Ridgecrest, CA to the Hertz in LAX to the Hollywood District of Los Angeles, CA
18.03.2016 - 19.03.2016
After about four hours of sleep, I still wasn't quite recovered from the endless late nights and early mornings that made up the first half of the trip. However, for once it didn't seem like lack of sleep would be an issue, since today's itinerary was a bit different than our usual hours of scenic drives. Tomorrow morning, Tian and I will part ways so she can take a solo road trip along the Big Sur while I catch up with an old friend named Aaron who lives in LA. All we had to do today was pick up Tian's rental car and trade my car in for a new one (the engine was starting to act up and the oil light was on, figures after driving the thing several thousand miles). It seemed like the easiest day we've had yet and since Tian's pickup time wasn't until late afternoon, we assumed we'd have plenty of time to check out one last ghost town on the way into the city.
The town was called Randsburg, but turns out it was only "semi-abandoned" because the population still rests around 70 people despite most of the locals bailing on their dying mining town decades back.
I was just glad there were a few places still open in the town so we could grab some food before making our way to LA. We chose a general store/ice cream parlor and were happy to find the tourist-y cafe was filled with visitors and served incredible ice cream sodas. Not a bad experience for a "ghost town" stop.
After lunch, it was Los Angeles or bust. Too bad we didn't realize that on a Friday in LA, a solid wall of traffic blocks the highway from mid-afternoon until around 8pm. We just happened to get into the city around 3 and tried to get off at an earlier exit to avoid the 20 miles of traffic Google Maps had marked with a dark red all the way to the car rental location (I didn't even know traffic alerts could be that color). It was a mistake. We spent the longest portion of our drive just 1000 feet from the exit we got off at, literally immobile for 2 hours.
We arrived just before Tian's rental place closed, and for whatever reason the car she had requested wasn't available, so she ended up getting a free upgrade to a ridiculously cool off-roading vehicle. Score! Traffic had let up a bit by the time we got back on the road, and it was just after sunset when we arrived at LAX to trade in my car for a more functional one. While we waited for the paper work to be looked over, we were able to take some time to admire the planes landing and taking off just above our heads.
Then it was time to say goodbye to the faithful little Kia Rio (I called her Dolores) who had been my partner in crime all the way from Michigan to California and everywhere inbetween. I was legitimately emotional parting ways with the thing. But my teary eyes moved quickly to a burning glare when the car they replaced my Kia with was a much smaller, bright blue, Toyota Yaris. As it was harder to drive and had less features than my old car, there were no redeeming qualities for the thing. Worse, I had to learn how to drive it on the crazy Los Angeles highways at night with only a vague idea of where I was going.
It was a long trip to the Hollywood district (and a long time finding a place to park!) but my friend Aaron and I were finally reunited just in time to rush to the Griffith Observatory before they closed at 10pm. We were told the observatory is one of the best spots to see the city, especially when it's lit up at night. Unfortunately, the good view we were promised was hidden under a thick blanket of fog. All we could do was make the most of the limited view for the fifteen minutes we had before closing. I snapped a few blurry pictures of the view and of Aaron, the only one I managed to get of him during my entire visit.
Fortunately, Tian got a great picture of my friend and I at one of the lookout points with the city spread out in front of us (see below).
After the observatory, we spent the rest of the night exploring the heart of downtown LA on foot and adventuring through buildings to find the best views. It was late by the time we finally got back, giving us only a few hours to sleep before Tian had to leave in the morning.