Friday, October 18, 2013

La Brea Tar Pits

On each of our trips to Southern California we always aim to do something different. Get in our rental car and leave the cocoon we call Disneyland. This trip's big get out of town trip was to the La Brea Tar Pits.

Back in the summer of 1982 we took a family vacation to Southern California. It is probably one of the most memorable trips we ever took as kids in part because it was the only time we went to California, and because I was 12 (almost 13) at the time. We saw our new Uncle Sterling. I hung out at a country club with a relative of one of our neighbors who used to spend part of her summer in Paramus, went to Disneyland, the beach, and La Brea Tar Pits. The trip the took an eastern turn via Houston to Denver to visit Aunt Barbara and Uncle Allen when they lived there.

Fast forward about 30 years. Ashley became a big Flintstones fan. There is an episode where they reference the La Brea Tar Pits. In trying to dredge up my memories I just could not do the place justice. How often do you find an archaeological dig in the middle of a huge metropolitan city?

As we were making our plans for the trip, I told my sister Rebecca's ST-END Sue that we were thinking of going to the tar pits. Turns out, that is one of her favorite sites. We made plans to meet there after the Wonderland 10K (and a shower). Unfortunately life got in the way, and Sue and HIM could not meet us. We still had a good time.

We learned:
1) There are no dinosaurs in the Tar Pits. Go figure! The dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years, back when Los Angeles was still covered by the ocean. The Tar Pits are only 50,000 years old.

2) There is no "tar" nor "pits." They are really bubbles of crude oil. 
3) The tar pits are still trapping small animals on hot days.

4) They are still digging up remains and studying them.

For me the neatest part of the exhibit was being able to watch scientists at work in Fishbowl Lab. I can't imagine working while people stare at me, but on the other hand jobs in archaeology are rare, so maybe the scientists don't mind as much. The room looked like a step back in time. Funding, as you can surely guess, is a big issue.

Though it would have been a treat to listen to Ragtime Alan play that day (he was a last minute substitute pianist at Coke Corner), my legs and body appreciated the slower day so I could rest up for the Disneyland Half Marathon the next day.

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