Friday, March 27, 2015

Road-trip -- North on I-5 from LA to San Francisco

Immense numbers of Bird-of-Paradise flowers in Westchester near Marina del Rey on the coast south of Santa Monica -- nothing like this in Anchorage.

A useful note -- most of the photos were taken at 70 miles per hour through the car windows. Not art gallery quality photos.

Starting up towards Tejon Pass on I-5 through the Los Padres National Forest. Not many trees here, just miles and miles of minimalist slopes -- bare ground, small shrubs -- uncomplicated and serene.

Beautiful hills, coming down from Tejon Pass, with just a little spring green visible right behind the truck.

California has lots of people, but almost none of them live along I-5 between Santa Clarita (north edge of LA) and Gilroy (south end of the Bay area). We left at 9:00 a.m., and arrived in Menlo Park about 5:00 p.m. In between we saw a remarkable amount of empty space -- and truly empty. For much of the drive we saw only an occasional crow -- no hawks or turkey vultures, no other birds, no animals, nothing moving besides the cars on the freeways.

We saw few green crops like these in the front of the photo, and just this one batch of tented crops. Note in the back -- power lines. Hundreds of power line towers and lines stretch along and across I-5, looking odd in such unpopulated places. The areas to the east may support much more agriculture than the lands on either side of I-5.

When we did see animals, they were domesticated -- almost all cows. There were a few small fenced areas with cattle pasturing, one enormous feed lot with thousands of cows, a dairy farm, and the occasional Black Angus bulls/steers. I could see those steers on a menu -- "pastured, grass-fed, from [name of ranch], humanely brought to your table with sustainable methods . . . " They seemed unaware of their futures.

A second feed lot, several hours down the road.

There were miles of vineyards along various stretches of the road, some young and others well-established. Look carefully, and you will see an oil rig pumping away behind the vines.

I have to wonder what the oil wells add to the terroir of the grapes -- one never hears them mentioned in the descriptions of the care with which the wines have been made.

We stopped for Subway sandwiches just north of Bakersfield for lunch, and found little four-packs of wine for sale to drink with lunch. I'm sorry now that I didn't get one.

In a few places, orange poppies, the California state flower spread in patches on the hills, and other flowers bloomed for their brief moments.

Tejon Ranch, near Tejon Pass, 4,144 feet. Note orchards in the background.

We came down from the mountains into brown haze that lasted for the next 150 miles or so (from south of Bakersfield up past the turnoff for Coalinga), much worse than anything in LA.

Orange orchards -- we saw only one stretch of them. Most of the other orchards were green, but none had identifiable fruit (or flowers) yet.

Trees, miles of them, covered with nets. They must have been difficult to get on. Were they protecting cherries from birds?

In sharp contrast to much of the trip, the Coalinga-Avenal rest area had birds, butterflies, and shade -- respite from the blue sky and sun. Here, one of the dozens of birds who had built nests in the roof of the shelter.

We didn't see much sign of people in the fields, but did pass a trio of empty buses that were intended for workers.

Starting south of Bakersfield, and continuing all of the way north to the turnoff for Gilroy, we saw dozens of signs, repeating a few political messages: "No water=higher food bills;"  "Water=jobs;" "Stop the Congress-created dust bowl;" "Food grows where water flows;" and the like. They weren't put out by a sophisticated production team, and it wasn't entirely clear who their target audience was. It was especially unclear because most of what we saw seemed to be thriving -- hard to tell that there was a water shortage.

Another interesting feature of the drive, to me, was the fact that we saw almost no homes in these long stretches of fields and orchards. In many parts of the country, you see houses and barns, sometimes small settlements, every few miles at least. Not so, here -- if we saw them, they were a great distance away.

Finally we got to highway 152 which took us west to 101 at Gilroy. The terrain was almost immediately greener, soft with grasses and patches of flowers.

We stopped at "The last produce stand before Hwy. 101" to buy strawberries and almonds.

The heat (low 80s?) didn't seem to bother the pleasant woman who ran the stand, and who thought Alaska sounded interesting (her sister wanted to go there to fish for salmon).

And then we were back to city life, with freeways and overpasses, stop and go traffic, and exits to other highways and streets filled with people and cars.

The roses we left behind in LA.

No comments:

Post a Comment