Living in the Los Angeles area, it was pretty obvious that one of my drives stories should feature a freeway. After all, people in LA spend a lot of their lives on the freeways, and like it or not – they are the backbone of the entire region.
But which freeway to use? I decided to travel California’s first freeway, the Pasadena Freeway, also known as SR110 or the Arroyo Seco Parkway.
Originally opened in 1940, the road connects downtown Los Angeles with the city of Pasadena. I wasn’t sure which side of the route to start from, but we decided to start on the north end in Pasadena.
Now Pasadena itself is a pretty historic town, full of beautiful homes on winding tree-lined streets. It’s no wonder why it’s such a popular shooting spot for movies and television shows.
The road starts off as Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena, which runs north-south through the heart of the city. In classic SoCal fashion, it’s lined with palm trees and roadside businesses.
Near South Pasadena, the road becomes a six-lane “freeway”. When it was opened 70 years ago, it was an engineering marvel that allowed motorists to travel between Pasadena and LA in record time.
Now, compared to the rest of the LA freeway system, it’s an outdated,
windy old path – and that’s what makes it fun to drive.
I mean, there’s actual curves. This isn’t one of those autopilot, “fix your hair and shave on the way to work” kind of freeways…
Surely there aren’t too many freeways in LA that look like this…
The on-ramps and off-ramps are also very short.
At the time the road was being planned, there was a debate as to whether it should be a scenic parkway, or an express route. For the most part the backers of the express route won, but effort was still taken to make the road interesting to drive.
There are quite a few scenic bridges that cross the freeway as it winds along the path of the Arroyo Seco stream bed.
At one time a there were bushes in the center of the road, but now the space is occupied by a battered guard rail.
Yes, that pickup truck is actually getting ready to enter the freeway. Who would have thought? A freeway that requires a shred of motoring skill?
Hmm, I don’t even think you can even call this one an off-ramp.
Meanwhile this freeway entrance has a stop sign. How often do you see that?
Eventually, Downtown Los Angeles comes into view above the trees.
On its way towards Downtown LA, the freeway passes right next to Chavez Ravine and the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Dipping into downtown, with LA’s historic city hall building is visible.
The freeway then proceeds through the four-level interchange with the Hollywood Freeway, the first stacked freeway interchange in the world.
From here the route is widened, modernized and known as the Harbor Freeway or the Interstate 110, which continues south to its terminus in San Pedro.
The automobile is embedded in the history of Los Angeles, and while the “golden age” of LA motoring is long gone, a bit of that history always back comes to life with a trip down State Route 110.
Oh man, I miss this road so much.
I love my 110!
I live in pasadena
I used to travel on that road everyday
Man, the 110 is one of those freeways were being stuck in traffic wasn't as painful as say...the 405. I can still remember how beautiful Pasadena looks when the sun is setting and the tree branches scatter the light every which way. Good stuff, and thank you for revealing to the masses that LA isn't completely plastic and neu vogue shit.
If you didn't add in the license plates or the signs, I coulda sworn you were on Hawaii's H1 freeway. Yes, the on and off ramps are about that bad. According to some circles, architects worldwide come to Hawaii to see how NOT to make a freeway system. Sadly, I'm hard-pressed to agree with that. Spectacular road, Mike.
Gotta love LA,
4th picture down, on the left hand side...LUCKY BOY! Best breakfast burrito's around!
I drive the 110 daily...you should drive it at about 3am...all 3-4 lanes to yourself, RARELY any police between the north end (Pasadena) and the 5...Good times!
interestingly, this roadway/freeway was originally a raised bikeway prior to its destruction and remodel for cars. I think this is part of the reason for the scenic/curvy aspect and possibly the intense on/offramps. I live off the 110 up by pasadena and even with an EVO, the on and off ramps are a challenge. This is my favorite freeway in LA at night especially around 3am.
You guys are definitely lucky men!!!!
Everyday I drive down the A99 around Munich, GER.
Oh man, I can't see it anymore!!!
Why don't we have 5-6 laned highways and such a panorama!!!!???
But there is one reason, I would still drive it everyday: It's a "German Autobahn":-)
Best regards to all LA freeway drivers
sooo many accidents on this freeway
Fock the traffic here sucks major donkey dildo man! They need to stack all of the freeways and call that shit a "Skyway" with no speed limit and no friggin Commercial vehicles or 18 wheelers!!! Now that would be bad ass!!! Keep all the trucks on the bottom and speeding vehicles up top!!!
What few Angelinos know is that this is the Story behind the song/myth Little Old Lady from Pasadena....
Pasadena has always been a upper middle class neighborhood, and due to the short on ramps, you can only imagine how hard it would have been to get up to speed in a 50's to 60's car. Car salesman would always upsell the big engined car to ladies telling them you really need to power to get onto the freeway safely. In the late 80's and early 90's more then a few car collectors cruised the older Pasadena neighborhoods looking for classic iron sitting in garages bought by the little old ladies from Pasadena in the 50-60's. Many of them made lots of money doing this.
Some of those old on and off ramps are so scary. Love it though.
Also, coming south from the 2 and going onto the 110 south has a crazy right hander, right near Dodger Stadium or something I think. I almost crashed my S14 a few times because I forgot how sharp the turn is.
Ah yes those short on and off ramps make it quite treacherous. The freeway is fun when it's open, and if you know the curves.
Leaving the Art Center one night just a few corners after Arroyo ended there was a stalled vehicle in the fast lane just beyond a blind left hand bend that almost was my last! It IS fun to drive though with the exception of that one decreasing radius corner traveling back up northbound...
Wonder how it is in rush hour?
I love this freeway, I drive it religiously 3 times a week at least. Nothing like the good old 110 when you want some fun. Speed limit signs of 55 with corner speeds of 45 on a LA freeway is unheard of.
Be extremely cautious on this stretch of road in the rain! Even in light drizzle there is one corner in the middle of the twisty section that I can almost guarantee will have an accident on with the slightest signs of moisture, given that SoCal drivers are horrible is any condition other than dry.
And those "on-ramps" are FTMFW! Any excuse to floor it, I'm all for it.
Someone should do a drive article on the racetrack we have here in San Jose known as 85. I would say either that or 280 from SJ to Frisco but honestly much more street racing goes down on 85 making it a less picturesque choice but a more exciting one.
missed this type of freeways......when i used to live in South cali....now i live in fresno....blah!
Fresno needs to upgrade the damn freeways!!!!! to many stupid merges like the 168 into 180 and 180 into 41!!!
SP resident here. I learned to drive on the 110 freeway. After driving that, none of the other So Cal freeways were scary after that.
Nice one Mike! 110 is a classic CA road course. I always enjoy the commute to/from LAX when Speedhunters goes to Pasadena.
Haha......"The One-Ten" as it's known to most Angelenos.
these scenic roads of the palm trees and picture perfect weather, makes me want to drive from Toronto Canada to L.A, lol
When I vacation in L.A. I always pass by here. I never noticed its true beauty.
Wow, thanks for a great story. Next time I venture L.A. I will have to remember this freeway. And drive it around 3 a.m.?
Good stuff Garrett. Great pics too.
Looks like you a severe graffiti problem there......
I live in Glendale, just down road with the 134 from Pasadena
I miss LA, only 6 months since last visit, Great pics.
The first time I drove the 110 was in the rain, with my learner's permit, and I had forgotten my glasses. Sketchy as all hell, but I made it!
@jayzedex100: You call that severe? Ha!
i'll take my new jersey parkway anyday over that highway! lolz.
I love this post I am an airman In the United States Air Force, I am currentky Stationed in Texas and will soon be leaving to England and as much as Im excited to go I miss home SO much!!!! This site keeps me sane. Speed Hunters For life!!!!!!
man i been thinking of taking a drive like this but up PCH from Long beach to Malibu
So Cal has lot of greats roads just gotta find them ,
great post tho!