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Vandenberg AFB is not "in the California desert," as claimed in the newspaper story. It's right on the coast, near beautiful downtown Lompoc (for which, see The Bank Dick by W.C. Fields).
You can drive pretty close to these launches by heading for the beach where D.W. Griffith filmed Intolerance. Air Force and local police will stop you, and make you park and wait until the launch is over, but the rocket rises "out of the hills" from less than a mile away, and the view is spectacular.
Been there, done that.
 
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