Here are the kind of personal stats the whole world could give a rat about: Our return trip to the Bay Area was via LA and the infamous I-210 and Grapevine, considerably shorter on the return trip, at 10.6 hours and 710 miles.
We didn’t measure the longer route via Flagstaff on the way down, but I am guessing it added about 80 miles to the round trip. Calling that 1500 miles round trip, we spent $158.63 on 62.393G gasoline, for a both-way fuel economy of 24.04 mpg. The car is a 1999 Toyota Camry Solara.
Average price of gasoline was $2.542 overall, with the cheapest gas being in Phoenix itself (Circle K, $2.339), and the most expensive $2.999 (Shell, Needles).
Leaving Phoenix at 6AM Saturday morning got us across the desert by 10AM, out of weekday LA traffic, and in front door at 4:40. Various freeway splits and mergers between I-210 and other major freeways are poorly marked out and little time is available to prepare. If you don’t already know you need to be in the right hand lanes of 10 to end up on the 210, and then the left hand lanes to not end up going to Riverside, and then in the right 3 lanes to merge to I-5 (say, have I got all that right for sure?): you’ll never get there. We always make it somehow.
But it can be exciting when 400 speeding cars jam on their brakes and switch 3 or 4 lanes of braking traffic at the last minute before hitting the Y in the freeway.
With generous stops for stretch breaks, fuel and even a sandwich, and a driver rotation, we found the return trip overall less draining and more pleasant, though not of course as post-card scenic. At least we saw proper real pine trees in Flagstaff.
In the roughly 200 miles from mountain pass to mountain pass that is the LA basin, once you descend into the smog from the San Bernardino Pass, you are engulfed in it until you reach Gorman and swoop down into the dry clear agricultural valley of I-5. You always drive by beautiful landmark Mt. Baldy approaching Sylmar and the San Fernando Valley, but we never saw that mountain this trip.
All in all, then, we surprised ourselves with the discovery that the drive could be fairly pleasant and reasonably quick if the LA route is taken yet planned and timed carefully. I like the desert and barren open spaces, so am at no loss of things to look at through Arizona, the Mojave and the continuous long, irrigated, dusty farming corridor between LA and the Bay Area.
The photo was taken on I-10 about an hour or so west of Phoenix.
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