What is it about road trips? I love them so much.
When I was a child, I got dragged all over the States by my parents every summer, and I HATED it. But now, for some reason, I have grown inordinately fond of long trips in the car.
I love watching the swooping telephone lines that parallel the long, straight highways we travel. I love stopping at dusty, little podunk towns that exist primarily to offer travelers gas, food, and lodging.
I love looking at the agricultural crops and trying to figure out what's growing. I'm amused by the funny town names, like Buttonwillow, Clovis, Lodi, and Vacaville. I love stopping at a fast-food place for lunch and treating myself to the lowbrow joys of a greasy burger and a Diet Coke.
And I love, once per trip, popping into the quick mart while the Hubby fills the car with gas, to buy a roll of dusty, pastel-colored Necco wafers. Suddenly I'm six or eight or ten again...but happier than I ever was.
I especially love a road trip when I don't have to drive. The Hubby usually does that, bless him. That leaves me free to sit shotgun, gaze out the window, daydream, and snap the occasional photo.
Another view of Gorman Pass. In the days of his WWII pilot training, my dad once stumbled upon the wreckage of a small plane and the remains of its pilot, in these hills.
On this trip, we drove up Highway 5, which bisects California's San Joaquin Valley. "Valley" is almost a misnomer. The San Joaquin is so vast, so long and so wide, that driving up the middle of it, you can't see both sides at the same time. If you see the mountains that edge it on the west, the mountains on the east side are nowhere in sight, and vice versa.
It is so flat that, driving the length of the Valley, I get feel like I'm in the middle of Kansas or Oklahoma. Somewhere that the main feature of the geography is that it is...featureless.
I loves how The Boy can't fit his 6'1" frame in the back seat, so as he sleeps, his legs slide slowly forward. The black mark on his toenail is where he got nailed by a cleat during a lacrosse game.
The San Joaquin is so long that it takes the better part of an eight-hour trip just to traverse its length, from outside Los Angeles, where we began our trip, to Sacramento, where we veered off eastward into the Sierra Nevada.
This was a mom-and-pop restaurant/store that didn't make it. The only sign of life at this place was the gas station, which was still pumping gas.
We took a small detour off Highway 5 for a while and traversed single-lane country roads. Produce stands peppered the landscape, selling cherries and corn.
The endless sweep of the San Joaquin becomes more intimate, more up close, from the side of a country road.
Slowly, subtly, the landscape changed as we lifted out of the Valley past Sacramento.
Trees got taller and thicker.
They changed from deciduous to coniferous as we gained altitude and climbed into the foothills, then the mountains.
And then, finally, a flash of blue-silver lake, and our destination was in sight.
Another week in our tiny piece of Heaven is about to begin.