What I learned driving from Northern CA to Southern CA

Photo of Pacific Coast Highway
Mike McBey/Creative Commons

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Over the weekend, I drove from my Central Valley town to sunny Southern California. I knew it was going to be an experience because I was going to be alone and it was my first time driving there. Did everything go according to plan? No. Was it a turbulent time? Yes. I want to impart some wisdom from my 300-mile, five-hour-long drive to anyone planning to make a cross-state trip.

California is huge

It’s common knowledge that California is a big state. It’s the third-largest state by landmass, 770 miles long and 250 miles wide. However, it’s hard to comprehend the size of California until you actually drive through it. I took a rest stop after 100 miles, thinking I was halfway to my destination. But after checking my location, my eyes filled with horror as I realized I was less than a third of the way there. 100 miles will take you through several countries in Europe, but the same amount of distance keeps you in the Golden State. 

Los Angeles traffic will make you cry

Everyone warned me about the chaos that is Los Angeles traffic. I brushed it off because I’ve driven through Bay Area traffic and didn’t think it would be bad. As my car entered Los Angeles County, I was immediately stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, bawling my eyes out in my vehicle. It took about an hour to travel thirty miles, which would normally take me half that time in Northern California. I survived by blaring my music and remaining calm through the motor mayhem. But let this be a warning: You should mentally prepare to be stuck on the highway.

Don’t drive by yourself

After driving to and from Southern California, I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone. The only things I could see for miles were farms and hills. My eyes were strained from looking at the same scenery and my butt was sore from sitting too much. My advice for anyone planning a Northern California to Southern California trip is to rotate drivers so no one gets too tired. If I was ever going there again, I’d buy a plane ticket and deal with my fear of flying instead.

Take plenty of restroom breaks

I completely disregarded any bathroom breaks and wanted to get as far as I could on my drive, But as I was stuck on the I-5 miles away from a rest stop, I realized I made a grave mistake. Although it might slow down the drive, you should take as many trips to the toilet as you can. One stop an hour is not too frequent, but still allows plenty of time on the road. If there’s a sign for a restroom, take it as a sign from the universe and head to the toilet.

As much as I complained about my drive to Los Angeles, I learned so much from this trip and was glad to go through this experience. Hopefully, this list prepares you for a trip like mine and you don’t make too many of my mistakes.

Contact Nicholas Clark at [email protected].