Greetings From Old People Camp

Sights of the Central Valley: Square trees, stockyards and soft serve

Special to The TribuneMay 21, 2014 

Suzanne Davis

Mick and I took Lance the travel trailer on another trek upstate recently, which necessitated a trip to the Central Valley, and I must say, there are a lot of interesting things on the way to Kettleman City and Sacramento (there aren’t really, but I’ve got to do major positive self-talk to get myself to climb into the truck for the journey).

It takes a tremendous amount of inner encouragement, because it’s all downhill, so to speak, after Cholame, and once you make it to the toxic waste dump there’s I-5 to contend with. So on this occasion, to make the time go faster, I made an effort to watch for memorable sights and to think pleasant thoughts.

First up: Shortly after the 41/46 “Y,” where the road splits toward Fresno, a Prius roared around us like he was late for a Sierra Club meeting! If that weren’t shocking enough, the driver proceeded to pass several other vehicles in short order. I had a brief lapse in my positive inner dialogue, while I mentally called the guy a stupid jerk, but then I moved on to being impressed that a Prius had the oomph to pass so many cars at once.

However, I recalled that it was not unprecedented. Remember when Jerry Brown got a speeding ticket for going a million miles an hour in his Prius? I believe that was the “Moonbeam” years. When Mick took over the driving, I tried to check on the details, but it must have happened before Al Gore invented the Internet, because Google came up with nada.

Obviously, if my mind had wandered to our governor’s moving violations, there wasn’t a whole lot to look at, but the Carrisa Plains did bring to mind a photo I saw on Facebook of my friend Miss P. from Tennessee. She was riding a camel in Morocco. I tried to console myself with the idea that even though I had always wanted to go to North Africa, it probably didn’t look dissimilar to the area I currently occupied — except for the camel part.

By the time the Kettleman City dump came into view, the jeans that had seemed quite comfortable in Arroyo Grande had become reminiscent of the girdle I wore to my 1965 high school prom. I like to blame my mother’s generation for that abomination. Really, what was the point other than more layers of post-prom protection? Nothing jiggled when we were 17. Proms notwithstanding, I need to invest in some seriously large travel sweatpants.

Things got much more interesting once we got to the I-5. I love the Central Valley, because they have square fruit trees. I’ve never been to Florida. so I’m not sure if they only have the old-fashioned ones, or if they have 21st century trees like we do. I used to wonder where they bought the cubed trees, but then one time I saw the giant pruning machine they use. I don’t know what the fruit looks like, but square oranges would make life in the packing house a lot easier. I wonder if they have square trees in Morocco?

Speaking of farmers, I feel bad for the ones in the Valley who don’t have enough water. I saw an incredible number of signs blaming Congress for creating the dust bowl.

“Solve the water crisis!” they said, demanding that Washington take action. I also saw a sign along the road that said, “Jesus Saves.” I’m not very religious, but I think I’d put my money on Jesus.

Finally, somewhere south of Los Banos we found a Foster’s Freeze and a chocolate-dipped soft serve. Sadly, I think I’ve lost some of my cone licking chops, as the drips were coming so fast and furious that I had to have Mick stop the truck so I could stand outside in the dirt to finish. The thought never occurred to me to throw it away, although had I done so, my T-shirt might have looked better.

Tumbleweeds, stockyards and soft serve — I bet they don’t have all that in Morocco.

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