[ Beneath the Waves ]

Drive 2007 - Day 03

article and photographs by Ben Lincoln


Most of this third day was spent driving. I began just southeast of San Francisco, and took I5 south toward Los Angeles. In the middle of the state, I shot a couple of panoramas from a "scenic view" area just off the freeway. Neither of them turned out very well, but they're the only multispectral examples I have of this part of California.

Central California 02
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A 3-shot panorama taken at a "scenic view"-type spot just off of I5. One more reminder of why you should use an umbrella or lens hood when shooting multispectrally.

Date Shot: 2007-09-02
Camera Body: Nikon D70 (Modified)
Lens: Nikon Series E 28mm
Filters: Standard Set
Date Processed: 2009-02-21
Version: 2.0


Something surprising (to me at least) was that something about the southern California environment made the engine of my car ping if I used the regular 87 octane gasoline that I always buy at home in the Pacific Northwest. I switched to 89 until I got back to Oregon on the homeward part of this drive and the problem went away, but I never did figure out for sure what caused it. The elevation is the same, so I imagine it has to do with temperature and/or humidity.

One of the best parts of the drive on I5 for me was the two mountain passes closest to LA (the bigger of the two near Frazier Park, and the smaller being the one that leads directly in the San Fernando Valley). Driving up through the desert-terrain mountains, you'll reach the top and the fertile valleys below are majestically revealed. I don't have any photos of this since I was driving at the time, but having seen this sort of repeated geological motif (the Hollywood Hills themselves are a smaller echo of this), it's no surprise to me that this area became home to America's film industry.

Here's a shot from Google Earth to give you some idea:

Mountain Passes on Interstate 5 in the Los Angeles Area
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(As viewed in Google Earth)


After reaching LA, I began with a quick exploration of the northwest part of area, in Calabasas and Thousand Oaks[1]. When I was at university, I had become friends with Franklin Jones (III), an incredibly-talented musician. Franklin's father (Franklin Jones II) owns Castle Oaks Productions, a famous recording studio in Calabasas. It's also home to numerous other noteworthy Los Angeles residents, some of whom you'll see mentioned in the news every time there's a wildfire around there. As someone who was not at all familiar with the various neighbourhoods and suburbs, I thought I'd start here as it seemed like it would be a relatively safe place to find somewhere to stay.

I quickly discovered just how upscale Thousand Oaks and Calabasas are, even stumbling inadvertently across Mulholland Drive itself. Fortunately, just northeast is Canoga Park (the Calabasas for everyone else), and I was able to find a Motel 6 where I would spend the next three nights.

While I had already noticed that it seemed a bit hot, as I unloaded everything from my car I realized just how high the temperature was. Throughout my time in the area, the daytime temperature was consistently in the mid-to-upper 40s (110-120 Fahrenheit). I'm no Mr. Universe, but I am in pretty decent shape (at the time I was running a little over 9km (5.6 miles) three times a week), and this was one of my first lessons in how relatively small changes in environment can have a big impact on what one's body is comfortable with. Wearing long pants and a t-shirt, by the time I was done moving everything into my hotel room I literally had to sit on the floor with my back against the wall to recover for awhile. Outside at the pool, I asked them if it always got so hot in LA in the summer, and when they told me it did I joked that it had never been that hot in Seattle even when the city was on fire[2].

I don't have any pictures from the city on this day, but here's a shot of the corresponding journal page:

A Thrilling Descriptive Entry From My Journal
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This soul-gripping piece of expert word-craftsmanship will instantly transport you to the Los Angeles of 2 September 2007. In order to avoid excessively taxing the constitutions of my readers with the power of the written word, I have not included other such examples.

Date Shot: 2009-09-12
Camera Body: Nikon D70 (Modified)
Lens: Nikon Series E 28mm mounted on an extension ring
Filters: Standard Set
Date Processed: 2009-09-13
Version: 1.0


Once I was settled in, I headed for Universal Studios. Normally on my trips I tend to stick to natural areas, but in LA I made a few exceptions. Back in high school, my first real job was working for Richard Joffray on interactive CD-ROMs and websites[3]. Richard had originally worked in Hollywood as a prop master, and one of the many projects he'd worked on there was the motion picture component of the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios. Being a huge sci-fi nerd, I loved Back to the Future II in particular as a kid, and so I promised him I'd see the ride someday. Just before this trip, I discovered that after the weekend of 1-2 September 2007, the ride would close permanently. I would have felt like a huge jerk if I'd been a day or two too late, and this is the main reason that I took the I5 shortcut south of San Francisco.

Universal Studios was surprisingly fun (also surprisingly expensive, but it is obviously not a cheap business to run). I got to see the ride that Richard had worked on, and most of the rest of the theme park as well. Some of the specific highlights I remember were the attractions for Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Backdraft (which has a walk-through factory set that bursts into flames), and (surprisingly) Waterworld. Seemingly to go along with that film's famously large budget, Universal spared no expense on (and continues to show no mercy towards the ongoing expense of) this attraction. It's a fully live-action piece of stunt/adventure theatre, with elaborate sets and pyrotechnics. I'll try not to spoil one of the bigger surprises for anyone who hasn't seen it, but there's a moment early on where the audience is made to think that one particular element of the show will only be handled "off-screen" (because doing it live would be impossible). This is a bit of misdirection on the part of the designers, because near the end the "impossible" is made to happen with some impressive practical effects wizardry.

My one piece of advice regarding Universal Studios is to arrive early in the day. By going in the evening, I missed the chance to see the studio tour, and while I got to see everything else I wanted to, it involved a lot of running between attractions to catch the last showing. Also, like most theme parks, if you are male and go by yourself, expect at least a few odd stares.

On my way out of Universal Studios, I saw that police were everywhere, flares were all over the road, and power seemed to be out to the entire neighbourhood. It took me a moment to realize that this was in fact an actual police response and not yet another piece of special effects theatre.


Date: 2 September 2007
Starting Mileage: 63351
Ending Mileage: 63702
Distance Travelled (Day): 351 miles
Distance Travelled (Trip): 1348 miles
Gallons of Fuel Purchased (Day): 13.6
Gallons of Fuel Purchased (Trip): 40.9

GPS Map of Day 3
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This map is based on a screenshot of Streets and Trips 2007 (©2007 Microsoft Corporation).



1. Calabasas and Thousand Oaks are actually cities in their own right (located within Los Angeles County, whose borders of course include the city of Los Angeles). I imagine this would have made a functional difference to visitors up until the early-to-mid-20th century, but today they're effectively just another part of the enormous single city that is LA. I'm sure that residents and businesses in the area are impacted by the distinction, but from the superficial perspective of a tourist they're all one big urban mass. To make a Seattle-specific comparison, it's sort of like telling someone from out of town that you live in Shoreline or White Center.
2. This is true (other than the part about the fire) - in July of 2009 Seattle experienced record-high temperatures of 103 Fahrenheit (39.4 Celsius), and the unprepared population caused an unprecedented run on fans, to the point that for several weeks, all of the large-scale retailers such as Sears, Fred Meyer, and Target would receive one or more truckloads of them on a particular morning and be sold out within the same day.
3. For younger members of the audience, this was known as "multimedia". The typical 28.8kbit/sec modems of the era provided very limited options for online content, and so larger companies would send potential clients interactive CD-ROMs that were sort of a technological stepping-stone between paper brochures and the flashy websites of today.
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