Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Road to PAX: Bakersfield to San Jose

This was originally going to be a much longer trip, but alas. Regardless, I had the pleasure of driving the four hours or so from Bakersfield to San Jose in a permanent state of "windows down." The journey from the valley to the bay area is mostly uneventful, but it gets pretty neat near the end.
Bakersfield rests in a place called "the valley" which, as far as I can tell, is the 500 mile long strip of farmland east of the mountains between Los Angeles and Sacramento. The place is dusty, and I get the impression that country music is very popular there, whatever else that may imply.

There's a permanent state of drought in the area, which is unfortunate considering that, as I said, the area is supposed to be farmland. So, what you end up with is a few patches of green, maintained croplands and orchards surrounded by miles and miles of barren, beige dustbowl. I'm not sure what the true cause of the drought is, but many of the residents in the valley seem to believe that politicians are at fault somehow. "End the CONGRESS created dust bowl," is the mantra of identical signs spaced out at fairly regular intervals along the major highways that pass through the valley. The eloquence of the proclamations reminds me of the geo-engineering protesters in Tucson, so I'm inclined to trust their assessments of their situations similarly. Which is to say, very little.

Another aspect of the trip north via I-5 toward San Jose is the cattle farms. They are kind of fascinating, what with the cloud of stink that hovers over and around these places. The cows are packed into pens, crowded together on grassless ground that's a deep brown color, which I suspect is not dirt at all. There are cattle farms out there that manage to look somewhat pleasant, but not the ones in the valley.

I-5 doesn't actually intersect with San Jose, so reaching the city requires taking an exit that passes through some mountains and a few smaller towns. This part of the journey is far more interesting than I-5, particularly as it involves greenery, cool mountains, some mountainous lakes, and farms that seem to be having a lot more luck than the ones in the valley.

San Jose itself is an interesting town that seems to be 95% suburbs sprawled out within a large, green valley. The place is riddled with hills, highways, and shopping malls, and try as I might I still can't really navigate the place without a GPS. Every time I'm there is seems like everyone's just partying and watching Youtube all day, though that may just be because of the times I happen to go there.

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