Oh, Toto--there's no place like home!
Bagel and cream cheese
The Blue Shoe
(just finished Bill
Check a Sheila Video
FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD
7 July 2004
The Wizard of Oz was the season opener for Sacramentos Music Circus tonight and naturally I had the job of reviewing it.
Normally this is a "ho-hum another show" sort of assignment, but when the day starts in Santa Barbara, some 350 miles away from the theatre, there is a bit of a sense of adventure, trying to time it all so we actually make it to the theatre on time.
We packed up and left Santa Barbara at 9:16 (precisely, by the cars clock) and things were going along swimmingly. I was taking my first (of several) naps when I was jolted awake by a sharp intake of breath by Walt and a swerve of the car. Long-time readers of this journal may remember that one of my biggest fears has been that I will die in an auto accident as the result of a collision with one of those huge big rigs. It nearly happened today.
Walt, who recently learned the value of driving the speed limit, was driving down the highway at 65 mph, the posted speed limit, with a big truck on his tail. The driver apparently had different views on staying within the law and was possibly angry with Walt for not speeding up, so he decided to solve the problem by running us off the road. He pulled out to pass, only instead of passing, he just started coming back into our lane, forcing us off onto the shoulder of the road. If I hadnt been so petrified, I would have whipped out the camera to try to get a photo of his license and report him. We were all pretty shaken up for several miles.
We continued on into Pasa Robles and turned east, heading into the Central Valley.
There is a lot of nothing in the Central Valley.
This is the road on which James Dean met his end and somewhere near here there is an unassuming little memorial to him. We passed it and kept driving and driving and driving. I remember Walt's cousin from Ireland looking at hills like this and raving about how beautiful it was to see "golden hills" when all they got in Ireland was green, green and more green. I guess it's all in your perspective!
We joined I-5 at Kettleman City, one of those many oases of fast food eateries and gas stations which dot the road from San Diego to Sacramento. They're all pretty much the same, which is sad. It used to be that a trip was the opportunity to sample some of the local color, no matter how bland or unpleasant it was. Now one fast food joint looks like any other, but occasionally these rest stops will have a locally owned restaurant. On our last trip north, we stopped at the Apricot Tree, a run of the mill eatery whose claim to fame is its collection of metal lunch boxes, which decorate the place
Today, however, we stopped at Mike's Roadside Cafe, an unassuming place hidden away behind the Golden Arches and the Pizza Hut, with lots of trucks parked nearby and rusting farm machinery in front.
We were hit by such a wave of hot air as we emerged from the car that we immediately gave thanks for the invention of air conditioning. (It's a little known fact that the phrase "are we there yet?" was first heard on a summer afternoon in the Central Valley by children riding to Los Angeles in an un-air conditioned car!)
As we entered Mike's, we were again treated to some local color, as this place was decorated with old "kiddie cars," the kind of cars that kids used to pedal around the neighborhood.
They ringed the entire restaurant and were even etched into the glass partitions between the food booths. And, of course, you could find all of the various cars, trucks and fire engines in miniature at the gift shop where you paid your bill at the end of the meal!
Places like this serve good ol' Amurrican food, and plenty of it, at reasonable prices, in deference to their trucker clientel.
Walt's mother, who is not a big eater, had a sandwich and cole slaw. I decided to splurge and go for a mushroom burger (which tasted just like the kind of hamburgers my mother used to make when I was growing up, something that can't be said for McDonald's or Jack-in-the-Box). Walt decided to splurge. That he didn't keel over from a coronary from instant clogged arteries on the spot can only be attributed to the fact that he's been riding his bike to work for the past 31 years.
His meal was a chicken fried steak, two fried eggs, hash browns, and biscuits with gobs of white country gravy.
What's more he ate the whole thing.
By the time all that fat had settled in his stomach, he was ready for a nap and it was time for me to take the wheel. We pressed onward, ever onward toward that 8 p.m. curtain in Sacramento.
There was a time, when we first moved up to Davis from the Bay Area, when the town of Fairfield had a huge warehouse where they stored onions. You could be sound asleep riding up Highway 80 and when you hit Fairfield it would wake you up because the odor of onions would be so strong (the warehouse was right by the side of the road). As an onion lover, I enjoyed it and was always sorry when they moved the onions elsewhere.
One of the olfactory sensations one experiences while driving up I-5 is the Harris Ranch. People may have heard of the Harris Ranch. It, like Kettleman City, is another oasis along the road, this one with an expensive restaurant, overpriced gift shop, and quite good (expensive) beef to buy. The beef comes from the cattle who are fattened up on the nearby feedlot.
If you are downwind of the feedlot at the Harris Ranch, you may get a hint of what awaits you. If there is no wind, it may take longer to actually get the full effect, but sooner or later you will be hit with what can only be described as liberal doses of "eau de merde." The Harris Ranch Feed Lot.
Cattle. Everywhere, as far as the eye can see, all eating and getting fat and depositing all those waste products.
I think it's safe to say that there will be no housing developments springing up in the area of the Harris Ranch in the foreseeable future.
Jesus is big in the Central Valley and every 5 miles or so there would be a "trust in Jesus" sign nailed to a pole somewhere. One wonders what person decided that drivers needed to be reminded of Jesus and was so zealous that he/she drove up and down the length of the state to remind us of The Lord.
We began getting into "crop country," with vineyards, orchards, and assorted low lying crops. Astute farmers who realized that the average motorist had little experience with agriculture conveniently posted signs facing the highway letting us know that this orchard was "almonds," or that field was "grapes."
In several fields were Mexican farm workers, stooped over in the blazing sun, harvesting the crops. I thought of how much we in this country depend on the willingness of people to cross the border and work for low wages...and how little we appreciate their efforts.
We were still a few hours from Sacramento, but the rest of the trip was made more or less uneventfully (especially for me, since I let Walt take the last leg and I slept!)
We stayed for dinner at Walt's mother's retirement home and managed to get to Music Circus in plenty of time for the show. Of course it meant we missed Jeopardy, but Tom had promised to watch it for me and drop me a note as soon as it was over so I could find out whether Ken won again or not. (As it turned out, he appears to have forgotten, but I was able to get the answer from the Jeopardy discussion board again).
The Wizard of Oz was delightful and now, at 1:15 a.m., all I have to do is finish writing the review and I can finally climb into bed and get some sleep.
Walt, his mother and brother, taken this morning.