Teaching a Teen to Drive – Open Road, The Final Exam

Google Map for The Open Road, Final Exam

For the ninth, and final drive of my Teaching a Teen to Drive series, we’re going to hit the open road. We’ll be taking a long drive that tests all the skills of the prospective driver. There will be lengthy stretches of the three skills that are important for a new driver to master (in my opinion) – freeway driving, canyon driving, and urban driving.

This is also one of my favorite drives in all of Southern California. It hugs the coastline through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The inland portion that takes you over the San Marco Pass has stunning vistas on both the way up and on the way down. It’s a long drive that covers nearly 175 miles and will take 3-4 hours (or longer) to complete depending on stops.

If you’ve completed the first 8 drives, congratulations! If you’re just joining us, here’s the introductory and other 8 long drives:

For the final drive, we’re going to once again start at the Camarillo train station. We’re going to leave from the north end of the parking lot onto Daily Drive and make a left onto the US-101N. We’ll follow the US-101 into Santa Barbara and exit at State Street. Go straight off the exit and follow the signs for CA-154 towards the San Marcos Pass/Santa Ynez. CA-154 will take us over the San Marco Pass and into the Santa Ynez Valley past Lake Cachuma. Once we get to CA-246, we’ll take it west into Solvang (be aware and prepared for the challenging rotary). I usually stop in Solvang for brunch (The Belgian Cafe is the usual place), and then continue on CA-246 until we get to the US-101. We make the left to head south, over the Gaviota Pass and along the coast back to Camarillo.

This is the longest of the 9 drives. It covers almost 175 miles. Depending on how long you stop in Solvang, the drive could take 4 hours or more to complete. The challenge in this drive has more to do with length than the freeway, canyon, or urban driving sections. If you’ve completed the 8 drives prior to this one, drive #9 should be mostly review.

Here are the notes for this drive:

  1. I usually like to do this drive around mid-morning during the weekend. I prefer to make this an enjoyable drive and avoid any unnecessary stress. The preceding drives have been challenging, so this is meant to be more of a review.
  2. I also like to take advantage of the location and spend time exploring Solvang during the stop. There’s plenty of small restaurants and shops to check-out while you’re there. It’s also a great way to break-up the drive, review the first half of the trip, and prepare for the drive back.
  3. The challenge as the instructor for this drive is staying alert and avoiding distractions. It can be easy to lose focus (or doze off) on the long freeway stretches if you’re not careful. You need to pay attention to the teen driver to make sure they are staying alert. In addition, the views, particularly over the San Marco Pass, are gorgeous, as well as distracting. Take it all in, but don’t let it affect you’re ability to advise the teen driver. The challenges in the San Marcos Pass are a little different than the other canyon drives in this series. In particular, you’ll need to advise the driver on how to handle the passing zones on the way up and down.

Here’s the interactive Google Map of the drive:

And that’s it for the drives in this series.

Next up: The Wrap-up