Upwards-downwards and greenwards

Friday 6th April

Eager to make our way west and then north we looked to Mary to help us plan a route. Unfortunately there are some great big mountains in the way! Consequently we have to travel south before being able to head west. Difficult decisions have to be made…do we head for Los Angeles, San Diego? Do we stick to the coast, or explore further in land? After much deliberation we formulate a plan and a timescale that will allow us time to settle Bree in storage, hopefully in Canada, before we fly back to New York. So our next hop took us to a little place called Tehachapi which is in the southern tip of the Central valley in California. After our previous experience crossing the Californian border and being searched I was determined to be prepared. Not wanting to throw away all the citrus fruit we had I decided to juice them all, tomatoes were cooked, the only casualties were a perfectly good cucumber and a rather wrinkled courgette. (You cannot take anything with live seeds in it, into the state.) Imagine my exasperation when we crossed the state line to find no patrols, no customs, no nothing! I felt cheated…until inexplicably there was a checkpoint about 15 – 20 miles later. Don’t ask me about the logic in that! A very nice chap came aboard and checked the contents of the fridge. No mention of gypsy moth this time, though Toad still bears New Hampshire plates. Tehachapi lies in a deep valley, a valley which could almost be in Devon. Rolling hills coated with velvet green somehow looking like a giant scape from a model railway set up. We camped in a quiet spot in Brite Valley, beside the man made lake there, where the cherry blossom reminded me it’s spring! Bree took a well-earned rest, after some tortuous bends and gradients, but hey…she was clean!

Easter Sunday April 8th dawned with a thick blanket of fog in the valley. We tentatively began our journey, with jeans and fleeces as protection against the chill we set off for San Jose. We still had to make our way over one more set of little hills…we tried to avoid the towns in search of the real California. As we negotiated the last pass, a vast patchwork stretched out before us. Squares of verdant green and expectant brown soil patterned the vista. The ramrod straight road disappeared into the distance, taking us between field after field of sprouting vines, fruit trees bursting with blossom and surprisingly, more cattle than we had seen in the whole of Texas! This couldn’t be the same country, surely. A lone coyote stood at one of the deserted crossroads, unfazed by the rig that rolled by. (I was more surprised than him so didn’t have the camera ready) Inevitably, we had to do a stretch on the interstate, tyres rolling over concrete surface with that familiar hum drum moaning punctuated by the zip,zip as we motor onward over the joints in the road, monotonous but it gets us where we want to be. At least it was Sunday so less busy. We were heading for San Francisco – well just south in San Jose where we stayed in a quiet little park that was actually in Morgan hills about 30 miles from San Jose. No one there on our arrival, so we took the only available site and as it had been a fairly long journey, heaved a relieved sigh.

Next day we explored Monterey, having devoured Steinbeck many years ago, I was looking forward to seeing Cannery Row. How often have you re-visited something from your past expecting it to be just as you imagined it – only to be disappointed with the reality? In this age of materialistic consumerism I should have known better. Yes, Cannery Row is still there (though part has been recently destroyed by fire and is undergoing refurbishment) but there are no canneries left, no smell of fish (a good thing I hear you say) no evidence of hard graft, physical hardship, where has the real industry gone? Replaced with the shops that tourists these days seem to crave… hats, T shirts, souvenirs etc. and the inevitable carbuncle of sea side condos. We stood gazing out onto the Pacific, thinking how it would have been…

By way of compensation the journey down to the bay had been a joy, those twisting winding roads had slowly dropped us into the fertile land beneath. Through Gilroy the world’s garlic centre; the strawberry fields of Watsonville and the field upon field of artichokes in Castorville. We bought some artichokes from a roadside shack and enjoyed them, dripping with butter for supper.


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