Visiting Los Angeles on business usually means arriving at LAX, driving to the hotel in Marina Del Rey, driving from MDR to meetings in Torrance – repeat every day or so – and then head back to LAX to return home.
Last week though was a bit different. A little extra time near the end of our second day of meetings meant we could squeeze in a trip to the Griffith Observatory, via, of course, Mulholland Drive.
Mulholland is an iconic road that I’d never had the chance to drive. I’ve driven my share of iconic roads — the Trans-Canada highway, the Amalfi Coast — but mostly for the reasons above, never Mulholland. Of course such a famous road should only be driven in a high-performance roadster, top down. That, sadly, was not to be. My ride of “choice” would be a white 2016 Chevy Suburban. A Thrifty rental no less.
Still, it was the drive that counts. My drive (three colleagues were along for the ride, with my boss, James, a car guy and race car driver in his spare time serving as navigator. James would’ve been happier in the driver’s seat but since I had never driven Mulholland before, he let me take the wheel) began in Torrance around 4 p.m. which meant we also experienced some typical LA traffic.
Traffic in LA is a thing to behold. It’s a constant. Regardless of the hour, cars are on the move. Large parts of the city — like Marina Del Rey and Torrance — with their four and six lane streets — are built to accommodate cars, not pedestrians. You can easily get around in LA — you just have to drive.
Entering Mulholland and heading east from the 405, the curves came quickly. It’s not a fast drive (at least not in a Suburban) but it is an engaging one. Being smooth on the brakes mean you don’t induce carsickness in passengers and you don’t cook the brakes on the downhill grades. The many blind curves are to be respected and only your passengers can enjoy the view. Fortunately, for me, there a several overlooks on the way that allow drivers to take a break and take in the scenery and get a blast of cool valley air.
We didn’t escape traffic on the drive but the scenery and the two-land winding road gave me a sense of both being in a city and being apart from it. I’m still learning LA but driving Mulholland Drive was a great lesson to get started with.