Travel

Getting a Second Chance

Before every trip, I often find myself daydreaming about how it’s going to pan out. The trips of my imagination are filled with laughter, crystal clear photography, and memories my boyfriend and I will cherish for the rest of our lives.

This time, though, we began our journey and things started taking a turn for the worse.

I’d visited southern California twice and Tom had already been to northern California. In September, we decided to take a trip to San Francisco then drive down to San Diego to experience the areas together. We were on a tight schedule, but we planned it perfectly to make sure we maximized our time in both cities.

A delayed flight put a dent in our perfect itinerary and the trickle effect commenced.

San Francisco, CA, California, Alcatraz
The view of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island.

Our flight out of Newark was delayed by two hours.

We had the idea to grab a rental car and head straight to Point Reyes National Seashore in order to see the Golden Gate Bridge, drive over it, and see the sunset from the national park. In one afternoon, we determined we could kill three birds with one stone.

With a delayed flight, we were forced to get to our rental car just before the store closed for the night. (We rented from an Enterprise located in the city to save money.) Tom had some business to take care of after we got off the plane, and he didn’t want that to impact our plans, so we sped off to the National Seashore.

Unfortunately for us, the Golden Gate Bridge was swallowed by the smog. I didn’t even notice we were on the bridge until we were almost over it. That’s one bird’s life spared.

When we finally made it onto the park’s property, the sunshine dulled…and we got lost. The park is huge. After driving through the woods and over a pasture, we pulled off the road to find out just how far from the coast we actually were. Needless to say, we weren’t going to see the sunset.

The second bird got away from us, too.

Migraines hit hard.

Tom experiences some pretty serious migraines, and for those who understand them, you know how hard they can be to travel with. With an original plan to hit Ghiradelli Square (I go to the ice cream shop in Disney Springs almost every visit to Florida), we made the decision to grab some ice cream and head back to our Airbnb, which was only two blocks away, thankfully.

The pain made for a rough first night and our already-wacky sleep schedule due to the time difference was intensified. We were exhausted and I felt awful that this trip was starting off on the wrong foot.

I always feel terrible for Tom when a migraine hits, but I feel even worse when we’re on a trip.

Highway 1, California, Northern California, San Francisco
A view of the ocean along Highway 1, northern California.

We got a late start along Highway 1 and a road closure crushed our spirits.

Driving from San Francisco to San Diego on Highway 1 is no small task. With several opportunities to stop along the way and the sheer distance between the two cities, we were looking at an all-day venture.

The beginning of the ride was pure magic. The Pacific Coast is rugged but gorgeous, and the weather was picture perfect. After we stopped at Point Lobos State Reserve (where we saw humpback whales migrating!), we were forced to backtrack and ditch Highway 1. It didn’t make too much of a difference, though, considering it was overcast and nighttime was quickly approaching. We wouldn’t have seen much of anything anyway, so we accepted our defeat.

The epic journey from San Francisco to San Diego ended around 2:30 in the morning. We couldn’t find parking but noticed a car parked in an area that explicitly said “No Parking.” We were tired and cranky, so we followed suit. Upon arriving at our Airbnb’s front door, there was no key under the mat even though the host told us there would be one.

We looked around, jiggled the doorknob, and blankly stared at each other. What the hell was going on? As we started to walk away, confused and muttering under our breaths, we heard the door open.

“Hey, you guys from Airbnb?”

We whipped around and loud-whispered, “Yes!”

“Oh man, come on in. I was so worried you guys weren’t gonna show up!” The husky guy showed us to our room and explained why it’s him at the house and not his girlfriend. We told him about our drive and apologized for the late night. We lucked out staying with the nicest dude ever.

We woke up bright and early to tackle the San Diego Zoo, the bumpy road flattened, and our perfect itinerary was reinstated.

Despite having some difficulties the first couple of days, our trip was great. We have memories to laugh at and moments to remember fondly. With a new trip to southern California coming up in July, it got me thinking: what would I do differently if we did another San Francisco–San Diego weekend?

Alcatraz, Cells, Cell Block, Alcatraz Penitentiary
Cell block in Alcatraz.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. I wouldn’t pack so much into one weekend. Because of our tight schedule and a long list of planned activities, one flight delay set the tone for the entire first half of our trip. Due to health complications in the later part of last year and early this year, we told ourselves these cities will always be here. I wish I had that mindset going over to California or else I wouldn’t have planned our time so tightly.
  2. I’d be more patient. Back to the “these cities will always be here” mindset, I wouldn’t be so impatient if we had to shift things around. Our health and happiness comes first, and if we can’t properly enjoy an activity, why force ourselves to do it now? Make a mental note and go back to the city whenever you can.
  3. I’d give ourselves more time. One long weekend for San Francisco and San Diego is not enough time. Common sense, I know. Going into it, I knew that we would be “go, go, go”, but I thought we could handle it. We needed the proper amount of time to really appreciate what we were doing, and I got a bit too eager.
  4. I’d make a Plan B. Tom and I have traveled together enough by now, that I should know that migraines come up unexpectedly. Sometimes I get so lost in the plan I put together that I forget it’s okay to do things differently. As long as I stick to making Plan B’s, my itch to stick to an itinerary will drastically diminish.
  5. I’d leave a whole day for driving down the coast. Due to the delayed flight and smog, we stopped to visit the Golden Gate Bridge between seeing Alcatraz and driving south. Not our best decision… We both take time to appreciate the scenery and we absolutely love taking photos of coastlines. With that in mind, we should have headed down the coast immediately after waking up that morning. An 8-hour drive sounds fine (to us), but when you’re stopping frequently for photos, that quickly turns into a 12-hour drive.

I love California and loved seeing it with Tom. Each of our trips is memorable, but when we’re given a second chance at one, I want to do everything we can to make it perfect.

Where do you want to visit again, and what will you do differently this time?

San Francisco, California
San Francisco hills.

2 thoughts on “Getting a Second Chance”

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