Before I get too lost in the original point of this post, I want to point out, I've completed #4 on my list. :) A little background, if you will:
About a year and a half ago I was getting in my car to start my 25 mile commute home. I turned my car on and realized I had done the unthinkable when my gas light popped on...I had commuted to work without getting gas first!! Why is this such a big deal, you ask? Well, because I work in Columbia, MD, a suburb between Baltimore and DC where gas is anywhere from $0.30-$0.50 MORE EXPENSIVE per gallon than it is at home. Call me a cheapskate, but I happen to enjoy the fact that I live off the street with the cheapest gas in Baltimore City.
Anyway, I'm getting off track.
I grumpily pulled into the gas station and filled up with JUST ENOUGH to get me home and not a penny more. ;) In my grumpy state I happened to post to my Facebook how ridiculous it was that Columbia would charge me $3.50/gallon for gas that I could get at $3.10/gallon for at home.
INSTANTANEOUSLY my status started blowing up with updates from friends on the West Coast:
"You think that's bad? Come out to LA!"
"We're pushing $4/gallon here, quit your whining!"
"$3 per gallon for gas? That's unheard of in San Diego!!"
"We've been hovering around $4 for months, don't complain!"
You get the point. :)
When I got home I realized, "Wow, Sadira and I have an awful lot of friends over in California!" And they were all friends that I'd LOVE to visit. So of course...that sparked the idea...
Wouldn't it be fun to plan a California road trip??? And drive the coastal highway from San Diego to San Francisco that everyone says is such a beautiful route?!
Sidenote: Does anyone else find it ironic that the idea for a California driving trip came from a status bitching about the cost of gas? Particularly the high cost of gas in CALIFORNIA? Ahhhhh, irony, how I love you so!
So I started planning this amazing trip. Sadira and I would drive from San Diego to San Francisco with stops along the way. We'd meet up with our friends, crash at a few of their houses as needed, and take a ton of pictures.
Some thought I was crazy for making this trip alone with my 3 year old. To them, I say, well then you've clearly never met my 3 year old. She was born to travel!
Originally the plan was to make this trip last spring, but I ended up having to postpone it. After looking at the calendar, catching a deal with airfare, and coordinating with friends, things started to fall in place.
Then, of course, once I added it to My 30 Before 30 list, it HAD to be done!
Anyway, so that's the background of how this trip came to be. I'm still in the process of un-packing (and re-packing for a quick jaunt to CT this weekend!) and downloading pictures from our trip, so there will be more posts in the future detailing our trip, but for now I want to write about something I noticed while in California. A phenomenon that exists on the West Coast. A paralyzing fear that many Californians live with daily....
...and that is the fear of traffic.
If only I had a dollar for every time I heard the word "traffic!" My trip would've paid for itself! Let me preface this by saying...I understand the frustration of traffic, believe me I do. Baltimore traffic at rush hour is no fun. DC traffic is worse. HOURS of my life have been wasted sitting on 695 and 495. It's infuriating and stifling, I totally get it.
Last August my friend Kerri and I took our children to a Yo Gabba Gabba Live show in McLean, VA (DC suburb). On the way home we got stuck in traffic. And not just any traffic...DC traffic. It took us about 2.5 hours to go less than 5 miles. LESS THAN 5 miles. And that was BEFORE our 45 minute drive up 95. With 2 cranky toddlers in tow. It sucked, but we survived. I get it.
A few months ago there was a snowstorm in Baltimore and Interstate 83 (which cuts straight up the middle of the City) was closed. People who had left work at 5pm were still stuck on the road in the wee hours of the morning. And while that certainly isn't NORMAL traffic around here, it happens.
At my previous job I worked in Towson, MD. I lived in East Baltimore City, roughly 6 miles from my office. I had to take the Beltway to get to work, just like every other person who lives in Baltimore. My commute to work was 35 minutes. 35 minutes to go SIX miles. That was every morning of my life for 3 years.
Now I worked 25 miles from home. My commute is still 35 minutes. I commute against the traffic now. :)
Points to say, I understand having a general dislike of traffic. It's inconvenient. It's annoying. It's a time waster.
I had heard that nothing in the country compares to LA traffic, however, so I went in with the understanding that this traffic is nasty. SUPER inconvenient.
What I didn't know is that people literally plan their days, their LIVES around this traffic.
It started several days before we got to California. My dear friend Alix, who lives in LA, started texting me about our hotel, where it was located, etc.:
"Uh oh. That's gonna take you forever with the traffic. I think you're underestimating how long it's going to take you to get there from the hotel. You're going to be stuck in traffic for awhile. It'll take approximately three days to get to your hotel from the airport. This is an emergency. Don't go directly there from the airport. In fact, don't drive anywhere in the city between 3pm-7pm. It's just not worth the traffic. You'll be stuck there for days...weeks even."
Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating, but it was something along those lines. ;)
(For the record, I made it to my hotel. Per her advice, I didn't drive there til later in the evening, but I did make it nonetheless).
The next day she had gotten off of work early and we were playing with Sadie on the Santa Monica pier. We were making plans for later that evening with another one of my friends, and we also wanted to visit the Grammy museum, which was downtown.
Alix said, "We need to leave no later than 3pm. No later. Any later, and we'll be stuck in traffic."
We didn't leave until closer til 4pm...I started to get nervous...
We had to take two cars to drive downtown, and I was following Alix. Before we left she gathered us up like a mini militia. We listened carefully for our orders:
"Now you're going to follow us, and I know you have your GPS and the address, but traffic could get ugly. REALLY ugly. If that happens, we're getting off at Le Brea, okay?"
"Okay," I answered.
"Where will we get off?"
"Le Brea," I replied obediently.
Cue the sound of soldiers marching, and onward we went.
(The traffic really wasn't bad at all.)
Later that night we were sitting at restaurant #2 waiting for our table at restaurant #1 to open up, when I got texts from my friends Bonnie and Andre that they were (separately) both stuck in traffic and running a little behind.
Lisa asked me where they were coming from. I told her where they told me they were and she shook her head, with a look on her face like....like, you know the look people give you when you tell them that your dog just died? That consolation face with the head shaking back and forth? That's what Lisa did. Followed by a, "man, that sucks...they're gonna be stuck for a bit...damn traffic. Sucks."
(They were both there within about 15-20 minutes.)
"Maybe it's just an 'LA thing,'" I thought to myself...
Next day after I arrived at my friend Jess's house, one of the first things she said was, "so how bad was the traffic?"
There we go again with that traffic!
Another day later I was out with my friend Steph who lives in Carlsbad, and we got the bright idea to drive down to the border and spy on Tijuana. On the way back, she glanced at the clock, and the red brake lights in front of us, "Uh oh," she said, "maybe this wasn't such a good idea...I've never come up this way during rush hour before..the traffic might get horrible..."
"It's okay," I said, "I'm not worried."
Steph was insistent, "It can get BAD. I've seen lane after lane after lane just GRIDLOCKED before...really bad..." she looked concerned.
(Again, we made it home in time for dinner. All's well that ends well.)
A few days later we were near the end of our adventure, spending time with my friend Lisa and making plans to drive into San Francisco (she lives in a suburb of the Bay area). I was trying to coordinate plans with my friend Terra who lives about 30 minutes outside of the city. I was asking Lisa when she expected we'd arrive in the city, so I could tell Terra when to meet us.
Lisa answered, "Well, it normally take about an hour, but with traffic at 9am, I don't know...that time of the morning there still could be some residual traffic from morning rush...it could take an hour an a half, probably more like two...maybe more. I've heard of it taking three hours before. Traffic is just awful."
(There it is again..the traffic. We made it in an hour an a half.)
I was starting to think "traffic" was a dirty word in California.
So fast forward a week, and now here I am home back in Baltimore. In true crazy Baltimore weather form, it snowed 6 inches the night before we left for California, was apparently beautiful for a few days and in the 60s while we we gone, and now it's raining buckets. This morning when I woke up and turned on the news this is what I heard:
"It's been pouring all night and will be for most the morning and into the daytime hours. Take caution out there as the roads are treacherous and flash flood warnings may be soon in effect...."
When I got to work everyone was grumbling about the rain:
"I was slipping all over the place!"
"Visibility is awful this morning..."
"It's supposed to keep up for several days!"
"Oh this weather's just awful."
That's when I realized...East Coasters complain about the weather ad nauseum. West Coasters really can't complain about their weather, so they complain about the next closest annoyance---traffic. It's the same thing...the complaining, the paranoia, the FEAR OF LEAVING THEIR HOMES.
Just as I understand the traffic thing, I understand the weather thing...yes, it's raining now, but soon people will be complaining about the unbearable spring pollen count. Then it will be the stifling humidity. Everyone generally likes fall, but it doesn't last long enough around here, and before you know it the complaints about the snow will start.
(And that's where I will chime in, because I do LOATHE snowstorms. I love a little snow here or there, but after last year's cumulative 65 inches of snow in two weeks, and being snowbound in the house WITH A TODDLER BY MYSELF for 9 days straight, I just can't handle the big storms).
And so, West Coasters, I'll say this: your traffic may suck, but at least you're usually stuck in beautiful 75 degree weather most of the time! Like my friend Andre says, "it's the sunshine tax,"...pay your dues. ;) Take a hint from the Soul Kid song (thanks Alix for the mix CD ;) ):
"If ya stuck in rush hour traffic
Out on the 101
Just blaze up and roll the top down
Just blaze up and roll the top down
'Neath that California sun
Oh let those police helicopters
Shine the spotlights down on me
And I thank my lucky stars
There's no place else I'd rather be."
~We Got More Bounce in California