Unknown Roads

Driving in Los Angeles is a daunting task. At any time of day, you are liable to run into enough traffic to make you want to run your car off the road or smash yourself into the vehicle in front of you. Nevertheless, Los Angeles is great. However, it is easy to forget this when you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the 405 or the 91, with the summer sun beating down on you at 100 degrees. In rush hour, a 15 minute drive can take you over an hour. All it took me was one day on the 91, in which I calculated my speed – a mere 6 miles per hour – to realize that I needed a way out. I had inched along for one two many miles, and I needed a way around the traffic or I was going to go insane. I was convinced of that, so for my safety, and the safety of the other drivers I exited the freeway into Anaheim Hills.

It had already been a long day. It was probably nearing seven o’clock, and I was headed to my house in Upland from Orange County. I had taken the 55 – on which the traffic was quite tolerable – but I had only traveled on the 91 for a short time before realizing that I couldn’t sit on the freeway any longer. I was headed for the 71, so I figured that it would be a simple task of making my way through Yorba Linda to the Chino Hills to find my way to the expressway which would get me back on track to the foothills of Mt. Baldy. However, I soon found out that the task at hand was not as easy as i had made it out to be. There is no way through. I tried many ways, and I was turned away every time. As darkness began to fall, I decided that I didn’t want to be in unknown territory. So I got myself back on the 91 and slowly -very very slowly, but surely made my way home.

I was determined, however, to find a way through the hills. Being a student of Los Angeles, I pulled out my map that night and found a road that might be of some assistance: the 142. The next time I was in the same predicament, I exited the 91, and found my way to the 142. It was an eye-opening experience. The only time I had seen roads that resembled this one was on my way to the mountains or in the Central Valley going to San Francisco. There was green space, ranches, old homes, small villages. It looked like the residents along the road were trapped in time – maybe in the 1950’s. It seemed like a nice place to live – definitely a culture different from the rest of the L.A. region.

As I studied my map that night, I also made another useful discover: toll roads. I found that the 261 and the 241 would be quite useful to me as they ran from the 91 all the way into Irvine. They would serve as a substitute for the 91, the 55, and the 5 on commutes. The first time I used the toll roads, they worked beautifully. I lifted my head towards the heavens and gave thanks to God for their creation. However, my reverence for them faded when I realized how much I would be paying monthly to save on my commute time. This expense was only made worse by a rate hike totaling 75 cents per commute just a couple months later. By traveling these pay-per-ride roads, I learned that they even have a website: thetollroads.com. But even if you become a monthly member, you do not save much at all. And with the price of gas being so high, who, in their right mind, would spend any extra money on transportation? TheTollRoads.com must be one of the largest money makers on the web – convincing innocent motorist to throw away money every day on roads that the state should already have tax money for.

In addition, I learned that the toll roads are not immune to traffic. When leaving Irvine for the first time on the toll roads, the experience was indescribable. I zoomed all the way to the 91, then jumped on the 71 to the 60, and I was home in 45 minutes. However, I had worked late that night, so I did not run into the usual rush hour traffic. The first time I tried the toll road during a rush hour evening – I received a rude awakening – you can’t even pay to get rid of the traffic. The line for the 91 East on-ramp was backed up for miles – so much so that I could not even wait. The traffic sat like a parking lot, as I drove by in disbelief. I realized that during rush hour, the toll roads would not save me time, nor would they reduce my traffic-induced stress levels.