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No salt, just cinders

The latest transportation studies show that the average American spends 36 hours a year stuck in traffic jams. In sunny Southern California the figures rise to 56 hours per year. This page is here to help you avoid spending a good chunk of your vacation sitting on the freeway & more time for yourself.

Check out the Time Guide page for planning travels in California & also our infamous backroads section for enjoying alternate scenic routes. The listed tips below will help you to NOT be sitting in gridlock traffic waiting to get to your destination.

Nothing is more aggravating than getting off of work early in order to get a head start on your weekend trip, only to sit in a traffic jam for two hours, just trying to get out of the city. Here some advice to ease your travels & get you weekend off to a pleasant start.

Maps: Helpful Routes

We drive into the future using only our rear view mirror. - Marshall McLuhan

California Highway Conditions, & Motorhome Length Limits


California Highway Info, Construction & Restrictions

  • RV size limits & Motorhome restrictions
  • Trailers Length Limits
  • Bus Routes and Limits
  • Real-time Freeway Maps - real time traffic data - LA traffic map / SIG alert

    city traffic jams:
    Large urban areas such as Los Angeles, San Diego & San Francisco Bay area traffic is difficult to judge, so a visit various web sites a few days in advance to check traffic patterns of local commuters. Plan for a better drive and it could happen smoothly, this time.

    Map Book California

    Planned Lane Closures

    California State Routes / California Highway Conditions

    real time traffic cams
    - mapping of California roadways w/ constant update on cuurent traffic conditions.


    All hours of the night & day you can find the California Dept. of Transportation (Cal Trans) closing roads & freeways. Just for peace of mind: Call ahead, especially on mountain routes & snowy winter conditions.

    Road Information - Snow & Closures

    Driving Directions: Map out one destination to another, specific written directions plus map.

    SF BayLink Ferries - provides high speed commuter ferry service between Vallejo & San Francisco's Pier 39 and Ferry Building. Service to Angel Island is also available.

    California Train Travels - local trolley, subways, metro, bart, amtrak, historic railways, museums, railroad info

    California Snow in the Mountains! - road conditions in specific high altitude Sierra highways. Mountain areas are basically anything above 2000' - but west coast snow generally falls above 4000' elevation mark

    Areas to Avoid if at all possible

    San Diego

    SD (5-6 pm)
    Northbound 805/5 merge
    Northbound 15/163 merge
    Northbound 15 to Hwy.78
    Eastbound 8 thru Mission Vally

    Los Angeles

    LA / Orange County (4-7 pm)
    Northbound 405 LAX to SF Vlly.
    Southbound 5 into Orange Co.
    Eastbound 91
    Eastbound 10

    fleeing from SoCal -

    • Leave from work before 3 pm , if not
    • Don't rush, take your time, leave after 7 pm
      (make sure you let the innkeeper know that you'll be arriving late, and they'll get quite upset after midnight)
    • Save yourself cash & stay only Saturday Night (altho some places, esp B&Bs usually require a 2 night minimum stay)

    Returning to SoCal -

    Sundays 3 pm - 9 pm - almost all major arteries coming into a city can get backed up.
    Grapevine/ Tejon Pass from Bakersfield, I-5
    Hwy.101 South, thru Santa Barbara can get bad
    I-15 Westbound coming from Las Vegas
    I-10 Westbound coming from Palm Springs
    Hwy.91 Westbound coming from the East

    your escape route outta town
    preplan for the freeway mess before you get stuck in it.
    Region - San Diego
    freeway days times problem areas 
    5 N weekdays 4-7pm 805 merge to Encinitas
    15 N weekdays 3-6pm Mira Mar to Escondido
    8 E weekdays 4-6pm Mission Valley to LaMesa
    5 weekends 11am-4pm summer months - beach traffic
    5 near Del Mar all week 11am-7pm Horse Races JUNE - SEPT
    Region - Los Angeles
    freeway days times problem areas 
    5 N weekdays 4-7pm Orange County to LA
    5 S weekdays 4-7pm LA to Orange County
    405 N all the time 1-9 pm LAX airport to San Fernanado Valley
    405 S weekdays 4-7pm LAX airport to Long Beach / Orange County
    405 weekends   summer months - beach traffic
    10 E weekdays 3-7pm jct of Interstate 605 to Interstate 15
    91 E weekdays 4-7pm winter months: Big Bear ski traffic can be heavy until 11pm
    Helpful Route Maps

      Must head North out of LA? Skirting the backside of LA is always a possiblity on a FRI night. Taking 15N, 10W, 210W will put you in the opposite direction of most of the bad traffic flow.

      Merge back up with I-5 North of San Fernando Valley. If you must get West to the coast, the Simi Valley 118, or the 126 through Fillmore, is the best option.

      Plenty of jump off spots for overnight camping on the Grapevine, inside Angeles National Forest & Los Padres National Forest.

      camp in routeRvs camp in route

    #1 - Avoid Los Angeles, if possible. This will add 1-4 extra hours on to your road trip depending on the 'hellish & hectic' reasons this area normally experiences. If you must venture through, try doing so at night after 8pm.

    Watch out for frequent Cal-Trans freeway closures starting in the midnight hours.

    The Interstate 91 & Interstate 10 Eastbound are both bad situations during winter months due to Palm Springs weekenders & if snow is decent, the Big Bear ski crowds.

    Angeles Forest Hikes Los Padres National Forest Maps San Berdardino mountains

    Lets face it, Vegas traffic back to California really sucks!

    The Interstate 15 is the main corridor that gets backed up on Friday nights Northbound at the I-10 & the I- 215 junction.

    Southbound on Sundays is awaful from Barstow to San Bernardino. An alternate route is old Route 66 (best get a good map) & avoid the bumper to bumper in the high desert Mojave region.

    OLD ROUTE 66, anyone?

    From Southern California

    Headed to the Eastern Sierra's or Death Valley - Make sure to take the Interstate 15 straight up to Highway 395N. The turn off is just south of Victorville. " On the Road" gas up & quick food on the 395 is available in Adelanto & 'four corners' Hwy. 58 junction.

    But be warned it can get a little congested on Friday nights. An alternate is Interstate 15N to Interstate 215N to avoid most of the traffic from the west.

    Typical afternoon rush hour problem spots in San Diego.

    A small detour if traffic is bad on Hwy.78 in North County San Diego & you are headed Interstate 15 North. Twin Oaks Valley Rd. leads right up to Deer Springs Rd. & the 15.

    Traffic Lanes & Driving Speeds
    california freeways

    The chart above is NOT considered legal speeds, but they are kinda realistically what to expect on the FREEWAY. Interstates and freeways in California get cranking and CHP is usually out in force, earning revenue for the state, as well as ensuring the safety of the roads. Seniors, tourists & outta stater visitors be warned - the closer you get to a big urban area, the more aggressive the drivers will be. Large rigs and SUVs kill with impact, so slow down a little folks.

    So much for Sammy's "Can't Drive 55"

    Californians can't drive anywhere near 55. Now that the laws have increased the statewide speed to 65 or 70 mph, there is no stopping them. Unfortunately the average speeds are increasing all over the west, as people zoom from place to place, in a never ending transit society. This leaves way more dirt roads and rural backcountry left to us.

    TIP: Exit the rat race & take your time, for your sanity sake & safety... slow down.

    # 1 lane # 2 lane # 3 lane # 4 lane
    the passing lane cruising lane truck lane merging lane
    avg speed: 80 mph avg speed: 70 mph avg speeds: 65 mph avg speed: 60 mph

    California Highways California: Outside

  • best back roads
  • local camping
  • scenic highways
    Leave Late - Stay Late
    Leave early Friday
    - Before 3 pm!
    - Leave early before the rush
    - Bring your bags/luggage to work on Fri. & leave straight from there
    Leave late Friday
    - After 7 pm!
    - Leave late after the traffic dies down
    - Make sure you tell the innkeeper that you'll be arriving late.
    - Bring your bags/luggage to work on Fri. & leave straight from there
    Stay Later
    So many times I have had friends leave our vacation early around noon on Sunday to "get back early"... which blows my mind. Why not enjoy your day off?
    Gotta get back, beat the traffic!!! Rushing home to do laundry & watch that boob tube? Enjoy your free weekend more. Why rush back to the city - just to sit in more gridlock traffic? Hang out & enjoy your destination longer. Avoid the stressful traffic jams; drive back late Sunday afternoon or early evening. Enjoy a relaxing restaurant dinner on the return trip. Maybe have time to check out another cool small town on the way home. Leave your weekend destination after 5pm & choose a new or less traveled route back.

    Try these helpful suggestions for touring California -

    Take the train

    Check our Train Travel section
    Journey on with suggestions on Sample Trips

    - Bring your bags/luggage to work on Fri. & leave straight from there
    - Take a cab/shuttle/drive over to the nearest train depot & have your partner meet you there
    - Sit back & relax, rejuvinate yourself for your great weekend
    Making the drive better -
    • Share the driving with a friend or family member
    • Carpool on long Road Trips - saves gas & nerves
    • Caravan w/ another vehicle or group
    • Pre-plan your stops & meeting spots down to the exact spot
    • Use handheld 2 way radios or CBs to keep communication lines open. Cell phone coverage is spotty at best on mountain back roads and in most rural regions.

    Listen to the local radio

    Make time fly while driving, listen to music or the radio:
    LA traffic reports: KFI 640 AM & KABC 790 AM
    SD traffic reports: KOGO 600 AM & KFMB 760 AM
    SF traffic reports: KGO 810 AM & KSFO 560 AM

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