Chronicles of a Road Trip

This post was supposed to be made a long time ago. Random thoughts…

1. In the Central Valley, you drive fast to do one thing: avoid the so-called truck-pass-truck phenomenon. This phenomenon will delay you by several minutes, at least. And it’ll drive you nuts. You can avoid the truck-pass-truck by not leaving a hole between you and the car in front of you. While coming back, a car cut in front of me and subsequently left a huge hole. You can guess what happened next…

2. The San Luis Reservoir area is amazing in the mid-afternoon during Spring. Yellow hills work very well with fresh blue water since the two colors are complementary. Photography location in the future!

3. 101 is much more heavily trafficked between 85 and Gilroy than I used to remember it. I still remember when it was four lanes total between 85 and Cochrane… omg.

4. Gilroy is much more built up than I used to remember it. It’ll become a very large population center after that high-speed rail thing is completed.

5. The fast lane on 405 over Sepulveda Pass is a nightmare. No margin for error, or you hit the center divider. Yeah I know they’re trying to widen/construct a carpool lane, but please leave at least SOME shoulder in the left lane.

6. CHP loves to camp out on 405 in the San Fernando Valley. EVERY trip I take that portion of the 405, I see some instance of a police trooper there. They must realize that drivers are going to speed up in glee after passing through the dreaded Sepulveda Pass choke point.

7. Grapevine never ceases to amaze me.

8. If you’re driving under 80 in the fast lane – especially in the rural portions of I-5 – get the f*** out of the way.

9. This is from an earlier driving experience – but I have some attachment to the hills right before 152. I call them the “Firebaugh Hills” – named after the Ness Ave/Firebaugh exit. Sometimes there are cows on the hills, which are straddled by transmission lines. I dunno, I like that stuff.

10. After a decade, why is the 92-880 interchange STILL under work? Also, when is the 880 between the OAK Airport exit and Downtown gonna get fixed? As much as I love the Bay Area, it just doesn’t know how to fix its roads timely.

(As an aside, 880 has a lot of troubles. The section between 980 and the MacArthur Maze has been rebuilt at least twice, once due to the Loma Prieta quake and once due to a tanker fire. The section between 237 and 101 is a six-lane traffic nightmare. The 880-101 interchange NEEDS to be upgraded – that is as terrible as cloverleafs come, and it’s not exactly a quiet interchange. Finally, San Jose roadbuilders must’ve been lazy, because they skip out on a lot of interchanges… for instance, 880 does not connect to 87, or Paseo Padre Pkwy, for some odd, inexplicable reason. Otherwise, 880 between OAK and 237 is one of my favorite drives ^_^)

11. Driving at night (~10 PM and after), when there are no cars around you, is an amazing experience.

12. ************* at Caltrans for their “road work” on I-5… the lane closures clogged up traffic for over 10 miles. Twice. And all the machines were f***** idle!

13. I regret not letting my dad drive so I could take a photo of the long line of lights – lights of cars – after sunset. The aforementioned road worked led to one of the cool scenes; the Grapevine (as the cars ascend into the mountains) is the second.

14. Bottlenecks are intriguing, and I had a conversation with Kawai about this on FB. But what led me to think about it was the terrible terrible clusterf*** of 5/405/210/14 near Santa Clarita*. My dad almost got into an accident there on a previous drive, and this time, I was careful to stay on one lane. Again the area was dangerous to navigate, right after the fast-moving 405 merged with the 5, traffic backed up (within seconds). It turns out there was a stalled car this time, but the point is, that area is bad. Three freeways merging into one, which splits off into two, while you’re climbing mountains, with all types of truck bypasses and what-not = no bueno. Okay, it’s nothing compared to the East LA Maze, but I don’t do the East LA thing often. The Kellogg Interchange doesn’t involve as much traffic (or as many freeways), and the Orange Crush has more lanes and HOV to dampen bottlenecking effects.

15. I am considering developing a statistical methodology of passing cars. I may post something about this later, but the gist of it is, if you’re in the fast lane and you want to travel fast, don’t pass unless the guy in front of you’s being a b****. Statistically, you are much more likely to encounter a slower car in the 2nd/3rd/etc. lanes because the mean speed in those lanes is slower, and the SD of speeds in those lanes is greater. In fact, you can think of traffic flow [in each lane, or taking the freeway as a whole] as a car-speed distribution. As traffic increases, the distribution tightens up and shifts left (slower). As traffic decreases, you expect the distribution to loosen and the mean speed to increase. I estimate that, on an average freeway in low-traffic situations, the mean ends up being 5-10 mph ahead of the speed limit; the SD is probably around 10 mph. Anyhow, how you understand and exploit that speed distribution might save a lot of time – while reducing danger – in passing situations, where you navigate around slow cars. I would write more but I’m tired and this post is getting wayyy too long.

16. A thought gathered from a previous trip and this one. From personal experience, good places to fill up gas in the Central Valley: Santa Nella (SR 33 north of 152 jct) Kettleman City (SR 41), Lost Hills (SR 46), Buttonwillow (SR 58), Laval Rd. Bad places: Jane Rd; the gas station is one mile off the freeway and it costs 2x more than anywhere else.

I may edit this to add more as I remember epiphanies…

*Referring to northbound. Southbound is not as bad since you have a net divergence of traffic.

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