Leaving Los Angeles

Los Angeles provided the much-needed change of scenery after 1½ lonely months in San Francisco.

If you ask the average American what they believe the differences are between L.A. and S.F., they would offer some of the following:

  • LA = Hollywood sign. SF = Golden Gate Bridge.
  • LA = surfers and celebrities. SF = hippies and treehuggers.
  • LA = Lambos and Ferraris. SF = Prius.

So imagine my surprise when I see this:

A REAL gas station
A REAL gas station

There must be more Hummer limos here than anywhere else in the world, and I see this?

Let it be said that this is a true gas station, and then all other “gas stations” really are petrol stations. Sure, gas is short for gasoline, but in the event that hydrogen gas fueling stations become more commonplace, someone needs to start figuring out the new terms.

People in Southern California sure do love their cars. They love looking at cars, pimping out their cars, and driving their cars. You won’t find more passionate drivers than those who take their rides autocrossing.

Autocross track
Autocross “track.”

No one could have asked for a better day for showing off their mad skillz. In a parking lot set up with a traffic cone-lined course, drivers tested their reflexes and driving know-how, and their cars’ maneuverability. There were seven Scion FR-S’s (the latest, hottest sports car), a couple of Corvettes, a smattering of other sports cars and even family cars out there trying to complete the course in an short a time as possible – we’re talking under a minute, with the soccer mom cars clocking in 70-plus.

While there may have been enough carbon monoxide produced in that day to burn a new hole in the atmosphere, the air was also filled with camaraderie. It was amazing to be around people with such passion for what they do. They weren’t jumping up and down and cheering, neither were they fiercely competitive. Everyone there (with the exception of people like myself who just wanted to ride shotgun) were exchanging advice and ideas about cars and driving, gamely executing their duties picking up cones under the scorching sun, and admiring other cars. Anyone could ask for a ride or driving tips or a driving coach. I’m not into cars that much, but I’m into people and those people were cool.

Now THIS is Southern California
Now THIS is Southern California

Tropical islands don’t ever seem to have water and sky the same shade of blue as Los Angeles.

This is the Southern California beach, a hop, skip and jump away from Hermosa Beach and Redondo Pier with the fabulous seafood. This is Los Angeles in November, when just about everyone else north of the city is freezing and in their sweaters and coats.

This is the entrance of the infamous Runyon Canyon Park, go-to hiking and workout site for most people living downtown, including celebrities. (Just visit PopSugar and see the thousands of pictures of celebs like Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel hiking and walking their dogs there.)

Runyon Canyon
Runyon Canyon

Despite its location and it being a Sunday, there weren’t that many people there. The top of the hill offered sweeping views, surprising me with this other dimension of the city.

Los Angeles is a polluted, over-exposed, clichéd, troubled metropolis, but from the top of the hill in Runyon Canyon Park, the City of Angels is beautiful.

Gorgeous sunset over downtown Los Angeles
Gorgeous sunset over downtown Los Angeles

Oh, and this:

Well, hello there, Hollywood sign!
Well, hello there, Hollywood sign!

In addition to being the epicenter of celebrity everything and film, it is also the home of the recently retired space shuttle Endeavour. It is housed at the California Science Center, and I got to witness its awesome glory:

Grandma, what a big nose you have
Grandma, what a big nose you have

I must have circled the craft three or four times. Can you believe that Man made this?Man managed to create a vessel that can fly and take us into air-less space! It’s not like building a boat, where if it fails we just fall into the water and swim to shore. Construction of a vessel that was able to take us out of the atmosphere and into another is an awe-inspiring accomplishment.

Epic rocket launchers
Epic rocket launchers

The shuttle is surprisingly small. It has carried a crew of seven and there are, from the documentaries I’ve seen over the years, several chambers from sleep, experiments, etc.

Want to be an astronaut?
The claustrophobic need not apply.

Nevertheless, it is a wondrous sight to behold. A little big piece of history sits right here in a plain-looking hangar (secured by earthquake-proof structural supports, of course), its new mission to inspire future generations to look to the stars…

Space shuttle Endeavour
Space shuttle Endeavour

…which sure beats staring at computer screens all damned day.

Los Angeles is the kind of place you go to get an energy boost. After living comfortably in laid-back San Francisco, there’s nothing like beaches and the buzz of a city that rivals New York City’s, to reawaken the travel bug.

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