LA Times

by Rachel Gertz

Day 49

Our time in LA is spent. We barely skimmed the surface of this great and mysterious land. I suppose we could have stayed longer, but without an agenda and the fact that even a convenience store is a 22 mile jog, we just didn’t have the chutzpa to do it. Besides, Christmas is creeping ever closer, and we want to see what other warm places have inflatable Santas on their front lawns. See: San Diego.

During our week long stay in LA, we spent approximately 75% of the time on wheels. And not even Walter’s wheels; we gratefully planted Walter on the Dorny’s parking pad. We rented a car from Budget, which cost us over $350 and every shred of humanity which was lost as a result of brusque administrative dismissal, thank you very much.  But that Chevy got us around at least. Bella had no chance with her little scooter wheels and distaste for Mercedes.

If you didn’t know, LA freeways govern the majority of the traffic flow (side streets are limited to your driveway and the road outside your front door). If you plan to visit the other end of the county, bring a sleeping bag. That said, the freeways of LA are gargantuan. We’re talking an average of eight lanes (just one direction). If you can drive them, you can drive anywhere. Our traveling adventure on this massive spaghetti blacktop gave birth to the following wisdom…

Five Things We Learned About Los Angeles Traffic

1. Do not comprise your life by hanging in outside lanes.

If you want to stay alive & avoid being rear ended or rendered paraplegic by hitting the guard rails, avoid the outside lanes. Safely plant yourself in one of the middle lanes and hold onto your butt. This middle lane will invariably turn into an outside lane, so keep your arrow signal ready. But at least this placement will reduce the onset of hyperventilation caused by being dumped prematurely down disappearing exit ramps, or prevent your car from dancing with a sudden flux of merging traffic. Trust us.

2. Don’t Be Passive. Be Aggressive.

If you see a hole, fill it. We mean that in the most direct sense. None of this Thomas the Train, “I think I can” BS. Any gap that’s there is yours for the taking. The car leaving that gap is asking you to rub against its front bumper. If you don’t, you will be the obnoxious, passive little butterfly that hits the divider and ends up with its wings torn off. Butterflies could be endangered species in LA for all I know. Every driver in LA is opportunistic. If you want to fit in, you should be too.

3. Map it Out

Unless you enjoy flirting with the concept of traffic fatality, plan out your route BEFORE you leave the house. Schwartzenegger has already decreed that only hands free mobile devices will be acceptable (just don’t ask his wife to stand behind that one) so program Google maps in the driveway. It’s neither smart nor safe to go mapping out your trip to Bixby Knowles with a chihuahua in one hand and your iPhone in the other. And remember: LA is not memorable in a here-to-there kind of way. No discernible landmarks. Row upon row of concrete embankments, overpasses, and centre lines that flicker like Morse Code. The big steeple that helps you find your way home when you’re drunk (you shouldn’t be driving anyhow) in west Regina, will not help you get safely back to Hollywood. If steeples or big trees are all you can count on, kiss that ass goodbye.

4. Bring Snoop Dog with You

That’s right, Snoop Dog is adding his voice to the Tom Tom (GPS) menu, so you can for shizzle ma nizzle that LA freeway in style. Even if you have a map and you have drawn a line from point A to B, visitors will eventually get caught up in the maze of traffic that eventually steers you to Compton instead of Malibu. A recorded voice giving you directions can assuage your driving insecurities. In our case, we have Google Maps, Tom Tom, and passenger directions (that’s me) in action all at once just to be sure we don’t plunge headlong into that tanned, taut beauty planted on the billboard whizzing past our ears.

5. Time It Right

Even if you are going to the 7-Eleven and meeting your buddy there for a freezie and some nachos, leave at least a half hour early. Always give yourself time plus a half hour to buffer the ridiculous traffic pouring through even the tiniest avenue, or that ‘sorry, so much traffic’ excuse will get old. This is especially true during LA rush hour (which I think falls from 8am-7pm inclusive). The word on the street is that you can joyfully spend 3-5 hours in traffic each day. No wonder LA-ers are so pleasant behind the wheel. They are fighting the traffic stereotypes.

And that’s it, folks. We’ve moved on to greener pastures and less congested roads. San Diego’s population is 1.3 million. That’s a whopping 12.7 million people less than the LA metropolis.

PS—- Thank you, thank you to the Dornys for making our experience here so lovely. We look forward to meeting up with you on our single freeway in Calgary, Alberta known as the Deerfoot. You can pull over with tire trouble, and when we arrive we can all share a beer or perhaps hot cocoa. Also, Rock Band awaits.

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