Los Angeles

Travel Date: 2 March 2013

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I don’t understand the appeal of Los Angeles.

Sure, there’s its wonderful Mediterranean climate; its beautiful beaches; the allure of Hollywood and all things glitzy and glamorous; and its beautiful people.

But then there’s its traffic.  Ugh.

The last time I was in L.A. was over 20 years ago, so yesterday, I decided to get reacquainted with it on a day trip from San Diego.

The trip up “The 5,” as they refer to Interstate highways out here, went well through northern San Diego County and across Camp Pendleton.  But once I hit the area around Anaheim, just after passing the “Happiest Place on Earth”–Disneyland–things turned to something less than happy.

Multiple lanes of traffic all went from cruising along at 65-70 mph down to stop-and-go for no apparent reason.  There was no accident.  There was no construction zone with closed lanes.  Nothing.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  Just lots and lots and lots of Angelenos out for a Saturday drive.

When I turned onto “The 10” to head to Santa Monica, it got even worse.  Everyone in L.A. seemed to be heading to the beach on what was a gorgeous, sunny, warm (78°) day.

All totaled, it took nearly two hours to drive the forty miles from Anaheim to the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica.

The PCH didn’t offer any relief, either.

People were stopped for blocks on end as they tried to make the left turn into the beach-side public parking lots that all seemed to be already filled to capacity.

The drive inland on “The 10” was just as bad as heading to the beach, if not worse.  Another hour spent driving the 16 miles back to “The 5.”

So three hours to drive 56 miles in L.A.


As I sat stuck in traffic, there was plenty to think about and observe.  In no particular order…

It’s interesting to see all of these high performance cars–Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, Porches, Lexuses, Cadillac CTSs–just creeping along well below their 160 mph capabilities.  I’m sure all those German engineers are scratching their heads, asking “Warum?!?”  The German sales team, on the other hand, is smiling at their balance sheet.

“Lane splitting” for motorcycles is legal here, so that means you’re sitting there, your arm dangling out the open window, hand tapping the side of the car to the beat of “American Pie” on the radio, and some yahoo on a Japanese crotch-rocket comes zipping by just inches away, riding the white dashed line that separates the travel lanes.  Let’s just say that I had the bejeepers scared out of me more than once.
Most everyone took it in stride, content to just progress as cars inched forward.  But there were a few hyper Type A personalities that did their best to make their way through the crowd faster than anyone else, even if that meant going 15 mph instead of 12 mph.

But, as I sat there, the thing that struck me the most was the waste.

Certainly, there’s the waste of fuel, and I contributed to that as a solo driver on a pleasure drive for a Saturday afternoon, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

No, I was thinking more in terms of the time spent sitting in traffic that we could have been doing something else.  Time that we’ll never get back.

What could someone have done in those 3 or 4 hours?

Spent time with their kid at her soccer match or his Little League game… Walked 10 miles… Gone to a concert…  Volunteered to serve a meal in a homeless shelter…  Read a couple of chapters in a novel…  Put the finishing touches on a project for work or school…  The possibilities are endless.

But there we sat–most by our own choosing–stuck, unproductive, disconnected, and not having fun.

What a waste.

© 2013  All rights reserved.

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