Fun with Highways: California 247 and 18

After a few cold weeks in the city, I am looking back fondly at my trip to the desert this past summer. Today we look at the final leg of that trip, leaving Joshua Tree on Highway 247. I had been curious about this highway which heads north from Yucca Valley at a junction with Highway 62 out into the desert hills. There is actually quite a bit of residential development near the start of highway, with a great many dusty side streets with a diverse collection of homes. I acquired one of my sculptures at the home of an artist there several years ago. But on this occasion, I kept going north. One of first reassurance markers was, appropriately enough, next to a joshua tree.

The narrow two-lane highway wound its way uphill between a rocky ledge to the west and a desert valley to the east, with occasional rocky outcroppings. A few of them had graffiti on them. Perhaps I should have taken a photo, but I feel differently about graffiti on natural objects than I do on walls. Eventually, the road turned from north to east-west and entered a wide, flat valley, with the classic “road in the middle of nowhere” appearance.

The day was pleasantly hot, probably in the low 90s Fahrenheit (low 30s Celsius), a far cry from the triple digit temperatures at the start of this trip. There was a moderate breeze at times, but not too much. So standing on the side of the road here was an opportunity to experience silence punctuated by the occasional passing vehicle. It is rare that I have the opportunity to hear moments with so little sound, but so much other sensual information in the texture and temperature of the air and the sparseness of the visual space.

Highway 247 then enters the town of Lucerne Valley on the edge of the Mojave desert. It does not have much in common with Lucerne in Switzerland. The lakes here are dry lake beds, but like the more famous Swiss town it is surrounded by mountain ranges. Here, 247 turns north towards Barstow, so I switched onto Highway 18 heading east out of town. This odd highway winds around the mountains and valleys of San Bernardino county through a variety of geographies. The section that I traveled started with crumbly red-brown rock formations up against the sparse commercial development of the town. After an empty section, the road entered the town of Apple Valley where the landscape turned all of a sudden into suburban development and the highway became a multilane expressway known as the “Happy Trails Highway”. The sharp contrast was a little jarring, but not unexpected given the history of development in the deserts north and east of Los Angeles. But this was not the stark industrial development as I had seen in New Topographics a couple of years earlier, it was just dull suburban sprawl. Upon entering Victorville, Highway 18 becomes a regular city street along with Business Loop 15.

From here, I was able pick up I-15 and ultimately wind my way north along more familiar highways back to San Francisco.

Wordless Wednesday: Mojave Airplane Boneyard

Wordless Wednesday: Shadow Portrait

Wordless Wednesday: Joshua Tree Mirage

Fun with Highways: Livingston (?)

Every so often we like to have fun with the cities and towns that appear in our Facebook Insights and Google Analytics. One town that has been appearing prominently in our Facebook page stats recently is Livingston. However, we have no idea which place called “Livingston” this actually is, so we will explore a few possibilities.

Based on the demographics of our readers and Facebook fans, it’s probably in the U.S., and it is most likely Livingston, NJ, a town east of Newark along I-280, not far from New York City.

Livingston is a medium-sized suburban town. Though its history dates back a long time (about 300 years), it was relatively sparse until automobiles and highways arrived in the 1920s. Notably, it is named for William Livingston, the first Governor of New Jersey. It is also near the Riker Hill fossil site, also known as Walter Kidde Dinosaur Park, a major paleontological site – I remember hearing about the “major dinosaur fossil site in New Jersey” a few times while growing up across the river in New York.

It could be Livingston, California, a town along the Highway 99 corridor in the Central Valley, between Modesto and Merced.

Like much of this part of the Central Valley, it is primarily an agricultural town.

It could also be Livingston, Montana, a picturesque town along I-90 and US 191 north of Yellowstone National Park.

[Image by Jonathan Haeber (http://www.terrastories.com/bearings/) via Wikimedia CommonsClick image to enlarge.]

It has that classic “old US downtown” look with mountain ranges in the background. It also seems like a relatively prosperous town (much of its economy is related to tourism). As of this writing, however, it sounds like they are at the edge of this year’s intense flooding along rivers in the U.S. and the Yellowstone River is again above flood stage as of the writing of this article. We hope they stay safe and dry! In late May, flooding on the Yellowstone River closed parts of I-90 near Livingston.

Livingston, NY is in the Hudson Valley and quite a ways north of New York City. It is considerably smaller than its counterparts in New Jersey, California and Montana.

In the strange way that I remember such things, I am pretty sure I have been through the junction of US 9, NY 9H and NY 82 (and NY 23).

Smaller yet is Livingston, Louisiana.

It is along I-12 east of Baton Rouge. I mention it because it has a gravitational wave observatory. That is cool. Gravitational waves are theoretical ripples in the curvature of spacetime that propagate as a wave – a phenomenon predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity but never directly detected.

Wordless Wednesday: Memory

Wordless Wednesday: 5946 (Vacant Lot, California)

The Miracle Cats that survived a wildfire

I had planned to post the story of Adam and Abe, the cats that survived a wildfire for Thanksgiving after reading their story on Monday. That was before more of the world started burning – some of the fires are natural, some human-made, and all are tragic. But perhaps this story is still appropriate, to know that these beautiful and much-loved black cats both survived the terrible wildfires in southern California and that small joys are always possible.

Election Day

Well, Election Day is here.

Here is our sample ballot and voter guide for the City and County of San Francisco, California:

Yes, it is a tome! One actually has to read and study in order to do a good job with today’s civic duty. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. The rather large size is mostly because of all our local and state-wise propositions. We have 22 local propositions. Most are very mundane, but we have some “interesting” ones, like naming a waste-water treatment plant in honor of the outgoing president (yes, the “George W Bush Sewage Treatment Plant”).

We also have 12 state propositions, including the most profound:

Those of you with us here in California, please use to your sense of reason and fairness, rather the fear and prejudice, when you consider Proposition 8.

And of course we shouldn’t forget that national election today:

Luna is joining us in absentia:


[click to enlarge]

Her boarding place is not far from our polling place, so I’ll pay her a visit after voting…

Unlike many other civilized (and not-so-civilized) countries, Election Day is not a holiday here in the U.S., and so some of us have to go to work. That includes me, as well as the construction crew here at CatSynth HQ. Making Election Day a holiday one of those things we question every four years and then never do anything about.

UPDATE

Well, the deed is done. It was actually a long line when I arrived late this morning. It seems that they temporarily ran out of ballots. It was a chance to talk to some other people from the neighborhood while waiting. I think all of us in line nearby worked in computer software. And indeed most of the line appeared to be a “blue demographic.”

I did go visit Luna afterwards. It was a wonderful moment of peace and calm amidst the current intensity and excitement and anxiety. I will remember that as part of this day.

Now there is nothing to do except await the results…

Wordless Wednesday: Pacifica