Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Travel Tales: Akron to LA 2012

Since it is February, I started to think about when I would leave to go back to Ohio and I realized I had not discussed my trip to California. I have to be honest and admit I was having such a great time at home in Ohio and was seriously considering taking a pass on this year's trip. However, my daughter was going to be in LA for the holidays and I wanted to spend that time with her.

This year's trip to Los Angeles was a wonderful one. I was delayed in leaving since my daughter came to Akron for Thanksgiving. I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner at home in eight years and it could not have been better. Two days after Thanksgiving my daughter went back to work and two days later I left to drive here after making sure everything was in order for the house sitter.

As always my departure date was affected by the weather, so I watched the Weather Channel everyday. When I saw I had three completely clear days in a row, I decided to leave. I was prepared to get on the road at any time since the car was already packed. I knew that I had only those three days before the weather worsened again.

My first day was great. I woke up at 5:30 and got on the road. I drove through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. (Sounds impressive, doesn't it?) The interstates I used on this day were I-76, I-71, I-70 and I-44. I always use the bypass for Columbus and for St. Louis, but I like to use 70 through Indianapolis. The audio book for this day was The Other Boleyn Girl, which was easy to follow since I had read the book twice. Since I left later than usual, I stopped in Joplin instead of Oklahoma City. I was lucky to get a room because the construction workers who are building the new hospital in Joplin were staying at hotels at Exit 8 on I-44. This new hospital replaces St. John's Regional Medical Center which was destroyed by the Joplin tornado.

Day two had clear weather and I drove through Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. I took I-44 to I-40 and used that interstate for the rest of the day. The Boleyn Inheritance was my audio book for this section, but by the evening I found myself tired of listening to descriptions of beheadings and executions. Much of my journey on this day was over flat terrain as can be seen in the above photo from Texas. As is always my luck, I went through Albuquerque at rush hour. Since it was dark and the city was unfamiliar to me, I decided to continue on to Gallup and stay there for the night. Another reason to drive an extra hour and half is that leaving from Gallup in the morning puts my arrival time in Los Angeles before its dreaded rush hour.

The last day is always the best day for me. Since I had listened to two days' worth of Henry VIII and his wives, I decided on the audio book Good in Bed. The lighter subject matter was good for some laughs. Arizona and California are always so beautiful and it is a pleasure to drive through them on I-40. For some reason I always think these states are more attractive when I drive east to west! The change in scenery from Flagstaff to the Mojave Desert is always so amazing and interesting. Travelers drive into a mountainous area around Flagstaff and then descend into the desert area of western Arizona and California. When I leave I-40 for I-15 near Barstow,  the terrain changes again and the high desert turns into a mountainous area before 15 goes into the valley. For me this section goes by very quickly.

In the foreground a burned section of the San ...
The LA basin is to the left, with the Inland Empire (San Bernardino itself) in the foreground. The San Gabriel mountains are under those few clouds. The Foothill Expressway (I-210) runs toward the horizon, the I-15 runs through the pass to the right (north) and the I-215 connects with the I-15 right below the pass and comes east before turning south. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The weather was crystal clear for the whole trip until I got to the Cajon Pass after driving out of the desert. This pass is challenging on a clear day, but as I approached it, I could see what looked like a witch's cauldron of dark clouds swirling at the edge of the San Gabriel Mountains. Sometimes a weather system will move along until it reaches the mountains and then seems to get held in place by them. For the twelve mile descent on the mountain I could hardly see and it was raining hard. This was very stressful and I was glad that this was not the first time I had ever driven down the pass. (My worst experience with this pass was going up it in the middle of the night during a snow storm.) At the bottom of the mountain I drove out of the rain and the last hour of my trip was free of rain.

The traffic was great on the 210 and the 134 until I crossed Interstate 5 and drove by the studios. Then the traffic backup began. Fortunately, I know the surface streets, so I was able to take them and arrived at my daughter's apartment.  Completing the drive safely is so exciting. All that stress is gone....until the return trip.

(Photo of Texas taken in 2012)
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