Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Guitars, Cadilacs, and Hillbilly Music

It was already quite warm in the lower San Joaquin Valley when I hit the road this morning, and it felt nice to ride in just a t-shirt.   Driving through the valley is kind of like riding through a giant supermarket.  Every conceivable crop or food product is grown and processed here, and the Latino population is so large I felt like a minority at times, though much of the population is made up of American refugees from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma and the plains of Texas who settled here after and during the Great Depression. 

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.
The high desert can be quite beautiful and pleasant, and although I was on a freeway, I really didn’t mind.  Just past Mojave where they store a ton of airliners that are out of service or for sale with the slow economy, I missed the turn towards San Bernadino and kept going down the Antelope Valley Freeway. 
I knew I should have turned, and kept looking for the sign – and finally realized when I saw carpool lanes and commuter rail stations that I was getting dangerously close to LA.  I was trying to avoid LA and it’s afternoon traffic at all costs, and had plotted a route that would take me east of LA, down Cajon Pass and down I-15/I-215 into San Diego.  I exited off to look at the map and saw I was a hairs breath away from Pasadena!  So  I  turned around and went back 20 miles to find the road to San Bernadino, rather than risk going into LA and down the I-405 freeway at rush hour. 

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.  
As I hit I-15, I had some traffic, but it still wasn’t bad, and I made it to San Diego by 7pm covering some 407 miles, including the 40 mile jaunt toward Pasadena.  Truth be told, although it was all freeway, the traffic wasn’t bad, and the weather quite nice.  I do miss the meandering old roads, and the slower pace, along with the funky old places you find along them.  But all in all, it was still a great day out on the bike.  I’ll hang in San Diego for a couple of days before heading east to Tucson and down to Nogales, AZ to start the trek up US-89.


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