You can drive to San Jose, California from Vancouver on $100 in gas right now

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If you’re thinking of a fall/winter road trip from Vancouver, California should be high on your list.

Having done the drive a few times in my life, I have a few tips following my most recent trip to San Jose with my wife and son in our Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

The 16 hour drive to this city that’s about halfway down the golden state can be done in a single shot. Don’t do it. Enjoy the trip.

There are loads of motels that dot the I-5 freeway, and you’re never too far from an affordable Super 8, Motel 6 or other chain that’s not at all fancy but just good enough to have a comfortable night’s sleep.

A roadside motel off the I-5. Photo Bob Kronbauer

Head down in the summer months and you might see some wildfire action and get slowed down by it a bit. You’ll see vehicles like this Oregon Department of Forestry wildfire response truck we followed for a few miles before he turned off to tend to a fire.

Oregon wildfire haze. Photo Bob Kronbauer

At the border between Oregon and California they check your car for contraband fruit and vegetables, as the southern state is strict about what’s allowed to be brought in. A wildfire tore through the border very recently, so this was our view from the freeway after we got checked. While it’s a devastating view, we were delighted to watch a little tornado whipping over the hillside.

A small tornado whips around a burned out hillside in the northernmost part of California. Photo Bob Kronbauer

Not two hours south and the haze cleared in time for this view of Mount Shasta to come crashing into our eyeballs. There’s a ton of scenery like this to take in, even though it’s a fast-moving freeway.

Mount Shasta in California. Photo Bob Kronbauer

What to eat while you’re charging down the road making good time? In Oregon there’s a chain called Burgerville that serves up some of the best roadside food I’ve had (the variety of lettuce on the burgers is kale-like!). However the pinnacle of all fast food is In-N-Out, and they start to become more common sights as you get into California.

In-N-Out Burger. Photo Bob Kronbauer

The rest stops along the 5 are well-kept in all three states you’ll be driving through, and most of them have large areas to walk around and stretch your legs. Contrary to what this photo below might tell you, they’re all quite welcoming places to recharge.

Watch for rattlesnakes. Photo Bob Kronbauer

So why visit San Jose? What’s in this city besides a pretty decent NHL team and nice weather? The famous Winchester Mystery House, of course. If you saw the Hollywood film Winchester starring Helen Mirren and released this year, you already know of it.

Outside the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. Photo Bob Kronbauer

Touted as one of the most haunted places in all of North America, the Winchester Mystery House was built by the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune.

Sarah Winchester thought that the place was haunted by ghosts of people who were killed by Winchester rifles. Over the span of decades she had more than 100 rooms added to it, keeping the place constantly under construction in order to appease the ghosts and also scare them away.

A massive tourist destination, they do guided tours through it multiple times each day where they tell you the whole story (and scare the crap out of you). It’s well worth a visit.

Gas prices down the I-5 are currently hovering around $3/gallon. If your vehicle uses 8 litres/100km (my Highlander Hybrid does a bit better than this), you’re looking at roughly $100 in fuel to get there. And of course the same to get back. Calculate the mileage for your car here.

Check out my other road trip recommendations in our Toyota BC On The Road series HERE.