I hit Bakersfield just before lunch. Bakersfield is where a number of country music stars hailed from – and it was in small Bakersfield honky tonks that homegrown stars like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens got their start. I used to work for Buck Owens 20 years ago. Buck owned KNIX radio in Phoenix, where I was a disc jockey for the years I lived there going to school right up until the day before I moved to Seattle. Buck and his family owned both KNIX and a sister station in Bakersfield, KUZZ. Both shared a logo of Buck’s famous red white and blue guitar. I saw that famous guitar on the side of his night club in Bakersfield – Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace as I drove by and passed the exit to Buck Owen’s Blvd. Buck’s family still owns KUZZ, but he sold KNIX some years ago, and Buck passed away a couple of years ago. KNIX was by far the best station I ever worked for, and I truly enjoyed working for Buck who would show up a couple of times a year in Phoenix.
I need to stop for a break, so I exited off at Merle Haggard drive which is where Bakersfield Harley-Davidson is. I couldn’t pass up that combination. I rested a bit, got gas next door and then hit the road again. I headed east on CA-58 towards Tehachapi and over the pass there and down into Mojave. Tehachapi boasts that it is the “wind power capital” on it’s signs, and the hundreds they had lining the ridge were rather hypnotic. It’s an interesting progression from the bobbing heads of the oil wells in Bakersfield which can also by hypnotic, to the rows of windmills further down the road – “old” energy and “new” energy.
Once on the right road I entered Apple Valley, which is where my sister Jill was born. All of us Gardner kids were adopted, and my first “road trip” that I can remember was driving down here to get my sister. I was 6 years old at the time – I don’t remember Apple Valley at all, but I do remember the desert heat in our un-air conditioned Buick Skylark, and how long it took to get there from Salt Lake City. Thankfully it wasn’t that hot today, although it was quite warm, and my arms are a nice pink because of it.
As I climbed the mountains outside of Apple Valley and dropped down towards I-15 and Cajon pass, I saw the first hint of Southern California – a huge smog cloud.