Countryside of LA

Diary of my first hours on a 2012 trip to the usa

/ usa, california, la

After coming back from San Diego I felt I needed a little solitude and "getting away". After all, this is the west and so far all I've seen is urban life, so I wanted to experience this wide open space the USA should be. I got into my car and drove off, the goals were Mentryville and Vasquez rocks, just north-east of L.A.

Getting lost

I had my GPS navigation unit attached to the windshield, which turned out to be a bad idea, as the system overheated just as I entered a small village in the search of a doctor to look at some stitches that required a checkup. I got a bit lost in a tiny, tiny little town. When asking for directions, I heard a lot about stop signs and then left and then stop sign and then is a reminder of how important stop signs are in the USA. You take em seriously. You stop, no matter when and where, if there is one in front of you and you use them as landmarks when giving and receiving directions. But being used to driving with the help of GPS, suddenly being asked to use my brain and count stop signs induced a bit of a small panic.

Anyhow, after the GPS came back from the dead it wanted to route me on a non-existing route to Mentryville. I cut that ghost town of my list and went straight for the Vasquez rocks.

Vasquez Rocks

The rocks are a result of the San Andreas Fault, they protrude from the soil in an interesting, steep angle. Quite a lot of movies have shot scenes there, including The Flinstones, Star Trek, Wild Wild West, Paul and others. They look like they don't belong to the landscape and thus make for a good landmark. This quality was also the reason for a bandit named "Vasquez" to make them his hideout.

Oil pumps

After climbing in the hot sun and getting the shots I sought I started my way back. On the way I saw those oil-pumps from the movies. I wanted to take pictures and drove onto an oil-field, looking to ask the manager for permission to take photos, but no one answered my calls into the empty managing trailer.

I drove around and took a couple of shots, ignoring the warnings about dangerous gases and danger of being there in general. Then I lit up a cigarette and threw it to a pump, hoping for fireworks, but nothing happened. In my head it was so easy.

So that's why people hate LA traffic

On the way back , I found myself immersed in heavy LA traffic. I nearly wasn't able to take my exit. The movies do not exaggerate the traffic of LA and horrible humans on its roads (Edit 2018: Making that opening scene of La La Land all the more epic).

One exit before mine was blocked by cops. Now that was odd. Add this time I should probably admit the state of driving I was in in 2012. I haven't had a car since 2007. I barely drove a car back home in Germany. So every interaction on, with and in a car was making me a bit panicky. Now throw me into the driver's seat in one of the busiest metropolis of the planet, with horrible rush-hour traffic. Add to that the fresh memory of a GPS giving in due to heat and you might have an idea the state of shiver I was in when seeing circling police helicopter, flashing lights and patrol cars blocking an exit. I learned later that the exit was blocked because a high-speed chase just ended there. A guy who shot someone tried to escape and was stopped there at gunpoint, then decided not to surrender, which in turned made the officers decide that a bullet through his head might be the easiest way out. So they shot him:

Officers saw a man fleeing the scene and chased his vehicle through rush-hour traffic on to a freeway. The driver then lost control of the car on a freeway off-ramp. Police surrounded the vehicle but the man allegedly brandished an object, possibly a gun, as he got out of the car and at least seven officers opened fire, police said.

Around 3 miles from where I was staying. And I wondered why the helicopter was circling. Just another day in L.A.

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