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Best Carpool-Tunnel Syndrome

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

Best Carpool-Tunnel Syndrome

With all the subtlety of an Adam Ant video, freeway-interchange ramps in Los Angeles are second to none in all their special roller-coaster effects. The actual term “freeway” originated in the parkways of New York during the mid-1930s; the former Arroyo Seco Parkway — the current Pasadena Freeway — was Los Angeles’ first, and is filled with nerve-racking turns and lane changes.

Though modern freeways are friendlier to people who need to multitask, the Southland still retains nightmarish hidden ramps and merging lanes that make a foreign visitor’s first impression that much more impressive. Tackle the 110 South transition to the 101 East alongside downtown Chinatown at 70 mph and watch your soul itself leap from your body and hide in the back seat. The whole of the Pasadena Freeway northbound out of downtown is inescapably entertaining when the pressures of work and traffic urge your leaden foot to unwisely exceed the posted speed. It is rife with short, deadly “Surprise! Here I am!” on-ramps, rapidly narrowing lanes, and curves sewn tighter than a corpse’s mouth.

The westbound 134 to the southbound 2 has deceptively shallow curves bleeding directly into a steep downhill grade through Eagle Rock, at which point it becomes painfully clear that only two of your car’s four wheels are riding the asphalt. Your speedometer pushes 90 mph by the time the Glendale Freeway appears.

Also worth mentioning and/or blocking out of short-term memory: the utterly hairy 405 North to 101 West hairpin.

Or the carpool lane on the eastbound 10 leaving downtown, where the lane splits and savvy Jedi blast their Blaupunkt stereos upon entering a stretch of road resembling the Death Star trench. And lest we forget the gut-wrenching joy of curved tunnels: the 2 South to the 5 South in Elysian Park, the Foothill East at the 134/710 interchange in Pasadena, and the dystopian subterranea at the 105 West to 405 South split. All these curves strip rubber from tires, set gnashing teeth on edge and put the driver in touch with his inner coward. Honorable mentions go to the sudden drops just off Mulholland Drive, the autobahn that is the Beverly Hills Sunset Strip between UCLA and the Roxy, the certain aquatic death just off PCH, and the acrid Angeles Crest Highway. These transcendent, near-death experiences are prime tests of testicular fortitude for everyone from quake-hardened Angelenos to soccer-mom transplants from Getmethefuckouttahere, Iowa.


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