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U.S. North to South – California: Big Sur and the Mexican border

Big Sur CABig Sur CA 

This is it! After 5.437 miles/8.750 km of driving, we’ve finally come to the end of our U.S. North to South adventure we started in Barrow Alaska (planes and boats were also involved). Today we cross into California at Lake Tahoe, slide into San Francisco, discover Big Sur and reach for the Mexican border. We end on a review of Bob. If you enjoyed this series, make sure you check out all previous 16 iterations of our U.S. North to South Photo Reports as well as out 2014 adventure from New York to Los Angeles via Route 66 in a Ram 1500.

Bob Big Sur CAAll the glory of Big Sur in one picture – click to enlargecalifornia-mapThe last leg of this North to South trip

Crossing into California is like crossing into a different country altogether. I feel like this is the Switzerland of the United States. Impossible to stop by Lake Tahoe once you without paying hefty parking fees. Petrol prices are markedly higher than in the rest of the country (see heat map further down the article). I almost feel like I have to show my passport to get in here. The Californian car landscape is like a parallel universe where buying U.S. brands is an afterthought. Hordes of Honda Civic and Toyota Camrys have invaded the streets, the Chevrolet Cruze, Impala and Ford Fusion are long gone and the Chrysler 200 looks like it never made it to the Far-West state. Contrary to all states I have explored so far, there are almost no super/heavy duty pickup trucks here. Check out full sales data for California here.

The map of the entire trip. Zoom in/out and scroll up/down to see the detail

Bob Lake TahoeBob in Lake Tahoe CACadillac Sedan DeVille Lake Tahoe CA Pic2

Cadillac Sedan DeVille CA Pic1Cadillac Sedan DeVille in South Lake Tahoe CAChevrolet Pickup CAChevrolet Pickup truck near South Lake TahoeBob San Francisco CABob in San Francisco CABob Big Sur CA Pic1Bob in Big Sur CABig Sur Petrol PricesThe highest prices I have ever seen on U.S. soil – in Big Sur CAgas-prices-usa-23-october-2015(as of October 23, 2015 – time of visit)Ford Mustang Big Sur CAThe Ford Mustang is the queen of Big Sur

Bob’s pit stop in San Francisco wasn’t much more than posing with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. As we detailed in Seattle, heavy duty crew cab long bed pickups aren’t made for big cities and San Fran is no exception, although parking spots and streets are a lot more accommodating here than they were in Washington state. On to Big Sur, expectedly stunning and surprisingly isolated. The coastal landscape is nothing short of hypnotising. Not so hypnotising to not gasp at the lunar petrol prices asked by the sole servo on the road: up to $7.29 a gallon. Even in the midst of Death Valley last year prices weren’t that high. The Ford Mustang is the queen of Big Sur: brightly coloured rentals dash the road at the rate of 1 Mustang for every 14 vehicles (based on 450 vehicles surveyed).

Tesla Model S CATraffic jams near Los Angeles

Gun roadsign USA. Picture courtesy Caitlin Trimble via news-images.vice.comRoadsign seen half a mile before the Mexican border.Mexico border San Ysidro CAMexico has never been closer!

The very last leg of this North to South trip is the slowest one. Detouring Los Angeles at 3pm was no cure for traffic jams despite the seven lane-highway and it took two hours to just go around the city. While snailing my way towards the Mexican border I saw no less than 12 Tesla Model S zipping past in the car pool lane. Road signs along the highway as we get closer to Mexico remind us that “Guns are illegal in Mexico”. So much for getting anxious at the proximity of “wild” Mexico. It’s actually Mexico looking in that gets anxious at the “wild” United States. Something the ruminate for the last hour of this trip before I arrive in San Ysidro after sunset. This is it! I cannot drive Bob any further down while staying the United States. A handful of nameplates only available in Mexico (Toyota Avanza, VW Gol, Saveiro and Voyage) hit the message home. What an adventure since Barrow Alaska! It’s time to say farewell to Bob, with a quick review below.

Farewell BobFarewell Bob! 


It’s a true truck. It has grunt, power and torque hunger aplenty.

It’s huge! I lived the real American experience with Bob – you always are above everything and everyone on the road.

Extremely impressive handling at high speed in winding roads – given its wheelbase (4.29m) and length (6.59m)

Very good acceleration at 65mph (100km/h) – it’s never an issue to overtake on the highway.

Fuel economy better than anticipated with a peak at 22 mpg. Very reasonable for a 6.7L diesel.


It’s a true truck, meaning it drives like a bus when the Ram 1500 drove like a car and the gears are desperately hard to manoeuver.

It’s huge! Forget going to any big city with it or you will hate your life.

The hand brake is a foot brake that is not that instinctive to find and operate.

No GPS – for $48.565 it’s a little hard to swallow.

My pet hate of the trip: The electric window command on the passenger seat (see below). In my driving position my hand always naturally fell on the back window command, every. single. time. Oh well, I recovered. And the absent back seat passengers got a lot of wind for sure!



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