Wednesday, March 27, 2013

L.A. and La Brea Tar Pits

Traveling north along the coast brought on a touch of melancholia.  Memories are powerful things and the California Coast will always produce some of my very favorites--memories of an adventurous and now departed husband,  of three kids when they were actually kids, and friends I've loved but let fade from my life.  So, to keep the memories at bay, I decided that stop number one was going to be some place I had never been in the past--The Getty Museum in the heart of 'La La Land'.

People kept warning me about the LA traffic, even on weekends, so I decided to outwit the traffic gods and travel at night.  I parked at 9 PM in the back of a hospital parking lot in one of those little beach towns south of LA and set the alarm for 4 AM.  It worked great!  Hardly any traffic at all.  At 6 AM I pulled into the Getty museum parking lot planning to sleep for another couple of hours then fix breakfast and be ready for the 10 AM opening.  Whoops!  A guard was on the gate and he did not think that was so good an idea.  He suggested I go back to Wilshire Ave. and find someplace to park there then come back at 10 AM.  So I did just that.  Wilshire Ave was  pretty quiet so I was able to park along the street and nap a bit.

Back at the Getty the same guard was ready to wave me in when he asked an innocent question,
'Any pets?...'
I told him Sigh Me never leaves the RV and would be just fine on such a cool day but that guy suddenly became sterner than a PETA appointed judge.
'You cannot come in--period!'

So--option two was the La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Blvd.  But when I reached the street a second time I found barricades everywhere and traffic being turned away--it was the Los Angeles Marathon! And I watched helplessly as thousands of runners came barreling down the street.   One nice policeman told me it would be 2 PM before the streets opened again.

Option three--I drove into this very posh Hollywood neighborhood, found a lovely neighborhood park, and decided to enjoy the quiet time until I could get to the Tar Pits.  The park was almost deserted....

There was only one lady walking her poofy poodle dog and she looked very disapprovingly at my 'less-than-adequate RV' before reaching for her cell phone.

I am now convinced she called 'Security' to chase me away.  Within minutes a local police vehicle came roaring up directly behind me in a very intimidating fashion, began talking on his radio and writing on a pad while looking me right in the eye from only a few feet away.

Oh boy, was I ready for war!  'Come on, Roust me from a public park!  I don't care how posh your neighborhood is I have every right to park here and you are going to be very sorry  if you try to move me out!  First you guys don't like my cat, and now you don't like me!  Bring it on!'  

Then the officer smiled at me, gave a little wave, and drove away.
At 2 PM I returned to Wilshire Ave. and successfully entered the La Brea Tar Pits Museum....

'In 1916 Captain G. Allan Hancock gave twenty-three acres of Rancho La Brea to the county of Los Angeles to be used as a park with the stipulation that the scientific features of the park be preserved and properly exhibited.'

At one time these 'tar seeps' covered thousands of acres of what is now the heart of Hollywood. Buildings and roads cover all but the smallest area that now comprises the park and museum.

'Western culture arrived in 1769 at what was to become Rancho La Brea when Gaspar de Portola, Governor of Lower California, and his expedition crossed the Los Angeles River and proceeded west along what is now Wilshire Blvd. He noted and wrote about the extensive swamps of asphalt..''They were boiling and bubbling...and there is such an abundance of it that it would serve to caulk many ships.''

Early scientists recovered over one million fossils from La Brea between 1906 and 1915.
Indians used the asphalt to waterproof their baskets or boats and early settlers used it to waterproof the roofing on their adobe houses.  In the early 1900s the discovery of oil led to the wealth of a number of the Rancho's owners and created more interest in the 'tar pits'.  The existence of bones in the asphalt had been known from the time of the earliest pioneers, but they were thought to be those of cattle and horses.  In 1905, scientists began looking more closely at these bones and discovered them to be part of one of the richest Ice Age fossil deposits in the world.  
Today the Rancho is completely engulfed by large commercial and residential areas, but the fossil deposits have been preserved for educational and scientific purposes.'

The extinct Ground Sloth
Stood over 6 ft. tall and weighed about 1500 pounds.  

 The Antique Bison
At least 159 of these animals have been retrieved from the tar pits.  This extinct bison is the predecessor of the modern buffalo.

Our volunteer tour guide clearly enjoyed her job.  Entrance and tours are free and the treasure of this museum was well worth the hassle to get here.

The Dire Wolf was the fore runner of the Timber wolf.

Several thousand Dire Wolves have been uncovered--this display showed only 400 of the skulls that were found.

More than 80 giant jaguars that were larger than African lions have been recovered.

There were camels and horses and all manner of bird skeletons but my favorites were the Columbian Mammoths and American Mastodons..

The American mastodon was the ancestor of the modern elephant. The more primitive mammoth was much larger at an average of 13' high and reigned during the Ice Age.

And finally, the boogie man of all the skeletons--and Sigh Me's favorite--the Saber toothed Tiger!
I find it very interesting that the tiger, the camel, the elephant and the horse were all in this hemisphere some 40,000 years ago, yet went extinct.  The horse was re-introduced by the Spanish Conquistadores in the 1500s and the camel had a brief return in the 1800s in Quartzsite.

By the end of this day I felt exhausted and was ready to settle down for the night.  Ron has a friend, Renee, who lives in Santa Monica,  and she offered to let me park outside her place for the night.  The street was quiet and level and offered no challenges. Sigh Me and I slept soundly.


  1. Wow! What a trip in every way! How I would love to go adventuring with you and Sigh Me.

  2. That sounds like great fun. Wish i could get my RoadTrek to Hawaii.