Thursday, June 18, 2015

Day 5: To GPS, or Not To GPS

Today's Distance: 215 miles
Total Distance: 1831 miles
Today's Destinations: Los Angeles, In-N-Out Burger, San Diego, CA

San Diego is about three hours from Oxnard - that is, if you're the only person driving.  For us it took a bit longer.

First of all, the Ramada Inn in Oxnard has probably the best beds of any we've stayed at yet (although the one I'm sitting on as I write this may turn out to be my personal favorite - it's really soft and cushy, which I have a feeling Justin will hate).  And it was the first hotel we've stayed at in which we had a room on the first floor, allowing us to park literally ten feet from our door.  That's nice when you have a lot of stuff to bring in.

Anyway.  We drove to LA to meet a friend of Justin's.  While trying to navigate the busy highways, intersections, and streets, we learned two things: 1) LA drivers are both reckless and rude, and 2) we hate driving in LA.  I would add, I pretty much hate LA and big cities in general.  We ended up in Glendale and went to In-N-Out Burger, which seems to be a Really Big Deal to everyone we know who's ever been to California.  Forgive me for not being overwhelming in my praise.  They were good burgers, and I was impressed with the height of the burger due to the amount of vegetables (I think these are probably the burgers Burger King takes pictures of and tries to pass off as their own).  But it was still a fast-food burger and the meat itself tasted no different to me from any other fast food joint.  Please don't crucify me.

We met Justin's friend at Porter Junction, Cafe, a coffee place and deli inexplicably nestled in the heart of a heavily industrial area.  I say inexplicably, because I cannot reconcile the cafe's location nor outward appearance with its atmosphere and inward appearance.  This part of LA is, in a word, yucky.  And yet Porter Junction Cafe, one of Yelp's top-rated restaurants in the city, is bright and airy and refreshing inside. A little respite from the grunge of industrial work, I suppose.

Getting out of LA was similar to getting out of San Francisco - long, tedious, and a little tricky.  At this point, Justin and I decided we wanted to take the Pacific Coast Highway so we could actually see the ocean as we drove, so we turned off the GPS and used the atlas.  Big mistake.  Between LA and San Diego, the Pacific Coast Highway runs straight through a number of lovely coastal cities, all of which have a lot of stop lights.  It added about an hour to our trip.

We passed a few of these signs while crawling through rush hour traffic on I-5.  Is it mocking us on purpose?

I had booked a hotel in advance (more on this later), so when we got close to San Diego we plugged the address into the GPS, not wanting to repeat our "follow the map" mistake.  This, too, was a mistake.  The problem with GPS directions is that they tell you how to get to a location's front door.  They don't tell you where you can park (ours does have a way to look for parking in the area, which takes you to the nearest public parking lot, often nearly a mile from your destination), and if your location is on a corner, as ours was, and you actually need to be on the cross street to park, as we did, and if the cross street is a one-way going the opposite direction from where you need to go, as ours was, it cannot help you.  We circled the hotel twice, using a combination of GPS directions, the hotel website's directions, and just plain winging it.  In the end the very amiable front desk attendant directed us to a free parking area literally right across the street.

I really hope we get smarter about how to use directions to plan our routes.  This is what I hope we will do in the future:
1) When entering coordinates into the GPS, check the overall route and see where it takes you.  If it's not where you think you should go, look at an atlas or, probably better, Google Maps because it gives you multiple options and the estimated driving time for each route.
2) When traveling to a place that likely does not have its own parking lot, don't follow the GPS directly to the location and *then* look for a place to park. Look for parking before you get there and see how close it is to your destination.
3) Look at the website of the destination and see if they offer directions and parking instructions.

I'm interested to know if anyone has any travel tips that could help us avoid future tear-our-hair-out scenarios in the big city.

Finally, our hotel.  It's actually more of a bed and breakfast, but its name is the Hotel Vyvant, and it's in downtown San Diego.  Interestingly enough, B&Bs are often cheaper in big cities than hotels are, depending on what kind of hotel you stay at and how early you book.  Since our travel plans are pretty flexible, we can't book hotels that much in advance because we don't know for sure where we're going to end up each night.  We were able to get the last available room at the Hotel Vyvant, which is one of the top-rated B&Bs in San Diego on both TripAdvisor and  We're staying here tonight and tomorrow.

This place is gorgeous.  I'll let the pictures speak for itself.  Thank God they have a kitchenette because we were able to eat leftovers.

I'm so excited about tomorrow because it is our first non-travel day.  We are going to go to the San Diego Zoo!  I went there once 19 years ago, on a family vacation, and honestly I don't remember much except that they have pandas.  But Justin and I love going to zoos and are glad to have a day where we don't have to sit in a car for 6+ hours.

Our room

hallway outside our room

deck area, where they have happy hour from 5-7 every day


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