Driving Down the Pacific Highway from Oregon to Los Angeles

We take to driving down the Oregon coast on highway 101. The drive has been nothing less than breathtaking. The rocky beaches, most of which are public lend themselves to endless days of off-the-beaten-path hiking and exploring.

Oregon Coast

As we drove south and entered California the scenery did not change as much as I had anticipated. We entered the Redwood parks to learn that there isn't just one of them—there are closer to half a dozen. We spent a couple nights near two of them and hiked through a State and National park.

Redwood National and State Parks

Find interactive trail info here and downloadable maps here

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

- Stout Grove Hike (<1 mile)

- Boy Scout Hike (4.8 mile out and back)

Redwood National Park

- Tall Trees Grove (3.9 miles out and back)

Lone Bird at Sunset off the Coast of Northern California

San Fransisco - Monterey

Carmel by the Sea

Big Sur State Park

Staying Warm with our custom made sleeping bag/quilt:

- UQG Outdoor provided us with two sleeping quilts for our travels. Most hikers/campers have never even considered using a quilt as they are not as ‘mainstream’ as their sleeping bag big brother. Whereas sleeping bags are sold at big box stores down quilts are typically sold by small cottage manufacturers—resulting in quilts being used by only the most outdoor enthusiast.

Sleeping bags include a hood to keep your head warm and encase your entire body—this comes at the added expense of more materials (down, stitching, etc.) and more weight.

Down quilts are not sewn shut like sleeping bags, but having material underneath your body doesn’t actually provide any warmth since the down is compressed by your body weight. It’s advised to wear a hat when using a quilt to keep your head warm in colder conditions.

We received two built-to-order Bandit quilts. You can customize your own down quilt here.

Sylvie’s quilt is a 30 degree fully insulated sewn shut toe box with an extra ounce of down in the torso. Since she sleeps cold the fully insulated and sewn shut lower half retains more heat near her tiny toes. The added ounce of down makes the bag a bit warmer than 30 degrees (let’s call it a 28 degree bag).

Scott’s quilt (shown in photos) is also a 30 degree weight but has a zipper and draw cord toe box. I added an extra ounce of down in the toe box to beef up the warmth due to the open and non insulated toe box. I found this option to be the most versatile. Since it’s not sewn I’m able to fully unzip it and lay it 100% flat and use it like a normal down comforter. You can see how easily it drapes over Sylvie while she watches the stars at night. When it was time for bed I zipped up the toe-box, pulled the draw cord closed, and snapped the buttons to prevent the zipper from coming down.

UGQ’s quilts are made from 800, 850, or 950 lofted down—much higher quality than even the best sleeping bags carried by REI. Our Uniqlo down jacket has a loft rating of under 700—you can tell how much warmer this quilt is (and lighter). You can choose the weight and colors of the materials (inside and outside separately), the length, width, temperature ratings, additional down stuffing, and taper style.

Our UGQ sleeping quilts have provided us many warm nights in half a dozen national parks ranging from Glacier National Park in northern Montana to the Redwoods on the Pacific Coast. We look forward to using them in all of our future adventures.

Did I mention that the two bags combined weigh less than 1 light weight sleeping bag you would buy at REI?

Pismo Beach

San Luis Obispo

Santa Barbara

We spent a couple nights at the elegant Upham Hotel, which boasts a lengthy history in its Santa Barabara neighborhood. The Upham Hotel has been accommodating and delighting guests for over 125 years. The hotel certainly isn’t short on curb appeal with its charming Victorian facade and wrap-around veranda. The interior of the hotel gives a nod to Upham’s rich history as well a vintage vibe and classic furniture. 

The large common area was inviting and cozy with ample seating and food served throughout the day—continental breakfast in the morning, wine and cheese in the afternoon, oreo’s and milk in the evening, and endless coffee, tea and fruit. These tasty thoughtful touches made for a very pleasant stay and beckon you to sit and stay awhile.

In addition to comfort and convenience we found the ground of the Upham Hotel to be serene. The lawn was beautifully landscaped and framed with flowers and seating areas. We utilized the outdoor space during our stay- it’s hard to want to get outside in the beautiful weather here.

The Grounds

The Upham Hotel is centrally located which makes getting around very convenient. We were in walking distance to State Street and downtown Santa Barbara. If you continue down State Street past the sleepy red-tiled Spanish colonial store fronts you’ll come to a dead-end at Stearns Wharf with panoramic views of Santa Barbara’s beaches—Each Beach and Leadbetter Beach.

Our Room


Walking Around Downtown Santa Barbara

We explored the wharf, the beaches, and local shops. On our last night in town we enjoyed a local farmer’s market where we sampled all types of fruits and other local goodies.

Farmer’s Market

Enjoying Sunset on the Beach

Sunset in Santa Barbara, California

Malibu and Santa Monica


Universal Studios - Hollywood

We couched surfed in the lovely town of Pasadena, which acted as our home base while we explored Universal Studios. We used Craigslist and found tickets for $45 (vs the $129 they usually are). The park was fun but I got pretty sick from the rides. I was a bit disappointed that they all seem to just put you in front of a large screen and shake you around. As a mechanical engineer I was hoping for more props and automatronics. We went on Thursday November 1st and most rides had no wait. At one point the Simpson’s ride had a 20 minute wait.

Walking around the Old Town part of Pasadena enjoyable—though it was amazing how many sushi restaurants there were (at least 10 in a quarter mile stretch)

Catching Sunset in Old Town, Pasadena, California