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Friday, May 18, 2012

I am ready to leave the LA Basin. Family and friends – great! Weather – perfect! Mexican restaurants that serve Bohemia beer – what’s not to like? No, my reason is a bit more subjective. Let me revisit one of the goals of this road trip: meeting and listening to random people, and taking random photos of out-of-the-way and unexpected images that come to my attention. Herein lies the problem…

Frankly, getting from Point A to Point B is the problem. For starters, any Point X I can think of, is connected by roads – specifically – freeways. Lot’s and lots of freeways. As I traverse the two counties I find myself in – LA & Orange Counties – I find that my knuckles have turned permanently white. This from a man who learned to drive stick shift in a ’39 Chrysler at the Rose Bowl parking lot when I was old enough to reach the pedals (13). I got driving creds, believe you me. So when I parse the freeway driving experience here in SoCal, I trust you can understand why I am ready to leave the LA Basin!

Let me recount a couple of observations. And let’s put a few things in context first: all freeways are six to ten lanes wide. The posted speed limit is 65 mph. That’s all you need to know. Now, Pointer #1: When entering a freeway on-ramp it’s pedal to the metal time! This may seem an obvious suggestion, but the real reason is hidden in the unwritten rules of the native drivers. To wit, the right lane is the REAL passing lane. It makes sense if you thin about it. The normal passing lanes on the left, are usually jammed with some drivers going 85mph, and that’s to friggin’ slow for those who are going 95mph. It’s not that unusual to see a Mercedes C550 swing across eight lanes of moderate (or heavy) traffic to the right lane, and back to the left lane, one full car length ahead of the guy doing 85mph. Which brings us to Pointer #2: do not look for, under any circumstances, turn signal indicators. These high speed lane changes require a modicum of control, and a driver pushing 100mph doesn’t have enough time to use turn signals. Pointer #3 (optional): wear Depends. Let’s keep in mind the propensity of American drivers to tailgate the heck outta each other. No matter where I’ve driven, Indy 500 slipstreaming is not only practiced, but endorsed. In any event, the “left-right-left” passing move will require the 95mph-er to dive between two unrelated bumpers, without pealing off the I’ve Got State Farm sticker, and then dive again a lane or two later. Gasps, expletives, rapid blinking, and shortness of breath may be experienced by the observer. With the driver’s return trip to the left, these near misses will be a bit more expected and not as awe inspiring as when first performed. Pointer #4: the Sitting Duck phenomena. Generally, drivers have a strong herd instinct. Try to imagine a grouping of 50+ cars all glommed together driving at approximately the same speed. This “pod” I call it, will stick together for miles, each car jockeying for position. For my example, I’m going 72mph (so I can stay alive), and Pod #1 passes me at an average speed of say – 82mph. Once the pod passes, I have found myself literally all alone, really alone, in lane #5, blood starting to return to my knuckles. This is a false sense of wellness. There, in my rearview mirror comes Thundering Herd #2, average speed 87mph, trying desperately trying to catch up with Pod #1 who just went by me. (Who can blame them, after all, there’s comfort in numbers I understand). Rest assured, that feeling of “nowhere to hide” will pass, your destination a sanctuary where that look of “what the hell was that?” will soon pass. It may help to have “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor on “repeat”.

I trust my pointers have – at least partially – justified my lack of interest in discovering the “hidden” points of interest I may have found here. I am grateful that my family and friends have provided the requisite sanctuaries – thank you all!

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In Inverness, FL, there’s Citrus Raceway, which Dave & I got pit passes to. They had 25 lap prelims, and then some crazy 8’s, including one run with school buses. (see my Facebook page for those). I finagled my way into the VIP tower (“I’m from National Geographic…”) and got some other shots. They guys in the pits were friendly, and told me a thing or two I never knew about racing – which isn’t hard to do. The End was a gimme.

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