The Glampervan conversion has begun! It is finally time to take her for her makeover. So I drove Eve up to San Francisco last week and dropped her off at the Glampervan workshop. This was her maiden voyage, and I got to see how she handles on the highway, climbing over mountain passes and in stiff winds. Eve handled it all like the “pro” – or rather, the Promaster that she is.
The road trip from San Diego to San Francisco
I haven’t been on a road trip, even a small one, for quite a while. As I packed up, I started to feel the road calling. Though this was just an overnight trip, it was my first in Eve.
The dogs and cats also realized I was heading out, and Wally, especially, moped around my suitcase with sorrowful basset hound eyes. Sigh – this will be the hard part of going on the road. I’ll miss my beasts, and they will miss me.
Fortunately, I still have a few adult children living here at home, and they watch over the house and pets when I’m traveling. This is one of the little-discussed advantages of boomerang children. I enjoy having them around; it’s nice to live in a community of self-sufficient adults. But perhaps that’s another post!
Back to the trip. It was cold, bright, and windy, so perfect conditions to test out Eve’s roadworthiness. If you remember, one of the reasons I chose a Promaster, and Glampervan specifically, is their size and handling performance. Eve was a dream to drive, even without rear windows. I will be thrilled to have them back in the finished van, though!
The Promaster handled well, even in gusty wind
I was especially curious to test how Eve drove in a gusty wind. She has a large and broad profile, so I was a bit worried about her pulling in the wind. I felt a few gusts, but all-in-all not too bad. Whew.
I headed out early — my preference for road trips — and drove up through North County, Camp Pendleton, and into Orange County. I typically stop just into OC to eat breakfast at one of my favorite diners, Tommy’s. Alas, I pulled off as usual but found Tommy’s is no more. Closed up. Change — you can’t escape it.
So I grabbed a bagel from a take-out place and headed on through OC and LA. I thought traffic would be awful, but it was surprisingly ok.
Audiobooks and a musical interlude
Typically, I had an Audible book playing. The Testaments. OMG, the TV series actor is the voice of Aunt Lydia in this audiobook. I am not sure there is a creepier character than Aunt Lydia. At any rate, book listening always helps pass the time on LA Freeways. Love that song (follow the link friends).
The road trip continues
The Grapevine segment of the 5 (yes, Californians use “the” before highway numbers – it’s a thing) is where I expected to feel Eve drag a bit and feel the wind. But she cruised right on over the mountain pass.
It was gorgeous this time of year. Pretty green and rolling desert mountains. It always inspires some awe on the last downhill grade coming into the Central Valley near Bakersfield.
The stretch that follows is pretty desolate except for acres and acres of orchards — I think many of them almonds and oranges — broken up by a few large dairies and feedlots. These are not the happy cows of TV ads.
Now, the shortest route to San Francisco is straight up the 5 to Oakland and then the — shudder — Oakland Bay Bridge. I have a bit of a bridge phobia, so contemplating the Oakland Bay Bridge crossing was more than I wanted to tackle on this trip. I can now go over even this type of bridge, but I do not like it, ever.
That meant I needed to cut inland to the 101. This is a beautiful stretch of highway with green rolling hills and mountains, beautiful farms, and, this time, happy grazing cows. I love the vast range of scenery in California.
Salinas CA and John Steinbeck
I decided to spend the night in Salinas. I chose Salinas for one specific reason. John Steinbeck, one of my favorite authors. His Library and the National Steinbeck Center are here (great places to visit if you drive through).
Steinbeck saw Salinas as a model for the American community described in his books, especially East of Eden. There is a lesser-known book written by Steinbeck, Travels With Charley, his memoir of a solo journey around America in a station wagon. Steinbeck’s only companion on the trip was his Standard Poodle, Charley. This book played an essential role in fostering my love for solo road trips.
Steineck’s journey occurred in 1960, my birth year. I first read this book when I was in high school, and it struck me that the book was almost a diary of events and places from the year I entered the world. I have reread the book several times since then, and each time it shows me something new about my birth year.
Thus, it made sense that I pay some homage to this penultimate American author as I kicked my personal road trip dreams into action.
Road trips and Dairy Queen
It is also no accident that I am drawn to road trips. Our family took a road trip almost every year of my upbringing, as I also did with my children. I inherited my attraction to the tarmac.
I had to find a place to eat dinner, and first thought I would find a little local restaurant. But then I saw a Dairy Queen. Through multiple generations, my family has loved Dairy Queen. It was always a favorite treat; therefore, when I saw the DQ near my hotel, I knew I was heading there for dinner.
To honor my mother I ordered her special treat – a Peanut Buster Parfait. It was yummy.
I had to spend the night in a hotel as my van is still a cargo carrier with no bed (or insulation, and it would have been a cold night in her). As I fell asleep, I was pulled by dreams of soon cuddling up in my own bed, in my personal van.
Handing Eve off to Glampervan
The next day was the delivery day. The last 2-1/2 hours of driving were mostly busy highways through the peninsula south of San Francisco. I worried about rear visibility and lane changes, but it was very uneventful.
As I pulled up outside of the Glampervan workshop, I just could not stop smiling – it was happening. My van dream was soon going to come true.
Before I left Eve, I got a good look around the workshop. Glampervan can now work on four vans at a time, and they had two finishing up that I enjoyed investigating. After seeing their operation, I am even more confident in my decision to let them outfit Eve.
This van below is almost completed. I enjoyed seeing how everything went together. The quality of the workmanship is top-notch.
I have always said that sometimes paper and pen are better than computer planning tools, and I guess Glampervan agrees. This reminds me of my mom’s kitchen – she also had post-it notes up everywhere to remind her of things.
I got a serious belly laugh when I saw the bathroom reading material. Fortunately for this post-middle-aged woman with a post-middle aged bladder, I was already in the restroom.
And so it was a wrap. I had to say goodbye and head to the airport for my flight back to San Diego. My last stop in San Francisco was to Vive le Tart, an excellent little establishment a couple of blocks from Glampervan.
Meeting another Glampervanner
I had a lovely brunch and got to know another Glampervanner, John. He was also delivering his and his wife’s van. John is a chef from Sonoma and is an award-winning cookbook author, so now I have some more books on my to-read list. He wrote an additional book I am especially interested in reading, about a Japanese community in Lomac CA that virtually disappeared during the WWII internments. This was not our proudest moment as a country.
A diversion to Manzanar
Elsewhere in California, east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, there is a recreation of one of these camps, named Manzanar. This National Historic Site has restored several of the original buildings, and there is also has a fantastic museum explaining the history in a relatable way.
On previous road trips up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, I have stopped here. Because they keep adding new exhibits and buildings, it is always interesting to tour.
I know I’ll be heading back to this region on my future road trips. Next time I’ll have John’s book to read when I am visiting that sobering national historic site on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. For anyone traveling on US-395, this is a must-see stop along the way.
I’ll be heading back up to San Francisco in about 8 weeks to pick up my completed Glampervan. I invite you to continue following my journey as I take to the road and explore America’s hidden spots of fun, charm, and beauty.
If you are considering the vanlife, make sure you check out my comprehensive guide to buying a used van. No matter your budget you will find all the tools you need to plan and shop for your van. Knowledge is power