Leg 3: Bakersfield to San Francisco, a few weeks after arriving

My desk in the Mission
My desk, now that I’m all settled

Shame on me for not finishing this post sooner. I’ve officially been in SF for a month, and I’m getting settled into my routine.  It’s been an intense few weeks. My highs have been high, and I’ve had a few lows and “Oh shit, what did I just do” moments, of course. Packing everything you own and driving across the country with no backup plan will do that to a person.

Fortunately, I’ve learned that the lows in life are inevitably followed by a high. It’s almost as if we need to go down hill for to pick up enough velocity to reach the next summit. That’s another blog post for another time.

To arrive in San Francisco, my last leg of the 5-day journey, I had to drive North, and follow the California Coastline. I left Bakersfield, outside of LA, after some amazing hospitality from Jason Cosper and his lovely wife Sarah. They put me up and fed me before I made my final push into SF.

I hit the road about 9AM, and drove through the farms outside of Bakersfield, making my way over to the Highway 101. It’s not the fastest way to drive from SoCal to NorCal, but it’s the more scenic route up, taking you along the coastline and through the California farmlands before you hit the Peninsula and drive into San Francisco. You can even drive by the spot in the road where James Dean wrecked his Chevy that fateful night. It’s an unassuming spot where 3 farm roads meet. There’s just a small sign and a tiny plaque to commemorate his life.

The drive up the coast was one of my favorites. The farming operations that I passed along the way stretched for miles and miles, bookended by the Sierra Nevada range, with clouds and fog looming over everything I saw. The state of California matches the lyrics of America the Beautiful very well. Every single type of beautiful ecosystem is present in the state. I feel like I’m going to get an eye roll for saying this in such jaded times, but I spent hours on the road driving North through Cali, and I kept thinking, “purple mountain majesties,” as I passed through. The drive was a great time for me to just let go of my cynicism and be inspired by the natural beauty.

Rolling into San Fran, I had the new single from Tegan and Sara, Closer, on repeat. I probably listened to it 10 times that afternoon. It was a love song about the infatuation stage of a relationship, and connecting with someone those first few exciting times. My car explored the curves of the highway the same way our hands and our emotions travel the curves of a new lover. That track, and the rest of the songs on my road trip playlist, which transformed into a NorCal hip hop mix, are on Spotify.

It was raining hard as I started seeing signs like, “San Jose,” and “Cupertino” through my windshield. Driving North on the 101 is like thumbing through the tech industry’s greatest hits album. You get a rush seeing all those famous names flying by. As each city flies by, you realize you’re on the same highways that millions of men and women have driven, searching for the same Gold Rush that the 49ers were after. That afternoon, I was driving directly into the epicenter of the last 40 years of tech innovation and I could feel the energy.

San Jose.  Cupertino.  Palo Alto.  Stanford.

The best way to describe what was going through my head is to explain that I realized that I was literally behind the wheel, driving myself into the best place in the world for tech entrepreneurs. A place full of history and momentum. And a place where many of the best minds travel to make their vision into reality. I had found an opportunity to live in the thick of Silicon Valley. I was incredibly excited. I was also wondering WTF had gotten into me that I wasn’t afraid to leave the last 16 years of my life behind, forsaking the past for an unknown future. I wasn’t holding myself back psychologically, or holding onto the past.

Jonas and Mayor Ed Lee
Jonas Lamis and Mayor Ed Lee at the RallyPad

Many times in the past, I second-guessed any sense of entitlement that I *could* have the life I wanted.  That I could live at the epicenter of the most creative people on the planet, and that I would belong with “the cool kids.” Since I practice honesty on this blog, I have to confess that the move was striking a mortal blow against the part of me that used to whisper, “that life isn’t for you, it’s for ‘other people.'”

As I was driving into San Francisco, I knew that I was driving home, and that I was in the process of claiming my rightful place among the “other people” that I used to fear. It was liberating. The only thing that had held be back before was my own thoughts. Confronting those was the only obstacle to having this adventure.

After weaving through rush-hour traffic, I finally got to my place in the Lower Mission, and met my new roommate and her spaniel, Zorro. I found a nice place to park within 3 blocks of my apartment. Turns out I may not have to pay for parking. That’s $150 a month I can roll into other stuff.

My boxes from UPS had arrived that day. Completely trashed. My stereo looked completely broken, but it still worked. I began the process of unpacking and organizing my life. I have a list of things to set up in my new life in the city, from getting a Tai Chi dojo (check), to finding a doctor (check), to getting started on dating so I can meet someone  (double-check), find good coffee shops to work at, etc. I set goals for things I want to achieve every week that gradually build my life here.

Knowing that I can make my life exactly what I want it to be is liberating. San Francisco is the place where people go to live to the limit, so I’m taking full advantage of the opportunity to re-invent myself. When faced with a choice, I ask myself, “what do I want my life to be like in a year, and how do I make that happen?” Then I go do the thing that makes me happy. I’ve made a list of the things that I want, and I’m going after them week-by-week.

The final thing I did was head to the WordPress meetup at Automattic HQ in the Mission. Evan Solomon and Daryl Koopersmith were presenting on 3.5 and going deep into the code

More Friendly WordPress Folk
More Friendly WordPress Folk at Dolores Park

changes for WordPress this time around. They were kind enough to hang out for a while afterwards to show me some cool places on the map, and help me get settled. It’s great to have new friends in place as I’ve arrived. The Automatticians have all been incredibly hospitable since I’ve arrived, and I’m glad we’re connected.

The weeks are flying by, and my life is completely different, but it’s still me. I’m changing incredibly quickly, and learning so much. Look for for more changes, more ideas, and more adventures to come.

Hope this helps.

Austin W. Gunter



Austin Gunter

I’m Austin. I live in San Francisco, practice Tai Chi, have rheumatoid arthritis, listen to a lot of loud music, and host a lot of dinner parties. Want more? Start here.


  • Great post Austin, I had the same feelings my first time heading to SF. I packed everything I owned into my station wagon in Colorado after graduation… then gave some more of it away last minute so I could bring a friend along for the adventure. We rolled into SF and then down the peninsula as I called out “Google!” then “Stanford!” and “Yahoooooo!” realizing how awesome the place is. I had never been there before and hadn’t connected Silicon Valley with SF.

    Here are a few DO’s for you. Take a date to the SF Zoo, take a date to the beach just South of Pacifica called “Montara”, go to the San Jose Tech museum, take a gymnastics class for adults in Mountain View at Gold Star or check out the circus school in SF and meet Ayla there, see a San Francisco Ballet performance, go to an author event or tech talk at Google HQ in Mountain View, take a continuing studies course at Stanford for $350 and meet more amazing people, try surfing in Pacifica and rent your board at Sonlight surf shop or NorCal surf shop, visit Berkeley and get a hot dog at Top Dog then visit the Vivarium (largest reptile store in the nation), take a walk at Shoreline park in Mountain View then watch a concert at Shoreline Amphitheater, eat frozen yogurt at Yoogle in Downtown Mountain View and make fun of the name while meeting amazing people from tomorrow’s startups, watch surfers at the Lighthouse in Santa Cruz… but don’t surf there or you’ll get worked, take a date to the boardwalk in Santa Cruz and spend a night in Carmel, see the aquarium at Monterey where they have a great white shark in captivity and always be trying new things and smiling the whole way 🙂

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