After the glitch-free first leg of a long-planned and long-delayed journey, a 340-ton boulder making its way from a Riverside quarry to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art stopped in the small town of Glen Avon on Wednesday and couldn't help but turn some heads.
Billie Welzer was one of those who had to get a look.
"Too bad it's not a diamond,'' Welzer, 62, said as she took snapshots to show her husband.
The rock, as it's known, is the centerpiece of "Levitated Mass," a work by artist Michael Heizer that will be installed on the grounds of the county museum near its Resnick Pavilion. The move is nearly half a year behind schedule, largely due to delays in getting permits along its 105-mile trip through four counties and 22 cities. It will travel only at night.
The entire project — the art rock, construction of its sculptural site and the move — will cost upward of $10 million, which LACMA has raised from private donors, including Terry and Jane Semel, Bob Daly and Carole Bayer Sager. LACMA paid $70,000 to the quarry for the rock alone.
Noticeably missing from Tuesday night's festivities marking the beginning of the rock's trip was the reclusive artist, who lives in Nevada.
"There's nothing he can really do to help now," said LACMA Director Michael Govan. "But he's excited."
So too was Govan, who was all smiles just before the rock hit the road. "When we started this, we weren't sure if it would happen — the engineering, the logistics," Govan said. "But it's great. A real gift for the public."
Terry Emmert, whose Oregon-based company Emmert International is hauling the rock to LACMA, said the Wednesday-night-to-Thursday-morning leg of the trip would end near Ontario International Airport. One of the more dicey maneuvers will come later this week, when the rock travels under an overpass in Chino with only six inches of clearance, he said.
"We've laid all the plans out for the past six-plus months, so it's just a matter of executing the plan that's been laid out,'' Emmert said.
The rock is carried on a 200-foot-long transporter with 176 wheels, which is roughly two freeway lanes wide. Though it traveled five miles Tuesday night, it wound up just one mile from the quarry. The first night's journey was a roundabout, U-shaped route that was partly designed to avoid a bridge on Pedley Road due to Caltrans weight restrictions, said project manager Mark Albrecht.
"We want to limit our travel tonight," he said. "We don't want to bite off more than we can chew."
For Wednesday's pit stop, crews graded a smooth dirt road across from a weed-covered vacant lot owned by the Crump family, just off Mission Boulevard in Glen Avon. The land was once part of Rancho Jurupa, a 40,000-acre Mexican land grant along the Santa Ana River that covered the Jurupa Valley and city of Riverside.
Christine Crump, 62, said her family has owned the property for three generations. Crump still lives in a tiny, peach-colored home west of the empty field and about 30 yards from where the "Levitated Mass'' was parked for the day. "They said they needed a spot to stop, and we were fine with that,'' said Crump, a former home-healthcare worker who has lived in that home her entire life.
Fred Edwards, a retired civil engineer from Jurupa, was among the scores of locals who pulled to the side of the road to take a peek. Edwards helped build some of the skyscrapers in downtown Los Angeles, but still marveled at the engineering brain power required to move a simple rock.
"It'll be amazing if they make it all the way down to Wilshire without tearing up the town,'' said Edwards, 76.