Hit It, Elwood!
March 6, 2007 3:42 PM   Subscribe

What's a realistic driving time from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, starting from SF around noon on Friday?

Of course, I can do the Google Maps thing, but what I'm looking for is actual reality-based experience from people what have done it a few times. Thanks!
posted by scrump to Travel & Transportation around Odessa, Spain (21 answers total)
You need to be careful with the part going through Los Angeles. I think its 350 miles from San Fran to LA? That's about, six hours? And then another two hours from LA to San Diego, as long as you don't hit rush hour on the 5. If you do, you could be stuck in a crawl for about an additional hour. Since you're going south on the 5, best thing would be to hit it early in the morning, anything after 3pm-6:30pm, you're fucked. On a friday? Forget about it. Sounds like a good trip.
posted by phaedon at 4:07 PM on March 6, 2007

About 7.5 hours, but depends where you start and end.
I'm presuming you'll head across the bridge to Oakland, on to boring I-5, and then set the cruise control.
posted by artdrectr at 4:09 PM on March 6, 2007

Yah, 7.5 hours is about right.

You're probably better off leaving at 1:30 or 2 o'clock, just to remove any chance of hitting L.A. during rush hour.
posted by tkolar at 4:13 PM on March 6, 2007

...ah crap, sorry. That's my time driving at night, avoiding traffic. NOT on a Fri afternoon. Add an hour!
posted by artdrectr at 4:19 PM on March 6, 2007

At least 8 hours. Maybe 9.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:42 PM on March 6, 2007

Best answer: Leave at noon and you'll hit LA at around 6pm. You'll be stuck in traffic for a LONG time, and won't get to Laguna (about the bottom of the LA sprawl) until about 8, after which it will take you about an hour to get to San Diego. So I'd estimate closer to 9 hours. However, if you left at 2pm you'd get to LA around 8, and you wouldn't hit near as much traffic. I can't see you taking any less than 2 hours from LA to SD, however, so I can't see how anyone could go from SF to SD in under 8 hours even in ideal (though not middle of the night) conditions.
posted by johngumbo at 4:44 PM on March 6, 2007

Best answer: Last year, I drove from Pasadena to San Diego at least 2 times a month for the weekend. For me, the 5 was the worst part of the drive. I'd avoid the 5 S between Downtown LA and Orange county and only get on it at the very southmost part of the OC.

In the end, I settled on driving (from Pasadena) 210 E-> 605 S -> 405 S -> 73 S -> 5 S. One hour, 50 minutes was the best I could ever do and 4 hours was the worse.
posted by Cog at 4:50 PM on March 6, 2007

Done this many, many times. As others have said, traffic conditions are the biggest variable. My best time is 7 hours. My worst is about 9.

I suppose the other variable is how fast you drive on Hwy 5. I usually do 80-90 mph.
posted by vacapinta at 5:17 PM on March 6, 2007

Best answer: It might be worth jogging over to the 15 north of LA somehow, taking the 210 at the latest. And like others have said, take the 405 through LA instead of the 5 if you have to. In many places, the 5's only three lanes. 405 isn't a cakewalk either, but it's better.

and yes, you jackals, I'm a native SoCaler and I prepend my freeway designations with "the". Deal with it.
posted by LionIndex at 5:17 PM on March 6, 2007

Appx. nine to ten hours if you stop for lunch & gas. I've made that drive straight through a few times.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:34 PM on March 6, 2007

And that's taking 5. 101 takes longer.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:34 PM on March 6, 2007

Best answer: BTW, I recommend the drive at night/early morning. Less traffic & there's nothing to see on the route anyhow. I usually leave in the evening & when I get tired either we switch drivers, pull over & nap, or get a room at a Motel 6 on the route. It's still quicker & less stressful than driving during rush hour.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:03 PM on March 6, 2007

I'd go with 10 hours and take it easy. I used to do SF to LA all the time, and plan for 8 hours. It's much nicer to enjoy the trip and not be a clock/CHP watcher the whole time.
posted by ctmf at 8:43 PM on March 6, 2007

Best answer: Also, 5 south past Camp Pendleton (once you get into SD county) can be backed up from all the folks driving into san diego for the weekend. This usually goes on from about 4 or 5 until maybe 7. Late at night, you could also run into drunk Marines coming back from bars, too, so watch out if you are going to be coming through that late.

Otherwise, Sacramento (parallel to SF) to SD 7-8 hours
posted by toomanyplugs at 9:05 PM on March 6, 2007

Best answer: Definitely don't do the 101. Go 580 to 205 to the 5 (or maybe it's just 580 to 5, I forget). Leaving at noon is not so good, as at normal driving speeds (65-85 mph) it'll take 5-6 hours to get -to- L.A., putting you smack dab in the middle of rush hour. And having been commuting weekly to Indio/Palm Springs from Sacramento, I can tell you that sitting an extra two hours in Los Angeles traffic can make you cry. (Granted, going east is worse than going south. But still.) On that note, if you're going to be in L.A. during rush hour, I would have to say that the 210 to the 15 is worse than staying on 5, but that's been my experiences.

Honestly? The best I've found is to leave at 6:30 a.m., so that you miss both the early morning traffic in SF/Sac -and- the L.A. evening rush (you can -zip- through L.A. at 2:30 in the afternoon). But if you must leave at noon, then yes, expect an 8-9 hour drive, if not even a bit more.

But why am I posting? This is answered. I'm silly.
posted by po at 10:49 PM on March 6, 2007

Best answer: The last time I did this, some cops decided to shoot a murderer who was wandering around on the median of the southbound 5, in Oceanside. It took me 12 hours.

If that hadn't happened, it would have taken 9 hours. I stop once to eat (Harris Ranch, usually) and one other time to pee and stretch my legs when I make this trip, and I usually peg the cruise control at 67, because I'm not a speed demon.

If you peg the cruise control at 85, don't stop, and hit no traffic, you can probably do this in 7.5 hours. But in that case, you're planning to hit the 405 southbound in L.A. at 5 PM on a Friday, and "no traffic" simply isn't part of that story. My estimate is that on a normal day you'd arrive somewhere between 9 and 10 PM; I'd never try it myself.

Bear in mind that being stuck in traffic on the southbound 405 in rush hour is what caused Michael Douglas' character to snap and go on a crime spree in "Falling Down," one of the great L.A. movies.

I keep toying with the idea of taking the 134 to the 210 west to the 15 south and bypassing L.A. that way, but I've never actually tried it. I think it'd probably be zero-sum.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:53 PM on March 6, 2007

I can verify that the 15 is almost worse than I-5 during rush hour, especially on Fridays. Especially the 15-210 interchange *shudder*.
posted by muddgirl at 5:47 AM on March 7, 2007

8 hours if you're lucky. Longer if you hit LA rush hour (until ... 7?) or rush-ish hours north of San Diego.
posted by beerbajay at 7:39 AM on March 7, 2007

Oh. And I dont think anyone's mentioned THE FOG. If you hit that in I-5 in the Central Valley, well, that slows everyone down. I think fog season is over, thankfully.
posted by vacapinta at 7:54 AM on March 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer! The current "plan", such as it is, has mutated to "leave on Thursday evening and deadhead it in 4-hour shifts, getting in early on Friday".
posted by scrump at 9:39 AM on March 7, 2007

"Go 580 to 205 to the 5 (or maybe it's just 580 to 5, I forget)"

Depending on when he leaves, this can take 4 hours alone.

scrump, you can also go down Hwy 101 -> Hwy 152 E -> Hwy 5. That is often a LOT LOT LOT faster than the 580-205-5 route.

Hwy 580 is a miserable pit of despair on Friday afternoon.
posted by drstein at 9:17 PM on March 7, 2007

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