My best friend lives 1000 miles away from me.
This means that if I want to “pop by” or “have a girls’ night”, to drive from my house in Bellingham, WA to hers in Orange County, CA, it would take 19 hours and 58 minutes (if the traffic is light, like Google Maps is claiming it might be as I write this post at 10am on a Monday).
Lucky for me (and thanks to a lot of savvy saving/budgeting and a big airfare credit for getting bumped off a flight last year), I was able to fly her way last week.
Thanks to the fam at Kia Motors of America (and DriveShop), I had some sweet wheels waiting at the airport for me when I landed!
I sat in that car for a good ten minutes, giving myself a pep talk before I started the car…. because before this trip, I had never driven on California roads in my life.
Southern California highways terrify me. A lot.
I’ve seen those movies and TV shows! Californians sit in traffic forever and they also drive like crazy people, right?
There are an average of 379,000 vehicles per day driving on JUST the 405. There are more than THIRTY FREEWAYS AND HIGHWAYS in the LA area and I don’t know where ANY OF THEM GO.
I’m pretty sure I would have to live there for 10 years before I could tell you (without GPS) where the 405 goes.
(Notice the white knuckles in this photo that I took of myself before I even pulled out of the parking lot at the airport.)
So after my (rather lengthy) self pep talk, I pulled out of the parking and onto the road.
To be perfectly honest, I had built up the driving situation quite a bit. There are a LOT of cars, and a lot of freeways, but if you’re prepared and well-equipped, you can do it.
(taking a pause here to say thank GOD for Kia lending me this car, because the navigation and the loud beeping noise every time I tried to change lanes and someone was already driving there were SUCH a blessing on the 704 freeways they have running all over the place.)
So here are 3 big tips I found handy when driving around in Southern California and the Los Angeles area:
- You’re more scared of it than it is of you. It’s just driving. With more cars. Everywhere. So many cars. And motorcycles who do something called “lane splitting” and did I mention there are cars everywhere? And why doesn’t anyone use their turn signal?Just be vigilant. Watch your six, and you’ll be ok.
(And honestly, thank god for cars (like the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid) with top safety ratings and really great gas mileage and little doohickeys that beep REALLY LOUD when someone gets too close to your bumper or are hiding in your blind spot when you’re trying to change lanes.)
- Plan. OMG, plan. Look at the maps. Figure out how far all the things you want to do in SoCal are from each other. Map it out. Then be realistic.I didn’t realize how far away everything was, from the last half dozen times I’ve visited my BFF. She always drives everywhere. I didn’t realize that a trip to Santa Monica from Orange County would be a mostly-all-day thing. I thought we could just jog up there in the morning and be back by the time that the kids were out of school.
(Without the navigation in the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid, I would have been pretty lost. My phone GPS got us lost 4 times in one trip, and the navigation in the car never steered us wrong and ALSO showed us shortcuts during ugly traffic times that would possibly get us to our destination faster!)
- Do your thing. Turn up the music and roll the windows down and sing while you drive. Open up the sunroof while you roll down the PCH because you got lost in Santa Monica and want to smell the ocean and OMG why is it so hard to get to the Santa Monica Pier?
Turn up the seat coolers in your awesome borrowed ride (like that Kia Optima). Go to In N Out twice in a week. Hit up the Medieval Times dinner show. Go to the crystal shop and get your aura cleansed. Drive by Trejo’s Tacos just to take a photo.
Find those murals of the wings and Instagram the heck out of them. Make a list of all the things you want to eat when you get to SoCal and then toss it totally out the window once you get there because there are just too many options.Eat ramen. Hug your people you only get to see once every 18 months as tight as you can without hurting them. Make memories.
Drive that car. But safely, and in a manner befitting someone who wants to get back home in one piece.
A huge hug and thank you to my friends at Kia Motors of America and Drive Shop for lending me this vehicle while I traveled in California! They provided me with use of the vehicle and a tank of gas – all opinions here are mine and not otherwise influenced.