OPINION: Who’s Minding the Store?

Last week, I visited my son’s family in Dana Point, CA to celebrate my grandson’s first year.

The downside of my son going to Cal Tech was that he decided he wanted to live in California. Since his job as technical director of a British pipeline software company allows him to live wherever he wants (That’s the kind of job Pagosa Springs residents need!), he settled in Southern California, close enough to the coast that the Japanese current offsets the record heat waves prevalent there. He has to get up early so as to overlap the British workday, go to Manchester a couple of times a year to sort things out, and occasionally go to Norway to keep a major customer happy. Pretty good life!

One day we went north along the coast to Malibu and then into the coastal mountains on Mulholland Drive. They were pretty much like Colorado mountains except for being made of dirt instead of rocks. That’s why houses built on them tend to wash downhill if it rains hard. That doesn’t seem to stop people from building on them. Fortunately (depending on your point of view) it seldom rains very hard. Mulholland Drive winds more than most of the Colorado mountain roads I’ve been on. It ought to be easier to straighten out dirt that rocks. Maybe they’re afraid to disturb the dirt, lest it slide downhill, taking the road with it.

I spent a lot of time in California in the 1960s on NASA business and again in the 1980s on pipeline business. I recall a lot of empty country between LA and Long Beach and again between Long Beach and San Diego. No more! The only empty country is Camp Pendleton, the Marine Base north of San Diego.

Oh, and the land surrounding the domes of an abandoned nuclear plant near the beach that no one could figure out how to protect from tsunamis. The domes are full of radioactive spent fuel that no one wants… Actually, there are some states that would like to store spent fuel (for the jobs it would bring) but they hesitate to build a facility because other states threaten to sue to stop spent fuel from being transported across them. So, the domes sit on the beach full of radioactive waste waiting for a tsunami big enough to resolve the issue.

It’s a case of overlapping constraints leaving no place to live.

Back to the subject: The four to six lanes (each way) of I-5 were full all of the hundred-odd miles from Dana Point to LA. This wasn’t rush hour traffic. It was between 10am and 3pm on a weekday. The large population in transit begs the question: Who’s minding the store? All those people couldn’t be visiting their grandchildren, like me. Figuring 800 lane-miles with 50 cars per lane-mile and one person per car, that’s 40,000 people on one section of Interstate. And they are replaced with another 40,000 people every hour or so. Around here, we can attribute the occasional day-long congestion on Putt Hill to tourists.

It boggles the mind!


Jerry Modisette

Jerry Modisette, PhD, was at NASA Houston during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights and performed the tests selecting the Mercury heat shield materials. He also has extensive experience working in the petroleum industry. He lives in Cabezon Canyon, west of Pagosa Springs.