The fact of the matter is I’m not a city girl. My politics may indicate otherwise, but my country roots run deep. While I don’t necessarily want to go back to small-small town life (my hometown has a population of 2,300), I’m definitely craving an escape from the hustle and bustle and traffic of city life (that’s part of what I’m doing out here). So Los Angeles – the second largest city in the country – definitely wasn’t on the list of places I planned to visit on my journey. And yet, visit I accidentally did…twice.
Three weeks into my trip, my “clam shell” tent got a sideways overbite. I immediately contacted the company that made it, and they told me there’d been a hinge malfunction in the production batch from which my tent came and suggested a couple of solutions, one of them replacement. They could ship a new tent to me at my next stop (San Diego or Phoenix), but it would be “easier” for me to go to their warehouse in LA for an exchange.
Easier for whom? I would ultimately ask, knowing the answer full well.
I joked with girlfriends that the only parts of LA I’d have any interest in seeing were Compton and South Central, since my sociology roots and fascination with rap culture also run deep. I also thought better than to plan a drive through the area with a pricey tent on my car and my backseat and trunk full of belongings. And yet…that’s exactly where the warehouse was – in Compton. Doh. Guess I was gonna go there after all.
(Of course, I did a little research beforehand… While Compton was at one time #8 on America’s list of most dangerous cities, the young female mayor elected in 2013 – Aja Brown – has made great strides at “cleaning up” the streets, including negotiating turf truces between two of the area’s most notorious gangs – the Crips and the Bloods. As a result, the violent crime rate is down considerably.)
The mid-morning to late afternoon drive into and out of LA was slightly less grueling than the most-of-the-day drive I took through the city on my way down to San Diego a few days previous, but I still wasn’t a fan. At several points, I tried counting how many lanes of traffic I was driving in…but couldn’t keep track. I think it was eight or ten, though, and that’s too many! The warehouse visit itself – complete with my un-installing my broken tent and re-installing my replacement tent solo (except for the lifting) in the blazing hot sun of mid-day – was not even a little bit awesome. I did get to see a little bit of the city when I ran to get a car wash (for only $6!) between tents. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting – the grittiness of rap songs; instead, the streets were quiet and houses I saw well-kept. I still commented when the dude at the warehouse was blasting Eminem instead of NWA or Dr. Dre…!
I’m not in any big hurry to go back to Los Angeles, not as long as I’m driving anyway. Though I would have liked to have talked with Aja Brown and gotten some more insight into her leadership and the changes within Compton… As it were, I made my way as quickly as I could (at a top speed of 62 miles per hour, per tent instructions) over to Joshua Tree National Park. It was much quieter and more peaceful there…and I breathed a sigh of relief as I fell asleep under a blanket of stars, far from the traffic and noise of the city.