Nice try and keep up the good work.
Share your pain dude when dealing with So Cali's extensive light pollution. My problem is LA. Even when pointing to Japan, still you see ships light or frequently passing life/coast guard's chopper or commercial skytracers! that is when marine layer is friendly. Must admit if you can get towards the Sultan's Lake or Mojavi's desert, things changes.
Anyways, it always pays back significantly to predetermine the location in relation to position of the Milky way for the given night. You don't want it very high in sky, when your image also has an important foreground element such as Car.
Try shooting towards the brighter/more interesting part of MW (And I see you already did that in your images that significantly adds). You need to have access to a guide such as Stellarium or likewise. Usually your best part of MW, when viewed from your location in Northern hemisphere and in these nights, is in Southern direction, starting from SE and ending at SW, that is, at earlier hours of the night. Even if you are not familiar with your night sky, try to identify Orion (Very easy due to its brightness and unique, easy to recognize shape of the "Hunter"), especially in these Winter nights when Orion rises early and is well visible throughout the night. Then locate Canis Major and even if not possible, just join the lines in Orion's belt, downwards toward South or the left and you can not miss Sirius. That is the brightest star in that area of sky for the night. Once you got the Sirius aim for MW to its lower left. That part is the greatest for these nights and you should have no problem in locate it after 9-10 PM and before an hour passed midnight. Incidentally this part is very close to horizon so perfect to add a nice Foreground such as your image.
Rest is doing your homework as you go on, with adding your experience through trial and errors.
Dark and cloudless nights to all and have fun.