Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

< Previous | List | Next > Take the Corvette to Muir Woods and Point Reyes Lighthouse, then change to a SUV and drive to Yosemite

I awoke at 6:30, with my alarm. I suppose the erratic sleep schedule of the past two or three nights was finally catching up with me. I took a quick bath, shaved and then checked out of my hotel room. On the way out of San Rafael I still stopped at a Burger King to get a sausage burrito, hash browns and orange juice for breakfast. I decided that rather than heading back to San Francisco, I'd be doing Muir Woods and Point Reyes National Seashore. I'd been to both places before, both times with not much time to spare, and both times I'd been less than pleased with the conditions and the pictures that they'd allowed.

Foggy morning on Highway 1

On the short drive to Muir Woods, I was finally starting to get a glimpse of what the Corvette was capable of. This required some manual intervention, however: switching the gearbox from "D" (automatic) to "S" (manual), which also activated the shift pedals on the steering wheel. In full automatic, the Corvette drove much like any other car, and the swift gear changes never really gave away the raw power of the engine. The car would shift before 2000rpm, and acceleration was adequate but not really what one would expect from the 426 horsepower. In manual, on the twisty road leading to Muir Woods, I stayed in second and thus forced the engine to rev higher... at 4000rpm, an altogether different sounding engine unleashed a much bigger amount of power (and noise) and the exhilaration of driving the 'vette, quite obviously, rose a lot. Beyond 4000rpm, I didn't dare yet, for it had started to rain and the tree-lined road was quite slippery in places.

Once at Muir Woods, I parked the car, got out the tripod and walked a short loop by taking the trail on the left side of Bridge 2 on the way in, and the trail on the other side on the way out. I'm still not a big fan of Muir Woods - it looks somewhat pale in comparison to the groves in the Sierra.

Driving my rental Corvette on Highway 1. Very low RPMs. I drove on towards Point Reyes National Seashore. The road took me past the coast, then inland again; and at times I was blessed with no traffic in front of me. This meant I could finally test the Corvette a little, although most of the time the problem was quite simply that whenever I hit the gas pedal I soon ran out of road (meaning there was a turn) and I had to slow down again. That, and of course there was a speed limit which I had to adhere to, Corvette or not.

But it was still a fairly long drive, and by the time I arrived near Point Reyes Lighthouse, I knew I couldn't spend much time there or I'd risk returning the Corvette late. As such, I quickly walked to the lighthouse, then spent some time around it, and then quickly walked back up the 300 steps (which was more exhausting than I had thought it would).

I got into the car, and realized I had less than two hours left until I had to be at San Francisco Airport. The Hertz "Neverlost" GPS calculated a route that was 69 miles. Had those been freeway miles, there wouldn't have been a problem, but we're talking 35mph roads almost until the Golden Gate.

And of course now that I was in more of a hurry, there was more traffic in front of me, too. The roads didn't permit overtaking (at least not legally) so I remained stuck behind a Prius for way too many miles. He seemed oblivious to the several turnouts we passed. But of course there was nothing I could do, so I stayed behind, more or less calm. I still stopped once, for I'd become quite dehydrated. After that, I hit the remaining miles to Highway 101, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and then "Neverlost" sent me on a route that probably wasn't the fastest one... straight into busy San Francisco traffic.

The minutes to 1:30pm decreased constantly, but the miles to go didn't follow suit... By the time I was on the interstate, it was already 1:30pm, and I hadn't even refueled. I decided I'd just return it half-empty, pay the refuel surcharge and at least be reasonably on time (10 minutes late) rather than still drive around in search of a gas station, of which there seem to be precisely zero in immediate airport vicinity. The return at Hertz was actually quite straightforward - with the exception that the woman mistakenly (or not?) entered the wrong mileage, and if I'd just said "okay" my bill would have been about a hundred dollars more than what it really was.

I took my luggage, and headed to the Alamo counter where I'd get my next rental. There were lots of people, and I ended up standing in line for maybe 45 minutes, at which point I was asked to head to a National counter. The rental process as such was business as usual, except that I had a bit of a chat about cameras with the guy behind the counter. In the garage, much to my surprise, there was no Choiceline. The entire deck was pretty much empty, and some car categories were assigned to renters as they came in. I was pointed towards a Saturn Vue - I declined, since that clearly was a Midsize SUV, and I'd paid for a Standard. I was then pointed towards a Trailblazer. This would have been fine, except it didn't have 4WD, which I consider a must-have for a car that size and that is likely to see either some dirt, snow, or both.

Finally, a different guy took care of me, and brought me a Commander. This was fine with me (he pointed out it was actually an upgrade, and I tipped him accordingly). Now, usually I'd just leave the garage, and be on my way... except this time, after handing the guy at the exit booth my rental details, I wanted to shift out of "Park" and... Nothing happened. The gear box was stuck at "P". It turns out the Commander has something called "Shift Lock" - a small plastic piece next to the gear lever can be removed and a sharp object can then be introduced to unblock the gear box. But quite why the gear box got locked in the first place, I don't know. Obviously this is not the first time I drove an automatic, and normally shifting from "D" (Drive) to "P" (Park) when standing for a prolonged time is a no-brainer, and has always worked flawlessly.

I took the standard route towards Yosemite: crossing the Bay Bridge then east on Interstate 580, south on SR 99 and east on SR 140. Along the way, I stopped at a Safeway in Livermore to do some shopping, and then at around 7pm at a Burger King in Mariposa for a Tender Crisp Sandwich Meal with medium fries and soda. I arrived in Yosemite at around 8pm.

Miles driven: 228mi (367km)

Campground Accommodation: Upper Pines Campground (Yosemite National Park): $20

Started on Saturday at site 214 of Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite, finished there Sunday.