12-27-2016 Traveling South Along the Great Valley

Current Location:  Orange Grove RV Park Bakersfield California  Clear and Chilly

For several winters now we have managed to travel south around this time of year.  It is familiar territory, and takes a bit of effort for either of us to step back and appreciate that 300 miles or so between Lodi and  Bakersfield, to see it with new eyes.  As is often the case, even on a clear somewhat sunny day, there was a bit of murk in the air, especially east toward the Sierras.  We are used to that.  We are used to the rattles of the poorly maintained pavement of I – 5 in this part of California.  Sometimes there are smooth stretches, with recent repairs, but more often than not the MoHo rattles and shakes and bangs when we hit road divots that should be on a back country road somewhere.

We held our noses as we passed the huge feed lots near Harris Ranch, a place where we once stopped for a steak dinner on Christmas Day.  We stopped for a few moments at the rest area near Coalinga, built with thought and care with local materials to look like the old agricultural buildings that have been part of this landscape for more than a century.  Again I drove up the little knoll to a vista point that gave us a view of the dual ribbon of the interstate stretching south into the distance, as far as the eye could see, thick with cars glinting in the sunlight, moving in both directions.

Today, however, there was just a bit of difference in the way I looked at the broad valley stretching toward the east from our elevated highway along the foothills of the coast range.  I recently discovered an environmental writer, a crazy guy that lives in Yucca Valley, and he speaks to my heart on so many things. Chris Clarke writes like Ed Abbey mixed up with a touch of Terry Tempest Williams.  The article that broke my heart was one I read recently, describing the paradise that was once the California Great Valley, as it was before corporate agriculture took it over.  I know we need food, but still…do we really need to export all the almonds in the world at the expense of our land and our water, to make a corporation richer? 

I mapped soils in California, I know how beautiful it can be in so many places.  I have seen bits and pieces of the valley that hint at what once was.  But this verbal visual picture of what we have completely lost made me cry when I read it, and today as I drove south along that valley, I remembered Chris’s words.  If you want to read something beautiful, and heart rending, and important, read this article from his Coyote’s Crossing.

We were slowed by two large accidents, one semi that looked like maybe someone had fallen asleep, or as my trucker daughter said, maybe texting.  The next accident looked as though it may have been a couple of cars that decided to change lanes one time too many and into each other.  Traffic was fast and crazy, and lane changes were frenetic.  I was happy to see no ambulance at the second wreck, and to see a woman holding her big white dog in her arms as she stood next to her upside down totaled van.

We left at 7:30 am, allowing enough time to cover the miles and not worry about arriving after dark and by 3 we were parked and set up in Orange Grove RV Park, east of Bakersfield.  I have no idea how many times we have been here, but it is quite a few.  The oranges keep bringing us back. 

In keeping with our techie issues, Mo discovered this morning as we left frosty Lodi that the Tracker was dead.  With a pull through site, we hadn’t unhooked, and decided to just pull her along until we arrived at Orange Grove.  The park here was mostly empty, we pulled in straight, unhooked and I pulled the MoHo out and backed in, battery to battery.  In minutes, the Tracker was purring again.  We had left the fan on the last time we drove it and with the key to “accessory” in order to stay in park and still allow the steering wheel to turn, the fan was on, quietly enough that we didn’t hear it. Dead Battery.  It has happened before, but not too often.  The fix was easy, thank goodness.

Then we set up the satellite, with the phone at hand ready to call King.  In minutes we had both satellites, a great signal, and Direct TV channels popped up just fine.  Nothing was different than yesterday afternoon, and yet for no reason we could figure out, everything worked just fine.  I simply have no clue, but here we are, dinner in our tummies, a good glass of wine, and the news keeping Mo company while I write.

Somehow, everything that seemed to be a problem yesterday has been resolved today, without any real effort.  I love it when that happens! Not long after we arrived, I was out picking oranges, with an extra bag tucked away for Nickie and Jimmy, who are now settled in a bit north of us in Wasco. 

The oranges are bigger and thicker and even sweeter than I ever remember.  Even though things were empty when we arrived, the staff warned us that the park would be full to capacity tonight and in the next few days would no doubt move into overflow only.  Whew.  Don’t try to come here without a reservation.

Tomorrow we will drive the infamous Grapevine, a highway I remember from my childhood trips to Yosemite.  Back then, in the 50’s it was an 8 hour drive over the mountains to Fresno, a wild and curvy drive, hence the name.  There are still some pieces of the historic highway left for motorcyclists and hikers.  Ah such wonderful memories, waking at 2 am to tuck into the back of the 52 Buick with blankets and pillows as my dad drove that winding road, watching the sun rise as we dropped down into the Great Valley.