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Published: March 4th 2008
Obfuscator writes: After a quick breakfast and discussion with RG about what to see in L.A. for the day, and more about Landslide!, we set off for the big city. Ok, well, we were already in the big city, but we set off for other specific things. Namely, we set off for the LaBrea Tar Pits. The last time we were in L.A., we were pretty sure we had missed them, and presumably they would have something fairly interesting to see.
Driving to LaBrea reminded me of one of the reasons not to like big cities; the traffic in them is always a pain for the visitor who isn't quite sure where he's going. I don't think we hit L.A. traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard at a particularly bad time or anything, but it was solid, which made things a bit more interesting. We did eventually get to the tar pits though, and before the museum even opened. To kill about a half hour, we wandered around the park and looked at the pits themselves. If you haven't been here, I'm not sure what to tell you. It's not really that impressive or anything. It's like a bunch of small
pools in a green park, and each pool smells bad and has an ugly oily surface to it. They're not like the big goopy black pools you might imagine. It's kind of neat to see them in person though, and the museum has some cool outdoor exhibits around them. One of the pits, for instance, was sort of a display of fossils (castings I suppose) as they were found in that pit years ago. It had a whole bunch of signs explaining what each one was, and when it would have died there, and so forth. Another pit is actually currently undergoing excavation, and while you can't see much, it's pretty nifty to be able to wander right up to a live archaeological site. There's also some good park sculptures scattered all over the place, including a short-nosed bear and some big ground sloths (Harlan's, I think).
We eventually entered the museum itself. It boasts an astonishingly large collection of fossils from the pits, which have been undergoing excavation of one sort or another for about a hundred years. We were able to see a wall display of about 400 dire wolf skulls, which comprised less than half their
collection of the animal. Apparently the dire wolf is extinct because it was an extraordinarily stupid animal, and died in droves. The museum also has very rare bird fossils. Since birds have very fragile skeletons, their bones rarely survive to be fossilized. The tar pits, however, proved quite good at preserving the itty bitty bones. There were also the bones of a thousand screaming school children. Wait, scratch that. Just a thousand screaming school children, complete with muscle, organs, and screamy tissue. (Onaxthiel adds: And parental volunteers filling these children's heads with disinformation. I particularly liked the mother telling her young son that the animatronic mammoth would eat him if it was real.) Still, it was really fun to see just how gargantuan some of the animals of the era were, like the woolly mammoth.
There was, of course, one nagging question with which we were left. This question spawns several more if you stop to consider it. Despite all the fencing around the pits, it seems likely that animals still become stuck in the tar, from time to time. Do they rescue these animals, or do they let them die of exposure and become fossilized, you know, leaving
something for archaeologists of the future to study? To do otherwise seems rather present-centric. If they don't rescue the animals, do they allow an entire food chain to become trapped, as occasionally happened in the past? We didn't find a satisfactory answer to these questions in our visit. Perhaps future historians will have to content themselves with studying the discarded McDonalds containers and empty bottles of malt liquor that are currently being deposited within the tar pits.
From there, we drove down Sunset, and Vine, and Hollywood, and walked around for a bit. We didn't really find anything particularly interesting except the starry sidewalk, so after we got bored and hot, we got back in the car and started driving south toward Camp Pendleton. Our cousin, S, is stationed there, and has a place just on southern edge of Los Angeles. We knew he wouldn't be done with work yet, but we figured it would be easier to sightsee in his neighborhood for a while and be able to avoid being on the main freeway come rush hour.
We cruised down until we got to San Clemente, where we found a beach. It was probably about 80 degrees,
They put the safety cones out
to keep future archeologists from finding Child fossils
sunny, and had a nice ocean breeze. I note this only for posterity, and certainly not to rub it in the noses of anyone who might be in states where there are six feet of snow on the ground. Onaxthiel and I grabbed a bit of lunch, and then wandered around the beach a bit, and walked out on a huge pier. From there we could look up and down the coast a ways, and see a lot of surfers, sunbathers, and some small groups of brave, brave swimmers. We tried a bit of swimming at this point, and quickly learned why the surfers were all wearing wetsuits, and there were so few swimmers. The waves were so huge as to render swimming impractical, and the water was so cold as to leave you completely numb. Eventually we settled on playing some frisbee on the beach until it was getting closer to sunset, and everyone was leaving. By then our cousin was supposed to be getting home, and we figured we should make our way toward his place.
We got to his place, and coincidentally, our cousin D and his girlfriend P were also visiting at the same time.
We had some dinner with them, and hung out until everyone set to go to bed, since D and P had to catch a plane early the next morning, and S had to go to work.
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