I Survived the Southern California Freeways

“Take the 101 to the 134, then the 210,” Cori stated as we headed to her uncle’s home for Thanksgiving. “Then you’ll take the 15 south. We go past the 91 and 74, and then we can look for the turn-off to Wildomar,” she continued.

It was not ‘over the river and through the woods.’ It was follow the freeway maze at $3.39 per gallon – and thousands of people did not seem phased. It was just another day on the California freeways.

The traffic was lighter than usual as we sailed through Pasadena, Glendora and past Ontario. Then congestion set in. As we approached Corona, the traffic was gridlocked and we only were able to travel 5 m.p.h.

“Only one other relative has arrived,” Cori relayed after alerting her aunt of our delayed arrival. “We should check the other cars,” she laughed, “as the other relatives are about in the same location.”

As we inched through south Riverside County, the grass on the drought-affected hills had dried to the color of weathered wood and lay matted on the hardened soil. The drab brown hills only were broken up by new subdivisions in various stages of construction. They seemed to be sprouting up everywhere I looked. Soon more cars would clog these roads. And I thought about the recent California wild fires that raged through similar neighborhoods hewn into the hills.

When I went to pick up my rental car a few days later, the Burbank Airport rental site did not have the compact car I requested. The mid-sized sedan they upgraded me to was dwarfed amongst the other rentals, mostly large SUV’s. Isn’t anyone concerned about fuel conservation, I wondered.

The next day I ventured out on my own to drive to Palm Desert to visit a friend. I left at 9:30 to avoid the rush hour traffic. However, as I emerged from BJ and Cori’s Encino neighborhood onto Burbank Blvd., the back-up still extended about a block. At a break in the traffic, I nosed the car into the turning lane, gradually got into the traffic, and then eased over into the right lane to be able to enter the Ventura Freeway.

The back-up on the metered on-ramp extended the entire ramp. Finally I was on the freeway, where the traffic only was able to get up to about 20 m.p.h. I needed to move over three lanes of traffic – a challenging task. After the right lanes peeled off onto the Santa Monica Freeway, the traffic picked up.

When I approached the turn-off to the Hollywood Freeway, a large electronic sign indicated that it would take approximately 25 miles to reach downtown, a distance of about 8 miles.

According to a recent article in Time Magazine on commuting in America, Los Angeles has the worst traffic, with an average of 72 hours of delay annually per traveller.

Even though I was driving five miles over the speed limit, cars barreled past me. Driving in the right-hand lane was hazardous, because every so often the right lanes veered off to another freeway. It was risky in other lanes as well. Cars would speed up to my rear bumper, then swerve around me, with the cars behind them following suit.

I discovered that there are NO rest stops on the freeways in the metropolitan Los Angeles area. The first rest stop on my route was just east of Redlands, almost 90 miles from where I started.

Mile after mile, the towns and subdivisions ran into each other – filled with new houses with green lawns. The natural landscape didn’t turn green until I arrived in the desert, where the native plants are adapted and have low water needs.

However, even in the desert, all of the golf course communities are high water users. At the condo where I was staying, the sprinklers kept yards and the golf greens lush.

While California has taken some bold steps to respond to global warming, it doesn’t seem to have embraced xeriscaping. It has light rail, but the freeways are still clogged.

I survived the southern California freeways, but am glad I live where the pace is slower.

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