Unfortunately, we have to start off this update with some sad news. We are currently in Redmond, Oregon and this is where we had to say goodbye to our buddy and traveling companion, Max.
In January, we found out that he had a heart murmur that was slowly getting worse, so we knew that at most he would be with us for only another year. For the last couple of weeks he seemed more tired than usual and his appetite wasn’t great. When we arrived in Redmond, he had some pretty bad vomiting and diarrhea, so we took him to a vet and found out he had developed advanced acute leukemia. Even with aggressive treatment, his prognosis was not good and they said that he would never regain his energy and appetite. If you knew Max, you knew that food and running around outside were his favorite things, so not being able to enjoy those things any longer meant that it was time to say goodbye. RIP Max, AKA Maxie, Yoda, Short Stack. We love you and miss your huge ears and big dog attitude.
On this leg of the trip, we also had to say goodbye to California. We met so many amazing people here and experienced so many amazing rooms. (We also left so many mini-ducks - if you know, you know.) While we are excited about our future adventures in the Pacific Northwest, leaving California was sad. The owner and enthusiast communities in California are like nowhere else we have been. Such a fun and tight-knit group of people who support each other. We hope to be able to come back sooner rather than later and play all of the new games that we have heard are in the process of being built. (We’re still a little salty about not being allowed to play Winnie the Pooh, Nathan. ;-)
In our last update we had just arrived in San Francisco, so let’s get started on recapping our adventures traveling up the California coast from the Temecula Valley, our week in San Francisco, and our short stays in Sacramento and Reno, Nevada, before reaching Oregon.
The reviews of the amazing rooms we played on this leg (and some that sadly did not meet our expectations) are below, but first, RV Life!
States Visited This Leg: California, Nevada, Oregon
Total Miles Traveled: 12,651
Total Escape Rooms Played: 114
This part of the trip involved a lot of travel. Once we left Temecula, we headed north and set up camp in Fillmore, CA. From here we did day trips for sightseeing and escape rooms to Santa Barbara, Solvang (a cute Danish-themed town), Ventura and Oxnard. We were also able to backtrack to the north side of Los Angeles and play a couple of rooms we had missed, Hypnotic Escapes in Van Nuys and The Basement in Sylmar.
After five nights there, we headed up the coast to Monterey, where we were lucky enough to be able to get a campsite at Marina Dunes RV Resort, where we could walk across the dunes to the beach. While here we visited the scenic town of Carmel-By-The-Sea and did the famous 17-Mile Drive that winds along the coast and goes through the exclusive Pebble Beach golf club. We also visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium and had a great time observing the sea life, especially the sea otters. They are huge compared to the otters we have in Florida. They can grow up to 5 feet in length and weigh between 60 and 100 pounds! (We’d still adopt one if we could.)
After three nights we were on the road again and headed to San Francisco, where we stayed in Marin, on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. While here, we played The Edison and The Attraction at the world famous Palace Games, Ghost Patrol at Trivium Games and Chaos in the Galleria, Undercooked, and the all-new Robotopia at Omescape in Sunnyvale.
Curt used to live in this area, running summer camps and teen programs in Tiburon, and he stopped in at one of his former jobs to visit with friends. We took the ferry over to Angel Island and spent a day riding our bikes around the island. We also visited the supposedly haunted Winchester House. The tour was very interesting and we got to see the famous stairways and doors to nowhere, but we didn’t see any ghosts. (Boo!) We had heard there was an escape room there on the grounds, as well, but it had been shut down. (Sad face)
After six nights, it was time to pack up again and we headed east to Yosemite National Park. Making the climb up the mountain was challenging. Wow, those roads are curvy. It was a bit of a struggle and some of the curves had to be taken at 15 mph. Curt did great though! He is becoming an expert at towing and parking the RV. Because of the record snowfalls this year, the rivers and waterfalls were at flood levels with all the snowmelt. It was BEAUTIFUL! We went chasing waterfalls (sorry, TLC).
After four nights, we hit the road yet again and headed to Sacramento to visit with Tina’s friend Sue from graduate school. While here we got to take Sue to her very first escape room, Trouble in the Toy Shop at Enchambered! It’s an easier room, but it’s super cute and was perfect for Sue’s first escape experience. Sue just turned 70, so it goes to show that it’s never too late to play your first escape room!
While here, we also found that we had a screw embedded in the sidewall of one of our RV tires. Luckily, the tire shop was able to order a new tire and get it installed within 24 hours. Having a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) set up on the RV tires certainly paid off, since we were able to quickly see that one of the tires was losing air and we got it replaced before it caused any major problems. The last thing we want is to end up stranded along a highway with a flat tire.
After only two nights, it was time to say goodbye to California and we headed to Reno, Nevada. Curt lived here almost six years ago and still had some stuff in a storage unit. We only spent two nights here, and one whole day was spent clearing out the storage unit and making trips to the dump and the donation center, but we still managed to fit in two escape rooms at Keystone Escapes. (Of course, we had to make the time so we could earn our Nevada sticker for the map!)
We LOVE meeting owners of escape rooms. During this leg we met with one of the owners of Hypnotic Escape Rooms, the owner of House of Clues, the owners of The Motherlode Escape Rooms, one of the owners of Enchambered, and the owner of Keystone. And they were all wonderful!
While in San Francisco, we also met up again with some friends we had played escape rooms with in SoCal. We’ll say again that the SoCal escape room enthusiasts community is seriously amazing! We got very lucky finding the people that we did through the Facebook group to play rooms with. We played a few games with Shay and Keith (Ghost Patrol, Edison and The Attraction) and met their friends Zulma and Beto (we all played Chaos in the Galleria and Undercooked together). Then, we met up with our friend Blake again, and played Robotopia with her and her friend Sabrina.
Okay, let’s go through the rooms we played this leg of our trip.
Hypnotic Escape Rooms (Van Nuys, CA)
Atlantis: The Forgotten City - We had a lot of fun with this game. The set design was incredible. The puzzles were a lot of fun and the vibe of the rooms was immersive and enjoyable. The two of us needed a hint or nudge here and there, but they came at the right time. The last couple of rooms didn't quite meet the scenic standards as the first part, and the ending video was very cheesy, so those things kind of detracted from the experience, but overall, this game gets a big thumbs up from us.
The Basement (Sylmar, CA)
We have heard a lot of mixed reviews about The Basement, but those that like this venue, LOVE it. So we had to see what the hype was all about. A few things before our review. We are obviously not their intended audience. We are on the older side and the rooms here have a lot of crawling, ducking, tight spaces, and low lighting. This is a young person's venue. One of the staff was not very friendly. This could be because of the vibe of the place (very creepy) and she was in "character", but everyone else was very friendly to us. So, we don't think her attitude was the norm here.
Also, we weren't able to take advantage of their multi-game discount because we booked them all online at the same time. In order to get the discount you have to play a game, then you have to book the next game while you are there (or buy a gift card in person to use later). We even called ahead of time to see if they had a replay discount and they said they didn’t. Imagine our surprise when we got there and found out they did. There was also a discount advertised on Morty, but the code did not work at the time we booked. (Boo!)
On the positive side, they have a fantastic entrance that you have to figure out before you get into the lobby (no spoilers). They also have merch you can buy (we love when venues offer merch, especially if it goes beyond just shirts).
The Study - This was a fun room with a live actor. Tina usually doesn't care for live actor interaction, but in this case, the actor doesn't need to be talked to. There was some needless searching and the final puzzle was not clear, so we didn't make it out because of that. (The same thing had happened to a friend of ours on the last puzzle.) Overall, though, we enjoyed it.
The Courtyard - This one was a mixed bag for us. The set design is great. It's a larger than average space. There was a live actor and, for the most part, she was fantastic. The only issue we had with her is that she kept talking, giving us background on her story. Time was ticking away and it was only the two of us, so we knew we had to hurry. Finally, we walked away from her as she continued to talk. We both felt bad, like we were being rude. To her credit, she really tried to help us throughout the game after that. Things we didn't like about this room . . . Tina had to army crawl through dirt in a section of the game (Curt wouldn't have fit - it was a very tight space). She was not happy about that. To be fair, they do say on their website to wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty in. It wasn't the dirt so much as the belly crawling we had the issue with. Lots of games we have played required crawling, but this was the tightest crawl space we have seen. Also, there was a puzzle Tina tried to find based on a clue we received early on. The puzzle wasn't available yet, but not knowing that, she spent a lot of time searching, doing more crawling, and getting frustrated. In the end, we found out that the puzzle was time-gated, meaning it becomes available at a certain time in the game regardless of where in the game you are at. There is nothing telling you when it becomes available though and it requires backtracking to a previous room. We did not finish this game, but again the actress and the set design were fantastic.
The Elevator Shaft-This was our favorite game at The Basement. It was the smallest space of the three games, but the tech was very cool. The immersion was incredible. The puzzles were really good, too. There were some items that were hidden and we did have to get into a tight space designed for younger people to maneuver, but we are glad we ended our time here with that game.
Two Trees Escape (Ventura, CA)
Vault 805 - This game has potential. We enjoyed the first part more than the second part. It has some neat puzzles. Unfortunately, some of the tech didn't work and the game master didn't notice when that happened, so we would lose time working on something that we couldn't complete or a door wouldn't open (happened twice) when it should have. We also found a slip of paper that another team left with the answer to a puzzle. Thankfully, we had already solved it. Not the best experience we have had. We were planning to play another game there but decided not to after that.
The House of Clues (Santa Barbara, CA)
The Castle - This game had some decent puzzles. The set design was low cost, but that's okay if the game itself is good and the puzzle flow works well. Unfortunately, it had hits and misses. The last part of the game didn't really fit with the storyline. Also, the walls didn't go to the ceiling so we could hear the conversations of the people in the lobby and other rooms. This was another place we would have played a second room if we had really enjoyed the first, but alas, we did not.
Red Door Escape Rooms (Oxnard, CA)
We really enjoyed the two games we played at Red Door in San Diego, so we thought we'd try this location.
Confinement - This game was okay. There were some leaps in logic with a few puzzles that required us to take hints, but the set design and the puzzle flow were decent. Overall, we had a good time and that's what's important.
Once Upon a Time - We really like the magical set design of this game. There was a bit of excess searching and the puzzle flow was just okay, We enjoyed the tech in this room. Overall, it was fine for a corporate venue.
Trivium (Emeryville, CA)
Ghost Patrol - This was one of our favorite games on this leg of the trip. We played with our escape room buddies, Shay and Keith, and that made it that much better. There is a four person minimum and the cost is not cheap, but we had a great experience. This room started with a fun intro video. We appreciate intro videos that are well done. The first part of this game had a Disney Haunted Mansion feel that we loved. The puzzles were challenging, but so good. Each member of our team contributed and we escaped with seconds left. If it were just the two of us, we would have needed some hints, but with the four of us, we did not. Highly recommended!
Palace Games (San Francisco, CA)
These rooms are uber expensive and have a minimum of four players. They are loved by many, so we had to check it out.
The Edison Escape Room - Nope. We seem to be in the minority here, but none of us enjoyed much of this game. Some of the puzzles felt like homework and a couple of them had to be done multiple times before continuing on. The tech in this room is impressive, though. Well, except for one puzzle that we were sure we understood and knew how to do (it took all four of us) but wouldn't work and then we think the game master finally just triggered it to give us a pass. The last part of the game, while we had fun with it, didn't seem in theme to us. Overall, we cannot recommend this room.
The Attraction - Lots of cool tech in this game and some parts we REALLY liked. However, there were some times when you had to do a puzzle over and over to get through it (one of them had to be done nine times in different places and we still aren't sure exactly what we were supposed to do, but we got it to trigger, so oh well). You are told to plan on a two-hour experience, but there was no time limit. Every group finishes the game. It took us a little over two hours. (We suck!) LOL! This game seemed to have multiple personalities and so the flow seemed a bit off. But overall, we recommend this game.
Omescape (Sunnyvale, CA)
Chaos in the Galleria - Besides Ghost Patrol, this was our other favorite game on this leg of our travels. There were six of us in this room and we had a blast. There were so many neat features of this game. You are trying to recover a stolen diamond in this "mall". There are multiple shops, so this is a big space (not warehouse big, just bigger than normal). The puzzles and puzzle flow were fantastic, as was the set design. We loved this game and highly recommend it.
Undercooked - In this game, you have to find recipes and then find the ingredients for those recipes. For each completed recipe, your team earns dollars. There are something like 26 recipes. Our group got through 18. It was a challenging room, but very fun and different.
Robotopia - This is their newest game. It had a futuristic, yet whimsical feel to it. There were times when our group didn't know what to do next, so better signposting would help. One of our favorite parts of the game was the live-actor interaction. Actually, they don't interact with your group, per se, but that whole part of the game was so fun. Like the other two rooms, we recommend this one highly.
The Motherlode Escape Rooms (Sonora, CA)
This is a little mom-and-pop venue we visited while near Yosemite.
The Jesse James Escape Room - For a small venue, this was a neat room. It doesn't compare to most others in California, but it was the least expensive place we visited in the state. The set design fits the theme. There were some authentic items that were a nice surprise. We started off handcuffed together and stayed that way for nearly 10 minutes. (Those things aren't comfortable, can we get some fur on them?) The puzzles were okay. There were clues we didn't find but we were still able to solve the puzzles without them. Overall, it was not bad. Check them out if you're in the area.
Enchamebered (Sacramento, CA)
We had seen this place had good reviews on Morty so decided to check them out. Their lobbies (there is an entrance AND exit lobby) were well decorated. We loved the vibe of this place,
Trouble in the Toy Shop - This is the perfect room for beginners. As enthusiasts, we really enjoyed and appreciated much of it including their intro, hint system, decor, creative puzzles, and in-game "clock." We got out with a lot of time left, but that doesn't diminish how much we enjoyed this one-room game. It was SUPER cute.
The Skull Witch - This game has a 10% success rate. We don't understand why some venues continue to make games that are so hard to finish. Most teams want to finish the games and be able to see all the rooms and experience all the puzzles. The issue with this game and the next one we'll review, is that you get items too early to solve the puzzles they are intended for. You waste a lot of time trying to solve these puzzles before you have everything you need. Finding items or clues to a puzzle before you can use them is not unusual in an escape room, but they take it to the extreme here in order to increase the difficulty level of the game. It doesn't make for a great experience. The thing is that the puzzles here are actually pretty good, but the flow is very bad. In this game, one of the tech puzzles wasn't working great, and that was a bit frustrating as well. The two of us didn't even come close to finishing. We would like to see this venue either change the puzzle flow to make it easier, or make the rooms 75 or 90 minutes long and price them accordingly. We would have loved to have played this game through to the end.
The Whispering Halls - This room has the same faults as Skull Witch. We will say that they both have really good set designs. We liked this room more than Skull Witch, but there was some excessive searching (a common theme with this venue) and one of the puzzles needed a full explanation on how to complete it. There was a whole page of written instructions in the room, but we needed additional verbal instructions, too. We think the rooms here have really good bones, they just need some tweaking to be awesome. But that's just our opinion. Let us know if you have played here and disagree. We would have loved to play this one through to the end, too.
Keystone Escape Games (Reno, NV)
Not only did we get to play some fun games, but we also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the place from the owner, Mark. He showed us the HUGE, multi-room workshop they have (they make most of their own props in-house), and the space where they are building their next adventure.
Blood of the Original - This is a vampire room that has a very cool intro. It is a little creepy with a few standard haunt-style jump scares. The puzzles are fun and the flow is pretty good. There is some searching that we actually needed help with. Overall, though, we enjoyed this game.
Dragon Alley - We enjoyed this game even more. We are fans of in-game character hint systems, and this game has that. A caged skeleton is there to help you out when needed and keep things light. Don't worry, there are no scares in this one. The puzzles were fun, even if a couple didn't feel like they belonged, and the set design was excellent. We definitely recommend visiting Keystone if you are in Reno. Their gamemasters were great, too.
That’s a wrap on California! Now we are spending a couple weeks in Oregon before heading up to Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, Canada.
Tina is a former city and transportation planner turned escape room owner and Curt is a podcaster/blogger/content creator for the summer camp industry. Their worlds collided when they were handcuffed next to each other in a pirate themed escape room while attending an escape room enthusiast meet up event.