The Los Angeles metropolitan area is the antithesis of the oftmaligned small town so tiny that it posts both city limits signs on the same pole. From the time you enter the Los Angeles area near Oxnard until you break free of the urban sprawl south of South Clemente, the drive across the never-ending city — on a good day with light traffic — takes more than two hours.
Most Angelenos get around by automobile, contributing to the city's legendary bad traffic. A map is essential to getting around Los Angeles, and before you go somewhere, it's best to plot not only your primary route but also a backup in case of traffic jams. Radio station KFWB 980 FM is a good source of traffic reports, but you'll need to know the lingo: “looky-loos” are people who slow down to gawk at an accident, a “sig alert” is any incident that closes at least one lane of traffic for thirty minutes or more, a “carbecue” is a car on fire, and “TMC” means too many cars, something you may hear more often than you'd like.
RAINY DAY FUN
If it's raining (or even if it isn't) and it's Sunday (or the first Saturday of the month), take a Metro Art Tour to see the public art at the Metro Line stations. Tours meet at 10 A.M. at the street-level entrance to the Hollywood Boulevard Metro Station and at the information booth in downtown's Union Station. www.mta.net.
Los Angeles freeway signs can be maddening to a newcomer. You need to know the freeway's names (not just their numbers), and knowing what cities you're driving toward may help you navigate. These are some common names: Santa Monica Freeway (I-10), Hollywood Freeway (170), San Diego Freeway (I-405), Pasadena Freeway (110 north of downtown), Harbor Freeway (I-110 south of downtown). The I-5 is often called the Golden State or Santa Ana Freeway.
To avoid some of the traffic, try the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Metro rail (www.mta.net). It can take you downtown, to Hollywood, Wilshire Boulevard, Long Beach, Pasadena, and other places.