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pls advice best driving routes & hours (for newbie driver) re:SF~Big Sur & Big Sur~Napa

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Oct 21st, 2007, 06:25 PM
  #1
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pls advice best driving routes & hours (for newbie driver) re:SF~Big Sur & Big Sur~Napa

Hi all, I'm leaving for San Francisco soon and doing two side trips. So excited, as this is my first road trip! Can you guys please advise the best driving routes for my destinations? And when will be the best hour in the day to drive during those routes. Thanks in advance! (Oh and please be as DETAIL as possible...new driver here, thanks!)

Proposed itinerary:
Thurs-Sat: SF, overnight in SF
Sun: SF~Monterey, overnight in Monterey (Anno Nuevo, Monterey, Pacific Grove/17 mile/Pebble Beach and Carmel)
Mon: Big Sur, overnight in Monterey (Point Lobos, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Nepenthe)
Tues: Monterey~Napa, overnight in Napa
Wed: Napa and Sonoma, overnight in Napa
Thurs: Napa~SF International Airport for flight (by 10:30am)


(A) San Francisco ~ Monterey on SUNDAY

1. Best scenic route? (Picking up a friend from Holiday Inn near Nob Hills before departure, intersection of Van Hasse-Hwy 101 & California St.)
2. Driving southbound on Hwy 1 from SF on a Sunday, is it busy? Depart the earlier the better?
3. Will we have time for Point Lobos in late evening? Or is it better to do it morning on next day?

(B) Monterey ~ Napa on TUESDAY

1. Fastest route? Through San Jose/Fremont/Walnut Creek or SF? Which route is quickest on a TUESDAY morning?
(Both Michelin and Google suggested the first, but a fellow Fodorite suggested through taking Hwy 101 through SF instead)
2. This is the route that I'm most concern about, if there are certain points on the way that it's easily missed or confusing, please kindly point them out.


(C) Napa ~ San Francisco International Airport on THURSDAY

1. Must be there by 10:15am for check-in! The fastest and surest route?

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!
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Oct 22nd, 2007, 08:59 AM
  #2
 
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Año Nuevo can be seen on the way to Monterey as it is above Santa Cruz. This part of the road is an easy drive with the exception of the mile or so around Devil's Slide, but the speed limit there is down to 25 anyway.

You will not have time on Sunday for Año Nuevo, Monterey (the Presidio and wharf area, I presume?), 17 Mile Drive etc. You will have to choose. It will take 1+ hour to get from SF to Año Nuevo and a couple of hours to see it since it is a mile hike just to get to see the elephant seals. Another 1+ hour to get to Monterey/Carmel (probably more since you re a new driver, and you can see that your day will be used up even without taking account a lunch stop.
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Oct 22nd, 2007, 09:53 AM
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As for your "B" - there is NO fast/easy route from Monterey to Napa on a weekday morning. And from Napa to SFO on a weekday morning is awful too.

What are you planning for Napa/Sonoma? Unless you are big into wines I might consider dropping that whole leg of your trip and just stay south of San Francisco. There is plenty of interest in the Santa Cruz, Monetery, Carmel, Big Sur areas.

If you are new driver - schlepping through Bay area commute traffic all the way from Monterey to Napa and back to SFO would not be fun.

I'd take it easier, turn in the car Wed evening and stay the last night at a hotel right at SFO. You can Priceline an SFO hotel.
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Oct 22nd, 2007, 10:02 AM
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Dear Lee:

I agree w/ Janis. Skip Napa and do your wine tasting & touring in Monterey County, Carmel Valley and the Santa Cruz wine appelations. Spend more time in Monterey, PG, Big Sur etc.
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Oct 22nd, 2007, 04:07 PM
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Thanks for your comments. I know timing is tight and I'm pushing it. But I'm actually traveling with 2 friends from Asia whom jumped through hoops just to get a U.S. visa to come. That's why they want to whirl around as much places as possible, even if it's just a brief glimpse. And they count Napa/Sonoma to be a must see.

(A) San Francisco ~ Monterey on SUNDAY
Actually, I just found out that it's the "Fall Haul Out Season" for the elephant seals in Auno Nuevo, and I probably won't be able to see any, because they are went back to the sea to feed. Getting rid of that now, will I have time for a lunch stop in Half Moon By or Moss Landing. And then in the early afternoon, do Monterey (not going to Aquarium), then take a sunset drive on 17 Mile/Pebble Beach, with dinner or drive by in Carmel at night?

(B) Monterey ~ Napa on TUESDAY

I know there's no "easy" way, but which way is faster and easier to drive? Through San Jose/Fremont/Walnut Creek (I680 and I80) go through San Francisco?


Thanks again in advance for your reply! Keep them coming!


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Oct 22nd, 2007, 04:09 PM
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Whoa!!!!! You couldn't have picked worse times to drive anywhere in the Bay Area. With NO traffic (say, after 11PM) it's probably a 3.5+ hr drive from Monterey to Napa (68 East to Salinas, 101 north to San Jose, 260/680 North to 80 West to 12 West to 29 North to Napa. (Look it up on Google Maps) for an experinced driver who KNOWS the Bay Area. For an inexperienced driver who's never BEEN to the Bay Area on a RUSH HOUR MORNING, add 2 to 4 hours. As an illustration (again, referring to your Google Map) it took me 2.5 hours to get from San Mateo (15 miles south of SF) to the Berkeley Marina (280 to 380 to 101 to 280 to 80 to Berkeley) during weekday afternoon rush hour....a distance of about 40 miles...about 1/4 the distance you're driving to Napa. If you actually plan on doing this, I would plan on leaving Napa NO LATER THAN 6AM Thurs morning to get to SF Airport, taking 29 to 80 South (OK, Ok West), across the Bay Bridge to SF and 80/101 south to SFO.

Further, I think 101 thru SF to Napa would be a big mistake on a rush hr. morning. Think it would add another 30 minutes to an hr.

Last...the ONLY "scenic" route to Monterey from SF is 1.

Bottom line? Stay in Carmel/Big Sur. Forget Napa. There's plenty to see/do there.
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Oct 22nd, 2007, 07:34 PM
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LeeLeeLee: "I know timing is tight and I'm pushing it. But I'm actually traveling with 2 friends from Asia whom jumped through hoops just to get a U.S. visa to come. That's why they want to whirl around as much places as possible, even if it's just a brief glimpse. And they count Napa/Sonoma to be a must see."

Sorry - but you and your friends really have to change your expectations. Honest. We are not trying to be mean - we are trying to help you.

Being a new driver and unfamiliar w/ the area - what you want to do is nearly impossible.

Even though Napa is a "must" you really need to decide which you have to see. Either stay south of SF in Monetery/Carmel/Santa Cruz -- or -- stay north of SF in Napa/Sonoma. Driving from Napa to SFO is difficult at the best of times - but on a weekday morning it can be total HELL.

You asked for the best/easiest/fastest route -- sorry but I don't have any other advice to give . . .
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Oct 22nd, 2007, 07:43 PM
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Take a day trip to Napa while you still are in SF. You might even be able to fit in a ride up to Mt. Tam, although be warned that the final stretch of road is very narrow and high.
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Oct 23rd, 2007, 12:25 AM
  #9
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Thanks for all your replies and concerns. I know you guys are trying to help me, I appreciate it, especially when I'm so clueless to driving.

So, conservatively speaking, to summarize the commute times:

SUNDAY morning, SF ~ Monterey (via Hwy 1)- 3hrs
TUESDAY morning, Monterey ~ Napa - 6hrs
THURSDAY morning, Napa ~ SFO - 3.5hrs

That is a lot of time cramped inside a car! Although contrary to my preferences, I know my friends would vote for Napa/Sonoma instead of Monterey/Big Sur. (Don't ask me why.. I need new friends, ha!)

So if I abandon Monterey/Big Sur altogether, what other places can I go on Sunday and at least half a day in Monday to fill it in?

I'm so unfamiliar with the area, the only thing I can think of is do parts of the SF 49 mile Scenic Drive or something. Please give me some suggestions...
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Oct 23rd, 2007, 08:30 AM
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The impression I have is that you have not looked at a map yet. Do so, and you might get some idea of the geography involved.
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Oct 23rd, 2007, 09:37 AM
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Dear Lee:

The Monterey/Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It would be a shame to leave it out.

There is more than one "wine country" in California. It is just Napa/Sonoma is the most famous and publicized. The wine country on the Central Coast, including Monterey County/Santa Cruz has just as much to offer. Just remember: if you've seen one winery/tasting room, you've seen them all.

MY
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Oct 23rd, 2007, 11:17 AM
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I was going to say pretty much the same thing as Michelle - it would be a shame to leave out Monterey and Big Sur, and you can find wineries lots of places in California. Your friends may have Napa and Sonoma as a must-see because they want to see the "wine country". Please let them know that they can still tour wineries, even if you don't go to Napa and Sonoma. See what they say. They may be be thinking that if they want to tour wineries, they have to go to the "wine country".
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Oct 23rd, 2007, 11:47 AM
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I agree with Michelle and JCorrea-
the over selling of my dear Sonoma,
as well as Napa county is not a good thing. There is much to see and do winery wise in other areas. No need to give up Monterey and Big Sur
at all.

R5
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Oct 23rd, 2007, 03:34 PM
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OK. I am going to disagree.

I think the Napa trip can be done without as much hassle as has been described. And, yes, there are wineries in Monterey County, but there are not the vast amount of vineyards as in Napa/Sonoma. Unless it's just wine tasting you are after, the experience is not the same.

Listen carefully, and take notes <grin>.

Do not go to Salinas. Stay on Hwy 1 to Castroville (15 miles). Then take 156 to Prunedale (5 miles). You are now on 101. Go north toward San Jose. At the southern outskirts of San Jose, get off 101 and onto 280 and take it all the way into San Francisco.

This is a fast freeway, 8 lanes...10 in some places. There are no traffic jams here as there will be if you stay on 101 and go through the industrialized sections of the Peninsula. The East Bay route can be even worse.

280 is also very pretty, going through rolling hills behind Stanford University.

When you get into the city, don't stay in the right lane on 280 or you will be whisked to the middle of the city. Watch for the signs to the Golden Gate Bridge. Basically, you are just going straight ahead. You will be going through the city for awhile, and across Golden Gate Park, but traffic lights are timed and the streets are four lane divided.

Cross the bridge and continue on 101. Shortly after San Rafael,(less than 10 miles) watch for 37 and take this to the second stop light (7 miles) to 121/12. This is a left turn. Stay on 121, unless you want to detour 4 miles on 12 to the pretty historic town of Sonoma. (There is a sign.) If so, you could return and 121 will take you to 29 and Napa. Without the detour you can be in Napa from the Golden Gate Bridge in an hour.

We live in Santa Cruz. We can be at the Golden Gate Bridge from here in an hour and 35 minutes. And that is by going over the "dreaded" 17 to 280. Just for reference, we are only 45 minutes from Monterey on Hwy 1.

So, even coming all the way to Santa Cruz on Hwy 1, a straight trip without commute traffic would get you in Napa (without the detour) in about 4-1/2 hours. (I am not recommending that you come through Santa Cruz.)

Trust the route I gave you. We have done it many, many times. I have family in Sonoma.

The only thing I am concerned about is your getting to the San Francisco airport from Napa on a Monday morning for a 10:30 am flight. You WILL run into commute traffic, especially through the San Rafael corridor. Why don't you spend day on Sunday in Napa/Sonoma and go to an airport hotel Sunday night?

Otherwise I would have to suggest starting the trip to the airport at some ungodly hour like 3 or 4 am. to make the two hour check-in time for sure.

Go for it, Lee.
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Oct 23rd, 2007, 05:22 PM
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Actually, I would skip Monterey on Sunday because we are being sprayed aerially this weekend for the light brown apple moth. Expect lots of grouchy, sick residents (and you might be lucky enough to catch the pheromone flu yourself...what a great souvenir!) Why not enjoy the Northern California coast in order to work in Napa?

http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/...Article.news_5

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Oct 23rd, 2007, 08:58 PM
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I live in Napa, and we find our travel time from Monterey to Napa is less than 3 hours (sometimes 2 and 1/2). If you leave Monterey about 9AM you will miss the commute traffic and be in Napa Valley in time for a nice lunch. We use 680 through Walnut Creek/Concord, then 780 to Vallejo where we catch 80 to 37 to Highway 29 North into Napa Valley.

If you leave Napa for SF Airport between 7:30 and 8:00 AM you will likely arrive on time. (Maybe allow an extra time to drop off rental car). With 3 or more persons in the car, you can use the Diamond Commute Lane which will be faster. We take 80 across the Bay Bridge to get to SFO.

Have a great time!
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