350 miles to In-N-Out

In-N-Out Burger sign

In-N-Out Burger sign

Armand Santos, Staff Writer

Have you ever driven 350 miles and over five hours just to eat a burger and drive back? I have, and I’ll tell you why. You never truly appreciate something until it is gone. I grew up eating In-N-Out Burger and came to take it for granted. It never dawned on me when I went to college outside of southern California that my favorite burger would be more than 15 minutes away. In actuality, I didn’t even consider In-N-Out at all.
The year was 1989 and In-N-Out Burger had not yet ventured outside the borders of So Cal. I was a freshman at the University of California Santa Cruz. There were two main types of UCSC student at that time: those from Los Angeles and those from the San Francisco Bay area. We were constantly at odds over which was the better place to live. Those of us from So Cal discovered that there was no In-N-Out up there and were going on and on about how good it was. Those who had never tried it were not convinced. This debate raged for several weeks until, one really slow night in mid-November, someone suggested a road trip.
One of us from LA vaguely remembered seeing an In-N-Out Burger in Camarillo. That was good enough. We crammed four people into my 3 series BMW and hit the road. Gas was cheap (under 90 cents a gallon) and we were bored. We left early in the morning. At least it was early for college students, and started on our 350 mile odyssey.
We made really good time, only stopping for bathroom breaks and to gas up. No food stops, we had to stay hungry. We had made it past Santa Barbara before we realized that no one had any idea exactly where this In-N-Out Burger was exactly located. Keep in mind that this was long before the days of the smart phone. In fact, the cell phone was not yet truly portable and only folks with real money had one.
Fortune was smiling on us that day, the In-N-out Burger was right off the 101 and the sign was clearly visible from the freeway.
We all had Double-Doubles, fries and shakes. The bay Area guys had to admit defeat. We then proceeded to order four more sets and hopped in the car for the drive back. The plan was to bring back food for the rest of the group to try. Yeah, right. Can four kids sit in a car for five hours with In-N-Out and arrive with all of it intact? We really underestimated the power of the Double-Double.
It started with the fries. Someone suggested that they would get cold and they were no good cold. Anyone who has ever eaten In-N-Out fries knows this to be beyond a shadow of a doubt. That was a valid point, we could not waste those fries. Someone else pointed out that shakes lost their appeal when they got warm. There was no arguing with that logic. That was it for the shakes.
We could not find an excuse to eat the burgers. So we just ate them. We convinced ourselves that our friends did not deserve these burgers, they needed to earn them by making that journey, just as we had.
The funny thing was that was exactly what they did. Making the trek to Camarillo for In-N-Out became a thing at my dorm.
In-N-Out Burger made it to the Bay Area of San Francisco by 1992, effectively ending the In-N-Out road trip tradition. Students still at Santa Cruz at that time who had made the momentous journey would tell the new kids, “In my day, we had to drive five hours for a Double-Double.”