Drive I-5 Like a Pro

🖊️ 🔖 Howtos 💬 1

(From Ashland to San Francisco, anyway)

This post is similar to this one except that its less about staying alive while you are going insane and more about how to make the trip fast so your risk of going insane is only about 1 in 5.

I am a professional I-5 from Ashland to San Francisco driver. I make this drive more than is healthy. I know the road like the veins on the back of my, ahem, hand.  I make the other drivers on the road feel like they are lost even if they are going the right way. When you are on this particular I-5 corridor, you are IN MY TERRITORY. I pass fools like they are driving Barbie Big wheels.  Cops don’t even pull me over anymore!  Anyways… have I mentioned that I’m pretty good at this drive? Well I am. And I am about to pass on my infinite wisdom to you. Listen up.

From Ashland to San Francisco

First thing you gotta do is, pack your stuff. This is not fun. I have found that the only things you really need for any trip less than a month long are clothes, music, books, bikes and a toothbrush. Thats it. If you are packing for a trip longer than a month, also pack tampons.

This is very important: Get cash. You will need $4 for the bridge toll later, and if you get it now, you wont need to pay a ridiculous ATM fee somewhere. Worse yet you could completely forget and pay a fat fine to the CDOT.

Next step, get gas. This is your last chance to fill up on glorious cheap, non self serve Oregon gas. So, on your way out of Ashland, take Siskyou Blvd all the way PAST the exit to I-5 and go to the Chevron station down there on the right. Its usually the cheapest gas in town, there is never a wait, and the attendant will take your card so you don’t have to go inside yourself (like they make you do at the Texaco) Then drive back and get on the I-5 south and start your trip.

You’re going to go over some high mountain passes. These might be intimidating if you’re a wimp. Just hang in there and in about 2 hours you’ll be dropping off into Redding. If you drive a gas guzzling hunk of awesomeness like I do, you’re gunna want to fill up here again. Redding has the cheapest gas you will find until you hit the Bay Area. I usually fill up at the Arco off Oasis Road (exit 682 next to the CHP headquarters) If for some reason you forgot to eat before leaving, there is an In N Out off Hilltop Drive. This will be your last chance for decent food until Granzella’s which is in Williams, quite a few miles down the road.

After 2 hours or a little more past Redding, you may find yourself getting bored, really bored. The scenery is repetitive, to say the least. So you’d expect that when the exit for I-505 just past Dunnigan comes up, you’d be on it. Nope. You’ll be so lost in your head thinking about sunshine and lollipops or whatever that you’re going to almost miss it. It happens, so don’t let it. THE EXIT FOR I-505 Vacaville/San Francisco IS JUST PAST DUNNIGAN. There you go.

505 is pretty short. And when it spits you out on I-80 in Vacaville, you’ll be awake if you weren’t before. This is where the craziest motherfuckers on 4 wheels make their daily commute.  Not to mention the road is gnarly. So sit up straight, shut up, and put both hands on the damn wheel.  Keep your eyes on the mirrors for BMWs weaving in and out of traffic, motorcycles splitting traffic at 85mph and other batshit-crazy drivers. And remember to use your blinker, PLEASE?! You know you have almost survived when you get your first glimpse of the bay.

Shortly after driving over the Carquinez bridge, I-80 merges with I-580 at Berkeley. Depending on the time of day, traffic here can get REALLY BAD. You are going to San Francisco, not San Jose like most of the poor fools, so stay as FAR RIGHT as possible. These lanes usually move faster and the farthest 2 or 3 lanes split away from I-580 and become I-80 again to go over the bay bridge. Once you get to the toll both, pay your $4 that you didn’t forget. Congratulations! Welcome to the City on the Bay.

From San Francisco to Ashland

These directions are pretty straightforward so I wont repeat a lot of stuff. Take I-80 out of town and remember to get your 4$ dollars! When you approach the Carquinez bridge, stay in the right lane. Left lane is for FastTrack only! The farthest right lane is usually the fastest, so just stay as far right as possibly until you are past the toll booth.

I usually get gas/eat in Fairfield. Take the exit for Travis Blvd, and when the road splits, take Travis Blvd WEST. There is a shopping center with an In N Out, and a Vallero across the Street (also next to the CHP). Eat a burger and poop if necessary. After you fill up at the Vallero, DO NOT exit back onto Travis Blvd. Take the rear exit and turn right onto Holiday Lane, which intersects again with Travis blvd, but you have a sweet left turn only lane that will spit you back onto Travis Blvd going east, and that takes you back to I-5. I told you I was a pro, right?

Don’t miss our favorite exit in the next town! THE EXIT FOR I-505 WINTERS/REDDING IS IN VACAVILLE! From there, I-505 turns into I-5 and that takes you to Redding. If you think you wont run out of gas before Ashland, fill up in Redding anyways. The following 2 hours will be full of accelerating and decelerating which eats your gas away.

Check out Mt. Shasta off to your right! Isn’t that awesome? You are almost there. Take care on the road around Weed, CA. The winds here can be vicious and they blow around semis like sailboats.

When you pass the Welcome to Oregon sign, you are on the Cali Side of Siskyou Pass, the steepest grade on I-5. Ashland sits right on the bottom of the Oregon side. When you come down, take the first exit for Ashland. Its a little further than the next from town, but you get to avoid the horrendous perfect-example-of-bad-city-planning offramp that the second exit provides.

Welcome to the coolest town north of Half Moon Bay!

cool man