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Adapting to Life in the Slow Lanes : Derailment: The closure of the Ventura Freeway changes routines of motorists and others. But some say it’s made things more blissful for them.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

As far as Sanford Porter is concerned, he’s facing a disaster of his own.

Since a train derailed Sunday, spilling its cargo of toxic chemicals and forcing authorities to close a 10-mile stretch of freeway, business at the Cliff House Inn has slowly disappeared.

“This is a catastrophe,” said Porter, manager of the oceanfront hotel and restaurant about a mile north of the spill at Seacliff. “This is our bread-and-butter time. This is when we expect to be our busiest.”

All the inn’s 23 rooms had been reserved Sunday, but only six guests showed up and the restaurant was closed because of lack of business. Monday was even bleaker, as even fewer guests checked in.

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Porter said he hopes that the freeway will reopen today, but there’s no guarantee. Officials plan to continue mopping up the spill at least through this afternoon.

Porter was not the only one having trouble.

On the other side of the mountains, where traffic had been rerouted, motorists found themselves in yet another day of gridlock.

Traffic was stop-and-go for miles along California 33 and California 150--and an accident about noon made matters worse.

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Harvey Letson, 20, of Simi Valley had accidentally smashed his truck into the back of a slow-moving tractor-trailer.

“I was just coming down one of those hills, and I couldn’t stop in time,” Letson said.

California Highway Patrolman Brad Prows said traffic along the 35-mile stretch of back road was “mean and ugly.”

“But it’s better than it was,” Prows said.

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When authorities first started diverting traffic on Sunday, it took about five hours to get through the back roads. On Tuesday, it took less than two hours.

Darshan Rango was traveling from San Diego to Goleta to see her grandmother, and her BMW was running on empty when she turned north on California 150. Rango, 20, said she figured that she could make it to a gas station.

But halfway up the road, Rango’s engine quit. She said she was forced to coast down a hill until she could find a place to stop.

“This whole thing is tweaked,” Rango said, shaking her head.

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Liam O’Flaherty, who set out to ride his bicycle along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego, was diverted onto the two-lane country road.

He said he found himself pulling over every few minutes to get out of the path of motorists.

“There’s no shoulder to ride on,” O’Flaherty said. “I have to pull over every time I hear a truck. It just means more riding.”

Meanwhile, back on the coast, a few campers and residents who were not evacuated from the area were enjoying the peace and quiet.

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“This is like heaven,” said Darryl Davis, who was camping with his wife, Sylvia, near Faria.


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