Illustration for Midnight Cruising
Illustration by Katelyn Bernardo

Midnight Cruising

By Ethan Lauren

To drive is to live—or such goes some notion emulating Kerouac, but now he's dead and the romance of the road ceases to the realities of commuting. Yet sometimes, you need to head out onto the open road with the speed limit wind streaming through your hair.

Anybody taking Interstate 405 to Long Beach knows it’s not quite a scenic journey, with stop-and-go traffic drawling on. For those who prefer staying up, out, and looking to while the time away, here are four routes for rolling out with blacktop under wheel—though, technically, some recommendations might be asphalt.

Whether you’re new to southern California or a true Angelino, cruising down these streets resonates differently at night compared to daytime traffic congestions.

One tip for driving late at night is to pull aside, when able, if somebody is riding close behind you. There is an inherent risk to driving, but don't be fast nor be furious. It's typically better to know there's a car ahead so you don't find yourself entranced by the empty road.

Across Terminal Island to San Pedro
After a late night on campus, come cross some iconic bridges before breaking off down into lower San Pedro. Interstate 710 will take you over the newly-constructed Long Beach International Gateway and the Vincent Thomas Bridge, the only suspension bridge in the area. Continue to the recommendation below or loop around and drive over some more bridges, because few things are better than bounding a nice, solid bridge.

Pacific Coast Highway
It would be remiss to not mention one of the most iconic strips of pavement to have ever fringed the coastline. When the streets are quiet, when the stench of gasoline isn't present, the ocean scent takes hold across the land.

The worst aspect of Route 1, save for speed racers scrambling down the road, is the thought in the back of the mind urging you to keep going and not look back, but that might just be this writer. It’s easy to turn back around but those looking to steal a longer drive should fare either the canyons Topanga or Malibu. They'll carry you to Route 101, wherein you can head wherever you choose. These roads careen through the mountains where it seems no souls reside. Pleasant curves are abundant; pleasant so long as you don’t speed—not that anybody would dare do so.

Mulholland Drive
Driving down Mulholland is a staple in Los Angeles road vernacular for a reason. Go westward, go eastward, go until the luster grows weary. Don’t get dazzled by the city lights as you wind higher up the hills. Loop to the north or south by way of Coldwater Canyon, or the famous Laurel Canyon—a basic rule to follow is that streets with ‘canyon’ in the name can’t steer you wrong.

Sunset Boulevard
For fans of the musical group Jan and Dean—as I'm sure all college students are—this is where their famous “Dead Man’s Curve” stems from. Just don’t go racing anybody and that nickname shouldn’t be a deterrent to you. Driving the continuity of Sunset showcases bustling intersections to dark patches to William Holden, face down in a pool.

Many streets such as Sepulveda, Santa Monica, Victory, and anything else that Randy Newman might have sung about, are strong contenders, but Sunset triumphs above them with its stamp of Los Angeles iconography.