Yesterday I spent seven-plus hours participating in that uniquely American ritual known as the post-holiday-freeway-death defying - trek-home. Before President Eisenhower decided to link the country with a system of inter-connected highways, most people rarely ventured very far from home. It just wasn't worth the wear and tear on the body, either your own or the automobile's.
Back in the old days, each state had its own unique road system and thus, it was any man's guess as to how to get home, unless he was adept at reading a sextant and a compass.
Ike decided a country as great - and as BIG - as this one needed a unified interstate, transcontinental, road system. And that is, at least tangentially how I came to be humming north on I-5 yesterday, the day after a national holiday, among all the other motorists of dubious judgment who decided to risk life and limb out on the interstate.
And, of course, that term (interstate) is also a misnomer in this case, as you can drive nearly 1,000 miles on I-5 with out ever leaving the state of California.
Those who are not familiar with California's Central Valley truly have no idea of how vast it is. It is well over five hundred miles long, and I drove over four hundred miles of its length in a little over seven hours.
I could have done it in six and a half perhaps, but again, it was July 5th and every third person in the state was either on I-5, stopping at one of the rest areas, and always at the same time I was there; or they were at one of the gas stations, where I was attempting to fill up the Buick's tank; or they were in line ahead of me at one of the fast-food establishments which intermittently line I-5, where I was attempting fill up my own tank. I'm just saying...
It was a zoo, with the occasional gridlock thrown in just for grins and giggles. I was doing neither. Besides dead skunks, lazily circling hawks and the odd snake here and there, there is not a lot of wild life on or near I-5.
Unless, of course, you consider the wild-life whizzing by you at approximately 90 mph, between the lanes, with their motor cycle helmets of blackened plastic just daring you to try to make eye contact.
I saw a big rig blow a tire and burn out it's brakes just as we hit the bottom of the Grapevine (the harrowing pass over the mountains that one must traverse before Southern California allows you to leave.) If you survive the exit-test of the Grapevine, then you are free to mosey (at 75 to 90 miles per hour) on up to Bakersfield, Fresno, etc. until at last you come to little old Cow Town, the less-than-affectionate name which Angelenos call Sacramento.
Buttonwillow, Tulare, Pasa Robles, Los Banos, they roll by like so many snapshots in a view finder. Andrea Bocelli belted out some beauties on the stereo as I buzzed North. The temperature outside the Buick varied, although the spectrum yesterday spanned only from 102 to 106.
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Why would any sane person, giving myself the benefit of the doubt, do this? Well, I believe it has something to do with getting to spend several days with my daughter and the grandchildren, including on July 4th, attending the Laverne annual fireworks display. The fireworks were so awe-inspiring that I actually saw Parker sit still for five whole minutes at one stretch. Awesome!
Hope your holiday was a good one, and that you are safe and sound at home. ...Marsha