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

 
 

The F-Type P450 cars replace the P300 and P380 as part of the Jaguar lineup.

Photo courtesy of Jaguar

Two new versions of the Jaguar F-Type are on the horizon. New versions of the model have been created to further the car's luxury proposition and both are powered by a roaring V8 engine. The new P450 variants replace the P300 and P380 models currently in the lineup. Jaguar is keeping the F-Type R around.

2022 Jaguar F-Type P450

The 2022 Jaguar F-Type P450 will be available as a coupe or convertible in P450 RWD or P450 R-DYNAMIC AWD grades. All varieties come with a 444-horsepower supercharged V8 under the hood that achieves 428 pound-feet of torque. An electronic active differential is standard. In all configurations, the car gets from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 177 mph.

2022 Jaguar F-Type P450 The car has received minor exterior updates from the 2021 model.Photo courtesy of Jaguar

In a nod to its suburban buyers, the F-Type has a Quiet Star mode that allows a more subtle roar out the back side of the car upon startup. Drivers who don't care about keeping quiet can switch the car in to Dynamic mode and let the rumble out.

Each F-Type P450 rides on 20-inch wheels, has larger brakes than traditional F-Type models, and has the switchable exhaust. Double J-Blade daytime running lights feature up front while new slender rear lights allow the body of the car to speak for itself.

Buyers who get the F-Type P450 R-Dynamic AWD get bespoke badging; a gloss black front splitter, side sills, valance, and venturi; auto-dimming, power- folding, heated door mirrors with memory; and 20-inch Style 6003, split-spoke, gloss Dark Grey with Contrast Diamond Turned Finish Wheels.

2022 Jaguar F-Type P450 The interior sports a refined appearance.Photo courtesy of Jaguar

Monogram stitch patterns on the car's seats and interior accents in Windsor Leather and satin-finish Noble Chrome enhance the interior. Additionally, there are "Jaguar Est.1935" markings on the center console finisher, glovebox release button surround, and seatbelt guides. Six-way electric power seats are standard on F-Type P450 RWD, while F-Type P450 R-Dynamic AWD adds 12-way electric memory front seats, electrically adjustable steering column with memory, Delta Aluminum Center Console, and R-Dynamic branded metal treadplates as standard equipment.

A 12.3-inch driver information display is standard.

F-Type P450 is available in 11 standard exterior colors, and can be ordered in over a dozen custom SVO paint finishes. It starts at $69,900 for the P450 RWD Coupe and $79,900 for the R450 R-Dynamic AWD Coupe.

2022 Jaguar F-Type R

The F-Type R is the pinnacle of the Jaguar lineup with torque on-demand all-wheel drive, Jaguar Intelligent Driveline Dynamics control technology, a double wishbone front and rear suspension, and electric power-assisted steering.

It can get from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 186 mph thanks to its 575-horsepower supercharged V8 engine. All-wheel drive is standard.

This model starts at $103,200.

Trending News

 
 

The 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade is a fresh edition for the company's lineup.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

One of Toyota's most efficient cars is getting the blackout treatment. Like other Nightshade editions Toyota puts out, the 2022 Prius Nightshade has all the requisite black accents while maintaining its heralded powertrain.

The 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade is available in front- and all-wheel drive. Buyers can add the treatment to Prius L Eco, LE, LE AWD-e, XLE, XLE AWD-e and Limited grades. It comes in the buyer's choice of Midnight Black Metallic, Super White, or Silver Metallic paint job. Front-wheel drive models ride on standard 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels while AWD-e cars get 15-inchers with black insert and lug nuts.

The exterior of the car also gets black headlight accents, mirror caps, door handles, color keyed rear deck spoiler and shark fin antenna.

2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

1 / 14

Each of the models is powered by the Prius's 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, which is paired with two electric motors. A continuously variable transmission is standard. All-wheel drive models get an EPA-estimated 51 mpg in the city, 47 mpg on the highway, and 49 mpg combined. Front-wheel drive versions do a slightly better 54 mpg in the city, 50 mpg on the highway, and 52 mpg combined.

Inside there are standard SofTex-trimmed trimmed, heated, power adjustable front seats and a SofTex-trimmed heated steering wheel and semi-gloss black center console. A 7-inch infotainment touch screen is standard, as is a six-speaker JBL sound system. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa come on every model, as are an auxiliary jack, three USB ports, a wireless phone charger, and one 12-volt outlet.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard and includes a pre-collision system with low-light pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, bicyclist detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, and road sign assist.

All Prius models come with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and 60-month/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Toyota's hybrid battery warranty is for 10 years or 150,000 miles from the vehicle's in-service date, whichever occurs first. The hybrid system warranty is for eight years or 100,000 miles from the vehicle's in-service date.

This latest member of the Nightshade family means that there are 11 Nightshade editions in Toyota's stable. The Prius is the first hybrid to get the treatment.

Trending News