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Dodge Durango to Getty Villa on Day Without an Immigrant

You might have known that months ago we had picked the “Day Without an Immigrant” – May 1 – to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu. The visit required a trek from central Orange County through Los Angeles to get to the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica and then up to the Villa. Those familiar with getting from here to there can imagine the stairstep of freeways – 57-91-605-105-405-10-PCH.

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We gave ourselves two hours for the trip, piled in a 2006 Dodge Durango and set out to brave a day that promised two massive demonstrations in Los Angeles and others in surrounding cities. The Durango was perfect for the trip quickly carrying four from The OC to Malibu. The HEMI gives the power to point and shoot the big SUV into openings in the traffic, but we didn’t need it. There was no traffic… didn’t have to slow down once. Within 45 minutes we have made a trip that usually would be well over an hour. No traffic. Folks were avoiding the freeway and all eyes were on the demonstrations. Whew. The nice folks at the Getty were kind enough to let us in more than an hour early.
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Apparently, the 11 o’clock demonstrations in downtown drew 250,000 people and the 4PM demonstrations along the Wilshire corridor drew 400,000 marchers. This was enough to nicely empty the freeways away from the march routes. As we drove along, we wondered how our friends at r/comnetworks were doing. They were invited to video the earlier march from the venue of a Los Angeles Fire Department hook and ladder staged to respond to the scene.


Durango Provides Fast Comfortable Transit
The new Durango was just what was needed for this outing. Big, comfortable and loaded with all the gadgets passengers wanted to play with. The Sirius Satellite radio was popular once we found it hidden behind the “Mode” button on the radio. The NAV system provided great amusement especially when trying to find restaurants from its Points of Interest button. Turns out you can’t access that feature while in motion. While the Durango had a killer rear seat DVD with wireless headphones, we had forgotten our DVD of Bambi II.
There are three notable downsides to the Durango that anyone considering one should be aware of. First, getting in and out is a bit of a chore. This Durango had a side step (thanks Chrysler PR) that is needed on many SUVs, but does not really help much with the Durango. What this side step does is force you to step up high and then duck down very low to get under the A-Pillar and into the vehicle. Oof, ugh, grunt… not ideal. Second, give me backup sensors and a backup camera. The Durango feels like you are backing up by feel. No traumas thankfully, but a backup camera would have been a great feature. Third, the interior design is nice but the execution suffers from massive cost reductions. Material choices show evidence of the cost cutters’ pencils. As auto industry planners often say, “We were just a hundred dollars away from a really good vehicle.” That is true with Durango.
As with Chrysler Corporation vehicles with the HEMI – powertrain is where the Durango excels. Even dragging tons of metal around, the HEMI is responsive and fun to put pedal to the metal. The only downside is that gasoline is now well over $3 per gallon and it is very expensive to feed the HEMI.
Getty’s Massive “Re-Imagination” Somehow Disappoints
OK, VehicleVoice is an auto site, but the Getty Villa deserves some words. Closed in 1997, Getty’s Malibu museum set in a hillside canyon overlooking the Pacific, began a $275 million renovation. Only months after its re-opening a visitor must be amazed about the apparent lack of any budget constraints in modernizing, freshening and reinterpreting the Villa. Where you used to approach the museum from the Pacific side and enter through the imposing Peristyle, now you park in a foreboding parking structure, rise to the third floor and walk along a canyon wall designed to give the visitor the impression they are in a archeological dig. This approach forces you to enter through a side door which is apparently the way a visitor would have entered the Villa del Papiri (upon which the Getty Villa is based) two thousand years ago.

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To us the massive update of the Getty Villa is the result of hiring an ambitious architectural firm – Machado and Silvetti Associates from Boston – giving them unlimited resources and allowing them to define the “concept”. While people who have never visited the Villa in the past may be rightly impressed, the updates leave seasoned visitors empty.

1 Comment

  • David Barrett| May 3, 2006 at 8:56 pm Reply

    As Cameron and I drove to downtown LA to cover the march, we thought about GCP and the adventure ride to the Getty. Somehow, the Getty and a Durango don’t seem to go all that well together – from a style perspective. One’s brutish and about one hundred bucks short of quality, and the other expansive and highly polished. On the other hand, LA/OC Fwys are certainly deserving of a good stomping by HEMI-power and what better way to slice through LA on any day than in the latest Durango?
    As for the demonstrations and marches, it was interesting and exciting, but from a different point of view. While my partner Cameron got to follow the Fire Chief, his staff, helicopters, the operations and emergency operations center, I spent the morning in a 2003 Los Angeles Fire Department Ford sedan, camera at the ready… Unlike most fire department apparatus, this one was silver, with a black interior, lights, siren, and a brace of radios. Oh, and a cassette adapter for an iPod, plugged into the cassette tray.
    We drove from point to point along the march route, stopping every few blocks to observe and shoot video. The crowd was generally very happy, waving a lot of American flags, and a few from other countries as well. The chants were all about, “I love the USA,” and with each passing block, more people joined the mass of humanity, headed for LA’s city hall. The police along the route smiled. The fire apparatus on hand was still. There were no emergencies (related to the march) to respond to.
    As we drove around the downtown area, I was struck by how quiet the city was outside of the parade route – all of the garment and wholesale industry businesses were closed. We decided to run around the parade and that required blasting down one side of downtown and up another. The Ford was typical when pushed – understeer, soft ride, a bit of wallow, but somehow it managed to remain capable. No doubt the department got a “deal” from Ford.
    There was no traffic. We could have made the Getty in less than 15 minutes.
    And, with the crowd behaving, the on-hand media appeared disappointed. No fight, no TV tonight. But there was more… it was almost as if the march was a non-event – despite its potential importance, it was overly mild, overly placid…
    And before you knew it, the incident came to an end. We drove back to City Hall East and I went to the balcony on the 18th floor. Looking down, I watched the crowd, with the Fire Chief and his Chief of Staff alongside – and it was like watching ants in a giant antfarm. A mass of people at the center, with scouts and stragglers, both – depending on which side of the mass you watched. We spent a few minutes observing the people leaving the lawn by city hall and heading for the afternoon march, and then we went inside, got our gear, and headed for our vehicle.
    Like George, we went home feeling that what we had seen was impressive, but somehow, not satisfying. To the inexperienced, it may have been an amazing crowd, but to us, the real attraction was the quiet downtown streets and the wide open freeways. As with most things, it often doesn’t turn out the way you anticipated it would.

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