Sunday, March 10, 2013

2013 Race Plans and Advice Needed!

I’ve been working on planning out my life lately. Well, at least the next six months. When I say “planning” what I mean is picking all the fun things I want to do with myself, my friends and my family. I do not mean planning the boring things like budgets and work deadlines and meal plans – although I guess that might be important too. But, oh so boring.

First up are my RACE PLANS. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

March 16, 2013 – Buddy Up Against Bullying Virtual 5K. This is a is a joint effort between an assistant principal and a police officer in North Carolina, trying to raise awareness against bullying. Go print out your bib and help raise awareness!

May 4, 2013SHAPE Diva Dash. This is one of those obstacle course races that is about 3 miles long. Emma and I are doing it with another mom/daughter team. I love that one of the sponsors is Smart Girl, a nonprofit organization specializing in empowering adolescents.

May 19, 2013Colorado Colfax Marathon. This is my biggie race for the spring/summer and the one I have been training for. I have NO clue what to expect. Part of me just hopes for a strong finish and the other part of me really wants another BQ (which is 3:55 for me). I think I’ll know more about what’s realistic once I know how much I DIE on my my 18 and 20 training mile runs.

May 27, 2013Bolder Boulder 10K. We always run this one as a family. I dress up in something that will embarrass my son. This year I’ll probably go as a condom.


June 2, 2013Longmont Triathlon. I love this race and have done it a few times. It’s just a short, local sprint.


July 19-20, 2013Rocky Mountain Epic Relay. 10 old co-ed people, 191 miles, 12,100 feet of climbing, 2 vans, lots of B.O. I did the Wild West Relay with this same group last year. BLAST! I’m the one in the blue shirt.


August 10, 2013Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon. This is the one I told you to sign up for awhile ago because for one day only it was $15 to register. I love this race because it’s scenic and downhill. Two great ingredients.

August 24, 2013Iron Girl Triathlon. I’ve done this one for the past two years. It’s now changed venues, but it’s always a great time. It’s the only race I’ve ever done that has white table cloths and a fancy buffet at the end (which I can never eat because my colon is usually in revolt-mode by the end of races).


I am a girl who likes a lot of variety, and I’d say this race schedule shows that. My “A” race is definitely the marathon and I’m just hoping the rest falls into place.

Next up are vacation plans and this is where you come in. I am going to make a confession and please don’t look down on me or stop reading my blog when I tell you this.

I have never been to California

Yes, it’s true. I’m not lying when I tell you I’ve visited every state in the union except for five: California, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Mississippi.

So – I think this year’s family vacation will go something like this:

Fly from Denver to San Francisco and spend a few days in the city. Rent a car and drive down the famous Pacific Coast Highway towards Santa Barbara (but, maybe not that far south), spending at least one night along the way. Cut over to Las Vegas and spend a few days there. Fly back to Denver.


I know many of you either live in CA or have spent time there. Here’s what I need help with:

What is the best area to stay in San Francisco – Fishman’s Wharf? Union Square? Any hotel recommendations? What’s one thing not to miss in the city?

If we do drive down the coast, we want to stop somewhere along the way for the night – what would you recommend – Carmel? Monterey? Cambria?

What’s one race you have on your calendar for this year?

How many states have YOU been to?

Thanks for your help friends!



  1. Wow! I'm British and went to SF for the first time last December for my 40th. I've only been to the USA twice: there, and to NY for my honeymoon. Colorado is next on the list...

    We stayed by Union Square which was a great spot, really central. We took the bus tours, which are a great way to see a lot in a short time. And I would never miss the Golden Gate bridge - I love walking across it (but I am a huge fan of bridges anyway...).

    You'll have a wonderful time!

  2. Catalina Buffalo Run, (marathon or half @ different times of year)- Multiple swims offered in the Bay depending on when you are there. ANything from a swim from Alcatraz to "Under the Golden Gate" or Around Alcatraz. Tons of tris all the way up the coast.
    We stay in the Sutro area away from the F.Wharf mess-you can run trails form here and end up at the Presidio.
    Our vacations are ALWAYS centered around a swim, tri, marathon, event.
    I thought eveyone's was! Silly me!

  3. I used to live in SF and have done the LA to Pebble Beach drive with family during the summer. A few thoughts:
    - For SF hotels, Hotel Vitale and the Hyatt Embarcadero give you views and convenience, without all the touristy-riff raff of Fisherman's Wharf. You'll be walking distance to the Ferry Building, Union Square. Plus great runs from there to the Golden Gate Bridge.
    - When you drive down the coast would definitely stay in Carmel, it's so lovely and is just about the right distance to stop.
    - What you are planning is a TON of driving and the drive from Pebble to SB to Vegas if done during the day may be exhausting (as you will be in AC but everyone outside will be melting). Depending on how much time you have, might just want to drive along the coast from SF to SB to LA and then fly back... but may be you love being in the car with the family (Clark Griswold did make it famous!)

    1. Yes, it will be long. I don't think we'll go as far south as SB though. I do plan to channel my inner Clark Griswold.

  4. BETH!! I remember when you shared that you'd never been to California in one of your birthday posts a few years ago, but I still can't believe it's true!

    I think driving down the PCH is a great idea. YOU HAVE TO SEE BIG SUR!! Do not skip it! Staying in Monterey is a great idea! I love it there. I went for an incredible run there on mu roadtrip to San Francisco and saw whales. I mean, how cool is that?! WHALES.

    Personally, I think the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco is the least exciting corner of the city, but that's just me. It's SUPER touristy, but for a family, I guess it could be nice. You'd be close to the Golden Gate Bridge which is pretty darn awesome! I like staying in the Mission district. It's full of super cute coffee shops and cafes and Dolores Park is a super cool place with great views of the entire city. Ahh, San Francisco is my favorite city. You're inspiring me to plan a much needed weekend getaway to the magical city.

    Also, I'm sure you know this, but if you're in San Francisco in the summer, bring a WARM coat and maybe some mittens. It's brutal in the summer!

    1. And by "brutal" I mean pretty chilly. Remember, I live in San Diego so take it with a grain of salt. :)

    2. Just FYI, The best time to come to SF is not the middle of summer. In the summer it is FOG season. You may drive down the PCH and see nothing. You may have hear Mark Twain's quote "The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer in San Francisco"

      In the fall, before we get any rain we have a kind of indian summer with offshore breezes and these are actually the warmest days in SF.(late sept early oct) ..THAT is the best time to come. Tell your kids education is overrated and pull them out of school ;)

      You should allow a half day to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Bay has a huge underwater canyon that causes a profusion of sea life....which is beautifully shown in the Aquarium.

      When you cut inland from Cambria you will be going through Paso Robles, which is an awesome wine area. If you can't stay in Cambria, that might work out better.

      THere are great trail races put on every weekend by coastal trail runs. Check it out!

  5. I've stayed in San Francisco a couple times (my first race ever was there, flew from Alaska) And I stayed at the Holiday Inn both times, 1300 columbus ave. It's a GREAT hotel, great location, only about a 5 minute walk to fisherman's wharf. I highly recommend it! Great room service too :)

  6. The Hyatt Embarcadero is a good, central hotel choice. Pop down to the wharf and run from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, touch Hoppers Hands, and run back. It's a nice 11 mile, relatively flat, run, and you get to see many sights (Fisherman Wharf's, Crissy Field, GG Bridge, Aquatic Park, Alcatraz).

    Monterey is beautiful. Great ocean views and a neat aquarium. Great place to run along the coast.

    That drive from San Luis Obispo to Vegas is long, boring, and pretty ugly. You might want to consider driving all the way to LA or San Diego and then flying to Las Vegas. Whatever the case, I hope you have a wonderful vacation!

    1. Thanks for the insight about the drive. I think we have in our heads that the first day will be leisurely and scenic and that the drive from Carmel or wherever to Vegas will be long and pretty boring. Good to know what to expect! Love your idea about the run while in SF!

  7. Great race schedule! I agree with the above comments that you should take your time and enjoy the drive from SF to the Monterey/Big Sur area. There are multiple parks and beaches along the way for nice hikes and romping around. Great pics, some animals to see, etc. Ditto for staying in Carmel/Big Sur area for a night. I've been to 49 states....Alaska is all that's left!

  8. May 27, 2013 – Bolder Boulder 10K. We always run this one as a family. I dress up in something that will embarrass my son. This year I’ll probably go as a condom.

    Sweet baby infant Jesus.. I laughed so hard the dog came running in to see what the hell happened. Please don't change.

  9. I wish I could recommend a destination in Mississippi for you, but...nope. Don't waste your time.

  10. You have already gotten some good advice about avoiding Fisherman's wharf. I would choose Carmel as a place to stay. Point Lobos State Reserve park is a beautiful state park with very easy shortish trails to walk or run on. We did pretty much all of the trails in half a day. Ditto the weather advice, I freeze whenever I go to that part of California and I live in MT. It is much damper than what I am used to and you feel it.

  11. There's many great places to not miss in San Francisco.....but you must have the world-famous (ok, world-famous to me!) Boudin Sourdough bread at Fisherman's Wharf. Also, if you and the family are baseball fans, AT&T Park is a great one, and it's home to the 2 time World Series champs, though you may not be an SF Giants fan! If you're in the Cali area end of July, look up the Wharf to Wharf in Santa Cruz....beautiful ocean view 6-miler from Santa Cruz to Capitola. Running that one myself and can't wait!

  12. I made it to California for the first time last April so no need to apologize - Several of us from the east coast went out for the Big Sur Marathon and I think after you tour the PCH from Carmel to Big Sur it will be on your bucket list and you will be going back. Personally, I think you could spend a week in that area and do vegas on another trip but I enjoy nature more than big cities - In Carmel we stayed at a B&B called Lamplighter Inn - I highly recommed this place (Jeff Galloway was there for the marathon and also stayed there ) In SF recommend renting bikes and crossing the golden gate bridge and ALcatraz - if time permits go North to John Muir woods and Napa Sanoma (especially if you give up Vegas ... and to the South in Big Sur check out esalen Institute

  13. Well if you ever decide to come up to Alaska, and want to make a race part of your trip, we have some great ones up here! We have 2 "big" marathons - Mayor's Marathon in June and Moose's Tooth Marathon in August. They're both great races and I'd recommend either, though with Mayor's being in June, you've got a better chance for good weather. Both races also have 1/2 marathons, if that fits in better with your overall training/race schedule.

  14. You have GOT to go to Giovanni's in Morro Bay!! Sounds like a really fun trip. I would definitely add a stop at Santa Monica!! Check out Yummy Cupcakes just off of the promenade. Best. Cupcakes. Ever.

  15. I was sipping my coffee when I read "This year I'll probably go as a condom." You can imagine how that went! Haha!


  16. We just finally got to California last fall for the Giant's Half Marathon - finished on the ball field - possibly the most fun finish ever. I would NOT recommend staying near Fisherman's Wharf - it was VERY touristy and I'm still not sure what the big deal was there. There are so many other wonderful sites to see. We only had 2 days so we did the 5hour boat/bus tour that allows you to spend a few hours in Sausalito and than backtracks to the Golden Gate bridge park and several other great sites. We usually avoid these organized tours but I have to admit this was a great way to see the city/area.

  17. CAMBRIA!!! Probably my favorite place in the country. I grew up vacationing there with my parents, first staying at Cambria Pines Lodge and then renting houses by the beach as I got older. My husband and I actually ended up driving from the Los Angeles area where we lived up to Cambria to have our wedding up there. I would kill to go on a vacation there right now but with our family spread out between Southern California, Ohio, and Switzerland, it's not in the cards.

  18. We flew into San Francisco for our trip to Napa. Rented a car and enjoyed Calistoga and Russian River Valley as well as Napa. That was a great trip loads of fun for 2 adults but If you plan for kids to go along I think they would be bored.
    One thing in San Francisco not to miss is Muir Woods. Great place to visit and does not take much time out of your trip. If you think you will like Alcatraz, buy your tickets now. You will not be able to get in at the last minute. We did not get our tickets in advance and were unable to go.

  19. I'm from CA! Only way further south than Santa Barbara. :) My vote is to stay in Monterey - the aquarium is awesome, tons of stuff to do, and Cambria is worth at least driving through (adorable town). Sounds like a GREAT trip!

  20. I have lived just outside of San Luis Obispo for most of my life, so this trip is right up my alley! Carmel and Cambria are both super cute so I think it's just a matter of how far you want to drive from SF and how close you want to be to other things (Cambria is a little isolated, but if you're just looking for a nice place to stay the night while you're passing through, then it should be fine). If you pass through SLO, then come say hi!!

    I would highly recommend going at least to SB, if not to LA for a couple of reasons. (I lived in LA for 4 years, so if you want any recommendations for things to do in LA/Orange county, let me know!) Santa Barbara really is a super fun town. There are tons of shops, restaurants, and gorgeous beaches. It is really laid back and just has an awesome vibe. Also, the drive from SLO to Vegas is awful. It would seriously be a giant pile of poop on your vacation. And Bakersfield is a stain on the face of California (sorry I'm not sorry for the harsh words). The SB airport actually (randomly?) has really affordable flights to Denver and most of the regional airports here (SLO, SB, Santa Maria) have good flights to Vegas. Or you can drive to LA and drive or fly from LA to Vegas.;dr - 1. Come visit me in SLO! 2. Don't drive from SLO to Vegas, either fly to Vegas or drive from LA 3. Go to Santa Barbara!

    1. I already commented, but I agree with this advice. Santa Barbara is so worth the drive and flying to Vegas would be so much better.

  21. you need to Visit Hawaii, the trail running on Oahu is fantastic, terrifying at times but fantastic, a Camelback is better than a waterbottle belt and expect that you will be walking up/down some of the ridges. but the views are spectacular.

  22. I've run in 14 half marathons, in 13 different states and come in 1,2, or 3 in my age class for 9 of them. My goal is to run 5/year. I should finish when I'm 55!

  23. I can't belive you haven visited Washington. Skip California, it's overrated and come to WA. We have beaches, mountains, desert (lake Chelan is beautiful) and resort casinos. Who needs Vegas? And lots o' races this summer.

    I have it on good authority we'll have awesome weather this summer. We always do when the rest of the country has a long blizzardy winter and ours was mild. Running year round!

  24. A great fellow runner/blogger Roserunner lives in San she'd love to give you any advice you might need :)

  25. Stayed at the Parc 55 in Union Square in October when I was there for the Nike Women's Marathon and loved it! Great customer service, clean, spacious rooms. Center of everything. I've also stayed in the FIsherman's Wharf area but preferred being more centrally located.

  26. Fisherman's Wharf is horrible. Alcatraz is a waste of precious time in one of the world's greatest cities, especially when you could be running from the Marina Green to the Golden Gate Bridge and back, along the Embarcadero from Fort Mason to AT&T Park and back, along the Lands End Trail from Point Lobos to Sea Cliff and back, and almost anywhere in Golden Gate Park. Beware, San Francisco can be uncomfortably cold in the summer and many, if not most, days are foggy. The Bay Bridge, too, is stunningly beautiful. Five days ago, there was a dedication ceremony for the new light show on the Bay Bridge that will run continuously from dusk until 2 a.m. for the next two years without every repeating the same pattern. Monterey and Big Sur are musts (although there is, again, the risk of fog in the summer). The drive south to Santa Barbara is really nice. Driving to Las Vegas will take forever and is guaranteed to drain your spirit and put you all in a very bad mood. Trust me on this. Instead, consider continuing down the coast, even to LA and San Diego if you have the time. Or go back to San Francisco and spend more time in the Bay Area (Marin and Napa Valley come to mind). All first-time visitors to California should see as much of the Pacific Coast as possible. Forget Las Vegas! Have fun.

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  28. I am from Northern California. Google 'City Pass San Francisco'. Great price for everything included. I am NOT affiliated with City Pass, nor benefit from plugging their wares, but I did use the City Pass last year when I took my kids to SF for four days. It's legit. My kids' favorite was a boat ride that took them under the Golden Gate bridge, but several museums are included. It also includes bus passes in the price. I recommend checking out Golden Gate park - California Academy of Science is there, as well as the de Young museum, Japanese garden and several other interesting things to check out I can't remember at the moment. We couldn't do everything in the four days - so much to do and so little time in the city.

    I agree with others - I would not stay near Fisherman's Wharf or Union Square - crowded and pricey. Very much feels like a tourist trap. We stayed in Japantown. It was quiet, we felt safe walking back from the bus stops to the hotel and an added bonus was decent Japanese, Thai and Korean food not far away at reasonable prices. I am not cheap, but I do not like to overspend on stupid crap so Japantown was a good deal - good hot nutritious (not greasy, veggies present) food for a family of four was about $30-$40.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't check out Fisherman's Wharf/Union Square - it will only take a few hours, but everyone has to see it while in SF, just to see what's it's all about.

    Oh, and Chinatown - Golden Gate Bakery for the best egg custard tarts any where in SF - still warm! Plus you get rude old ladies barking at you as a bonus.

    As for the coast - I don't think you can go wrong whatever you decide. Just gorgeous. I am a California native so I am very bias. So many lovely places to see. I was in the California Gold Rush area today. Amador County - 65 degrees and sunny, with daffodils blooming every where. Wineries every mile. Awesome!

    At any rate, good luck and have fun planning.

  29. My mom grew up in San Francisco and even though I was born and raised in Montana, I knew my heart was lost in that beautiful city. I've been countless times, I go every chance I can. And I am a sucker for Alcatraz. Ah, the romance. The stories I grew up with. The movies! *swoon* Clint Eastwood~ Always the best. Yes, some things are "touristy" but sometimes they are worth it. For the romance. For the history. For the love of the city.

    When I go, I eat sourdough, clam chowder, drool over the Ghirardelli (chocolate allergy) and people watch on the pier. I run the Golden Gate every single time. The Bay Bridge IS amazing and the lights are supposed to be spectacular. How lucky you will be there to see it. Park your car. Get out and walk the city. It's amazing. Touristy or not, you'll have a wonderful time. Pop into a bookstore. Grab a cable car. It's a fabulous time.

    1. I agree! We are local, if you look at the pic of your SF map, we are just east in Concord, hubby works in San Fran. I think us locals avoid Fisherman's Wharf because it is touristy, but if you are a tourist, it's a must do. Shrimp cocktails, sourdough clam chowder bowls, Pier 39, Ghirardelli chocolate, the waterfront, shops, etc...your kids are at the age they'll probably love all the action down there. You can rent bikes down there, or run - hubby runs Embarcadero on his lunch break, it's runner haven, always looks like there's a race going on.
      It would be a shame to be an outdoorsy family like you are and not make a trip over GG Bridge to Marin to hit some trails, maybe Muir woods, or get up to Stinson Beach and hit Matt Davis Trail or Dipsea??? Mill Valley would be a great place to stay to be centrally located to great trails, and within close distance to San Fran. Great little town.

    2. Oh RIGHT? I LOVE to run Marin. So beautiful. Do it.

  30. I would drive north over the Golden Gate and stay in Sausalito. On the drive south, Monterrey is beautiful. The Aquarium is of my favorite places.

  31. You've never been to California and you are leaving 'early' to go through Las Vegas?! (And in the summer?! Its brutal in Vegas then!!)But there is SO MUCH to see and do here! Skip Las Vegas and stay a few more days!

    You have already gotten much good advice about where to go and what to see. If you are in SF one thing I really recommend is Alcatraz. You need to get tickets in advance, through the national park service online and you should check in to that long in advance. (like months). Your kids will love it after all the other sight-seeing things that aren't maybe as interesting for them. They have a really good audio tour that you won't want to miss. Last time we went a former inmate was there selling books in the bookstore that he had written about his time in the slammer on Alcatraz. That was crazy.

  32. S.T. Nailed it with golden gate park. I'm also from northern Cali & vouch for the idea. Hotels: stay near union square The Fairmont, The Drakeor Westin St. Francis. Stop in Monterey & do the aquarium, the hwy drive is beautiful, but if driving to Vegas, brutally long. Have fun in Vegas!

  33. I've been to San Francisco a few times. The best quality/price ratio I found was the Villa Florence Hotel at 225 Powell Street, it's very close to Union sq. (100 m or so).

    Thank you for this wonderful blog.


  34. I'm looking forward to running the Niagra Falls Women's Half Marathon on June 2nd. Probably the same day as the Longmont Tri. But, I thought I'd mention it anyway. ;)

  35. I live in Florida and a couple of friends and I flew out for bolder boulder in 2011. So much fun! They have the best race t (I just wore it yesterday!) and the tap water in boulder was so delicious...they should bottle it.

    I am excited for a half marathon while visiting a friend in north Carolina-run Raleigh. :)

  36. I am running the St. Louis Rock n Roll Marathon this year.
    I have ran a couple of the Rock n Roll races the Chicago Half and the Nashville full and they are great races.
    Also the Memphis St. Jude Marathon is a great one for a good cause.

  37. AWESOME vacation!!! I did the same thing a couple of years ago --- stayed in SFO and drove down Hwy 1. Big Sur is absolutely AMAZING.

    If you fly into SFO, stay at the Homewood Suites by the airport. They are very afforadble/clean/quiet/have a very nice buffet breakfast each morning and you can take the hotel shuttle to the aiport(5 min?) and hop on the train. It's about a 5-10 min ride into downtown SFO. Public transportation in SFO is SO EASY. Between the trolleys, buses, and subway, you really won't have a problem gettign around. The city itself is only 7 sq miles so almost everything is walkable or a short 5-10 min ride somewhere.

    Points of interest - Chinatown, Mission area (for great eats), the pink ladies houses, Coit Towner, Twin Peaks, beautiful park outside the children's science museum. You can start at the Embarcadero and walk North along the shore (great chocolatier called TCHO)- hit Fisherman's Pier (must get the bread bowl chowder), and then at the end Ghiradelli - and you can see the Golden Gate bridge from the park on the shore outside of Ghiradelli.

    It is definitely easier to walk/public transportation than to drive and worry about parking everywhere in SFO. If you do choose that method - take a ton of quarters.

    Monterrey is great! Visit the cannery/aquarium there. But for a beautiful place to stay - Carmel. They have some serious amazing boutiques/shops/deli's.

    I agree with the comment above --- your drive east from CA is goin to be sooooo boring. It may be worth it to just drive down to LA -- the scenery is beautiful through the Santa Maria/San Louis Obispo area - and there are some great outlet malls in Camarillo. It will still take about 3-4 hours to get to Vegas from LA.

    1. A ton of quarters might not be enough. They have started to adjust the fees electronically, depending on the time of day and the events going on in the neighborhood at the time. For instance, during a Giants game, a meter would require 28 quarters PER HOUR. A parking meter ticket will cost you $65. Meters are also enforced on Sundays, and 24 hours a day along the waterfront. Parking at downtown hotels will set you back at least $50 a day. You can walk, but remember that there are seriously steep hills in our town. Public transportation, particularly MUNI (except for the cable cars), can be pretty unpleasant and BART is primarily a commuter train system to suburban destinations on the Peninsula and in the East Bay.

  38. More or less racing just for fun this year (as of now anyway) but really looking forward to my first 200 mile/24 hour relay.There are 12 of us from my area running 'Run the Mitten' (Michigan). Should be a great time!!!
    Also, I've never been to CA either. But....I have been to MS lots of times!! CA is a must as I might be more of a wino that you. ;)

  39. I've never been to Cali either. My husband lived there for a summer (before college, before we met) and I'd like to visit his youth but he's not interested. ;)

    I'm running my first half on May 5th (Pittsburgh), a local 5K that I've run every year since I started running (this will be my 3rd year) and the 5K that started it all at my kids' school in October. I am considering a few more 5Ks and I'd like to get my husband to run one with me. There's one that finishes on Heinz Field (Pgh) and I think that might just do the trick!

    For the record, I admire that you are taking a road trip with your family. It but with my crew it would be anything but! I could maybe take that roadtrip alone or with my oldest daughter but the rest of them would never make it!!

  40. You really should do the Air Force marathon in Dayton, Ohio. It's a very well planned event! It is in September.

  41. I love SF! I don't usually like big cities. I have stayed in the Fisherman's warf area, lots to see and do and lots of walking around hills and catching trolley's. Enjoy!!

  42. Santa Barbara is beautiful if you can make it there. But I would definitely stay in Monterrey.

    I loved the Half Moon Bay Brewery Bar and Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway just outside of San Francisco. It was a great place to watch the surfers and drink some beer.

    I'm looking forward to my first marathon in October in York, England.

    I've been too 23 states, but really visited 21 states (just drove through Alabama and Mississippi). I'm about to add Tennessee to my list in May and possibly Alaska in July.

  43. How exciting! I agree with the comments about spending all of your time in Cali and not bothering with Vegas. Maybe fly into SF and out the of LA area? There is so much to do in Cali - you could spend weeks/months exploring!

  44. We stayed here in Big Sur many years ago: Most relaxing, wonderful place, great food & wine + lovely hiking. Do watch out for the poison oak though, it was wicked!

  45. We live about an hour and a half from SF so I've stayed there a few times. I usually pick Union Square to stay because I feel like it is safer and you can catch the MUNI buses in a lot of places. If you search on my blog I have blogged about a few touristy places there.

    From SF to Monterey (my daughter goes to school there, I have links to stuff to do on my blog there too lol) is not that far so you might want to pick something a bit farther down the coast to stay at.

  46. Sounds like a fun family vacation! I live in Northern California, and have been to San Francisco and a few places you are looking to go on your trip. In SF, I really enjoyed doing the tour of Alcatraz, and wandering around the Fisherman's Warf area. You should definitely walk (or drive) down Lombard St (curviest street!) Other great things to check out are Chinatown, the painted ladies, twin peaks, drive over the golden gate bridge, and eat at Ghirardelli chocolate.

    Other than SF, I have enjoyed Santa Cruz and Monterey (great aquarium!). The drive down Rt.1 is amazing. Sounds like an awesome family vacation!

  47. Please please stop in Carmel and visit the beach there. its stunning. the village is beautiful. Clint Eastwood's place is a great place for a glass of wine on the deck. There is a herd of sheep that graze right in front of the deck. The 17 mile drive is spectacular.

    Big Sur is not far and that's worth a stop as well. Their half marathon is on my life to do list.

  48. You've gotten a ton of tips here, but I vote for running across the Golden Gate Bridge. If you start at the Ferry Building downtown, it's 14 miles round-trip. When you're back at the Ferry Building, you can replenish your carbs with Blue Bottle coffee and Pepples donuts (they're vegan -- as a non-vegan omnivore who doesn't actually like donuts, I definitely vouch for them). I also recommend driving north over the Golden Gate Bridge. Take the first exit and turn left, and follow the road up up up. Park wherever you can so you can take pictures of the bridge with the city in the background. It's breath-taking.

    If you think you want to see Alcatraz, do it. They also have a night tour.

    Bring warm clothes, because it gets cold in the city. September is summer in SF; earlier in the year it's foggier.

    As for the drive, that part to Vegas will be boring, like everyone already said. If you're prepared for it, though, you'll be fine. Keep in mind that rental car agencies charge destination fees if you return the car in another state; last time I checked, it was several hundred dollars.

  49. Beth! You can't just drive down the coast that casually. At least we couldn't. First time we went to Monterey and decided we would drive down through Big Sur, we had no idea what we were in for. It took us 6-7 hours to drive 90 miles because we couldn't stop pulling over at every single turnout. The views and the hiking through Big Sur are the most stunning outdoor vacation in the US, in my opinion. We went back twice subsequent years, for 5 to 7 days each, hiking and hiking, and we still want to go back for more.

    My recommendation: stay in Monterey or Carmel, visit the aquarium once, then spend some time hiking Point Lobos State Reserve. We hiked the whole thing twice over the years. Lovesomuch.

    Get up the next day and drive through Big Sur. If you can make it out of there in one day, to the south end, stay in Morro Bay for the night. Or Cambria if you prefer, which is just north of Morro. Then get up the next day and go through to Santa Barbara.

    No matter what, enjoy the heck out of it. I miss it terribly. San Francisco has such personality and it's great but Big Sur? It's nothing short of heaven on earth.

  50. Stay near the Ferry Building in SF. You might also want to drive north of SF to wine country (Sonoma & Healdsburg are fantastic!). You should definitely stop in Monterey and visit the aquarium.

  51. Love the race list, I've been going through what I have definitely planned and what I'd like to do. So much for lightening up on the races, LOL! The views along the coast are spectacular--if you don't have fog. There is so much to see and do along the way, you may not make it nearly as far as you think. Cambria is a wonderful place to stay; if you get a chance to see Solvang, be sure to have some aebleskivers. Whatever you do, have a fabulous time!

  52. One thing not to miss in San Francisco: The Ferry Building (great place for lunch or a cocktail!)

    Also... running anywhere in the city (except Fisherman's Wharf -- too crowded) is amazing. The city is beautiful!

    As for states, I've visited 30, run in 20, and raced in 6.

    Enjoy your trip!

  53. Soo much to do and see in SF. We live in the Monterey area and it is so pretty. In the summer it tends to be chillier and foggier so be warned. Big Sur is beautiful. I would recommend Monterey to stay in. Or Big Sur has a lot of places to stop at. Lots of cabins and such. Cambria tends to be more romantic for couples I think. Hearst Castle is incredible to visit.

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  55. If you can make it down to Santa Barbara its definitely worth it. Probably one of my favorite places to visit. Also, SLO is a great stop. Check out gum alley. A whole alley covered in random peoples' chewed up gum pieces. I also agree with the Morrow Bay and Hearst Castle comments above. Ohhh and you should check out the Madonna Inn men's bathroom if you are around SLO. ;) Have fun checking out the Golden State!

  56. Twin Peaks. Do not leave San Francisco until you have seen the greatest view of all, from atop Twin Peaks. I was lucky enough to live at the very top of Crestline Drive for six years when I first moved to San Francisco. My life was enriched every day and night by the drama and beauty of the unique perspective of this truly spectacular city.

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  58. Union Square in San Francisco is great. Make sure you hit the Don Quijote restaurant in Mission for the best burritos you'll ever have! Its just a couple blocks from the BART stop.

    I've been to a few states.... I need to see more. I've run races in California (Nike Women's Marathon), Illinois (Chicago Marathon), Rhode Island (a half), Maryland (also a half), Michigan (a few 25ks) and am planning on the Nike Women's Half this April in DC and the Ragnar Relay through Maryland in October :)

  59. I only have two 5 K races on my calendar so far both in the Boston area. The Run for Charlotte in April and Finish at the 50 in July (the finish line is the 50 yard line of Gillette Stadium)

  60. I have lived in SF, San Luis Obispo and now Orange County. MY suggestions are don't miss Big Sur. You'll regret it. Carmel is cute and worthy of stopping for lunch and a walk but I recommend you stay in San Luis Obispo. It's a college town that has one of the best farmers markets every thursday night. There is pretty much always something rad going on and there is great food. You are like 5 minutes from the ocean too.

  61. My vote for a race - the Mermaid Triathlon in Capitola. It's at the beginning of October - I don't know exactly when you were planning to take your vacation, but having lived in Northern CA most of my life, I will second some of the comments I've seen on here about the fog - you are much more likely to get better weather if you wait until September/October for your trip!!! The Mermaid events are EXTREMELY well-done - well staffed, well supported, and well organized. They have a friends & family group for non-competitors, and then they have the Olympic distance and various age groups for the sprint distance. I did the sprint distance as my first triathlon last year - if it was not for all of the training I put in with Team Mermaid prior to the event, I would have been terrified, but I was not. I dove into the Pacific Ocean calm and collected and ready to race. :-) I always laugh at my race pictures because I never see the cameras, and I always wonder how anyone can see them in time to pose for them - that day was no exception with one caveat: I didn't see the cameras, but I was smiling in every picture they took of me, that's how much I loved the day and the entire event from start to finish. I don't know how many people can say that about their first triathlon, but if there's a race worth traveling for - it's this one. (I am considering doing the Olympic distance this year, but I'll have to see how it fits in with training for my first full - hoping to get into the Marine Corps in a couple weeks!!)

  62. I'll chime in as a NorCal native and agree with everyone else about driving to Vegas. If you can at all swing it, spend more time driving to Southern California, and fly to Vegas. Driving across the state is seriously boring, and ungodly hot in the summer.

    I would avoid staying in Fisherman's Wharf, as it is overpriced and the area is just so crowded. I personally love the Kabuki in Japantown, and you can get anywhere by Muni from there. Muni gets a lot of hate locally, but it's by far better than getting anywhere in the city by car. Absolutely do not miss getting a run in along the Embarcadero and up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz is always fun for the kids, and it's a great reason to get out on the water for the ferry ride over. Chinatown is also a don't miss (though for the life of me I can't figure out why they have more sushi restaurants there than in Japantown). I also agree that Muir Woods are more than worth the trip if your California trip doesn't already include a visit to the Sierras.

    In between SF and Monterey is Santa Cruz, and the Boardwalk, fun in it's own retro kind of way. If you like roller coasters, you have to ride the Giant Dipper.

    If you stay in Cambria you'll only kick yourself that you're not staying longer, it's a great home base to explore Big Sur. I'd stay in Monterey since it's less expensive than Carmel, and you wouldn't want to miss the aquarium. It's also fun to rent bikes and ride from Cannery Row down past Pacific Grove(makes a great run too). Carmel makes a nice stop for a few hours of shopping and a meal.

    I've lived here my whole life and I just never get tired of the coast.

  63. O man, you've never been to CA?!?!? You must visit San Diego somehow! I am from L.a and came to San Diego for school 5 years ago, and I've stayed here. :) Countless eateries, it's a foodies dream here...and you can't beat all the beachfront/oceanview places!
    Monterey is cool, so is Pismo Beach, check out the elephant seals up there! Good luck planning your trip!

  64. I live in the bay area and have a beach house in Pismo Beach. Totally hit up Fort Point in SF. My husband & I did last weekend and the history & views are amazing!! I would definitely recommend stopping in Capitola, Santa Cruz, Carmel,San Luis Obispo & Pismo Beach along the way. All are amazing!!

  65. I live in SF and recommend you check out the Marin Headlands for some absolutely amazing trail runs. It's just across the Golden Gate Bridge and offers spectacular views of the ocean/city, depending on which trail you take. My favorite is the Coastal Trail starting from Tennessee Valley and continuing to Muir Beach. Trust me, you won't regret it. I also drive down to Carmel quite a bit and would also suggest stopping in Santa Cruz at the boardwalk, and at the many farmers' markets down hwy 1. And check out Big Sur!!

  66. I've been to San Fran a bunch and we usually stay in the Union Square area. My favorite thing I've done there is renting bikes and riding across the Golden Gate Bridge down to Sausalito. So stinkin' cool. You can rent the bikes at Fisherman's Wharf and they tell you the route to go to get to Sausalito and then you take a ferry back to the Wharf and turn in your bike. So fun!!

  67. Also, ditto on San Luis Obispo. Such a cool town. Loved it!!

  68. Have you thought about renting a place through I rented in San Francisco with my family last October. We had a beautiful house for half the price a hotel would have cost us, plus a lot more space. The only thing to watch for in SFO is that a lot of the houses don't seem to have enough bathrooms to match the number of bedrooms. You wouldn't believe the number of 4 bedroom houses with ONE bathroom. It must be some historical thing but we definitely needed more than one for the seven of us. :)

  69. Big Sur is amazing. Stop there no matter what or you will miss some spectacular beauty!!

  70. I grew up in Northern California, and spent some time in San Francisco. The SF Hilton in downtown is easy to get to and you can get down to the Fisherman's Wharf area with a short walk.

    I think the only state I have not been to is Vermont, even spent some time in various U.S. Territories and Possessions (Guam and St. Croix)

  71. My advice: stay in monterey and carmel, and visit the aquarium once, then spend some time hiking point lobos state reserve. We raised the whole thing twice in the past few years. Lovesomuch.

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