A picture is worth a thousand words

Around the world USA North West

Redwoods, Lassen Volcanic, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

Salt Lake City, Arches, Monument Valley and Sequoia.

Part I > Part II > Part III > Part IV > Part V

Lockdown in San Francisco

According to the Corona situation we decide to go back to San Francisco rather then continuing our initial travel plan with destinations in Los Angeles, Mexico, further to South America, New Zealand, South East Asia and back to Europe.
So, end of March 2020, we arrive at San Francisco again after a two weeks trip with the rented car. We don't know about the situation how it will develop, but we also do not want to cancel everything and fly back home at the moment. Luckily, we can stay at our friends house, close to the city center of San Francisco.
We have already checked with our health insurance that it would cover everything if needed, so we decide to wait on how Corona is progressing. Later, we will evaluate again and see what will be the options.
We feel that the lockdown in San Francisco is somehow moderate, probably not as strict as in some parts of Europe. We can move around freely, go for walks in the neighborhood or spend time in parks. Masks are compulsory when shopping and there are restrictions on the maximum number of people in stores, with waiting times of up to 45 minutes in the worst case. At some point, toilet paper will be rationed in the shops....
Take-away is always possible in the restaurants that are open. However, there are warning signs everywhere to keep social-distance between people. Public playgrounds and sports grounds are also closed, and the white distance circles on sunbathing lawns are also something new.

Road Trip with owned car

After 2 months in S.F., thinking about our future itinerary and doing some research, we find a suitable vehicle in which we can travel, sleep and move around independently: a 2010 Jeep Patriot with under 100,000 miles (about 160,000 km) and gear shift. If we fold down the rear seats and put in a mattress, we can sleep with enough space. Adding a camping gas stove, a small cooling box, camping chairs, blankets and the backpacks will complete our equipment.
So, a few days later, after registering and taking out insurance we get the Title (vehicle documents) per post. The whole process from purchase to registration and insurance is actually quite straightforward.


Title is the abbreviation for the "Certificate of Title", a US document that is roughly equivalent to the European registration certificate (Zulassungsbescheinigung).
Certificate of Title


A valid postal address is required for the purchase of the vehicle, as the vehicle documents and insurance will be sent by post (a hotel or other accommodation may even be sufficient). Apart from the purchase (in cash), insurance and registration can be done online (perhaps due to Corona...) The license plates will not be changed and remain on the vehicle.
Over the next weekend, we take a test drive to Los Angeles, where we have booked an Airbnb in nearby Ventura. Of course, the corona restrictions are also very noticeable here, and the typical sights are much less crowded than they would normally be:
  • Hollywood sign
  • Beverly Hills
  • Malibu
  • Walk of Fame
  • Venice Beach
On the way back, we also make a short stop in Santa Barbara.
Although the test drive was a success, we still have to deal with the renewal of our visas before we can set off on our road trip. The expiry date is May 25, 2020, 3 months after entering the United States. Fortunately, because of Corona, there is the possibility to extend the visa two times, each time by one month. This so-called Satisfactory Departure can be applied for if you are unable to leave the country.
Our plan is to ship the car from Canada to Europe when this is possible. However, as the border to Canada is closed for tourist purposes, we cannot leave the U.S., which is the reason we give when applying for the Satisfactory Departure. We can complete the entire process online and with a few phone calls. Finally, we receive the positive certificate for a 1-month extension.
Auto for sale
Jeep Patriot trunk
California license plate


"U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced today that Visa Waiver Program travelers who have been granted satisfactory departure may apply for an additional 30-day extension of their admission period if they remain unable to depart the United States because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)." - Release Date Fri, 04/17/2020

Redwood National Park

On the way to the Avenue of the giants, which leads through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park with its huge titan trees, we spend the first night in our new Jeep in the Mendocino National Forest. We will still have to set ourselves up properly, adjust the position of the vehicle, fine-tune the seats and bed and get extra blankets, as it can get cold.
Offroad at Mendocino National Forest
We can also test our Jeep extensively in the Mendocino National Forest, as it is very mountainous and forest roads are only recommended for four-wheel drive. Since even a river crossing is no problem for the Jeep, we can consider this endurance test a success:
After an overnight stay at the Leatherwood Bar stone beach on the South Fork Eel River, we continue north until we reach the Redwood National Park with the Tour thru tree.
For the first time we find an opened campground (Boise Creek) in the evening, as many options are closed due to Corona. These self-service campsites have individual free pitches with fire pits, seating and dining facilities and sometimes vault toilets. The fee is placed in a box and is between 10 and 25 USD per night for two persons with car.


Search for places to stay along your route in advance with the practical offline app FreeRoam. In the app, you can filter the places by cost, ratings, photos and descriptions. There are many paid and free campsites, so-called dispersed campsites, which are located on public land and are free of charge:
Find your spots with FreeRoam


"Dispersed camping is the term used for camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Dispersed camping means no services; such as trash removal, and little or no facilities; such as tables and fire pits, are provided. Some popular dispersed camping areas may have toilets."

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Unfortunately, the hot springs in Lassen Volcanic National Park don't help us to overcome the snow and the cold temperatures around freezing point at night (in June). We must start the engine several times to turn on the heating to the maximum to make it through the night.


Freezing point = 32°Fahrenheit / 0° Celsius
The next day, the landscape rewards us with wonderful panoramas, lakes and snow-covered mountains. The view of Mount Lassen from Manzanita Lake is particularly stunning.
Manzanita Lake

Yellowstone & Grand Teton National park

We stay in Yellowstone National Park for three days, but could easily stay longer as it is really huge. We arrive from the west entrance and see lots of animals such as bisons, coyotes, elks, deer and others on the first day. But the landscape is also impressive and we pass many highlights on our way to the northern part:
  • Gibbon Falls
  • Norris Geyser Basin and Steamboat Geyser
  • Mammoth Hot Springs
Steamboat Geyser - World's Tallest Active Geyser
For the night we stay in a motel in Livingston, about 1 hour from the north entrance. After several days on rudimentary campgrounds, it's nice to enjoy the luxury of a warm shower again.
Day 2 gets off to a great start! Just a few meters ahead of us, a black bear crosses the road and finally disappears into the forest on the other side of a large meadow. Fantastic!
Black Bear
We then head south again, as we have found the dispersed campground Spread Creek near Grand Teton National Park in the offline app. There are wonderful rest areas along the way to enjoy the panorama with coffee from our Moka Pot. We only stop briefly at the major attractions Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful Geyser, as we want to visit them in more detail the next day.
Resting area
On the last day in Yelllowstone, we first visit the spectacular Grand Prismatic Spring. The range of colors from red, brown, orange to yellow, green and blue is really impressive.


Don't miss the half-hour walk to the viewing platform on the other side, where you can see the Prismatic Spring from above!
But the other sights are also special. The Firehole Spring with its crystal-clear blue water and Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts at regular intervals of up to 40 meters and more.


"Old Faithful currently erupts around 20 times a day. These eruptions are predicted with a 90 percent confidence rate, within a 10 minute variation, based on the duration and height of the previous eruption."
We end the evening with a bottle of wine on the shores of Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park with breathtaking views of the mountains.
Grand Teton Jackson Lake (click image to switch)
Prismatic Spring (click image to switch)

Salt Lake City

After many days on the road, we arrive back in a larger city. The Utah State Capitol with a great view over the city and Temple Square are nice to visit. We also notice that the shopping mall is open again for the first time in a long time. The city center itself still seems a bit deserted, but this is most likely due to the Corona restrictions.
Salt Lake City

Arches, Monument Valley and Sequoia

We drive on to Arches National Park, where we can fill our drinking water canisters at the entrance to the visitor centre, as is possible in almost all national parks. We have at least four 1-gallon (3.78 litre) canisters with us.
As there is only one entrance in the southern part, you have to return same way. We decide to make a short stop at the Double Arch and then drive all the way north to the Landscape Arch, so that we can organise the other highlights on the way back.
After several stops at different arches and rock formations, we want to spend the sunset at Delicate Arch. This huge arch and the surrounding rocks are magnificent in the light of the setting sun.


"The trail to see Delicate Arch up close and personal is 3 miles (4.8 km) roundtrip and climbs 480 feet (146m). Along this steadily uphill trail, you'll also pass the Wolfe Ranch cabin and a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs."
Sunset at Delicate Arch
Although the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park itself is unfortunately closed, we can see the typical rock formations from afar as we drive along the dead straight road. The landscape is unique, even from a distance.
One of the next evenings we watch the sun set at Horseshoe Bend in the Grand Canyon. The view into the 300 metre deep, horseshoe-shaped gorge is spectacular.


Access is only possible via a paid entrance. But it's definitely worth it!
Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon
After several days full of action with visiting national parks and long drives, we take a rest day at Sand Island Campground. This self-service campground located at the San Juan River is so spacious that we have our own spot with a fire ring and table, and no other campers in sight. We can stretch out our hammock between two trees. The only thing that disturbs us is a snake!
As we continue our journeny, we want to see the Hoover Dam as it is on the way, unfortunately it is also closed due to Corona. Despite several attempts from different positions, we can't catch a single glimpse of the huge dam. On the other hand, we get to see something that we are not supposed to see. We drive along a short sandy road near the Area 51 Alien Centre until we have to turn back before the fence of restricted Area 51.
Area 51, Restricted Area
Before we continue to visit Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, the last stop on this road trip, we have to apply again for Satisfactory Departure so that our visa can be extended for another month. As there is no other legal way to extend the visa after that, we have to leave the country by July 23, 2020 at the latest. This is roughly about 4 weeks to go from now...

Points of Interest

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