Road Trip

San Diego to Sentinel Dome: Social distancing at national parks is the vacation you need

Yosemite National Park is a vast space primed for social distancing.

Photo by Getty Images/Jordan Siemens

In the first scene of the first episode of Aaron Sorkin's terrific HBO drama "The Newsroom", news anchor Will McAvoy rants during a lecture to journalism students. In the midst of a recitation of literacy rates and educational stats, he throws a question back to a student during a Q&A: "So, when you ask 'what makes us the greatest country in the world?', I don't know what the f*** you're talking about. Yosemite?"

The man makes a point. I'll leave the op-ed page to debate whether America is the greatest country in the world, but we can all agree that Yosemite is a national treasure, along with the rest of the National Parks system.

Joshua Tree National Park A stop at Joshua Tree National Park was on the interary. Photo by Seth K. Hughes/Getty Images

After four months of hunkering down at home, hiding from COVID, I'd had enough. I reached out to Kia to borrow a car, called a friend in San Diego who I thought might be interested in exploring a few of our National Parks and got cracking.

Our route would take us north of San Diego to Joshua Tree National Park, home to both extensive groves of the eponymous tree as well as some terrific stargazing. Then we'd head further north to spot some gigantic trees at the Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks, followed by Yosemite itself. After Yosemite, we'd head west to Monterey, and south down California 1 along Big Sur, stopping for the night at Ragged Point Inn at the south end, before dashing back to San Diego. Four nights, four parks.

If you're looking for a COVID-friendly trip, a road trip to a National Park is a solid way to go. There's plenty of space for social distancing, and they're quite cheap. Yosemite, for example, costs just $35 for a weeklong vehicle pass. Though it's worth considering the $80 Interagency Annual Pass which is good for entrance at all Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, and Fish and Wildlife Service sites charging entrance or day use fees. Then there are countless people who qualify for free annual passes, including all U.S. 4th graders and active military members, plus heavily discounted senior annual and lifetime passes.

We picked up the $80 Annual Pass at the scorching Joshua Tree West Entrance, stopped by the public restrooms there (which have prominent posters showing what color your urine should be to avoid dehydration in the 110-degree heat — brown is bad, by the way), and headed into the park. I don't have nearly the space to review the full park, and anyway, you should just go yourself. Cameras, too, completely fail to do it justice. The bizarre and wonderful trees, along with the spectacular desert landscape, make for a spectacular visit.

Scenic view of landscape against star field at night Joshua Tree National Park comes alive at night. Photo by Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

But at night is when Joshua Tree really comes alive. City-living — or even being near a city — really puts a damper on what you can see in the night sky, and both the Park and local communities have invested significant time and money into helping keep Joshua Tree dark. We easily spotted the Milky Way, Saturn and Jupiter, as well as Comet NEOWISE in the dark sky, along with countless other celestial objects.

After picking up a Date Shake in nearby Palm Springs, we headed north to Sequoia. This was a bit of a National Parks Express Tour, so we didn't venture into the fantastic hiking and camping options that these parks offer, but the views were spectacular even from the main roads through the parks. The massive sequoia trees simply must be seen to believe, making for a rather humbling experience when one considers how old these living things are.

Yosemite is even more awe-inspiring. The glacier-carved Yosemite Valley, flanked by Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls, is jaw-dropping. Staring up at climbers on El Capitan and knowing that someone even climbed the imposing 3,200-foot wall without rope is bewildering.

Yosemite National Park AutomotiveMap road tripped to Yosemite National Park late last year. You can see our guide to the park here.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

From the first view of Yosemite Valley from the famous Tunnel View lookout through to the drive out of the park, the landscape never disappoints. We even spotted a very healthy-looking black bear eating in a field, which is always a treat.

After the soaring peaks of the Sierra Mountains, we headed west towards the ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway along Big Sur. The twisting coastal drive along California 1, with the cliffs of the Santa Lucia Mountains rising out of — or plunging into, depending on your perspective — the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

Our final stop, at the Ragged Point Inn at the south end of Big Sur — where we watched the sunset from atop the cliffs — was the capstone to an amazing road trip.

Highway 1 big sur Highway 1 near Big Sur includes the Bixby Creek Bridge, a famous landmark. Photo by Getty Images

COVID has stressed us all, with anxiety over mental and physical health taking a real and significant toll. And, luckily, the best antidote might just be to get outside. Even if you don't have the majesty of Yosemite nearby, I encourage you to just get in the car and take a drive somewhere new.

You never know — you might find what makes America the greatest country in the world.

Trending News

Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Snake Pass is one of England's most beloved driving roads.

Britain's Snake Pass takes you though some of England's most scenic topography, curving in and out of the Derbyshire region of the Peak District. The weather there isn't always favorable - it's frequently closed due to snow or flooding - but when it's open, and you have the right car, it's a driver's dream.

The road has a rich history. It was opened as a toll road in the early 1800s and remained as such until the 1870s. It was the primary route between Sheffield and Manchester until the 1980s.

Porsche recently traced the route using its free-to-download Roads by Porsche app, which gives drivers the means of finding the best roads to travel. The route was recently voted onto the app by fans of the roadway.

Snake Pass Porche Cayman 718 Porsche recently test drove the road, which was added to its Roads app by fans.Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The preferred route starts east of Glossop, a town just outside of Manchester. All 11 miles of the path are in a national park. Fro Glossop, the roadway climbs into the Pennine Hills reaching 1,680 feet above sea level at the point the route passes Pennine Way. A public house, the Snake Pass Inn, sits nearby. The road passes just north of Kinder Scout, the highest point in England, and through the towns of Knowsley, St. Helens, and Warrington.

The winding scenic roads naturally draws comparisons to Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, which runs along the Oregon and Idaho boarder. The U.S. route offers some of the most breathtaking views roadway views you can get in the country, and provides plenty of technical driving opportunities.

Traversing Snake Pass is technically tough. There are plenty of hazardous bends and blind summits. Fog rolls in quickly at times. Cyclists, professional and far from it, compete for roadway.

Porsche Cayman 718 at Snake Pass

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

On the flip side, the road offers perhaps the best views of the Manchester area you'll ever see. The scenery goes from moorland to forest to flatland as well.

But, you won't be able to look long because of the road's perils.

Once through the forest, the road opens up again as you near Sheffield. Drystone walls feature while sheep politely munch their lunch nearby. The route draws to a close at Ladybower Reservoir at Ashopton but there's the option to continue. The A57 carries drivers on to Sheffield, dispersing them to the cities near and far via any number of more major motorways.

Or, you could turn around and traverse it once again. It's only 11 miles, after all.

Trending News

 
 

Three Bugatti Divos have been delivered to U.S. customers.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti Beverly Hills

Three Bugatti customers on the West Coast have started 2021 off on a better note than the rest of us. Bugatti of Beverly Hills was recently able to deliver three of the four Bugatti Divo supercars that have been commissioned through the dealership to their new owners.

Each of the models has been customized to deliver the high-performance, exclusive drive and ride experience required by its commissioner. Ahead of their delivery, the three Divos took to the track together completing laps at The Thermal Club in Palm Desert, California.

The Divo itself is a unique Bugatti even before customization. It rides on new architecture that features more air inlets than other Bugatti models and a wide front spoiler that works to provide optimal air supply and aid with downforce. The car looks lower and longer than other Bugattis due to its slimmer side line. At the front of the grille is the traditional, 159-gram Bugatti emblem.

U.S.-bound Bugatti Divos

Photo country of Bugatti Beverly Hills

Each model is powered by a 8.0-liter W16 engine that achieves 1500 horsepower. That engine can propel the car up to its 236 mph top speed.

Bugatti's Atelier in Molsheim is charged with the creation of each Divo. The first deliveries of the hyper sports cars took place in August 2020. By the end of the first months of 2021, all Divos will have been delivered to their new homes.

"To see these spectacular automobile works of art go from a piece of paper to sitting here in front of me is a phenomenal feeling," says Tim O'Hara, General Manager Bugatti Beverly Hills. "It was a very involved and lengthy process that demanded our best skills and expertise. To deliver 4 of only 40 to be built in the world and see the project through fruition is deeply gratifying."

Trending News