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November 14, 2007 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Possible girl & her dog roadtrip retreat over the holidays. Nothing too expensive. Suggestions?

Over the past five years, my Christmas holidays have always been spent either working grueling overtime hours, taking care of my mom or hiding out in the company of other people's (more functional) families. I'm in the process of officially turning over a new leaf and am in a mood to really enjoy my holidays and do something special for MYSELF this year. Just today I was wandering through an Asian supermarket and I started to daydream about travel... so I know I'm craving a getaway. It's too late for me to book the kind of trip I'd really love to take, but I'm considering that maybe I just need to clear my head in unfamiliar surroundings, relax and be free of all stress and pressure.

I was thinking of just hopping in the car and heading out on an aimless wandering adventure with my puppy in tow... but since it'll be the holidays I don't want to end up finding myself sleeping in the car when I can't find a hotel room or something. So even though it's against my nature a bit, I guess I should probably make some kind of a basic game plan at the very least.

I am in San Francisco and I used to take constant road trips from LA but I've only done a few from here. I've gone to wine country, gone through Tahoe through to Virginia City and up to Reno. I have never headed North up towards Portland or anything, but everything South of here I've seen A LOT of... so I don't want to head South. I don't know how the snow will be, but I even thought of taking myself snowboarding (which I used to love and haven't done in years). I drive a Miata and it's not good for driving anyplace that's too rugged though. My dog's never been in the snow so that might be fun for her. We've been hiking around Bay area trails on a regular basis lately and she just LOVES it. (Good exercise for me too.) I love discovering local treasures in cool little hidden towns, but I also love cities. I just like exploring!

So tell me... If I DO decide to go a holiday roadtrip with my pup, where should I wander? Any ideas? Keep in mind that I'm not necessarily looking for fancy, pricey pampering stuff... this is mostly about the getaway, the clearing of my brain and the recharging of my drained batteries.
posted by miss lynnster to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Get on 101. Point north. Head across the bridge and stop when something looks interesting.
posted by majick at 2:54 PM on November 14, 2007

If you come through Mendocino (the town), I'll be at the Seal Rock In from the 23rd to the 26th with one monster child and two adult friends. Many lovely parks and walks.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:57 PM on November 14, 2007

I was going to suggest Carmel and Monterey, as they're both pretty dog-friendly, but since you want to head north... you might find some inspiration here. Have fun! Sounds like a great holiday plan.
posted by scody at 3:15 PM on November 14, 2007

What about the Foothills? Perhaps Nevada City? It's a couple-three hours from the City, no snow unless you head north-east along Hwy 20, but there's Malakoff Diggings State Park nearby, wide and open for young pooches. There's also the Nevada City Winery, a fine place I might add.

You'd have no problems finding accomodations at this time of year. You'd be close to the Lake as well if you decided to venture there.
posted by elendil71 at 3:20 PM on November 14, 2007

I was *just* talking to a friend about Bend, OR last night. I haven't been there since the early nineties, but my friend says that they've become a very, very dog-friendly city since then.

Plus, the drive up makes a good road trip.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 4:26 PM on November 14, 2007

if you feel like going super long distance, wisconsin has some of the prettiest little lost towns i've ever seen.

if you go in late winter, the snows will hit then, and WI gets it pretty hard. our winters have been starting in december and going through aprilish in recent years, so if you feel the urge be sure to check a long range forecast. might be tough on the little miata.
posted by patricking at 5:05 PM on November 14, 2007

Anderson Valley, Mendocino county? A couple of months ago my partner and I rented a cabin in the hills above Boonville (directly above Andreson Valley Brewery although that was an unplanned bonus). The big plus of this place was that they allowed pets, and the surrounding hills are doggy heaven. We have cats (that we took along) and they enjoyed it too. Besides the excellent hiking in the area, there's also very little light pollution so the stars were spectacular. Here are some pictures I took.

I'm a big fan of Bend too, although it's a little farther than Boonville. (Does your dog do car-trips well? Boonville is definitely the longest in the car that our cats will stand for.)

Another uncrowded option is Fort Bragg, assuming your dog likes beaches.
posted by phliar at 5:07 PM on November 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:30 PM on November 14, 2007

Response by poster: She likes car trips as long as they're in my car. She's comfortable in it.

So do you guys think if I head out to any of these areas that I could be spontaneous and still find places to stay? Or do I need to actually plan this out and make reservations?
posted by miss lynnster at 5:30 PM on November 14, 2007

101 north will keep you out of the snow, and once you get more that a few hours north of SF there should be hotel rooms aplenty that time of year. You could even check out highway 1 if you really want to get off the beaten path.

If you are headed north anywhere inland, check the weather reports and buy chains. Some years I-5 closes for a day or so, which would make getting a hotel room tough.
posted by yohko at 5:32 PM on November 14, 2007

I did the "drive randomly north on the 101" thing up through Eugene over Thanksgiving a few years ago and had no difficulty finding rooms.

Mt. Shasta is not to be missed.
posted by bac at 5:40 PM on November 14, 2007

Response by poster: I do own chains. They're in the garage somewhere. As a Southern California girl, I have no CLUE how to put 'em on tho. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 5:54 PM on November 14, 2007

Hadn't seen your comment on being spontaneous...

The only places where you would have trouble getting a room for people would be at ski resorts, which tend to be at their busiest around Christmas through the end of the year. I'm not sure how much having the dog along complicates general getting a room issues, but it seems like a lot of places allow pets. On 101, winter has a small fraction of the travelers that visit in the summer (although it's still a great area to visit), and you will find rooms are much cheaper at this time of year. New Year's eve will be tougher to find rooms for, and you might want a reservation for that night.

If weather such as flooding or snow causes road closures, the hotels might fill up, or you might be stuck somewhere for a day or two. In that case, if you can't find a room there will probably be some sort of building open where travelers are sleeping on the floor. This sort of thing happens often enough that you should check the weather reports and road conditions, and bring standard winter travel gear like blankets, boots, food, and water (not that I'm claiming this is a complete list). It's usually fine weather for traveling, but far better to be prepared.
posted by yohko at 5:55 PM on November 14, 2007

Er, actually that was the 5, not the 101. But yeah.
posted by bac at 5:55 PM on November 14, 2007

If the cops are requiring chains past a certain point on the freeway, there will often be people you can hire to put the chains on. This would be a cash only sort of thing, and they make good money crawling around in freezing slush. Note that if you need chains out on some lonely mountain pass, there will probably be no one around to help you with this.

It's more likely that you will be required to carry chains in your vehicle past a certain point, but not required to actually put them on your car. Weather it's a good idea to drive without the chains on is another matter entirely.
posted by yohko at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2007

Pacific Coast Highway north to a random destination of your choice? Redwood forest maybe? My favourite place in the world may be that amazing little restaurant with the log cabins you can stay in like a hotel up there, who's name escapes me. So that isn't so helpful but maybe a CA mefi will know WTF I'm on about.

I am also a fan of random motels along the Oregon coast. I enjoy very random roadtrips as long as you check in with someone every night so they know where to start looking if you go AWOL.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:35 AM on November 15, 2007

I know you've seen a lot south of SF, but if you haven't, maybe you might start your trip in Pacific Grove watching the overwintering monarchs.
posted by plinth at 8:14 AM on November 15, 2007

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