Should I Get Off the Freeway? The Silver Lake to Venice Experiment

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Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 7:00 AM

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Some of the world's most amazing races display feats of mechanical, intellectual and physical prowess. Given that we just reclaimed the worst traffic in the nation title, who's to say that a morning commute race from Silver Lake to Venice shouldn't be among the world's most grueling?

We decided to test out that very notion. On a recent Friday morning, L.A. Weekly's Jenn Swann and I decided to race from Silver Lake to Venice, East to West, hip to shore, from Intelligentsia Coffee to Intelligentsia Coffee. Swann took the freeway; I took surface roads.

Here is the minute-by-minute, white-knuckle account of how it all went down.

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The cars:

For speed and thrust-to-weight ratio, I choose my friend Keith's white Honda Civic (aka "Ol' Smokey"). Ol' Smoke's a lightning quick five speed with dozens of horsepower. If the apocalypse goes down anytime soon, this will fare better than Mad Max's super interceptor against marauding hordes of gas hungry lunatics.

Swann's driving in some lackluster piece of shit that hardly bears mention.

Gentlepersons, start your engines. Let's do this. My report is in white; Swann's experience is in gray.

8:31 AM: Hyperion to Virgil. Fuck, right off the bat, a fire truck is going to ruin my initial momentum. Pat Benatar is my race muse thanks to awful drivetime radio programming. She's wrong, though, it's not love, but the streets of L.A. that are a battlefield. We are young, indeed.

8:32 AM: Pull out of spot just outside of Intelligentsia on Sunset. In the time since I parked, a dude has started setting up cones for the L.A. marathon. I knock over a cone on my way out of the spot, then pause to make sure I didn't hit his truck -- when he doesn't yell after me, I assume I'm in the clear.

8:36 AM: Just ran a red light on Virgil, which makes that the third law I've already broken and I'm barely out of Silver Lake. If I get arrested, I'm going to blame L.A. Weekly. And Pat Benatar.

8:37: I'm in line to merge onto the 101 South from Rampart.

8:39 AM: Now, I'm kind of creeping too close to this active ambulance on Virgil. Let's say three and half laws broken.

8:40 AM: Turned right onto Wilshire. Stuck behind a truck. This frustrating pause gives me the opportunity to think. Perhaps Swann was trying to psych me out when she initially said she felt hazy and hadn't had enough coffee? Time to step up my game. Ol Smokey, don't fail me now.

Up next: Who wins?

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