Monday, October 25, 2010

The "Grapevine" vs. The "Mother Road"

As the sun shone through the clouds like a beacon in the night, we felt this was a sign that we had made the right decision.

It had been 24 hours ago that I had walked into the RV park office, map in hand. "We're headed to Hemet, and I was--"

"395," came the response before I could finish my statement and ask a question.

(My statement would have continued with "...wondering if there was an alternative to The Grapevine. What would you suggest?")

For background, we had driven the 40 miles on I-5 north-bound from Santa Clarita to Grapevine on our way to Bakersfield. This stretch begins with a 30-mile climb heading north to Tejon Pass (elev. 4144').

The descent from Tejon Pass begins with five miles of sections of grades 5-6%, then 4%, then 3%. The last fives miles of the descent in the stretch called "The Grapevine" has a grade of 6-7%.

We had driven this stretch southbound last summer and had just driven it northbound a few days ago. On the most recent trip, I had the misfortune to get stuck behind a very slow-moving truck during the 30-mile stretch going uphill. I usually anticipate an uphill section and build up speed as I approach the ascent, but I slipped up this time. Even though there were several lanes, the lane next to the far right lane was filled with trucks that were moving faster than I was. There was no way I was going to pull out in front of any of them and try to speed up enough going uphill to pass the truck I followed for 30 miles to Tejon Pass.

Thus the question for an alternative route.

So, the RV park manager's quick response for an alternative route (Highway 395) was encou-raging. Granted there was still a 22-mile ascent from Bakersfield to Tehachapi Pass (elev. 4064'), including climbs with a 6-7% grade, but the highway was not nearly as crowded.

The photos here were taken along Highway 58 from Bakersfield to Kramer Junction where it intersects with Highway 395.

The day was cloudy and hazy, which makes for comfortable driving conditions. We passed Edwards Air Force Base, the U.S. Borax Mine, which is California’s largest open pit mine, and a very large wind farm.

At Kramer Junction, we turned onto Highway 395.

"Every road sings its own tune. Route 66 is a classic, sometimes raucous ditty from Chicago to L.A.; Highway 1 a twisty ballad to the voluptuous California coast; and U.S. 395 a mandolin-driven ode to the West that evokes images of cowboy boots and roadside diners.

Route 395 is our mother road."

I wish I had written that, but the credit goes to Hugo Martín of the Los Angeles Times.

Highway 395's "two-lane panoramas of the Eastern Sierra" featuring "herds of grazing elk, a court-house that dates to the Civil War, a snowcapped mountain range born in the Jurassic..., and the state's premier fishing lakes and streams" would have been opened to us had we turned north.

We turned south and headed into the high desert--and the land of malls.

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