Ah, California, the one state I think that should become its own country. At the same time, it’s also a land that shouldn’t ever be missed if you have a chance to visit because it has so many wonders. When you say California, most people think of Los Angeles, Malibu, and/or Hollywood. However, in my mind it brings images of zen deserts, enormous Sequoias, and crystal blue mountain lakes. It is a land that is filled with tranquil beauty and elegant nature that rivals that of many other states, and like New York, shouldn’t be written off only as filled with huge cities.
I started my trip on Interstate 5 coming out of Oregon. I-5 is one of the wonderful roads like I-10 or I-95 that frames the US. It begins at the border of Washington state and Canada, snakes through the inner coast of Washington and Oregon, and then cuts California in half lengthways in the center. If followed to the end, it comes out at Tijuana, Mexico. It is honestly one of those roads that should be traveled by every serious road tripper and experienced to the fullest.
Anyway, the great state of California! Entering California from the north brings you into the gorgeous Californian Rocky Mountains. It was here that I saw mountain lakes that could rival the startling blue of the Caribbean Ocean; they were an aqua-white-green so vivid that you have to see it to believe it. The surrounding scenery of mountains covered in orange and brown rocks and large shaggy pine trees create the sensation that you have stepped back into the heyday of the 1800’s gold rush days. I wish I could have spent more time in this gorgeous part of the state, but my destination was farther south.
After the amazing peaks of the Rockies, I-5 comes into the breadbasket of California, the valley that hosts the capital, Sacramento. My most vivid memory of this part of the state is how golden yellow the fields were, like liquid honey spread across the land. These rolling hills hid various cattle land, wheat fields, and grape vineyards paired with the beautiful greens of late May. This is a part of California that looks so quaint, filled with hard working people taking care of the family farms; it doesn’t fit the normal picture of busy LA or Hollywood, and I think that is why I liked it so much. Quaint, gentle, and warm, it could have been the Midwest or parts of the South.
Leaving the breadbasket, the desert begins. It’s not so much a desert once you hit Modesto and Fresno, but it is a dryer part of the state. The drive takes you by large open fields where most of the produce in the US is grown. Vegetables and fruits of all kinds grow here, and the hard work of these land-laborers is very apparent, and so are the complex ways of irrigation. When you go through this part of the state, it is a must to stop on a side road at a produce stand. Most often than not, the produce you are buying was picked fresh that morning in the field behind the stand. And while you are stopping off in this part of the state, you need to make a day trip to see the Sequoia National Forest.
Located about 30-60 minutes east of Fresno, the Sequoia National Forest is the refuge of the largest trees in the world. These trees have reached to almost 300 feet tall and have branches at 7 feet in diameter. Walking through this forest is like nothing else on Earth and should be seen by everyone. It makes you feel very small and humble among such awe-inspiring nature. When you go, be sure to pack a jacket. Even in the height of summer, it can be a bit cool in this National Park. (Oddly enough I went there on the hottest day of the year and it was only 80 degrees.)
My trip on I-5 stopped at Bakersfield, and then turned onto Hwy 58, taking me deeper into desert country towards Needles and Barstow. If you go this route to reach I-40, make sure you have plenty of fuel. There is very little in terms of filling stations out there, so running out of gas is not a good idea; believe the signs that warn about this. Out here you will also pass Edwards Air Force base, where every new aircraft for the US military is test flown. The base is steeped in aviation history and should be visited by any aviation buffs, but check their website to make reservations for their tours. Nearby is also the secretive Area 51, but I’m sure tours aren’t available there. Also in this part of California is Boron where Borax is made. It makes the air smell like kitty litter, which is just odd.
I highly suggest a trip like this through California. Will it take you to such places as San Francisco or LA? No, but it will instead give you a broader view of all the cards California holds as a state. It isn’t all beaches and Hollywood glamour. It is instead filled with rich beauty and studious farming that feeds most of the US. A trip like this gives you a better sense of the humanity in California, instead of the drama of celebrity gossip. It’s peaceful and a state worth driving through.
Until next time, happy road trippin’.
Juror #11/ A Wandering Soul
Filed under: Drive the USA, North America | Tagged: A Wandering Soul, airplanes, Area 51, aviation history, Bakersfield, Bardstow, beautiful, beautiful scenery, Borax, Boron, breadbasket, CA, California, cattle, desert, Drive the USA, driving, Edwards Air Force Base, family farms, farms, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, Fresno, friendly folk, gentle, Hollywood, I-40, I-5, Juror #11, LA, Malibu, Modesto, mountain lakes, mountains, nature, produce stand, quaint, road trip, Rocky Mountains, Sacramento, San Francisco, sequoias, Tiajuana, vineyards, warm, wheat fields, zen deserts | Leave a Comment »