longer, and then head back to the hotel so we didn’t get stuck in rush hour traffic. Our final two days in California were spent in Palo Alto.
My dad’s good friend from high school, Mark, lives there, so we met up with him at a local Mexican restaurant. We all caught up over margaritas and salsa, then we went to his house to help with Thanksgiving dinner preparations. I had never been to another family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but they welcomed us with open arms like we were part of their family anyways. Their family has a tradition of biking around Palo Alto after Thanksgiving dinner. I decided to go with them while my dad stayed back at the house with Mark.
Palo Alto was very biker friendly. We rode around the Stanford University campus. It was the most beautiful college campus I had ever seen! We returned to the house after an approximately an hour. It was the best way to see the city! Our last day was spent packing, then heading to the airport for an afternoon flight home. We used our Thanksgiving break a little differently than most, but I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. I’ll always remember the drive down to Monterey, exploring San Francisco, and getting a local view of Palo Alto as one of the best Thanksgiving holidays.
Courtney from Study Moose
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