User's Guide

How to Prepare Your Carmageddon Survival Toolkit

And this is when the 405 is working!
And this is when the 405 is working! Photo: Font Font via Flickr

Angelenos are used to cramming entire mealtimes into a single car ride and using arm-rests as tables at 70 miles-per-hour. We planned to avoid the road entirely during this weekend’s coming Carmageddon, the yet-to-be-completely fathomed two-day period when eleven miles of the 405 will be shut down, loosing skeleton armies across L.A. to reap damned souls caught in an infernal scape of gridlock (as we’ve come to understand it). Yup, we had hoped to sit this out at home, laughing at miserable commuters and throwing darts at a photo of the bureaucratic buffoons that approved this stupid idea in the first place. But what’s that they say about the best-laid schemes of mice and men?

Then out of nowhere, our beloved brother arrived in town from Mexico this week, stamped with the ominous return date of July 16th. Scarily, we were elected to bring the boy back to LAX on Saturday, just as Carmageddon rears its ugly seven heads. So help us as we gather up an essential toolkit for surviving what might be the slog of our lifetime in this user’s guide to conquering Carmageddon from the driver’s seat.

We figure we’ll need a few basic survival tools to to keep us from chewing our own arms off of the steering wheel and making an escape. Here’s what we’re thinking of throwing together for a survival kit. If you have any additional ideas, please don’t hesitate to help us retain our sanity on the road.

First things first, we’re going to need meat to stay alive and happy. We could go for the traditional road trip staple and stock Thai pork jerky from Kanon Thai Ram or the different varieties of beef jerky offered in huge peppery flats at Gallego’s. There is a sizable variety of smoked meats to be had at Babushka, including smoked ribs and chicken that would probably hold up well, but sound a little messy for the car. More likely, we’ll head to Cube and buy a bag or two of chicharrones from 4505 Meats, which are simply the fluffiest pork rinds we’ve ever let melt in our mouth. In fact, if our car already came with chicharonnes from 4505, we’d purposely be struck in traffic somewhere right now.

We once knew this old cowboy guy up north a bit who drank non-alcoholic beer by the case in his mini-van (yes, he had a mini-van). It sounds pretty good on paper, but we’re still not so sure that was legal. While we’re reluctantly throwing that idea out the window, we obviously need to bring a lot of bottled water, just in case we’re still crawling along Sepulveda come Sunday. We’re also big fans of coconut water, which besides the printed claims on the package, does seem to make us feel better when we’re cruelly hung-over.

Venice’s Windward Farms serves a variety of freshly-squeezed juices in plastic bottles that are perfect to take on the road and are priced around three to four bucks each. And if a trip to Galco’s is conceivable, we’ll stock up on some of those strange and sundry vintage sodas or simply grab our favorite all-natural root beer made by Virgil’s, who have a new Dr. Pepper approximation as well. Fortunately, there’s no lack of places to stop for aguas frescas by LAX, so if things aren’t moving, find us at El Puerto Escondido trying to make eyes with the servers over a horchata and plate of mojarra. And, seeing as we plan to drink a lot to stay hydrated, we’ll probably need to pack a few empty bottles as well.

We’ll start this trip with one our favorite snacks: Jamagels! These Jamaican-spiced bagels are made locally and owner Reginald Douglas recently introduced a line of Jamagel crisps that are even more addictive, especially when dipped in hummus. Plus, they deliver, keeping us off the road just a little longer.

When it comes time for a sugar-high, we’re bringing along the killer toffee made by P.O.P. of Santa Monica and the uniquely flavored peanut brittle from Morning Glory Confections, both the kinds of sweets that you keep popping in your gob until the bag is gone. Since mini-pie is a bit of a thing and we think we could actually eat these in a traffic jam without sullying our fine linens, we’ll take along a few of the cobbler pie shooters from Crust, as well as the company’s chocolate-drizzled cracker brittle that cannot be resisted (is our trunk starting to sound like the foodie version of Fear & Loathing yet?).

Since we don’t want to lose our minds in traffic, we’re going to need some “behavioral enrichment,” as we used to call it when we worked at the zoo. For like, two years now, we’ve had Julia Child staring us in the face in our car from the package of a double disc set. That’s because we borrowed someone’s copy of My Life in France on CD and never returned it. We never listened to it either and hang our heads in shame.

So, that might help the drive go by a little easier, unless we find ourselves still in traffic at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday. This is every food-obsessed Southland commuter’s best time to be in the car, as it starts the one hour we get to share with Evan Kleiman and friends every week on her KCRW radio show Good Food. In fact, to make up for all the shows we’ve missed in the past, we can even download them all via podcast.

Speaking of downloading, we should probably read Blood, Bones, and Butter before it becomes our next My Life in France, and see that’s downloadable from iTunes for $23.99. Still on tapes and CDs? How about making your own copy of Eric Greenspan’s Guest DJ playlist (the best one so far in the series) and giving that a spin while you think of things grilled and cheesy.

We’re not iPad or even iPhone users. In fact, our phone is about as smart as anything made in the My First Sony line of crappy plastic products. We don’t have a GPS and long ago ditched our Thomas Guide. But we just might need to break from the road at some point to get something to eat and then what? We’re going to have to pack our battered copy of Jonathan Gold’s cheap eats bible Counter Intelligence, just in case there’s a nearby classic that could offer some relief. We’ll also have to pack our current favorite guide to eating through L.A. is Eat: Los Angeles, which takes a locals approach to eating round the city’s neighborhoods and is full of gems both familiar and forgotten. And just to remind us what awaits when we finally get out of the car, we’ll have to have a copy of Lina Lecaro’s Los Angeles’s Best Dive Bars: Drinking and Diving in the City of Angels. Who knows? We might need to pull over to hunker down at Tattle Tale Room to wait this whole mess out. Did someone just request Peaches and Cream…again?

Now it’s your turn! Help us survive our Carmageddon tour-of-duty to LAX this Saturday. What will we need? What are we forgetting? What will really make this trip more bearable? All recommendations and suggestions are greatly appreciated in our comments.

How to Prepare Your Carmageddon Survival Toolkit