Driving in Southern California

Driving during sunsetI drive forever to get to work. Ok, so that may be an exaggeration, but I definitely drive around 80 miles round-trip. Everyday. And because I work on location after school, I miss morning traffic completely and the worst of the afternoon rush. But still, it’s about 2 hours each day, unless the traffic gods are particularly spiteful or gracious.

The traffic becomes more erratic during the summer. I blame the tourists, since my route overlaps the fastest way to travel the 6 hour(ish) drive from Las Vegas, NV to the Pacific Ocean.

While traffic does steal a part of my soul, and there are more beautiful places to drive, I find the time peaceful. I cannot control the number of cars on the road, or the driving style/ability of others behind the wheel, so I decided to respond with patience to the road conditions. (Usually, though I have been known to yell at other drivers in my car to release my displeasure with their actions.) And driving in the summer always reminds me of the road/camping trips my family took when I was growing up. And though I don’t get to end up someplace beautiful like the Grand Canyon, or Zion, or Yellowstone, or Yosemite, or Sequoia, or Jackson Hole, I vicariously live through my imaginings of the adventures my fellow travelers are experiencing.  And I play the pastime of all road trips – the license plate game.Because everyone travels the same road, and I see lots of license plates. So this summer, I started keeping track of who’s slo…sharing the freeways. It started when I saw both Alaska and Hawaii on the road within a 20 minute time-span, and figured since I’d already seen the 2 most difficult to find, it would be a fun challenge. I didn’t want it to be easy (I get really bored in traffic), so the rules (as of this moment) for my game are:

1.) I have to be driving. 2.)The other car has to be moving. 3.) No semis or moving vans (like UHauls).

It’s only been 2 weeks, but already I’ve seen: Alaska, Hawaii, New Jersey (all on the same day!), Arizona (about a 10 times already, but I would’ve bet on a higher number), Nevada (again, fewer than I anticipated), Texas, Washington, Missouri, Vermont, Kansas, Oregon, Colorado, Mississippi, Florida, Idaho, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania (all in a row, it was rather odd), Georgia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Montana.

I’ve also seen several license plates from Mexico, one was definitely from Baja, but since the states redesigned their plates, it’s difficult for me to identify the specific states. And there was 1 plate that I got close enough to when I passed it to see that it was from beautiful British Columbia, Canada.

There’s no way for me to talk to the occupants of each car to see what they’re planning, hoping for, afraid of. Because sheet-metal, glass, asphalt, and at least 15mph separate us, I can never know with any kind of certainty what the other drivers’ stories are. And I think the fact that these out-of-state-plates are so obviously not from around here that I feel more connected with them. Because, on some level, the drivers are in need of some guidance (for the most part, and of course not always, but I find myself wishing for some assistance when I am the out-of-state-plate), I think of what I would like for the drivers I pass to know.

I wish sometimes to be able to explain to the person from Oregon that we drive at least 75mph in the fast lane here, or tell the person from Missouri that the traffic really won’t get any better because there’s no accident to get around and darting in and out will only cause frustration for everyone on the road. And I wish I could assure the people from Pennsylvania that the ocean really will appear if they stay on the 55 South long enough.

Because traveling is risky, and I wish I could at least offer some assistance along the way. I know the stories Southern California has surrounding it, and some of them are justified, but most of them are (intentionally) created mystique often used to dissuade visitors. Despite my rushing around, inadvertently worrying you, I do want to you to enjoy your time visiting my home. If we could actually talk, I would love to ask you my questions and answer yours.

I just have to get to work, too.

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