On Monday, July 4th, I had to drive from Fontana, California to Carson, California.
I started by taking the 10 westbound to the 15 south to the 60 westbound until I hit the 605 south, to a quick jaunt on the 105 west to the 710 south to finally the 405 north.
If you’re from Los Angeles, that seemingly random enumeration of numbers and directions might strike dread into your heart, especially if you had to drive that route at 7:30 in the morning. This, however, was the morning of July 4th, America’s Independence Day. Nobody had to go to work and everyone was still asleep.
I set the cruise control and hardly touched the brakes. It was glorious.
I had to do almost the exact same route today, Wednesday, July 6th. It was an entirely different experience. All the normal traffic was there. It was slow, confusing, frustrating, and far from glorious.
Certain freeways in the Los Angeles basin I know will always be difficult. The 210, especially through Pasadena is usually a parking lot. The 60, pretty much anywhere, will normally have slowing, and for absolutely no apparent reason whatsoever.
I was in Wilmington today. Wilmington is down around the ports near Long Beach, with the city of Carson to the north and San Pedro to the south. It’s an older, industrial city with lots of oil refineries. Which I love. I’m a sucker for that kind of complex industrial aesthetic. I saw one guy just cruising down the road in a late 70s Cadillac convertible, top down and rolling. You would think that would be perfect for cruising Route 66 through the desert, but actually in the warm California sun, rolling past deteriorating storefronts with huge port cranes in the background, it fit perfectly. And became even cooler.
I was born in Los Angeles and raised in the L.A. suburbs just east of downtown. I understand when people dismiss Los Angeles as having no depth, no culture, nothing of interest. I get it, but I’ve never agreed with it. For me, Los Angeles is just a completely different entity than the normal places people usually associate with “culture”. It’s like saying that pizza doesn’t taste good because it’s not a 7 course meal served in a French restaurant. It’s nonsense. L.A. is its own thing, has its own vibe, makes its own rules and while you are wallowing in six feet of snow for your “culture”, we’re wearing shorts, cruising with the top down, looking gorgeous, having fun and basking in light. Sure, we can be vapid and one-dimensional, but you say it like those are bad things. Sometimes the glorious facade is the art.
The downside is the traffic. It’s always been the traffic. Los Angeles used to have one of the most comprehensive public transportation systems in the United States. But, since the 1950s, it’s been all about the automobile. We created car culture. And we paid the price.
It’s funny how people react to L.A. traffic. I talk with other truckers about driving in L.A. traffic, and you would think they were talking about having their teeth pulled out with rusty pliers. I get that. My father worked downtown at the phone company, and drove in from the suburbs for many years, until he bought himself a bus pass. Became a new man overnight. I, myself, have raged against the slowing of the freeway many times. My wife still refuses to go with me to Pasadena because of how I behave when I’m stuck on the 210 westbound. I turn into an animal. Or, I used to. I’m getting better. Getting paid has forced me to adjust my attitude.
Then there are the trucks. So many trucks on the road. There are alternatives, though. For the 1984 Olympics, the City of Los Angeles implemented traffic reduction measures including a ban on trucks on the freeway during rush hours. During the two weeks the truck ban was in place, it led to a 60 percent reduction in congestion, and truck traffic was down by as much as 16 percent during peak periods.
Then, obviously, there’s this alternative.
I’m just sayin’…..