California Driving

Pacific, top down... hoping for brown pelicans.

After Thanksgiving, I took the opportunity to borrow my dad’s convertible and drive down to Ventura and back, to see my mom.  (Is that a convoluted family transaction? My parents have been divorced for a long time, so I hope not!)  It was so great to be on the 101 freeway, sailing along, looking at the familiar hills and searching for the river-cut cliffs I know, anticipating the emergence of the coast and the Pacific Ocean below.

Mmmm. Fresh fries.

I didn’t listen to much radio on the way down. I spent a lot of time just thinking random thoughts, watching the landscape pass by.  Quite lovely. I got tired at one point — the trip down took about 7 hours — so a stop at In-n-Out Burgers was required.

I had started out in the Bay Area on my way down, and you could feel the driving styles change, from the aggression of the East Bay to the calm laggardly driving of the mid-state coastal range, and back to rabid aggression as I got closer to Ventura, approaching the great Los Angeles Basin.  People are nuts.  Don’t they know they are guiding huge vehicles with life-crushing capacity down poor roads at high speeds??

Wind power! I've burned a lot of gas this week... heck, the last few decades (including plane fuel!).

The way back on I-5 was a bit more straightforward, as most of the highway is a straight ribbon up the Central Valley. I gawked at the cattle in the occasional confinement pens (I am fascinated by the pollution potential of concentrated animal feeding operations, better known as CAFOs). I yelled at the signs on agricultural land that read “Congress Created Dust Bowl.” (A taste of a few of my favorite phrases: You live in a desert!  You are growing cattle and cotton! Your water is being shipped in from farther north in the Edmund “Pat” Brown Aqueduct!) I drove carefully, to preserve life and limb (and my dad’s car).

I still drove really fast.  And other drivers still passed me.

It turns out that I am and always will be a California driver.  I have not owned a car in nearly a decade.  But I still slow nearly to a stop and roll through stop signs now and again.  I still drive 5 to 10 mph over the speed limit, even on I-5 where it’s set at 70 mph.

I don't remember them from before, but there are vineyards along 101!

Even with the occasional rest stop, it took me about 6 hours to get to Sacramento from Ventura.  Some blues and rock got me home awake, and I enjoyed my cruise control.  But if I had to drive every day, to work and home, to run errands, to the grocery — I would be very very cranky. I was so glad to step out of the vehicle at the end of the day yesterday and stretch.  And vastly relieved that my everyday lifestyle does not require that I own a car.

Pacific coast hills on the 101

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