Fun with Highways: Drive Twenty-Five

So this is a drive I have had on my list for a while. Why, you ask? I don't know really. I guess it's just that it seemed to go nowhere. Actually, it's a country highway that runs approximately along the San Andreas fault in San Benito County, in between mountain ranges. And a quiet fun drive into uncharted territory is exactly what I was looking for.

This scenic yet off-the-beaten-path route runs by Pinnacles National Monument in Northern California. It includes a wide variety of corners, from slow hairpins to fast sweepers, a smooth road surface and scarce traffic. [Forbes]

Highway 25 splits off from 101 just south of Gilroy. Gilroy is famous as the “garlic capital of the world”, but it has also become an exurb of San Jose overrun with subdivisions. Our friend Burbed did Gilroy Week back in March.

Highway 25 splits off from 101 just south of Gilroy. Gilroy is famous as the “garlic capital of the world”, but it has also become an exurb of San Jose overrun with subdivisions. Our friend Burbed did Gilroy Week back in March.

Upon landing on highway 25, I was greeted by the “scarce traffic”:

Oh yeah, I forgot. This coming weekend is that big motorcycle thing in Hollister, or more formally the Hollister Motorcycle Rally. The other sleepy farm-town-turned-commuter-town fills up with motorcycles, as well as the people who sit upon them, which of course explained the heavy traffic and the detours around the main party in downtown Hollister:

But it's worth a stop, how often do I find myself surrounded by handsome machines such as these?

Not to mention an interesting breed of people I don't usually encounter. It seems one needs a minimum body-mass index (BMI) to ride Harleys or other large bikes. I even picked up motorcycle-rally T-shirt for $5, figuring it would be very ironic at my next avant-guard electronic music show.

South of Hollister, highway 25 becomes a more bucolic two-lane highway, with only the occasional vehicle (or motorcycle).

Most the land along the highway is scrub ranch land, and rather dry. Really dry, actually. Hopefully no one lights a match. Here are some winter photos of the same area from Wandering Lizard, when things are a lot greener. There is barely any green left in summer, just hills covered in brown grass. One passes the occasional herd of cows and delapidated farm equipment. I can't imagine living out here, far away from any sort of town but without the “abstract emptiness” that makes the desert so attractive.

One industry that does seem to be growing in rural San Benito county is wine growing. Indeed, it is now listed as an official winegrowing region. Certainly, the character and prestige is nothing like the Napa Wine Country, but one does see a lot vines in neat rows amongst the brown hills:

A little further south, one comes to the turnoff for highway 146 and the eastern entrance to Pinnacles National Monument. I had never been to “East Pinncales”, so I took the opportunity to visit and even do a little hiking despite the 105F heat. Actually, it was a good opportunity to see the park without a lot of other people around, and to walk off some that “biker cuisine.” I will be writing about Pinnacles in a separate article.

Highway 25 continues south towards, well, towards nowhere in particular. The farming towns of King City and Coalinga are the main places to note, even though the highway never intersects either of them:

Looks like some has been taking target practice on the distance marker?

Actually, this stretch of the road provided some amazing moments of nothingness, such as these images all from one spot:

Not only is it visually stark and minimal, there was almost no sound. Silence like this is a rare occurence for those of us in more developed metropolitan areas, and when one does find silence, it is always worth stopping to listen. The silence and the landscape together were an amazing experience. I stayed for maybe ten minutes until it was interrupted by…of course, a Harley roaring by.

Highway 25 eventually ends at a very modest junction with Highway 198 somewhere in rural Monterey County.

It seems appropriate to end on such a minimal note. Heading west (right), one eventually reaches highway 101 for the return trip home.

Weekend Cat Blogging #99: May Flowers

First time WCB hosts Spot, Mel, Shishi and Sirius have decided upon a floral theme for Weekend Cat Blogging #99. We at CatSynth are of course happy to oblige with this lovely photo of Luna posing with a California poppy:

As we saw last October, the color orange really brings out something in Luna. I thought this living-room photo of orange with black and grays was quite striking:

While the California poppy is aesthetically and geographically “purrfect” for Luna, it is not safe for cats. These photos were taken under very close supervision and the flower was immediately removed from the house afterwards. We at CatSynth want to remind our feline friends to enjoy May flowers responsibly. The Cat Fanciers Association has a list of plants considered non toxic for cats. Another list of resources on plant safety can be found here.

Beckett enters California politics

Few political articles reference Samuel Beckett's masterpiece Waiting for Godot, but that's exactly what we find at SayNoToPombo as they cover the recent wave of newspaper endorsements against Richard Pombo.

We at CatSynth dubbed Mr. Pombo California's Worst Representative in an earlier post.

It is nice to see literary references that add a bit of sophistication to what is otherwise an ugly campaign season.

California's Worst Representative

Seems I have politics on the brain this week, and no wonder considering the high stakes:

Click for electoral-vote dot com

Click for electoral-vote dot com

Not much excitement in my own district (or any other district in which I have resided during my time in California), but one does not have to go too far east to find California's Worst Representative.

Richard Pombo represents the 11th District, and is the chair of the House Resources Committee. Pombo hails from Tracy, a town that is a poster child for ugly exurban sprawl (and the butt of a lot of jokes when I was living in the East Bay). He has long been obsessed with dismantling the 1973 Endangered Species Act. In addition to being as old as I am, the Endangered Species Act protects a wide variety of plants and animals, including the San Joaquin Kit Fox that inhabits Pombo's district (pictured to the right).

From interviews and statements I've heard, on NPR and elsewhere, he seems to take pride in his work to weaken or eliminate environmental protection and sell land and resources from our National Park System and elsewhere to developers and speculators. He supports not only the oft-mentioned drilling proposal for the Artic Wildlife National Refuge, but also end the long-time ban on drilling of the California coast. His name surfaced again in recent reports about protecting the coast of Northern California (Mendocino, etc.). And, like most of his fellow conservative Republicans, all his efforts seem to be done with a sense that he is on some sort of righteous crusade.

He has also been implicated in several of the trendy Republican scandals, but that's the least of his faults.

You can read more, a lot more, at PomboWatch and Say No To Pombo. Oh, and it might be worth visiting his opponent's website, too. This is turning out to be a competitive race, so any interest and support may help send Pombo back to Tracy, and help some of our endangered friends in the process:

UPDATE: The Stockton Record covers the CA-11 debate last night between Pombo and McNerney.

Fun with stats: Longest California Highways

From Daniel Faigin's amazing California Highways website:

1. US 101. 807 miles
2. I-5. 796 miles
3. CA 1. 656 miles
4. US 395. 557 miles
5. CA 99. 415 miles
6. CA 299. 307 miles
7. CA 65. 305 miles
8. CA 49. 295 miles
9. I-15. 294 miles
10. CA 33. 290 miles