In 1967 my father bought a Pontiac Catalina and a dingy old travel trailer and took his girlfriend, my brother and me on a road trip. Over the next 8 weeks we drove 13,498 miles, visited 51 parks, and saw wonders like geysers, redwoods, grizzlies, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The trip made an indelible impression, cementing my appreciation for the natural world and the American landscape. This summer Pamela and I hope to repeat the experience for our family.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dave: Godforsaken California

Heading up I-15 to Vegas, we see a flashing highway sign telling us the highway is closed ahead because of a big accident.

We pull off in Hesperia to plot a stratgy, and we get lucky. The exit unloads us into an In 'n Out Burger. The kids were delighted by the cheerful '50s ambience of the place, and they termed the chocolate shakes "brilliant."

Someone probably died in that accident on I-15, but for us it provided the occasion for a fun (and inexpensive) lunch.

Then we had to detour up 395, and head east on 58 to Barstow. This took us through a godforsaken landscape. It's mostly flat, scrubby vegetation, some Joshua trees reaching up for the sky. Pretty normal Mojave landscape. There are lots of widely spaced houses and almost every one is abandoned, boarded up, some covered with graffiti. Some yards feature rusty travel trailers. It's grim. I wonder what economic tide brought people to this area in the first place. Whatever it was, it ebbed many years ago, leaving only human flotsam behind.

When we reach Barstow and rejoin the highway, I think we'll have smooth sailing. Instead, we hit bumper to bumper and crawled along for another 10 miles until traffic settles down to a fast steady flow heading into Vegas on a Sunday night. Reminds me of the reasons I left California. There are so many cars and so many people.

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