Breathing lighter on an unexpected road trip!

I try to share aspects of pleasurable Southern California life—the sights and activities supporting my personal well-being! However, not everything in my daily life helps me “breathe lighter” and this week I certainly had one afternoon to seriously consider how much work it can be to modify stress! Attitude is everything…

My darling granddaughters live about an hour south! Once or twice a week I navigate a very active freeway…and oh the trucks!  This particular stretch of highway ends at the busy Port of Los Angeles.  Approximately $236.4 billion in cargo passed through the harbor in 2010, the busiest container port in the United States. The containers and contents are off-loaded and then divided between rail transport and the trucking industry.

View of the Ports from the Bridge

And the trucks contribute to heavy traffic with potential gridlock. But, consider this.

We’ve had a birds-eye view of the global recession while watching port activity. In 2009 it was reported that the container industry was being hit by a $20-billion loss. The Port was noticeably affected, with new cars off-loaded and no place to go, parked in a massive static parking lot! The absence of full activity was sadly noted, and the Port suffered (that’s job loss) an unprecedented slide!

Port activity appears to be booming, or at least from an outsider’s vantage point it appears to be quite healthy once again!

As much as I do NOT enjoy driving in a sea of massive trucks, I always note that those trucks do represent jobs!

So back to my well-being! This week after a nice day with Nan and Papa, I took the girls home to their mommy and daddy.  I scheduled the drive to avoid the expected evening rush hour traffic–yet it happened–sirens in my rear-view mirror and vehicles screeching to a halt!

Traffic reports warned of an accident of considerable proportion ahead, also signaling the narrowing of four lanes to one. It didn’t take a genius to rapidly calculate that two lanes full of the largest possible diesel trucks somehow snaking into one lane with the rest of us wasn’t going to be good!

I’ll spare you the detailed maneuvering, but I got off the freeway, and although my navigation system told me it was still going to take me an hour to go 30 miles—at least I could control the flow! If I could see the San Gabriel Mountains all I needed was to head north, and I’d eventually get home.

How’d I fare? I remembered to breathe lighter! I was thankful that the girls were not with me—very thankful for that. I had a good car with a great radio—I sing show tunes with my XM Broadway station., and best of all, I decided that if people take road trips and go off the trail to see the largest ball of twine or a house made entirely out of glass bottles, I’d just do the same. I’d take advantage of some sightseeing and make the best of it!

I could always look for amusing bumper stickers and signage! 

It crossed my mind that snapping pictures along the way might increase my own accident risk, so I’ll just have to tell you what I discovered without the benefit of photos.

Passing a large sign for Downey Studios I discovered movie studios I’d never even heard about! I had to wait to get home to learn they indeed are working movie studios. Previously the former Boeing plant where the Space Shuttle orbiters were assembled, the studio has been used for many major TV and film projects, including Iron Man, Charlie Wilson’s War, Terminator 3, Space Cowboys, and Spider Man. I had no idea!

I also discovered  The Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey–a hands-on learning center bringing the excitement of space to children (of all ages!) and I had no idea it was in my back yard! This is a great resource to pair with our Observatory experience!

I traveled on, noting the military banners flying in honor of Downey’s residents in active military duty. It’s really hard to be cranky about traffic when you’re reading those many, many names and considering their current “inconvenience” don’t you think?

And then a traffic light stop gave me my first good photo-op!

World's Oldest McDonald's

Not California’s oldest, but the “World’s Oldest McDonald’s.” Now you’ve seen it, too! This Downey, CA location opened in 1953 and the 60 foot high neon sign with “Speedee the Chef”is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  I wasn’t about to stop, but we are going back so that I can see the employees wearing 50’s style uniforms of paper hats, white shirts and bolo ties. Apparently the facility now has a museum and gift shop. You know how I feel about museums, but true confessions, I like gift shops, too!

My spirit was really quite high at that point! I enjoyed my sightseeing trip and could now sail home in good fashion.

Mountains's a straight shot now!

It’s all in a good attitude. If a person is going to navigate in Southern California you’d better have one of those! When the going gets REALLY tough, I just thank the Lord that we’re no longer in covered wagons! Travel doesn’t seem quite as slow if you keep that in mind!

Happy Trails…Debra

37 thoughts on “Breathing lighter on an unexpected road trip!

  1. What a wonderful outlook you have, Debra! For many of us, the sight of tail lights flashing means a quick detour to anger and frustration. You, on the other hand, took the same detour, made an adventure of it, and had a pretty nice drive, as a result. Heck! You went touring! Your granddaughters have a remarkable “Nan”!

    And it’s great to hear of the port’s activity!

    1. If I’m completely honest, John, this attitude shift is a recent discipline! I am on the freeways so much that I realized I had to consider it differently, or stop driving 🙂 Now it really is a game! If I had more time I think I’d take the back roads more often. I hope you liked the picture of McDonald’s. What a chuckle!! Debra

  2. It’s great that we can choose how to react to our situations — I love that you chose the positive and the adventuresome route! God bless you, Debra, in your travels today!

    1. You know, Natalie, when I title a blog “breathelighter” I have to work at being congruent with my intention! I’m a work in progress, that’s for sure, but when it comes to driving, I really do try to make it a game! I wish I could have taken some pictures of the military banners to share with you. Maybe I will when we go back to McDonald’s. I’ll bring my favorite “driver” so I can use the camera! Debra

  3. I particularly enjoyed this blog. I could relate because I had a grandmother road trip as I visited my granddaughter this last weekend. I was blessed with moving traffic the whole way. What I enjoyed though was both CD’s in my “Best Classical Music of the Millennium” set. I turned the volume up and embraced the time to just be.

    1. “Time just to be” is so true, Martha. I do often say that one reason I don’t mind the drive is that it is good thinking time…sometimes that comes at a high price, but is worth it! I’m so glad you had a grandmother road trip, too! I read many posts of grandmother’s driving quite far or getting on a jet…whatever it takes to get to those precious children. Another reason I really cannot complain about a little traffic! 🙂 D

  4. Good for you, Debra; you willingness to take a different route and your attitude are to be admired!
    We often see the most remarkable things when we breathe deep and breath lighter and take that ol’ road less traveled, don’t we?

    I’m one who loves museums, especially the little ones, as you probably know. How fun that you could get a photo of this MacDonald’s. Confessions? I love all the little gift shops, too. Where else can you get more mugs and bookmarks (I use mine).

    1. I certainly feel this way now, Penny, but I have been thinking of how much fun I could have made it for my own children if I’d felt this way THEN! Maybe age does have a few advantages. Ha! My best gift shop finds are the books related to the museum itself, or at least a related topic…the books I have to have, and then don’t have time to read! We have a joke around here that says we will have to live forever because our piles are so high! D

  5. Oh wow! I can’t imagine Southern Cali traffic! I enjoyed the spin you put on it though, really life is about how our attitude is. Have you seen Facing The Giants (if not it’s great I recommend it, Christian movie about a failing football team)? One of the lines in there is “How’s your attitude Brock?” My husband and I often say that to each other, it’s a good reminder that when we change our attitude the journey is MUCH easier! Thanks for this!

    1. You’re right about attitude, Corri. I have had friends recommend Facing the Giants but haven’t yet seen it! I’m sure we will. And yes, our traffic is sometimes unbelievable, and yet today, we were miles from home and traveled long stretches of the worst freeways…and we sailed! You just never know. But next time I’m stopped in a crunch, I’ll go on another hunt for something interesting! 🙂 D

  6. Ophelia

    Debra, I absolutely enjoy reading your posts! You are an amazing writer. I’m thinking about which of my friends children I can snatch to take on a visit to see the McDonald’s. Keep smiling and enjoying life!

    1. Wow! You WERE in my spam folder! I wonder why? I also found a comment from someone who has been commenting for along time! I don’t usually check, but I can see I need to do so. I did mark you “not spam” so that should help! I’m glad you alerted me to the problem! Thanks, Frank, and I’m much more welcoming than to ever mark you as spam! LOL! Debra

  7. Dear Debra,
    I’ve decided that I’d travel anywhere with you. You always find history and natural beauty and funny signs. But in addition, you always find the philosopher’s way of making your discoveries into paths that beckon all of us to becoming more fully human. Thank you for that.


    1. Oh, Dee, coming from you I really do take your compliments to heart. I think it’s entirely possible that we are all just encouraging one another to be more alert and aware. I have no trouble sharing that while I was wandering on my way home it was a lot more pleasant to consider the environment and sightseeing once I began to think about sharing the story! Long drives in traffic can become very creative, and even when I’m tired it is still thinking time! Thank you so much for your very kind words! Debra

  8. Debra, Now you are into my thinking…take the “back roads and discover the little treasures”. The old McDonalds sign is great. There are so many interesting little places out there. I love you outlook that when faced with annoying traffic you found a way to make the most of the situation.

    1. Ah, Karen! Yes, especially with your own “back road journal”–I think you know better than most! I’ll have to see if I can get some good pictures from the inside of the McDonalds’s before too long. A friend suggested we take some children but I had to laugh…children won’t have any idea why we get such a kick out of the place. I think it’s a nice adult hangout! 🙂 D

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the few photos, Meg. One thing about my long commutes is that it can also be good thinking time before I get home and into “high gear” over something. So as long as I’m not feeling unsafe, it’s only time! It can be useful! I also show signs of our traffic to get a little sympathy! Ha! Debra

    1. I will definitely go back to the McDonald’s Andra. I’m so curious myself! I do love musical theater. If money were no object I’d be at the theater minimally once a week. I am sure of it! I love Sondheim, and find his works lyrically so rich and always memorable. The XM Broadway channel is all over the place, and it’s fun to hear works I’ve never even heard before and I try to figure out if I know the voice. It’s a game. I’ve seen Wicked and Les Mis so many times that I guess at least for this time in my life they continue to be my favorites. Sometime in the future I should post something about my little addiction. I’ll have to think about that! I can tell how much you enjoy and appreciate music of all kinds, so I am not at all surprised you also like musical theater! Wish you lived closer! 🙂 Debra

  9. What a lovely post, Debra. I too love the way you turned an inconvenient hold-up into a drive of discovery, which you then generously shared with us. 🙂 Left to myself I wouldn’t use motorways at all unless I really needed to get somewhere quickly. I much prefer meandering along the back roads, with time to look and chance to stop.

    1. I do know that your back roads are a lot more beautiful, Perpetua, but you can’t boast the world’s oldest McDonald’s, can you! Ha! Imagine how much I’ve chuckled over that find! Of all things! I have long ago had to make peace with the congestion and frantic pace of Los Angeles living. It’s where my parents, children and grandchildren live…we’re not going anywhere! So, since it’s a choice to stay, I have to also choose to make it fun, and I do that most of the time. I’m glad to have a way to share my little adventures. It spurs me on to stay alert! I’m glad I could share with you! Debra

    1. Well, I’ll be certain to share pictures from the inside of the McDonald’s as soon as we find a moment to go…and we will! I’m glad you enjoyed the picture as much as I did! I really had a good chuckle over the memories that came back to me of the old style signage. It’s kind of a pity that they didn’t keep that iconic vintage look, even on the new franchises. And I’m very curious about the museum and gift shop! 🙂 Debra

  10. Jackie Paulson

    I love the bumper sticker that said “my cat is smarter than your Honor student.” You are very busy and full of life. I hope as life continues on that I will be able to be like you. I want to thank you for always stop by my blog as well. Blessings to you and the g kids. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Jackie. We all encourage one another, don’t you think? And seasons change! I hope you find a new balance with your work and life, of which, sharing creatively is still an important part. Just be easy on yourself. Bottom line…so glad you are working! Mixed blessings there, sometimes:-) Debra

  11. I really like your attitude. Seeing possibilities wherever you go. And the reward is finding out cool stuff in your backyard or at least close to. I have to admit I hate traffic jams, just don’t have the patience for them, and I can only admire your way of handle the stress.

    1. I’m not always so patient, Otto, that I must admit! But I do my best to reframe situations so as to avoid whatever additional stress might come with being tense about something I can’t change! I have friends who avoid traffic by staying close to home…I don’t think I’m ready for that yet 🙂 Debra

  12. Since Patti has me rereading Little House on the Prairie, my head is full of those wagons too 🙂 the oldest McDonald’s has to be worth a visit. I’m looking forward to your pictures!

    1. I think it’s great you’re reading the Little House books, Speccy. I’d love to re-read them and I think I’d find more depth in them now then when I did as a much younger person! I think that a great many of my everyday inconveniences could be less stressful if I’d consider my so-called life crises in the framework of how difficult daily life was for our forebears! And I’m glad you enjoyed the McDonald’s–such an icon! I will certainly be eager to share more pictures. Thank you! Debra

    1. Yes, Elizabeth, there is just no way I can imagine “sugar-coating” the traffic and congestion. But if I’m going to live here, I’d better find a way to make it reasonable. I’m so glad for a good camera on my phone! Ha! Debra

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Kellie. I’m really glad to meet another SoCal native! I don’t know how I was so unfamiliar with the terrain! I knew “of” the McDonald’s, but I don’t think I’d seen it previously, and the studios and space museum were a complete surprise. I need to travel “the road less taken” much more often! 🙂 Debra

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