Get ready for Day 7 of our California to Oregon road trip recap!
In May 2013 we drove 1,840 miles from San Diego, California to Portland, Oregon. Just two states but we covered such a significant part of the west coast which included over five national parks, three breweries, three factory tours, a visit to one of the best restaurants in the world, and countless other amazing things along the way. As you can see we avoided Los Angeles and the coast, which was done on purpose to diversify our California experience. Check out our route:
Sadly our time in San Francisco had come to an end. Early on Day 7 we packed up the car and headed out. It felt so weird to be back on the road at first! We parked the car for 2 days in San Fran and barely touched it.
Instead of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge again we left by way of the Bay Bridge and headed 30 minutes west to Oakland for a quick breakfast. We stopped at Monkey Forest Road for tea and muffins. What a gorgeous place this was! (Too bad they have the stupidest name ever.)
After breakfast we drove 40 minutes due north to Fairfield, California.
What’s in Fairfield, you ask? Oh, just the Jelly Belly Factory tour!!!
We got there early and had no problem getting on one of the first tours of the day. We weren’t allowed to take pictures on the tour but it was pretty standard – you walk around a catwalk that overlooks the factory floor, observing the various stages of jelly bean making below. The majority of the factory information is shared on TV screens via short historical/informational movies, not our guide which was odd to me. The guide basically just led us from TV to TV. Strange but still fun!
At the end of the tour we got a complimentary bag of jelly beans, score!
The tour drops you off at the gift shop, of course.
In the gift shop is the sample bar where you can try as many jelly bean flavors as you want. I tried the Dr. Pepper (natch), Candy Corn (yup, Jelly Belly makes candy corn!), and Baby Wipes (part of their Bean Boozled line of wacky flavors).
The gift shop was vast and I picked up a bag of Belly Flops to send to my nephews. Belly Flops are Jelly Belly’s reject jelly beans that have messed up shapes, sizes, and colors but still taste perfectly fine.
Needless to say, John loved the Jelly Belly factory.
We got back in the car and kept heading north. About 45 minutes later we stopped in Sacramento for lunch at the one and only, In-N-Out Burger.
John was thrilled, me a little less so since I don’t eat red meat and all they serve is burgers. Thankfully I did some research and found that there is a whole secret In-N-Out menu that you can order from. So I got the grilled cheese (basically everything that’s on a burger, minus the burger). And it was actually really good!
Super stuffed we hit the road again. Our next destination was Chico, CA, about an hour and a half away, for our 3PM reservation to tour the Sierra Nevada brewery. We arrived at about 1:50PM though and asked if they could squeeze us on to the 2PM tour. Unfortunately they couldn’t and we had a tough choice to make – kill an hour in Chico somehow or get back on the road. The thing about road tripping is that wasting driving time sucks. It’s all about staying on track with time and always moving towards your destination for the day. Anything that delays that is risky and can set back everything. We toiled for about 10 minutes, really torn on this one.
After a quick Yelp search I found something we could do to kill time and convinced John that we should stay in Chico. He agreed and we headed over to the Bird In Hand toy store to check out the National Yo-Yo Museum.
The museum features the largest public display of yo-yo’s and yo-yo memorabilia in the country. This includes “Big-Yo,” the 1982 Guinness Book of Worlds Records world’s largest working wood yo-yo weighing 256 lbs.
The Museum features displays of yo-yos from the earliest commercial production in the 1920s and 1930s to the current performance designed yo-yo’s that are used by top competitors today.
The Yo-Yo Museum ended up being an awesome stop. I love this type of roadside Americana. This is exactly what a road trip is all about: discovering a hidden gem that is fun, a little historical, a little bizarre, but totally unique.
Finally it was about 2:45PM so we headed back over to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company for their brewery tour.
Our tour guide started us off with Sierra Nevada’s signature Pale Ale as we watched a gorgeous introductory video to the company.
The tour covered the entire complex and we got to see a ton. From the quality assurance lab, to the hop storage room, to the brew kettle room, to the bottling and packaging facility – the tour was fabulous and our guide was excellent, super knowledgeable, and clearly passionate about Sierra Nevada.
While we were in the brew kettle room our guide gave us all a sample of wort. Wort is the liquid extracted from the mashing process; what remains after all of the ingredients steep together (water, barley, hops, etc.). Wort contains all of the sugars that will be fermented by the brewing yeast to produce alcohol so it is pre-yeast and pre-carbonation. So basically it just tasted like warm barley tea, if you can imagine that. This was a real treat for John and I – after 30+ brewery tours we have never sampled wort before and in fact, most brewers will tell you its garbage, that it shouldn’t be tasted. But I disagree. This is a critical part of brewing and was a really neat opportunity.
Another cool thing we saw on the tour was Sierra Nevada’s solar panels. While walking from the main brewery building to the bottling and packaging facility, we passed by all of these on the roof. Sierra Nevada houses one of the largest privately owned solar arrays in the country. They have 10,573 panels that provide the brewery with roughly 20% of their energy needs. They also have hydrogen fuel cells, divert 99% of their waste away from landfills, use biodiesel from their restaurant as fuel, and have a hop field on their estate. Sierra Nevada has a strong commitment to sustainability and you could see that throughout the entire brewery.
The brewery is huge and the tour took over an hour.
The walls near the taproom are covered with amazing art and show the original packaging concept pieces.
On to the taproom for a tasting!
We tried 8 different kinds of Sierra Nevada beer.
One of the most memorable was the Brandy Barrel Aged Belgian-Style Trippel. This beer is aged for five months in California brandy barrels which makes it taste more like brandy and less like beer. It was strong!
My favorites were the Belgian-Style Abbey Saison and the Kellerweis. So tasty!
We finished up at the brewery around 4:30PM and got back on the road. At 6PM we stopped in Redding, CA for dinner and ended up at Kobe Steak & Seafood, a teppanyaki/hibachi place. It was really fun – onion volcano!
After dinner we had our longest stretch of driving of the day in front of us – 2.5 hours over the border into Medford, Oregon.
The drive was gorgeous – taking us through Klamath National Forest, past the Shasta Lake region, and up and over Mount Shasta.
Little did we realize that with mountains comes snow. I spent about 45 white knuckled minutes driving through almost white out conditions as we drove down the mountain. I could have kissed the ground when we finally got to our hotel for the night. You can’t tell how bad it was from this picture, but it was bad (John took the photo, not me!).
Stay tuned for Day 8 where we begin the Oregon leg of the road trip (and encounter more snow)!