Well, we left our happy home
to see what we could find out.
We left our folk and friends
with the aim to clear our minds out.
Well, we hit the rowdy road
and many kinds we met there
and many stories told us on the way to get there.
So, on and on we go, seconds tick the time out.
So much left to know, and we’re on the road to find out.
In the end we’ll know
but on the way we wonder
through descending snow
and through the frost and thunder.
We listen to the wind come howl
telling us we have to hurry.
We listen to the robin’s song
saying not to worry. – Cat Stevens
As we drive south along Interstate 5 along the west side of the Central Valley I think that if I were seeing these hills for the first time I would be blown away. The hills are tan or drab gray rumpled bed covers rising away from the highway. Smooth. Treeless. Later on, we see Los Tres Piedras on top of the highest peak near Coalinga. The Three Rocks are way up high and Joaquin Murrietta, the Mexican Bandit or Robin Hood, however you want to think of him, used them as a hiding place when he was fleeing from the law during the latter part of the Gold Rush. If I wasn’t so used to seeing these places I wouldn’t have to work hard to see them as if I were seeing them for the first time. There’s gold in them thar hills… or are the hills themselves the gold?
The Central Valley of California has changed a lot over the years since the Spanish came. The Spanish introduced cattle that decimated the tree population by eating the tree seedlings. They also damaged the waterways. The miners of the Gold Rush caused incalculable destruction by using hydraulic mining to extract gold and millions of tons of sediment got washed into the creeks, rivers and delta. After them, westward, ho! farmers came and dammed the rivers and drained the natural lakes. Where we see thousands of acres of nut trees there would have been a vast and seasonal inland sea only a few feet deep after winter snowmelt overran the banks of the San Joaquin, the Merced and the Kings rivers. There would be giant Valley oaks trees spaced few and far between. John Muir wrote extensively of this paradise.
On this day you can barely see the snow-capped high Sierra many miles to the east because of a dense haze that Marty says is agricultural dust and air pollution. It’s a Big Valley all right but you couldn’t tell it today because both sides of the valley are obscured. What is progress if the natural environment is ruined?
We’re headed for the Gulf Coast of Texas just for warmth and fun and we’re also going to see if we might feel comfortable enough somewhere in southwest Texas to settle down. It’s been a blast to travel but it’s time to find a place to live permanently. Marty says he’d stay in California if we could find somewhere that makes sense but that’s a very long shot. California costs too much for people living on a fixed income and we’ve had it with the congestion. Oh, you know, Modoc county in northeast California could be good but the politics are obnoxious there and the health care facilities are so dinky as to be useless. Oh yeah, and the winters are too cold.
So, Huck Finn-like we light out for the territory ahead.