LACMA's big rock starts its 11-day, 106-mile journey west
It's a chilly 49 degrees at Riverside's Stone Valley quarry. But things are heating up -- quite literally -- for LACMA's big rock, which Tuesday night starts its 11-day, 106-mile journey to the Mid-Wilshire museum, where it will be the focal point of artist Michael Heizer's sculpture "Levitated Mass."
The heat is tangible: The boulder, which is resting in a sling on its massive transporter, is shrink-wrapped in milky white cellophane and glowing under 300-some string lights. And billows of smoke are wafting through the air from Bob's Bar-B-Que. The catering truck is servicing the more than 150 people who are milling about in scarves and wool caps, awaiting the rock's departure.
The move, which is being handled by Emmert International, is nearly half a year behind schedule -- largely due to permitting delays as it will travel through 22 cities and four counties. But that's nothing compared with how long Emmert's director of operations, Mark Albrecht, has been working on the project. "Three years now," he said. "The anticipation is killing me!"
Albrecht, who is also project manager for the move, said the boulder's 200-foot long transporter and its unwieldy caravan of more than 20 additional support vehicles, will only travel five miles on its first night.
"We want to limit our travel tonight," he said. "We don't want to bite off more than we can chew."
Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is expected to show up just before the 10 p.m. start time, to give a short address to the crowd. On the first night in Riverside that included about 200 locals, art lovers and fans of engineering.The museum paid $70,000 for the rock.
Among the visitors were 9-year-old twins Mackenzie and Hunter Atkins from Rancho Cucamonga. Mackenzie said: "My uncle said there was a huge rock here. And I really like to draw and paint. We wanted to come see it." Hunter chimed in: "It's just cool"
Bud Stone, 83, from Riverside, and his wife had come out to see the rock five times already. Why?
"We love big heavy equipment. And it's amazing what they're gonna do with it [at the museum]. We're gonna go see it there too!"
Culture Monster will be making the trip with the rock, which is expected to reach its first stopping point at the intersection of Mission Boulevard and Bellegrave Avenue in Ontario at 5 a.m. Wednesday.
For live tweeting from the scene follow Twitter.com/@debvankin.
Photo: Spectators get some photos of the massive rock before it begins its journey to LACMA. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times