California Driving: Just The FAQs

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Teakettle Junction, Death Valley National Park

Teakettle Junction, Death Valley National Park  (2001?)

Some frequently-asked and / or frequently-answered questions about California Driving: A Survival Guide:


Can you help me with a legal question or interpretation of the California Vehicle Code?

Argh! I’m always amazed at how much email I get asking me legal questions or for advice on beating traffic tickets or settling arguments about the CVC, etc. Well, if it isn’t already clear, I’m not a lawyer, and I’m hardly an expert on Californian laws or driving rules, either, so please consult a real lawyer or police officer or someone who knows those sorts of things for issues like that…

The Site Looks … Different!

That’s not a question, but you’re right.

I got tired of using a custom template for the site, and converted it to WordPress a few years ago. Which makes my life easier in obvious ways, but it also makes the site responsive and buzzword-compliant in a bunch of different ways (if I sound cynical, I’m really not — I love responsive sites (I do them for my day job), but I just couldn’t be bothered doing the underlying coding here. That’s what WordPress themes are for…).

Didn’t This Use To Be Did You Change The URL?

Yep. I changed it with the renovation mentioned above. I’ve always had the domain name, but (stupidly) used as the main domain name instead (probably because I’m a terrible typist). I think it’s better this way.

Why all the ads?!

Well, something’s got to help pay the hosting bills. I try to make them unobtrusive, but if they irritate you, I’m sure there are ways to suppress them on your browser.

Where do all the photos come from?

I’ve taken all of the photos and images in California Driving (except for the various third party logos) and the associated California and Nevada From The Side Of The Road gallery over the past twenty years or so on the trips I’ve done through the deserts, mountains, valleys, and cities of California (and Nevada and Utah, for that matter). Where do I find these sights? Mostly on the side of the road, of course, but some of these things are a little off the beaten track — I just stumble onto most of them by accident while looking for something else. For example, the dead-car-under-the-Exxon-sign heading the introduction page resulted from a trip I took to Yosemite, hoping to do a few nice Ansel Adams-ish landscapes of El Capitan or Half Dome. But half way there, there was this car… and that’s pretty much all I took, the whole trip. I guess nice landscapes are not really my cup of tea.

For the record (since I get a lot of questions about this), nowadays I mostly use a Nikon D800 DSLR with a bunch of different lenses, a Canon Powershot G12, and (inevitably) an iPhone (with Instagram, even more inevitably), but over the years I’ve also used a variety of cameras ranging from a Sinar 4×5 view camera that I dragged thousands of miles through the deserts and across the mountains, to a couple of Pentax and Mamiya medium format cameras, to a sturdy little Nikon FM2n (I think I like the iPhone the best of all my cameras).

Full details and copies of the photos used here can sometimes also be found under my site.

What’s the history of the Guide? Why did you write it?

The Guide started way back in the late 1980’s when I worked for a company (UniSoft Corp.) with offices in both London and Berkeley. I was temporarily transferred to Berkeley (Emeryville, really, by then) from our London office for what ended up being a stay of more than a year (after which I never really went back). Being the first Briton out here for the company, I ended up being the one who greeted the others coming over, and giving them the run-down on things like driving, tipping, eating habits, etc. Eventually I wrote it all down so I could just give visitors the written version and skip the rest. This version was a few pages long, and in Unix troff format, but it was very much the precursor to this Guide (it was even called “California Driving — A Survival Guide”).

Over the years as I worked in Berkeley and Oakland for other companies the Guide slowly expanded. By the early 1990’s it was about ten pages long, but now in FrameMaker format. It was used for fellow workers, relatives, friends, etc. People kept suggesting I publish it, but I didn’t have the time.

By 1995 I had a web version, under my then-web site (or its predecessor). It was similar to the current version here, but smaller and less expansive. I didn’t do any publicity for the Guide, mostly because I didn’t have the time, but I kept getting comments and suggestions from people who stumbled onto it (several dozen serious visitors a week towards the end of this stage). The Guide kept growing and changing as a result of these comments and suggestions.

In mid 1998 I decided to get the “” domain and give the Guide its own site. In the process, I spruced the thing up cosmetically and added things like the “Test Your California Driving IQ!” page, a cynical exercise in making fun of Californian Drivers (easy targets, for sure).

More than a decade later I decided to put the photos and videos into a separate California And Nevada From The Side Of The Road gallery, since it’s much easier to maintain and edit them that way (the gallery is currently done as a Tumblr).

Sometime later, I renovated the site (again) and changed the canonical URL to

It’s been downhill all the way ever since…

Can I use images or text from this site for <whatever purpose>?

In general, I’m happy for you to use images and text from this site for (limited) non-commercial or purely personal purposes without charge, as long as you don’t alter whatever it is you take from here, and you credit me somewhere (but if it’s just for something like your own personal screen saver or desktop background, just do it…). If you want want to use anything on this site for commercial purposes, or for something more extensive than purely personal work, please contact me.


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