I made a 900-mile Bay Area round trip excursion over the weekend. All the way from Escondido here in San Diego County to San Mateo, on the San Francisco Peninsula in one long non-stop, 394-mile, hop in my Prius via I-5 and various connectors up to 101. I’m not one of those Californians who snivel about driving the I-5 cement ribbon between LA and San Francisco.
It’s a drive I’ve done so often since the early Seventies that I just put my mind on “auto-pilot”, set my cruise control so that I’m safely part of a pack of cars, pop in a books on tape CD and watch the miles just roll by. Truth be told, I still find this particular drive very interesting, although it can be butt-numbingly long. Luckily the poppies on the side of the hills through Tejon Pass on the Grapevine were in full bloom, a site that always make me burst into “California Here I Come” no matter how old I’ve become.
After the poppies the next thing that always amazes me are the mile-after-mile rows of orchards and field crops that line California’s north/south artery. I spent more than three decades as a reporter covering various technologies. First it was aerospace and later it centered on computers and software. But at no time in my career was my mind very far from awareness that California’s most valuable commodity wasn’t capital for risk-based ventures, or a seemingly limitless supply of bright engineers, administrators and entrepreneurs, but rather rich soil that supports a variety of crops. No matter what story or beat I was assigned to, over the years I always managed to find the time to pull over to the side of a rode, kick off my shoes and socks and curl my naked toes in rich California soil.
Driving I-5 strengthens my roots with California like a balanced dash of pot ash rich organic fertilizer reinforces a young plant’s root structure.
And then there’s scenery: resting raptors perched on fences around pistachio and fruit groves, low-flying AgCat aerial sprayers wheeling overhead in the early morning and long stretches of the California Aqueduct that bring water down to the “Cadillac Desert” of southern California. But what most often catches my attention on I-5 are signs alerting divers to “fresh produce ahead.”
Parched from a 101 degree heat, I’m easily seduced by the thought of a plump Sequoia strawberry or a cold fresh navel orange, either of which may have been in a field o orchard just hours before. But not this trip, the purpose of which was to attend a memorial service of a good friend named Judy Sobieski.
As I peeled off on the connector leading from I-5 to the Bay Area I realized a couple of things: How lucky I was to have been befriended by Judy, her husband, Andy, and daughter, Marie and how much I learned from this short-dark-haired native San Francisco lady. I’m so glad I made this trip, because it allowed me to provide emotional support and cover for Judy’s husband and daughter.
It was an altogether beautiful trip for me because I got to spend time with people that literally adopted me into their family at a time when I really needed family support and for some reason the weather in San Mateo was utterly fabulous. As I pulled into the neighborhood where the Sobieski’s live, I heard a faint slightly rural voice reminding me to be sure and bring a cake or pie when I go “calling.” So off I went in search of a pie and a cheese cake.
I was really impressed with the memorial service for my friend, Judy Sobieski, and the incredible job her daughter, Marie, did in putting it together to help her family’s friends and relatives come together to remember one of life’s great treasures.
All too soon, I changed into my short pants, a t-shirt and moccasins and whirred my way back home to Escondido, where the amazing Mr. Perro greeted me with two welcome home “yip-barks” and a series of mighty sniffs to see if I had been around anyone he knew.
I didn’t make it back down I-5 uneventfully. I stopped to buy some good looking Sequoia strawberries and four excellent navel oranges. Hell, there’s no sense in passing signs advertising “farm fresh produce” with a stop to see if fruits and vegetables grown by someone else taste as good as yours.
Is Central Valley “road fruit” as good as anything I grow? You betcha!
I-5. It’s more than just a four-lane artery through California. It’s also a good chance to taste excellent regional produce. “Farm Fresh Produce” yum yum—Jim Forbes 11/28/2008.