Boulder Gathers No Moss On Its Way To Los Angeles

Renee Montagne talks to Terry Emmert, who's in charge of transporting a 340 ton granite boulder to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it will be featured in a modern art exhibit.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A granite boulder weighing a whopping 340 tons is slowly making its way here to Los Angeles, where it will be the centerpiece of an artwork at the L.A. County Museum of Art. The LACMA Rock, as it's come to be known, was pulled from a quarry in the foothills 100 miles east of L.A. It's being carried on a kind of caravan with 206 wheels, taking up two highway lanes. The museum compares it to moving the stones that built the ancient pyramids.

Terry Emmert is the man in charge of moving the rock, and we called him just after midnight, as he led the vehicles carrying the rock star.

TERRY EMMERT: Well, right now, we're traveling down a two-lane road that is narrow. There's about 30 vehicles in front of us with flashing lights, which are the utility companies and police escorts. Behind us, we have a white, shrink-wrapped boulder sitting in the middle of our transporter slowly moving down the road. And we move about, you know, walking speed, up to five miles an hour.

MONTAGNE: You're not taking the most direct route. You're taking rather a roundabout route. You're south of Los Angeles now, and you're coming into Los Angeles eventually. Tell us why you're doing that.

EMMERT: Well, the primary reason is we have to have a height clearance of at least 23 feet. And due to fixed overpasses on the freeways, we have to wind almost 105 miles around the L.A. basin, here, from Riverside to L.A., to be able to have an unobstructed path. Also, cornering is very difficult when you have a 300-foot-long convoy. So we have to make sure we've got wide turns and plenty of access.

MONTAGNE: And traveling at night?

EMMERT: That's right. The requirements for our permits is to not start before 10 PM, and try to be off the roads by 6 AM, so we don't impeded the traveling public.

MONTAGNE: Well, there's a fair number of people who've come out to watch, I gather, at least at certain points along the way. What are people doing, just standing there, cheering? Is it like a parade?

EMMERT: That's the best way to describe it, as like a parade. They'll cheer when we make a corner. And there's photographers out there taking pictures. And when we drive by the people, I hear a lot of the parents talking to their kids that they're seeing history go down the road, and they wanted to remember this when this rock was transported through town.

MONTAGNE: Your company has been in the business of moving very large objects for a long time. I gather, what, a hotel, missiles. What other things, and how does this compare?

EMMERT: Well, each project's different. But we moved the Fairmont Hotel down in San Antonio, Texas. That was a 1,600-ton, three-story building. We move power plant equipment, oil refinery equipment and just unique objects, but, I must say, never one as unique as an art project that is a rock.

MONTAGNE: How many more days? What do we have, another two nights?

EMMERT: That's correct.

MONTAGNE: And what do you expect when you finally show up on Wilshire Boulevard in the middle of Los Angeles?

EMMERT: Well, if the last couple of nights have been any representation, I bet you there will be thousands of people lining those streets down there. Every night we get closer to the museum, it just gets more and more crowded all night long. It's incredible.

MONTAGNE: Thank you.

EMMERT: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: Terry Emmert is leading the caravan carrying the monster granite boulder to the L.A. County Museum, where it will be the centerpiece of the artwork, "Levitated Mass."

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