Travel News

The RV Chronicles: San Francisco Meets An Oversized Vehicle

Locations in this article:  San Francisco, CA

Golden Gate Wrong LaneHave you ever been at the crest of one of those quintessentially steep, hilly streets in San Francisco?

One so high and with such a sharp arch downward that you can’t actually see the street beyond the peak?

Yeah, I have, too.

Upside – I had a GREAT view of the San Francisco bay from my hilly perch.

Downside – My view was from the passenger seat of a 31-foot motor home.

This is the third in a series of articles by first-time RVer Loretta Copeland. You can read the first one, RV Chronicles: First-Time RVers Hit the Road, here. The second one in the series, How Campgrounds and Oversized RVs Come Together, is here.

I may be stating the obvious here, but motor homes of any size should NOT ever be facing a sign that reads: Severe crest – trucks and over-sized vehicles not advised.

Now, if truth be told, I’ve always wanted to roam the streets of San Francisco and get a look at some of the great old homes lining the historic city. I’d just never thought to do it while in a motor home.

Loretta RV travelYou might be wondering if we took this field trip on purpose. Answer: Oh NO we did not…

I am not a huge fan of those map/direction-giving Web sites. I’ve found that while they do eventually get you to where you need to go, they do it via the most roundabout, time-consuming, indirect ways possible. I had thought the same thing of those GPS satellite units.

A few times I was right concerning the GPS. But on this particular occasion, I was very wrong. A dear friend and co-worker was kind enough to let us use her GPS unit for our trip. “Take it, it might help you out,” she said.

I was thrilled to have it on hand, as we really had no idea where we were going other than relying on some very general directions from our campsite hostess, an old Thomas Guide and a couple of maps. If only we’d listened to the little darling in the box telling us for well over half an hour to take route 880; once we glibly passed it, she “recalculated” and told us to take next exit right to return to route 880 … turn out and exit right …

My husband and I said to each other, “Why should we do that when we can stay on the 101 and just drive straight through?” We thought the GPS, like its Internet cousin, was trying to steer us on some crazy, backcountry drive that we had no intention of taking.

We should have listened.

I’m a southern California girl. I don’t do a whole lot of traveling and I’m definitely not familiar with the San Francisco area. For example, I was unaware that highway 101 drops you – oh say– right into the heart of San Francisco without any warning.

One minute we’re driving the highway, next we’re on a crowded city street looking at each other and wondering what happened. My best friend Erin, who had been napping while the entire route 880 debacle was happening, awoke around this time and asked, “Why didn’t you take route 880?”

After quite a bit of debate as to what we should do since pulling over and crying wasn’t really an option, we decided to trust our handy GPS unit to lead us the heck out of Dodge as soon and as painlessly as possible.

Here is one of those times I was right in not trusting the GPS. We knew we had to reach the Golden Gate Bridge to get back to the 101, so we plugged in our street location and viola! We had directions. Great, right? Wrong.

These directions lead us back to where I began our tale. Sitting atop a very steep, very narrow hill in our motor home. Frantic decisions were contemplated, half laughing, half pulling our hair out, as to which way we should go?

Straight ahead, with our beautiful view of the bay below and a stern suggestion NOT to proceed; left, toward another street that was not as high, but just as steep and looked to be difficult to navigate down walking in an upright position, let alone driving; or right, down a gently sloping hill toward parts unknown.

Care to guess which we chose? I’ll give you a hint: We didn’t test the theory about whether or not over-sized vehicles could make it down that hill.

So, after a few other choice wrong turns, doubling back a couple of times and one very carefully executed U-turn, (yes, they are possible in a motor home) we were back in business and headed toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

Below, hubby Mark chews his nails as he navigates the bridge, reflected in his sunglasses.

Mark Driving Golden GateNote to RVers who are traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge – there are bus/truck lanes specifically for you. We did not discover this until we saw them off to the right as we were squeezing, and I DO mean squeezing, through the tollbooth lanes that regular vehicles use to enter the bridge.

(I can see Gary and Heather from Fleetwood cringing and running out to check the mirrors for scrapes. No worries, there were none.)

Once we finally crossed the bridge and had it and San Francisco safely in our rear-view mirrors my husband let out a shriek of joy and we all began laughing hysterically and checking for new gray streaks in our hair. We were okay. The motor home came through unscathed and instead of leaving our hearts behind in San Francisco, we only left a year or two of our lives and quite a few shaky nerves.

But that’s what great road trips are all about, right? The unscheduled, unpredicted experiences that you couldn’t plan if you tried. It was one of those moments you know you’ll never forget. Not one you ever intended on happening, but a priceless memory nonetheless.

The day was winding down and after several stops for food, coffee and a few forgotten supplies like firewood; we were finally just minutes away from arriving at our camp for the first night in Sonoma Valley!

I’d like to take a moment out to suggest a tip to you first time campers/RVers out there: Buy your wood bundles outside of the campgrounds. We stopped to pick ours up at the local Wal-Mart and were oh-so-glad we did. We paid $3.99 for the same size bundles being offered for $7.99 at San Simeon state park and the outrageous price of $12.99 per bundle at the private campgrounds.

Next up, arriving in Sonoma. Everything the flyer said the campground would be? Not quite.

By Loretta Copeland for

Read the other entries from the RV Chronicles Series:

Previously By Loretta Copeland on