Pismo Beach 2018 Day 11 – Coastal drive to Prismo Beach

Leaving San Francisco after 3 nights and it was going to be a long route back to LA. I drove to Enterprise for a replacement vehicle that I made. The reason for this change even though I am asking for the same type of vehicle was that at point of online registration, the cost of rental sky rocketed to SGD2k whereas when I separated these rentals into 2, the total costs were halved. The place was opened early but by the time I arrived it was already already past 9am. There was light traffic and effortlessly, I turned into a small parking compound and parked the vehicle there.


It was a busy day already for the staff and when I had a chance, I explained the situation and asked if it was easier to just extend the rental. She agreed and assured too that the rates would be the same and there were no additional charges that would be incurred. Waited in line for her to deal with the outstanding customers and even the phone calls before I left with an agreement extension with the promise of an email to confirm our discussion.

Driving back, I parked parallel on a street adjacent to Mission street and put in the coins for a 15mins parking. Then walking along it, I quickly stumbled into a small cafe Cumaica cafe to grab a quick breakfast in the form of a wrap. It was rather busy in the morning with lots of customers getting takeaways and the place was rather full, a signal for good food. Returned to the car with some time to spare and drove back to the apartment.

15mins starts now
Where I got my breakfast

The day was planned as a purely transition trip via the coastal roads back towards LA. We had an intermediate stop half way through at Pismo Beach, one of the bigger sea side town to break the journey into two. After our breakfast, packing and enough TV, we got on way. The host was kind enough to settle my fine so I dropped the fine as instructed in his mail. Then we hit the roads, getting onto highway 101 going out of San Francisco before splitting towards Monterey via the coastal highway.

That’s why an SUV

It was a 2hrs drive to our lunch stop at Sand City, an ad hoc choice when we decided to try American fast food that wasn’t Macs and Google turned out Five Guys as one of the top choices for burgers. As we were getting off the 101, Five Guys was conveniently available at Sand City, and I just turned into the massive car park available there and parked close to the restaurant.

We sat in and while K was fed his lunch, I ordered a bacon burger and a cheeseburger with fries and a vanilla milkshake. When the burgers were ready, I found that the orders were wrong and asked for the correct burger. The staff immediately went to make another burger and allowed me to keep the wrong burger. It was a good gesture but we had too many burgers now! The burgers were pretty tasty and I loved the fries as they were quite solid to chew on. There were also peanuts free for all to take but we didn’t take any.

Five Guys
Inside Five Guys
Burgers, fries and shake
The other bacon burger
Another Target at Sand City

After lunch, we continued our road trip via the coastal highway 1 and it was a long drive. I thought the Google map was wrong when we saw that it was a 5hrs drive to Pismo Beach, whereas taking the highway 101 was only 4hrs in total. The coastal road had lesser lanes and would be expected to be slower.

Anyhow, we wouldn’t want to just drive by without taking at least one trip along the coast so we continued on. It was indeed a nice drive, for quite a few sections along the coast, there were worthy viewpoints to stop and admire.

My family was initially awake and enjoying the view but as the drive dragged on, they also drifted to sleep while I continued on my own. Drove into the sunset and stopped at Piedras Blancas Light Station to take a shot of orangey skies before continuing.

View on the Coastal drive
Stopped for this view
K also snapping away
Road works allows for photo opportunities
Lovely views
At Piedras Blancas Light Station
Sunset over the coast

A little further down the road, there was a car park with a group of people looking out at sea. Being the typical busybody, I drove in, stopped and got out the car to take a look to see what they were looking. I was surprised to find elephant seals lying everywhere on the beach, making some noises as they were there. Took a video and snapped some photos before returning to the car to show mommy who was awake, what the commotion was about.

Coast with elephant seals

The entire highway had a few more car parks along the way for people to stop and admire the view but at that time, it was too dark to see anything and we just drove on and on until we finally arrived at Pismo Beach. Took a stop at the town and put in the address of the Airbnb. Then it was a few more minutes of driving as we went into the residential part of Pismo beach.

Looking at the instructions, we arrived at what looked like a detached house and helped ourselves to the gate. Upon parking into the car park, I went ahead to unlock the apartment door behind and brought the family in first. Then slowly move the luggage into the apartment. We chose this Airbnb because there was an interesting watch tower that was built from a real lifeguard watch tower and it was converted into a small child bedroom. K was very interested to climb up the watch tower and climb into the bed there.

Bedroom with kitchen and living room
Watchtower converted
Cosy bed

After exploring, we finally coerced him to go for dinner. We were thinking Japanese cuisine as it was the simplest food that suits all mouths including that belonging to our fussy K. Ended up in a small little Japanese restaurant called Yamato which served delicious Japanese sushi and Udon to fill our tummies. After the dinner, our usual activity of shopping in a supermarket took place at the mega size supermarket Vons, just across the road.

Yamato Japanese restaurant
More sushi
Vons supermarket
Mega store
Look at the size of that thing!

After shopping, we went back to the apartment and spent some time in front of the TV, bathed and went to bed.

San Francisco 2018 Day 10 – San Francisco Premium Outlets

Shopping day and so we slept in a little later. Mommy woke up to prepare the meals and when we got ready to leave it was almost 1145. When I retrieved the car to bring it closer to the apartment, I found a paper envelope on the windscreen and realized that I was fined for parking there, $110. Messaged the host about it before driving to San Francisco Premium outlets.

Parking fine
So non-existent buildings previous parking space cannot be parked.

It was a 45 mins drive via the Bay bridge and there wasn’t a toll required. The road was under the bridge when going towards Livermore, in smooth flowing traffic.

We arrived at a large parking space but with a lot more cars waiting to park their cars. K fell asleep and so I let mommy alight first so that she could start shopping. The outlets supposed to close at 9pm on normal days but because of Veterans Day, they close 2 hrs earlier. I found a carpark quickly though and that also coincided with the time K woke up.

Went to look for mommy at Tory Burch and as she queued in line to get into the shop, K and I proceeded to Under Armour, both of us kept in touch through free WiFi at the outlets. The items were indeed cheap as I got a pair of shorts, tee and running shoes for about USD100. The downside was sizes were not readily available and had to spend time finding.

San Francisco Premium Outlets
Inside the premium outlets

There was a trolley in the shape of a sports car that we rented to avoid carrying K and it was USD10 the whole day including a USD2 deposit that would be return upon the return of the trolley. After this, we went to the food court to get lunch, bought a bacon wrap for about 10ish but waited really long for it even though it was without queue. Had Haagen dazs ice cream for 4ish dollars one scope and then we were out again after using the rest room.

Trolley rental
Ordered my wrap from here
Chicken wrap and fries
Food court

Again we divided and conquer and K followed me to Lacoste, Superdry, True Religion and Hugo Boss. Some of the shops are just messy, some are small and having that big trolley in them was challenging. Thankfully Pogo kept K busy while I tried on the clothes, occasionally he would call out to me at the top of his voice to ask about the game. Spent some time at Skechers to get new shoes for K (those with lights) and realized after paying that those didn’t come with discounts, the deal was to buy the 2nd pair at 50%. Being the kiasu Singaporean that I am, I returned to find another pair and spent quite a while there due to lack of sizes.

Rushed to Samsonite to get a set of luggage for USD199 that came with large 28” and a cabin luggage, just for the new stuff that we bought. I ended my shopping route at Disney 15mins before closing and bought 2 tees for K and a toy Lightning McQueen. Met mommy at North Face and then we returned to the car, victorious in our purchases.

Returned the trolley

Just across the road junction was Fallon Gateway shopping center with eating options and we went to Ramen 101 for our dinner, for about USD25 we got ourselves some tasty ramen. After dinner, we drove over to Target for another round of shopping. The huge store was opened till 11pm and I lost K and mommy midway, having walked around 3times but was unable to find them. Mommy had to message me the section there were in before we met up again.

Ramen 101
Our bowls of Ramen
Fallon Gateway
Huge Target
Where I got lost

Driving back was also a 45mins drive and since it was pretty late, traffic was smooth and I had to pay toll of $5, unsure why more expensive compared to the first time I crossed it.

Bay bridge drive

K fell asleep and remained all the way. We packed the new stuff into the luggage and prepared for bed too, ending a fruitful but short shopping day.

Shopping results

San Francisco 2018 Day 9 – Alcatraz cruise, Academy of Science and Powell Street

Woke up at 730 to make milk for K and catch up on my travelogues. Wasn’t able to jot down anything for last few days as I was both physically and mentally tired from the trip. Wondered if age played a part in this. 830 and I woke mommy up and dressed K in his sleep. Got out of the apartment by 9am for our 10am crossing to Alcatraz with sleeping K in my arms.

It was a 20mins drive and we parked at the Impark at the waterfront plaza. It was a flat rate of $20 whole day parking for weekend which was even cheaper than what we paid the night before.

Parking near Pier 33

Arrived at 920ish at Pier 33 and carried K who continued to sleep until we walked into the Alcatraz landing cafe where he woke up. Mommy ordered a donut and croissant and a coffee and we quickly ate before moving to queue up, the boarding happened soon after with lots of people getting onto the cruise ship.

Pier 33
Alcatraz Landing Cafe
Inside the cafe
Breakfast before boarding

It was a quick 15min ride on the stable boat and we disembarked soon without much drama and also much view of San Francisco and Alcatraz as the skies continued to be shrouded in haziness. A ranger was going on about the rules and the different routes as part of an welcome introduction to Alcatraz island, which was also then we found out that the haze was caused by a wildfire and that the PMI was in the unhealthy region!

Our cruise ship
Inside the cruise
Ranger giving information

Our first stop was the theatre that showed a discovery channel show featuring Alcatraz, which talked about the prison, and others information like the Indian political takeover. Afterwards, we walked upslope (3 slopes), with K on my shoulders of course, and into the prison where at the entrance, we were given an audio guide for the whole tour. The area wasn’t really big and the walking area was only limited to the ground floor but the sequencing of the tour allow people to walk everywhere at different point in time. There was a schedule of cell gate closing presentation (yes, just so you could experience with sight and sound the opening and closing of the prison cell cold metal gates) at 1130am which we tried to see but couldn’t get much since it was really crowded. I couldn’t get much from the audio either with incessant K disturbances including a midway toilet visit (which required us to exit the prison, had to asked the staff at the entrance of the prison for directions) but adequate to hear some of the interesting stories that happened in the prison, such as the escapes.

Water drum en route to prison
Prison entrance
Place where person belongings were exchanged for prison wear
Place for shower
One typical cell
Times Square
3 levels of cell
Baseball field for inmates
The notorious
Library space for inmates
Cell D for misbehaving lot
Visiting windows
Run down buildings
External of the prison
Looked like a watchtower
Dining hall



Tunnel back to the cruise


Exhibit of Indian occupation of the island

We made the 1230pm (timing up to own preferences) ferry crossing (and again had to ask the staff how to escape) and 15mins later, we were back at the Pier. Walked towards Pier 39 passing some event exhibits that were set up for Diwali and visited the barking sea lions out at the pier. Then walked to the Hana Zen for lunch, where we sat near the windows had a smoky view of Alcatraz.

Cannon display at Pier 33
Barking sealions in the distance

Ordered a Oyakudon and chicken teriyaki meals for $43 which took a while to come but it tasted ok. After lunch we returned to the carpark to take the car to our next destination, the California Academy of Science.

Hana Zen
Inside the restaurant
Teriyaki Chicken
View from the table
View from Pier 39
Pier 39 in the day

It was a 30mins drive there and we arrived at about 3plus. K had fallen asleep and after parking parallel (for free during that period) on Nancy Pelosi Dr, I went down to check out the place first. We were actually behind the building and after looking at the entrance fees I quickly returned to the car.

A victorian designed house while driving thru SF
California Academy of Sciences
A nice park just across the building

Woke K up so that we could still spend some time at the museum and went back to get the tickets. Got 2 adults tix for $39 each and K entered for free since he was not 4 yet. There was dinosaur bones at the entrance but the planetarium was closed for the day. We proceeded to line up for the rainforest which had very interesting animals such as a live giant toad and giant millipede and many close encounters with big butterflies. After 3 small levels of this environment, we went to the basement aquarium and were again wowed by giant size fresh water fishes. There were lots of exhibits that made this felt more like a zoo + aquarium than a museum. Spent quite a bit of time there including touching a starfish and then going up to take a photo of a white crocodile.

Dino skeleton
Huge toad
Giant Millipede
Monarch butterfly
Blue butterly
Ant house
Some fish
At the aquarium
More jellies
White crocodile

It was nearing closing time of 5pm and we briskly walked through the exhibits of the wild of Africa and snatched a quick view of the “Giants of the land” exhibit before the staff told us to head towards the exit, after a visit to the restroom.

Wild of Africa display
Huge hanging skeleton

Remembering I had a toll to pay, I drove to a place called Geary Convenience Store within a few minutes drive away to pay there, according to the list of places to pay. Parking wasn’t easy to find and after driving around a corner, I managed to find one slot to park. While my family stayed in the car to wait for me, I walked to the store only to find it closed. Was about to leave when a lady asked what did I want and I said to pay the tolls. Luckily, she was the owner of the store and had only just left but for some reason came back. She then opened the doors and helped me with the toll paying machine. Paid and left the store, a burden lifted from my brain from not forgetting to pay the toll.

Geary Convenience Store to pay toll
Using this machine

The sun had set while we drove to Impark opposite Bloomingdales on Mission street. Spent some time shopping at the mall, while mommy visited Sephora and Tory Burch, I was out waiting with K while he played with my hand phone or just people watching in this massive building. Afterwards, we got onto Powell street and visited the Walgreens (mommy shopping) and took a few photos of the San Francisco cable car (the traditional one). At one point I had to bring K to Hotel Nikko to use the restroom as there weren’t any nearby. As we walked back towards Nordstrom after shopping, we saw the famous turning around of the cable car manually happening in front of us. 2 of the staffs had to rotate the cable car on a movable road so that the cable car directions could switch to face the opposite direction.

Fifth and Mission parking
Multi storey mall
Inside Tory Burch
San Francisco street at night
Traditional cable cars
Cable car turnaround location

We ate at the food court (similar concept as Singapore) at the basement and ordered Korean vegetable rice (like Chinese vegetable rice concept, soup based food was closed) and mommy ordered pasta (costing about 10ish per person). After our meals it was already 930pm and everything else was closed. We couldn’t even exit the building from other exits other than through the main one.

Inside the food court

Upon returning to the car, we realized that there was a break in on the car just parked next to us, the license plate of the plate indicated that the car was from Maine! (out of state) So  stories of cars break ins were real and heeding the advice of not putting anything in the car should be followed, even in parking places like these. The fees were $12 for parking.

We drove to the Safeway near our apartment at Mission Street and while K and I stayed in the car to care for the barang barang that mommy bought, mommy went to get the groceries necessary to prepare for K meals the next day. By the time we returned it was almost 1030pm. Brought everything back into the apartment first as I went to look for another parking due to the overcrowded space just outside the apartment. Thankfully there was one space that was used to be a parking space for building that was no longer in existence. Put up 2 TV shows for K on Amazon fire stick and after that, bathed him before we all ended the long day, in bed.

Safeway supermarket

San Francisco 2018 Day 8 – Golden Gate bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

We woke up at 8, got dressed and by 10, we were checked out. The reception was pretty closed to the lake and so we decided to go check it out. It was a great decision to take that walk as we were presented a scenic serene view of the area. While K was not able to appreciate the view, he found some pine cones to kick them about. There was a pier that went out into the water. Walking along the wooden walkway, with clear waters reveal the ground meters deep beneath the water (but no fishes). Ducks were seen at the sides of the walkway basking in the morning sun and ignoring us until K got too close and some got in the water. Then a school of geese glided down and landed on water, a majestic sight that I wasn’t able to catch with a camera as I watched in awe. I could just sit there all day to enjoy the peacefulness around but we had to go to San Francisco and it was a tad too chilly. After K had some fun playing with the sand, we walked back to the car, and was surprised to see a wild rabbit and fluffy tail squirrel along the way! (K tried chasing the rabbit as it dashed out of sight)

Our accommodation
Strolling towards the lake
Ducks on very clear water
Basking in the sun
The school of geese after landing on the water
Swimming pool not in use

The road trip to San Francisco was a 4hrs drive, beginning with a nice scenic downhill drive at the start coming out from Lake Tahoe. The tall trees with autumn colors lined the road as the car took the often curvy road but not too uncomfortable to drive. My family were soon off to dreamland while I kept my eyes on the road. I had initially planned a midpoint rest stop at Sacramento Southside Park that had a Farmer’s market nearby but since K was still asleep, I decided to continue the drive straight to San Francisco.

Picturesque drive downhill

The Google maps initial road to our destination were showing intimidating red colours leading into the peninsula, so I decided to take a detour and go through Lafayette instead of Vallejo as there’s were less reds. We crossed the Bay Bridge and paid at the toll counters the bridge toll of USD4. There was a slight jam while in San Francisco but we slowly made our way to the Airbnb.

Overhead signs indicating cash or Fastrak only
Driving on the Bay Bridge

After going through a few streets of the residential area, we turned into a street with a dead end, our Airbnb. We had to carry out the check in ourselves using instructions through the app and it didn’t take long before we unlocked the few doors before finding ourselves at the door to our accommodation inside the garage. It was a small place that came with kitchen place with a portable stove, a small living room and a bedroom and toilet. K settled down to have his lunch while I ventured out onto the streets and found a Burger King a 6mins walk away. Purchased 2 small meals to takeaway for $17. This location had a very Puerto Rican vibe, people were speaking Portuguese, and I heard orders for the meals being conversed in Portuguese.

Colourful buildings reminding me of San Juan
Our ride parked on the street

Finished our lunch at about 315pm and we were out again. I had planned to visit the viewpoint of the Golden Gate bridge, the Battery Spencer fort at the opposite end of the bridge itself. Drove there which was not too difficult with directions along the way. Upon climbing up the hill, we couldn’t see place to park the car and thus proceeded further up where there was another viewpoint (see Google map). I managed to park at that viewpoint and we got out for quick photos before getting back into the car and returned to Battery Spencer. Luckily upon arriving, a car just left and I quickly grab the opportunity slot my car in.

Driving on the Golden Gate bridge

Battery Spencer fort was a fort that was no longer in use, and there weren’t anything much left of the fort. To view the bridge, we walked on the rocky road just next to the fort route all the way till the edge of the knoll. When we arrived, we were greeted by the magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge from an elevated view, a location for the best selfies!

Rocky path to the edge
View from the edge
Battery Spencer
Toll for the Golden Gate Bridge, but no counters to pay

Our next location to visit was to go Fisherman’s Wharf. This meant driving back on the Golden Gate Bridge. While there was a need to pay toll, unlike the Bay Bridge, there weren’t any toll stations available. Nevertheless, I had 48 hours to make payment and it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Googled Northpoint center carpark as the place to go to for a visit to the Fisherman’s Wharf but I was on the opposite side of the road that did not allow for me to turn into the car park. Eventually, we ended up parking at Pier 39 carpark.

Parking at Pier 39

We went to Fisherman’s Wharf to walk around, there were shops and restaurants abound, like a typical tourist area. We walked into a random shop that had souvenirs and bought a musical box in the shape of a cable car and small model of the Golden Gate bridge. We went into CVS to shop too, buying a lip balm and mommy bought her stuff.

Restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf
There must be boats in a Wharf
A modern cable car
One of the chocolate store at Fisherman’s Wharf

For dinner, we left Fisherman’s Wharf and walked to Pier 39 where there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. We thought of getting some seafood and Fog Harbour fish house seemed to tell us that but there were too many people queuing to get in so we went further down and entered the Crab House. Ordered Cioppino seafood tomato soup and fish and chips for K. It was pretty tasty but the quantity was surprisingly small. Decided to add another half a crab in their special sauce. In total, we paid slightly less than USD100 for dinner. Since we ate at a restaurant in Pier 39, we had our carpark ticket validated too, to save some costs. Spent the night walking around Pier 39, enjoying the sights of lights and a carousel that was closed for the night. However, many shops remained opened while we were there.

Sealion statues at Pier 39
Restaurants galore
Fog Harbor is full
Crab House
Fish and Chips
Half a crab
Inside Crab House
Carousel closed for the day
Many stores still in operation
Hard Rock Cafe just next to Pier 39

Carpark fees were still a hefty USD30 by the time we were leaving. It was a 30mins back to the apartment where we passed by the Bay Bridge that was lighted up with running lights. I thought that parking at the Airbnb would be easy since I could just parked on the road as the schedule for road cleaning wasn’t during our stay. When I arrived, I saw a street full of cars, it was like everyone had thought that it was a good idea to park there. I managed to just park in front of the building, with the risk of blocking the car that was in the garage, but figured that the owner could just call me to move if it was a problem.

Bay Bridge lighted up

I started TV that came with Amazon Firestick for K to catch some familiar cartoons before bath time. Tried to fix K’s sports car luggage with superglue bought from CVS too before finally going to bed.

Escape Plan to West USA November 2018

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to West USA:

Total duration 15D14N
Singapore is 12hr ahead of California, USA.
Flight time is 15hrs on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Los Angeles and return flight is 17hrs on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles to Singapore.

Friday evening flight on 2nd Nov at 845pm and arrival in Los Angeles in the evening of the 2nd Nov at 855pm. Return flight from Los Angeles on the 16th Nov at 1025pm and arrival in Singapore at 815am on the 18th Nov

Day 1 Flight and Arrival at Los Angeles
Day 2 Venice Beach, Venice Broadwalk and Santa Monica Pier
Day 3 LA, Hollywood and Griffith Observatory
Day 4 Las Vegas and Helicopter ride to Grand Canyon
Day 5 Drive to Grand Canyon and glamping under the stars
Day 6 From Grand Canyon to Reno
Day 7 Lake Tahoe
Day 8 San Francisco Golden Gate bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
Day 9 Alcatraz cruise, Academy of Science and Powell Street
Day 10 San Francisco Premium Outlets
Day 11 Coastal drive to Prismo beach
Day 12 Detour to Camarillo Premium Outlets and Disneyland Pier Hotel
Day 13 Disney California Adventure Park
Day 14 San Diego Sea World and Gasclamp Quarters
Day 15 Citadel Premium Outlets and Home Sweet Home

This escape plan was an impromptu due to the availability of good deals. Singapore Airlines announced the revival of the direct long distance flight to Los Angeles and with premium economy seats going at just $1328, only $200 more than the economy seats, it would be a sin to miss!

Budget nature: Budget buster 

It wasn’t a fantastic time to be spending USD as SGD was weak near the end of the year compared to the earlier months. The savings from the tickets were gone in a flash due to travelling in the state with the highest costs of living in the USA, lots of shopping and Disneyland.

Complexity: Easy

Driving around was not difficult even in multiple lanes highways. Tolls can be a little tricky but reading it up on Google helped. Jams were common in cities but with patience, you would still reached your destination, albeit in the dark. Google maps worked like a charm and pulling to the side of the road by the police for speeding wasn’t too daunting too!