Miami to San Francisco: We drive 3,504 miles in seven days.

This is the story of how my wife and I ended up living in SF Bay Area for 22 years.

You might be asking youself, “Why would anyone in their right mind drive 3500 miles from Miami to ?” Was this an epic beer run of some kind? Or part of an illegal cross-country race? Sadly, it was just a necessary part of uprooting our comfortable lives, abandoning all our family and friends, and moving cross-country to pursue wealth and fame.

miami's white sand beach near city buildings under blue and white sunny cloudy sky during daytime
Photo by Juan Pablo Mascanfroni

Our journey from Miami to San Francisco.

Well, when we got back home to Miami after a week in Jamaica, things went along as usual for us. Work, eat, TV, sleep, work, eat, watch TV, sleep. Then, around March '97—totally out of the blue—I got a call from an old friend, Jeff in San Francisco. The call will henceforth be known as, “The Call.”

After a two-week trial, Jeff offers me a job at his adverting agency. I overlook this obvious lapse of judgment and quickly accept his before he comes to his senses. My wife and I give our two weeks notices, and make plans for the most life-changing move of our existence. Moving to the promised land of California.

We own one too many cars to drive from Miami to San Francisco.

audi a4
“1997 Audi A4” by peterolthof | CC BY-ND 2.0

We decide we don't need (and can't afford) both of our cars in San Francisco. One is an Audi A4 and the other, an Acura Integra. First, we attempt to sell the Integra. It's a 1990 with 90,000 miles on it, but still in very good condition and worth about $5,000. No one in image-conscious Miami wants to be seen in such a crappy .

On a hunch, I price car insurance in San Francisco for both vehicles. I discover that if we sold the Acura, we could pay for the insurance on the Audi A4…for ONE year! We decide to sell the Audi instead. The first person I ask buys it. There is much rejoicing. And paperwork.

We make the trip in my red, “1990 Acura Integra” by Mr.choppers | CC BY-SA 3.0

Driving from Miami to San Francisco by car.

We load up the Acura and drive from Miami to San Francisco. West, mostly. But first, North. We stop over in Tampa to say goodbye to old friends and former coworkers. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

We drive Norther to Tallahassee.

Fingers Holding Lighted Cigarette Stick

Driving from Miami to San Francisco means driving through Tallahassee. There are no decent hotels in the area. We stay at the Motel 6. It is a dung hole. Under my pillow, I find cigarette burns through the fitted sheet.

We decide Tom Bodett's chain of motels would do better if they left the lights off for people. We vow never to stay at another one as long as we live. In addition, we stop by the Zimmerman Agency to see old friends and former coworkers. There is not quite so much wailing nor gnashing of teeth, so we leave.

Bourbon Street.

We drive west to New Orleans.

New Orleans can be a filthy and disgusting place. So, like everyone else, we drink. Soon, we don't care so much. We party on Bourbon Street. Like everyone else.

woman in gray platform stilettos
Photo by Eric Nopanen

Amy asks me to take her to a strip club to see what goes on inside. I am a good husband, so I take her. She is unimpressed and wants to leave.

I put the dollar bills back in my wallet and give the girl on stage back her undergarments. We return to Bourbon Street and drink more. Then we go back to our hotel and fall asleep. Rather abruptly. Later, we get up. It is afternoon.

photo of city
Photo by Carlos Alfonso

We drive west some more, to Texas.

We stop near signs that say “Austin.” We see our friend and former Zimmerman Agency boss, Daniel. We marvel at all the hills. It is very different from flat, Miami, Florida. He has a cool house. We ask if we can stay there. He says yes.

The next day, we get to see his office at GSD&M Advertising. It is cool as well. We like this town, Austin. We vow to be more specific in the future when we make fun of by adding, “Well, except for Austin.” Finally, he asks us to leave (we will have to pre-treat our pants to get his footprint off the backside).

lighted post lot
Photo by Matthew LeJune

Once in Texas, we keep driving west.

We drive through Texas. We keep driving West. We drive through Texas. We keep driving West. We drive through Texas. Texas, we found, is a massive state.

Finally, we hit El Paso, Texas. We can see . It makes El Paso look good. We drive West some more. Soon, we're in New Mexico. It is also a big state. There are mountains, and tumbleweeds. That's it. Nothing else.

We drive west even more from Miami to San Francisco.

a close up of a street sign on the ground
Photo by tommao wang

Soon, we are in the state of Arizona, driving from Miami to San Francisco along the world-famous Route-66. We sing the song. The road is very long. The song is not. We repeat ourselves ad nauseam.

The song is stuck in our head. It slowly drives us to distraction. We threaten each other with bodily harm if it surfaces again. We are getting on each other's nerves. We drive on in silence.

“Arizona in the Snow” by squeaks2569 | CC BY-SA 2.0

We then drive up into the Arizona mountains.

It starts getting colder on our drive from Miami to San Francisco. There is snow. It starts getting darker. Traffic has thinned out considerably. By nightfall, we are the only car on the road. We are high in the mountains. It is cold outside. It is pitch black. We see a gas station. We stop. We pump. We go to pay. We stand behind one couple as they shop for food stuffs.

The cashier asks us how much we pumped. She has no indicator inside her station. She must take our word for it. The urge to lie is great, but we cannot afford the bad karma. We pay her and continue further up into the mountains. The only lights now are our headlights. The road is swerve-y. The drive is no longer “fun.” The words “life-threatening” come to mind.

Soon, Nature calls. And loudly.

We pull over on the side of the road. It is still pitch black out. The sky is clear and the stars, like spotlights. There is no sound save the smooth idle of my trusty 1990 Acura Integra. We answer nature's call on the side of the road. We don't bother to try to spell our names. It is too dark for that.

Suddenly, a car approaches up the road behind us. We are gripped with panic, since we are not quite “finished” and still hanging brain. The car passes us and pulls over. We zip up. “Need some help?” they query helpfully. It is the couple we saw at the convenience station a few miles back. “Uh, no, thanks! We're okay!” we reply. They shrug and press on. We finish up and laugh and laugh and laugh. We are getting punchy. But we don't see another car until daybreak.

Grand Canyon during daytime
Not Fake Photo of the Grand Canyon by Tim Hart

We stop over in Flagstaff, Arizona.

We hope to see the Grand Canyon on our journey from Miami to San Francisco. So we do. It looks really, really fake. Like a bad movie special effect. It is huge. We try to drive around it and realize the futility after twenty minutes, finding that the view hasn't changed at all. We decide to press on.

Photo by @Adam Reeder | CC BY-NC 2.0

We drive west still more.

We bypass Sin City, vowing to one day go to Las Vegas at least once, if not 17 times. We drive on to Bakersfield instead because it in on the way from Miami to San Francisco. It is flat, hot, and boring farmland that produces food and oil. We don't stay long.

“Altamont Pass Wind Farm Windmills” by BillChristian | CC BY 2.0

We finally change directions and head more North-ish.

We bypass , vowing to one day go to Los Angeles. We drive north through California, and past huge “windmill farms” at Altamont Pass. We stare in amazement at them and take pictures out the car window without stopping. We do not crash, and make great time driving from Miami to San Francisco.

Then we sleep. A lot.

After 20 years in NorCal, I perfected the Damn Self Driving Tour Of San Francisco. Check it out.

Like these words?

Get notified when I post more of them—once a month, at most).