Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 30 - Auburn CA to Bakersfield CA

Today is 10/4 and this is the day each year that I choose to offer remembrance to my friend David G. Robertson who died too soon.  He was a lovely, fun loving man who appreciated a good pun.  10/4 was one of our favorite days for punning because in police speak it means "I understand" or "OK".  So on this day, for this year I say "10 - 4 good buddy".

Today was a travel day which means that I have quite a few random observations to discuss.

I just noticed that the label on the milk carton says that "This milk is from cows NOT treated with the growth hormone rBST".  Unlike Maine milk cartons there is no asterisk with a comment saying that rBST treated milk has not been shown to be bad for you.  California, you rock!

I wanted to include a picture of the solar array at the Gold Country RV park in Auburn, CA.  They generate the electricity that runs the campground.  Very green.

We traveled today from Auburn to Bakersfield CA.  This was done primarily on CA99 which is a nasty piece of freeway that traverses the San Joaquin (or Central) Valley from Sacramento.  A short jaunt on I5 got us here.  Notice that some of the cement sound barriers in the Sacramento area have vines growing on them.  This was a nice break from the plain barricades.  It felt more like a hedge than a means to shield the other side from the roar of the freeway.  CA99 is also called the Golden State Highway.  It took us through Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield (among others).  This road was mentioned in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath as the main road that the Joad family travel through California.  The Joad's aren't the only ones who use this road.  It is heavily used by tractor trailers and is a busy, loud, smelly experience.  There are several highway improvement projects going on that caused even more congestion.  I appreciate that the reason we get most of the products we buy is because of trucks.  I like fresh fruit and vegetables as much as the next person.  But at least for today I really wanted those trucks to bring them to me in the middle of the night or by using some other road.  It's much like feeling okay about buying meat when it is sitting on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic and looking nothing like a cow. 

The town of Atwater smelled like salsa.  Brett and I both agreed on this.  That is good because if only one of us was smelling something strange and strong it might mean that we were having a stroke.

The landscape became agricultural almost immediately after leaving Sacramento.  The first surprise for me was seeing vineyards.  I didn't think of this valley as a big wine producer.  I did read later that wine is one of the lower profile products of the valley.  This valley accounts for a majority of the agricultural production of California.  Grapes (table and raisin) are the highest profile but also important are cotton, nuts, citrus and vegetables.  I can vouch for grapes, cotton, corn and nuts as well as hay.  Cattle ranching and dairy are also important.    We saw a factory that produced Kraft Parmesan cheese (dear Kraft, thanks again for that Nabisco pension check each month).
I learned today that Selma, CA is the raisin capital of the world.  There were certainly a lot of trucks piled high with grapes there.
A song was stuck in my head for many hours today - Stuck In Lodi  (again!)

Many neighborhoods in California are surrounded by walls.  These are not "gated" communities, they are fortresses.  It is interesting that many European cities have been removing their medieval walls while American cities are erecting them.  By a slip of the tongue I remarked that the medieval towns and modern cities both used the walls to keep out the Bavarians.  You know how those Bavarians can be.

Today I saw a cell tower disguised as a palm tree.  It was a bit more successful than the pine tree version seen earlier in the trip.

See the cloud of dust?  It is behind a tractor that is plowing this enormous field.  Most of the land is irrigated but it still looks very dusty.  We drove by several junk car lots where all the vehicles were just covered with a thick layer of dirt.

Water appears to be a big issue for discussion here.  I saw a big sign saying "Stop the Congress created water crisis".  Then there was another sign advertising a "Rally for Dairy Relief".  We saw a lot of feed lots just packed with cows.  They are being sold because there isn't enough to feed them.

The majority of the rivers in the area are either dry or extremely low.  We saw an RV park advertising water front sites.  Those sites were facing the gravel river bed.

By the way, it is lucky we could see as far as we could today.  The air in the valley is the most polluted in the state (diesel fumes being a primary contributor). 

These are almond trees.  Notice the litter beside the road?

Ugly, ugly CA99.  We are stuck in a traffic jam now.  Brett is the only driver for miles who was leaving a big space between himself and the vehicle ahead.  Big deal - somebody always moved into the space.  When we got to the cause of the jam we found that it wasn't bison or a truck full of asparagus spilled on the road.  The wise highway people had decided to sweep the side of the freeway this afternoon. 

For more fun in traffic, I took a picture of our reflection in the truck ahead of us.

These grain mills and storage things were everywhere.  I do not recall seeing any grain growing anywhere.  It is possible that it was growing in the fields that are now bare.  These things are huge!

What might look like dust at first glance is water.  These fields are being irrigated.

The highway had signs boasting rest areas.  We did stop at one but the others were either missing or closed.  Here is the whale parked in four or six parking spaces at some kind of mall.  It was blazing hot outside, I was developing a raging headache and it was time to stop for a break.  We did manage to drive up over one of the islands in grand style but that was the only incident.

These are table grapes or possibly raisin grapes.  I was thinking bad thoughts about the wine grapes because this valley is supposed to be where our FOOD is grown.  But now I feel better.

Put this one under the "something I haven't seen at home" category.  It is a tanker truck filled with honey.
 We hadn't seen any corn for a long time.  This stuff looks a lot greener than the corn that was growing in western Washington state.  The day did not feel like a drive through the pastoral farm lands.  It was more like a grit your teeth, slog through an industrial food production complex.  There is a lot of infrastructure around to support food.

Here we are tucked in for the night at the Bakersfield Palms RV Resort.  They make very little pretense about these being resort sites.  These are overnight pull throughs in a parking lot that have water, electric and sewer as well as a token pathetic palm tree.  But for $27 it beats trying to camp in a WalMart parking lot.

I do think that this section of the park looks like the old drive-in parking areas.  Wish they would show a movie in the evening.

I wish that I had something really nice to say about our trip through the valley today or about Bakersfield.  I cannot think of anything.  I will say that the image I have of Bakersfield consists of the dead grass beside the freeway which is covered with more litter than I have seen anywhere else in our travels.  Somebody should seriously take the time to pick some of this crap up.  It is ugly, ugly, ugly and I will be glad to leave tomorrow for a change of venue.  I have been to Bakersfield twice in my life now.  That is enough.

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