Friday, May 30, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Southern California

Los Angeles has a maze of highways and many of them are interstates, but not all of them. Travelers would not be able to tell the difference. Interstate 5 travels on a diagonal from the northwest to the southeast through the Los Angeles area. (Remember in this area the "I" is not used before the highway number, so honoring that, I will use "the" in front of the number.) The 105 runs east-west for 17.32 miles joining SR 1 in El Segundo to the 605. This highway does not connect to the 5. To get to the 5 drivers would have to take the 605 north three exits.

Getty Center, Los Angeles, California View fro...
Getty Center, Los Angeles, California View from California Interstate 405 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The 405 is probably the most famous in this area. This highway, which is also known as the San Diego Freeway, is over 72 miles long and is famous for its long traffic times. The 5 comes down the mountain from Santa Clarita and enters the San Fernando Valley. The 405 departs from the 5 and heads to the west. While the 5 travels along the eastern edge of the valley, the 405 travels through the middle. Leaving the valley, the 405 climbs the Santa Monica mountains and heads into the LA basin. This is the closest interstate to LAX. At Lawndale the 405 turns east and continues near Long Beach, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa before rejoining the 5 in Irvine. The 605, which is just over 27 miles long, heads south from its juncture with the 210 and joins the 405 just north of Seal Beach.

Interstate 10 travels from the east to west across the Los Angeles area and has several auxiliary highways. The 110 has a length of 20.43 miles and runs north to south. It begins as the Pasadena Freeway and becomes the Harbor Freeway at the 10 before ending in San Pedro near Long Beach Harbor. The 210 has an east-west direction of 48.52 miles. It leaves the 5 north of San Fernando and travels to the southeast along the Verdugo Mountains. In Pasadena it turns east and takes over the route of the 134. This highway, which is also known as the Foothill Freeway, runs to the south of the San Gabriel Mountains and joins the 15 south of the Cajon Pass. The highway continues as SR210 before curving south to join the 10. Both roads together total 86 miles. Almost 20 miles of the 710 runs in a north-south direction. It begins at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and ends at Terminal Island in Long Beach.

Those are the interstates. What about the 101, the 134 and the 170? Those are not interstates, but who can tell the difference. The 101 comes in from the west and then turns south to the 5. At that juncture of the turn south, the 134 begins and travels east until it tuns into the 210 at Pasadena. The 170 leaves the 5 and travels south between the 5 and the 405 until it reaches the 134.

After Interstate 15 travels down the Cajon Pass, the 215 splits off and travels to the east of 15 for almost 55 miles. San Bernardino and Riverside are joined by this highway before it ends in Murrieta. Leaving the 5 near the University of California - San Diego is the 805. It travels just over 28 miles to the east of the 5 through San Diego.

Travelers in this area should be aware of rush hour traffic times. Also major events for sports and concerts produce traffic jams. Checking SigAlert before driving in this area is always a good idea.
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Travel Tales: LA to Akron 2014 - Day One

Best. Trip. Ever. In all the years I have been traveling to California, I have never had a trip as wonderful as this one was this past winter. The place where I stayed was great. I had my own parking place and my own washer and dryer. However, the most important aspect was I had peace and quiet. The time flew by this year because we had such great adventures. I saw some of the most incredible scenery I have ever seen in the state of California. This trip was just amazing.

Even the best trip can have a dark cloud and mine came just before I was to leave. I was injured at the place where I was staying. I had only a few days to recover before I had to get on the road. To be honest, I was very nervous about the trip and I was not sure I could physically make the drive. I just figured I would travel as far as I could and stop as often as I needed.

Traveling during this time of year has always presented a challenge because I have to watch for snow, but I also have to be vigilant for severe spring weather. When I saw what I thought would be a window of opportunity for reasonably good weather, I had to take it. As the time came closer to when I had to leave, the conditions worsened but it was still the lesser of all evils that were forecast for later.

As is always the case I could not sleep the night before I was to leave. I gave up on getting enough rest and left Los Angeles at 2:00 in the morning. I try to get on the road by at 5:00 at the latest to avoid rush hour traffic. The day was beautiful and I knew I had to get in as much of the drive as I could before I stopped for the night. I was feeling really good. Since I left Los Angeles so early in the morning, I went through Albuquerque in the early afternoon. Even though I loved the hotel where I stayed in that city last year, I decided to keep driving east until early evening. If I did not continue and take advantage of the short span of nice weather, I would have a real problem with severe weather later.

I stopped in Amarillo that night. By the time I reached my hotel the rain had started and my last opportunity for pleasant weather was gone. I did well in driving that day despite my injuries and I needed to get a good night's rest to handle the challenging driving situations of the next two days.

(Photo taken in 2014)

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Northern California

(1) Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, (2) Golden Gat...
(1) Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, (2) Golden Gate Bridge, (3) San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, (4) San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, (5) Dumbarton Bridge, (6) Carquinez Bridge, (7) Benicia-Martinez Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The San Francisco-Oakland area has many highways that are connected to Interstate 80.  I-80 crosses the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge from Oakland and ends on the other side in San Francisco. Interstate 280 begins near that point and continues west almost to the Pacific Ocean. West of Daly City I-280 turns south and completes its journey of 57 miles in San Jose where it joins US 101. This highway runs along the San Andreas Fault Zone. The 1.5 miles of Interstate 380 join I-280 to US 101 near San Bruno and the Golden Gate National Cemetery.

Interstate 580 which is 71 miles long leaves US 101 in San Rafael and travels east crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. It continues south to the east of San Francisco Bay going through Richmond, Oakland and San Leandro. Near Castro Valley I-580 turns to the east and joins Interstate 5 near Westley. Interstate 680 is also 71 miles long. It heads south from its juncture with Interstate 80 at Cordelia and crosses the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. I-680 travels through Benicia, Martinez, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon and Milipitas before joining US 101 and I-280 at San Jose.

Interstate 780 is less than seven miles long and joins I-80 in Vallejo with I-680 in Benecia north of the Carquinez Strait. The 45 miles of Interstate 880 begin in Oakland where it heads south from its intersection of I-80 and I-580. I-880 runs almost parallel to the west of I-580 until San Leandro where it turns south heading through Hayward, Newark and Fremont. It joins I-280 in San Jose and becomes SR 17. Interstate 980 has a journey of just over two miles before joining I-580 and State Route 24 to I-880 in Oakland.

The east-west route of Interstate 238, which is just over two miles long, joins I-580 and I-880 near San Leandro. The nearly 13 miles of Interstate 205 joins I-580 to I-5 near Tracy. West of Sacramento, Interstate 505 leaves I-5 and travels 33 miles south to join I-80 at Vacaville.

Even though a GPS will serve as a guide through the maze of auxiliary interstates in the San Francisco-Oakland area, drivers would be wise to consult a map to have a working knowledge of the layout of these highways before traveling in the area.
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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On the Road: Using a Car Duster

This was the one thing I forgot to put in the car trunk on my last trip. I had the car duster in the garage ready to go, but I forgot to pack it and I really missed it. A lot of pine trees were on the property where I stayed on my vacation and my car was coated in yellow pollen every day. Using a car duster solved that problem in the past and saved me from having to wash my car as often. My car looked terrible without it!!

I did not have the duster for my first couple trips to California. I always found myself thinking that I would love to just dust off the car...duh!!! The car was not really dirty, just dusty. Needless to say, the duster has been added to my packing list, so I will not forget again. I have never tried to use a Swiffer on the car, but I suppose it would work as well on a limited basis. However, I doubt it is up to the task of dusting off an entire car.  The car duster does not take up much room, so packing it is not a problem and having it to clean the car saves money on car washes.

This year I did not forget to pack this handy device. California is suffering the greatest drought of its history and dust has been everywhere. The water situation is also an issue, so I feel that dusting off the car helps to conserve water and also helps me keep the car clean. I used that device every day!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Alabama and Arkansas

English: Interstate 359 south at Interstates 2...
English: Interstate 359 south at Interstates 20/59 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Alabama has four auxiliary highways. Two are for Interstate 59 and two are for Interstate 65. In Tuscaloosa Interstate 359 leaves Interstates 20 and 59 at Exit 71. This road runs north for 2.3 miles. The next interstate is Interstate 459 which is located east of Birmingham. This highway leaves Interstate 59 at Exit 137 and travels southwest for 32 miles. It joins Interstates 20 and 59 at Exit 106.

The first auxiliary for Interstate 65 is in Mobile. Interstate 165 travels for just under five miles from I-65 at Whistler to just short of I-10. Interstate 565 journeys for 34 miles from Interstate 65 outside Decatur to east of Huntsville.

Arkansas also has five auxiliary interstates. Three are for Interstate 30 and two are for Interstate 40. Interstate 430 travels on the western side of Little Rock for just under 13 miles. It joins Interstate 40 at Exit 147 to Interstate 30 at Exit 129. Joining Little Rock to Pine Bluff is Interstate 530, which has a length of almost 47 miles. These two auxiliary interstates are joined by another highway. Interstate 630 is an east-west road of 7.4 miles that connects those two north-south interstates.

With a length of almost ten miles, Interstate 440 leaves Interstate 40 outside Little Rock at Exit 159 and travels to I-530 at Exit 138. Finally, Interstate 540 begins near Rogers in the northwestern corner of the state and travels south through Fort Smith for almost 81 miles. Near the Oklahoma state line, this road loses its interstate status.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

On the Road: Rush Hour while Traveling

Whether I am entering the area of a major city in the evening or leaving the city in the morning, I am always aware of the rush hour traffic patterns and base my arrival or departure times on them. Since rush hour might begin earlier and end later than I anticipate, I check ahead of time to see if that information is available online.

I also take rush hour patterns into consideration when I am shopping or sightseeing in a major city. Sitting in traffic for a long period of time can ruin the day, especially if it was not necessary. One time I went to visit my cousin who lived about twenty miles away from my location in Los Angeles. When I started to return to the hotel, I thought I would have no problems since it was 3:15 in the afternoon. It took me two hours to get back to the hotel!! I will not let that happen again.

Rush hours in major cities can run from 3:00 to 7:00 in the evening. Sometimes if I am close to rush hour time, I will continue shopping or sightseeing until the traffic clears a bit. Beach areas also produce heavy traffic, so keep that in mind on the weekends. In Los Angeles checking the SigAlert before traveling in the city is a good idea. I am always familiar with the alternate routes I can take for any trip. I might still encounter traffic, but at least I will feel like I am making some progress. I just make make the alternate route is in a safe neighborhood.

(Photo taken in 2012)
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Friday, May 9, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Auxiliary Interstates in Hawaii, Idaho, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia

The end of Utah State Route 186 at a junction ...
The end of Utah State Route 186 at a junction of Interstate 80 and Interstate 215, with the Wasatch Mountains in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstates with three digit numbers are known as auxiliary interstates. These highways can be classified as one of three types. Spurs connect to the main interstate at one end. Bypasses are highways that connect at both ends to the interstate. The last type is the beltway which forms a circle around a large city. This highway intersects the interstate at two points of the circle.

Some states such as Alaska, Arizona and North Dakota do not have any auxiliary interstates. Six states have only one each. In the state of Hawaii  H201 is a road of just over four miles which provides an additional route from Halawa Heights to Honolulu. Interstate 84 in Idaho has an auxiliary route of 3.62 miles in Boise. Interstate 184 takes travelers to the northern section of Boise and Garden City. Utah has one auxiliary for Interstate 15. For a circle of 29 miles, Interstate 215 provides a route to the suburbs of Salt Lake City. In Wyoming the one mile of Interstate 180 connects I-80 with Business I-80 in Cheyenne.

Interstate 189 is a very short route connected to Interstate 89 in Vermont. This highway  of 1.49 miles joins I-89 to Route 7 outside South Burlington. In West Virginia Interstate 470 travels for 6.69 miles. This road departs from Interstate 70 at Exit 5A and travels east across the Ohio River into the state of Ohio.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Travel Tales: Visiting Hollywood Cemeteries

Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills
Many vacationers who come to the Los Angeles area visit the cemeteries to look for celebrity graves. I have visited three of the local cemeteries, so I will give as much of an overview of them as I can. One important thing to realize when looking for celebrity graves is that cemetery personnel will not tell anyone where particular people are buried. Do not waste time asking about this. However, this information is available online, so it is important to research each cemetery before visiting it.

Forest Lawn has several locations in the area. One was within walking distance of where I was staying one year, so I would walk around the property once a month for exercise. Each Forest Lawn is unique in its personality and the one at Hollywood Hills has many exhibits and monuments dedicated to American History. A replica of Boston's Old North Church is located on the grounds. Hollywood legends such as Stan Laurel, Bette Davis and Liberace are buried here.

Forest Lawn Glendale

Another Forest Lawn is located in Glendale on a beautiful property which has amazing views of the San Gabriel Mountains. Walt Disney and Jimmy Stewart are buried here, but they are not the main attraction. In the Great Mausoleum are buried Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. These graves are in a guarded section that is not open to the public. One time I was there and I noticed some people just sitting on the lawn and staring. I did not know why they were in deep meditation. Later when I came back to the area, they were gone, but I noticed a shrine to Michael Jackson. To find this, go to the exhibit for The Last Supper mosaic. When leaving the entrance to that building, notice the arch to the right and walk under it. Keep going with the building on your left. When you see a patio-type area, you will notice candles and flowers. He is inside that building which is locked at all times. Only family can visit the grave.

The last cemetery is Westwood Village Memorial Park which is located by UCLA. This place is difficult to find since it is surrounded by tall buildings. Visitors think they are driving into a parking deck and have to turn right just before the deck to enter the property. Westwood is smaller than Forest Lawn, but its size makes it easy to walk around the property. Traffic in the area can be a problem at some times, so avoid visiting near rush hour. One thing I like about this cemetery is the sense of humor displayed on some of the gravestones. For example, Billy Wilder's says, "I'm a writer but then nobody's perfect." Rodney Dangerfield's warns, "There goes the neighborhood." My favorite one is Merv Griffin's which states, "I will not be right back after this message."

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Your Favorite Interstate Exits: I-99 in Pennsylvania

Interstate 99 excavation in 2002, looking sout...
Interstate 99 excavation in 2002, looking south from Julian toward Port Matilda on Bald Eagle Mountain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstate 99 is the last of the double-digit interstates although it is really an intrastate. I-99 travels 86 miles in the state of Pennsylvania linking the cities of Bellefonte, State College, Altoona and Bedford. Some of the attractions located near this interstate include the Boal Mansion Museum, Bald Eagle Mountain, Fort Roberdeau, Raystown Lake, the Appalachian Mountains and Penn's Cave. I-99 actually goes against the interstate grid plan because it is located east of I-79, but west of I-81.

Please share with other drivers your experiences as to which exits are best for single travelers or anyone for that matter. Reasons for the choice may include the safety of the surrounding area, the availability of good hotels and restaurants or proximity to the interstate. Please make sure to give the exit number or a description of the location. For example, when I discuss I-40, I would recommend Exit 145 in Oklahoma City. Many hotels and restaurants were located at this exit and I felt safe in the area. This exit was very convenient for easily continuing west without the hassle of dealing with early morning rush hour traffic.

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