Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ahh, The Grapevine

When traveling in northern California, we associate the grapevine with the good life, relaxing with a glass of the fruit of the vine.
But in southern California--and in the minds of these two travelers--the grapevine conjures up anything but the "good life."
The photos in the early part of today's entry show scenes from our travels from Temecula to Bakersfield to San Juan Bautista, and while the mountains look interesting, the zigzaging, 6% downgrades, and signs noting where the runaway truck ramps are located present a package of thrills that we could do without.
The section of I-5 known as "the Grapevine" is described by Jeanne Bonfilio in Inside Seven: "Driving north from Fort Tejon where the Grapevine starts--and for the next fives miles--the driver experiences a dramatic 6% downhill grade terminating at the community of Grapevine at the entrance to the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County. This is the steepest grade and the most twisting, winding, rambling portion of the 40-mile drive over a seriously rugged mountain terrain" (
We have traveled the Grapevine before, and I thought I had developed a strategy for tolerating (certainly not "conquering") the 40-mile stretch. (Yes, the approach to the summit is just as challenging to me as the worrisome descent is). The plan: Build up speed before beginning the ascent and let the engine do some of the braking in the descent.
However, when I learned that of the some 70,000 vehicles which travel this portion of I-5 daily, the big-rigs number about 19,000. I invariably anticipate that I have allowed enough distance between trucks ahead of me when we begin the ascent. As I gain on the trucks after building up speed at the start of the climb, I realize that the trucks are slowing down and before I can change lanes to pass the truck I have been boxed in by other trucks which are now passing me. The descent is less stressful (if you can feel less stress with signs declaring "Brake check area" or "Trucks 35 mph" or "Runaway Truck Ramp 2 miles Ahead" at the start of the descent) because I can control the rate of descent more easily.

We applauded when we saw the sign below, marking the end of the stretch of I-5.
We overnighted in an orange grove, literally, in Bakersfield--The Orange Grove RV Park.
We joined up with I-5 soon after leaving Bakersfield on our way to our next stop just south of Gilroy, CA.
A theme that could be seen along our drive through the central valley centered around water. Below, a tractor and its driver are almost completely hidden by blowing dust.
But signs of new plantings of berry plants and fruit trees were evident

along with signs relating to the access to water and its cost.

The photos below show some of the scenes we saw during our drive into Gilroy,

A much less stressful drive than the Grapevine.

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