Friday, March 19, 2010

LA avoidance technique

We are at a Wal-Mart in Palmdale, California (map), the heart of the Antelope Valley.

When traveling west on I-10, if you ask the GPS to route you anywhere in northern California, it will take you right through Los Angeles. That's because the entire route will stay on the Interstate that way, and, to the GPS, the Interstate is always faster. The GPS has never had to drive in LA.

In practice, unless you are passing through at, say, 3am, the chances are very good that one or more of the Interstate routes through LA will be stopped dead, or at least at a slow crawl. It can take hours to go a couple dozen miles. Unless we have a reason to stop somewhere in the area (and we often do), we prefer to avoid it entirely.

The canonical way to do this from I-10 west to I-5 north is to take 210 around San Bernardino, briefly get on I-15 north to the Cajon Pass, then take California 138 west, which winds its way through the Antelope Valley and connects to I-5 just south of the infamous "Grapevine." It's only a few miles longer, is more scenic, and is almost always faster. There is an even more scenic and somewhat shorter bypass to the two straight (north then west) legs of 138, Elizabeth Lake Road, but it bypasses Palmdale and we needed a place to stop for the night.

The route is very familiar to us, having done it multiple times in the bus, as well as on our big touring motorcycles back when that was our main mode of travel. Nevertheless, it is a part of California that few ever see.

In a few minutes we will continue west on 138 to I-5 at Gorman.

Photo by hall.chris25, used under a creative commons license.

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