So What Do You Think About on the 5?
That’s probably what someone might think when they see the name/description of my blog. If you’re from NorCal and don’t usually drive to SoCal, another legitimate question might be: what the hell is the 5?
To answer the second question first, here it is in its full Google Maps glory.
It’s the fat stretch of interstate highway where I hop on right after Gilroy all the way down to the 405, exiting to school at good ol’ UCLA. Considering I take this path at least 10 times a year now that I’m in college with a car, I have a sacred routine that I always do to keep my sanity in check as I traverse through the 336 mile trip.
I’ll go into more detail about my actual routine later, but I want to first talk about the people who I talk to on the road, myself included. Most of freshman year, I drove up and down with just my family because I didn’t have a car. As you could imagine, having the stereo play low-volume classic Viet music the whole time was not the most exciting, though catching up with my dad about life was always nice. The whole playing field changed when I brought my car down second year — it was now the era of road trippin’ and Venmo tippin’.
For context, UCLA has this Facebook ride share page that allows people to offer rides/ask for them. Naturally, I seized the opportunity to earn some extra cash and began to post in it like so (hence the Venmo tips):
Word of warning: youngster vernacular below. Proceed with caution of getting too lit.
I’d usually take a full car with around 3–4 people, and every time there’s always a diverse, fresh new cast along the way; when I say diverse, I’m talking about standard deviation at an all time max type of diverse. These casts of characters always share unforgettable new stories or even remixes of ones I thought I already knew such as:
- Dope fresh Spotify playlists
- Investing in cryptocurrency
- Funny/juicy details of a mutual connection
- The life and culture of different parts of California and beyond
- Dreams and aspirations of a dental student
- The relatable struggles of a first year finding their path
The beauty of it all is when we interact with strangers, it’s like a breath of fresh air to talk about things that haven’t been said out loud in the longest time because we think our everyday friends already know. Hell, even when I drive my friends, I always uncover something different just from listening to them talk to other passengers. And despite how different each perspective was, it was always a nice touch to know everyone shared the same appreciation for the most instinctive human joys like some good, ear-to-ear laughter and singing your heart out to lyrics the whole car can jam to (they call those the slaps in the Bay Area).
This to me is what makes the ride sharing experience so unique; the ability to interact with a handful of people with random degrees of connection and end up as if you knew all of them since grade school — it’s almost like an Uber but on steroids because bonding for 6 hours trapped in a box ain’t nothing to mess with.
It’s pretty hard to not talk to people you’re stuck with, unless, of course, your passengers hit the hay faster than I can tell my next CS joke. This is totally fine with me because I definitely know that feel as a passenger of a lot of long trips before. The only difference then is now my fingers reach for the Spotify and I start to become the DJ of my own world — songs shuffle through anything that distracts from the endless hills of dead grass and my mind wanders off aimlessly.
The most memorable times I spent the ride in my own head were when I didn’t have anyone to talk to at all. Namely, its at the beginning and end of the school year where I bring all my stuff instead of people, almost like my mental buns that act as the intro/end into a new world. This is a time for me to be completely me; a time when a lot of my “deep”/not so deep thoughts seep in and allow me to reflect on the past, live in the moment, and brace for the future. One moment I could be totally engulfed in fear for what my career will look like, the next I could be worrying if I ate enough for lunch.
Some moments I don’t even think at all, giving into what is known as the 5 and driving the drive I’ve gotten oh so good at. Those moments are usually the best.
Moving forward for the summer, I’ll be hitting up the 5 once more in July to move into my place in Seattle/Kirkland. Despite not physically being on the interstate as much for the next few months, I’ll still have these kinds of thoughts doing other stuff, like running or something (another can of worms to talk about later).
That’s the type of stuff you’ll see me writing in my blog — the type of stuff I would be thinking while on the 5. I hope you, as the reader, have some place or some time in your routine to experience this feeling of spontaneous togetherness and peaceful solitude too.
Now, as promised, here is the guide to navigating through the I-5 as spoken by a true Not-Warriors turned Clippers fan.
From E$$J Taquerias to 310 Bougie Brunch
1. Gotta grab one last meal with the parentals
2. Do a quick n dirty traveling salesman swoop of everyone, load up the car
3. Assign AUX cord duties (usually me)
4. Hit the 101 South/pray to the traffic gods
5. Drive until you hit Gilroy, don’t forget to exit 152 E
6. Go through the city of garlic filled with signs for really cheap fruit that you tell yourself you’ll buy someday but never do
7. Keep on 152 until you see the behemoth in front of you that cuts across the road — it’s called the 5
8. After entering the beast, things start to get mad boring so you’re either entering deep conversation or deep zen mode at this point
9. Take the holy pitstop at the halfway point, aka Kettleman City, to pump gas and answer nature’s call
10. Enter stage two of never ending repeating scenery, but this time with more agriculture and a beastly sight in the background aka the Grapevine Mountains
10.5. Damn cows smell bad — turn off A/C like ASAP
11. Almost like an reverse rollercoaster, pedal to the metal up the steep face of the Grapevine and slowly descend into… nothing much
12. Once off the mountain, admire the sight of civilization and realize you’re almost there-ish
13. Get on the 405 and blast through the last stretch to exit off Sunset, it’s closer than you think
14. Drop everyone off, park my car and jump into the trenches known as college once again
From the Battlefield of Finals season to the sweet sight of Home
1. Tell everyone to gather right outside Gardenia steps, or pick them up if they’re close by in the apartments
2. Bump the slaps, slap the bumps (←assign AUX duties)
3. Hit the 405 North/pray even harder to the traffic gods
4. Don’t even realize you merged onto the 5 because the 5 is sneaky from the South
5. Travel through the chunk of land known as Six Flags very briefly
6. Take the conventional type of roller coaster ride slowly up the Grapevine and drop down at Tejon Ranch
7. View the nice sunset over fields of vegetables or something of the sort
7.5. Realize cows smell bad sooner than expected — abort A/C
8. Once again make the holy Kettleman City stop
9. This should be the boring part, but by now it’s probably dark so even if there was something to see it’s too late
10. Okay now the signs are kind of hard to see on the road, resort to using GPS to not miss the 152 W exit (internally celebrate a change of pace)
11. Ride through the gnarly curves of 152 until Gilroy and realize you’re basically home but not really
12. Tell people to hit up their rides if they’re getting pick up, set rendezvous point at Diridon Caltrain Station
13. Drop everyone off, come back to a home cooked meal and appreciate surviving another round of el Cinco
P.S. I realized that I’ve been converted by my SoCal friends to put the word “the” in front of highways. Whoops.
P.S.S. If you’ve ever taken a ride with me, just know that you’re always welcome on my next trip :)