Up and Down the Coast States

    A friend called me nuts for planning to drive the fifteen hundred miles from Richland, Washington, to Thousand Oaks, California. So be it. I did it and enjoyed the drive. My itinerary was such that I kept to the freeways I-182, I-82, I-84, and I-5 until taking a side trip for the first night into Corvallis, Oregon, to visit with sons and spend a restful night.
    Internet trip routing is a great tool because it allows verification of routes I visibly mark on my road maps. That does nothing to alert me to traveling conditions or road hazards or restful conveniences. Some things a driver has to do for herself. Washington state freeway speed limit is 70 mph, Oregon freeway speed limit is 65 mph, California freeway speed limit varies from 55 mph within city jurisdictions to 70 mph in rural areas. However, if I wished to keep the other drivers behind or beside me happy roadmates, I had better ignore posted limits and keep up with them. Truck speed limits are five to ten miles less than regular cars and in Oregon that is critical because state law allows a truck tractor to pull three trailers, although those caravans are sometimes limited to truck routes. On the normal freeway three trailers was quite a daunting parade to pass!
    From Richland on I-82 the scenery consisted of newly planted grape vines and fruit trees - hundreds of acres that were rangeland five years before. Quite a strain on the water table that is not now noticeably affected. We should not be so naive as to believe that the aquifer is endlessly replenished simply because this particular area lies between rivers supplied by mountain snowmelt.
    Beyond the Columbia river crossing and I-84, the passing scenery consists of rocky outcroppings, worn basalt layers from thousands of years past. Interesting never the less when one is aware of the violent activity in the developing geology of the area (which you can learn from articles in the folder of light science on this very website). click here
    Traveling sometimes a hundred feet above the Columbia river on I-84, the river traffic is visible and varied. Only a few barges were moving and I could only guess at their contents - wood chips - because grain these past few months has been transported away from storage piles by double trailered trucks to I do not know where. I just know that two of the huge grain piles disappeared into trucks within the past several weeks of September. Sailboats and fishing boats were active from Arlington to Portland. I hope the fishers were filling their limits.
      I drove on through Portland on I-84 and then I-5 with a few slowups near the exit to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Road construction brought slowdowns farther south in narrowed lanes but traffic was not sent around horrendous detours as it would have been forty years ago. Those were the days when the planned fifty mile trip would be nearly doubled because we had to follow county roads out and around the construction areas. The construction area would be completely closed to traffic during roadwork.
    What was worrisome about I-5 in Oregon was the lack of signs giving the distance to the next town. Not being familiar with distances and yet with a careful eye on my fuel level I was sometimes fretful about running out of gas. I relaxed as much as possible to enjoy the driving. Into the curves going through the Cascade and the Siskiyou mountains I enjoyed the fresh mountain air while noting the variation of evergreen trees.
    Cedars and Junipers are distinctive but the western larch (tamarack) has not begun to turn yellow so I could not always identify that tree which is not an evergreen but a deciduous tree, dropping its needles before winter. I am familiar with the Douglas Fir but unless I see the cones I cannot tell the Noble fir from the Douglas Fir.  A Scottish botanist, David Douglas, noted the difference between the two firs in 1850 when on tour for the London Royal Gardens.
The mountain peaks were often obscured by fog and low lying clouds but most often off limits to perusal, in favor of keeping my eyes on the roadway.
    An overnight stop past Stockton was welcome for a hot bath and a quiet meal prior to traveling through the wide open farmland of central California. Next morning the sunrise consisted of a distinct red ball appearing through what at first I assumed was smoke from local fires and the mountains' own clouds. Turns out the obstruction was mostly dust from the machines preparing the millions of acres of level land for yet another crop in the productive area where a crop can be harvested, land cleared and different vegetable planted within days for yet another harvest. A sign board boasts how these farmers feed the world. No worries yet of water shortages. When the aquifer recedes beyond use, water for this area will probably be taken from the ocean, so far not a technology widely used.
    Trees of the topics flourish from here on south where space is allowed for such luxuries. Probably all of the poplar trees - lovely ornamentals - were brought from Italy and Spain through the Caribbean centuries ago. Others came in from China to be hybridized and localized as well. Plants have been moved around Africa and the 
Mediterranean area for many centuries. Queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra of Egypt documented (in tombs) trees and bushes brought for their pleasure thousands of years past.
    Flowering bushes in residential areas please my aging eyes. The colorful hibiscus, oleander, and bouganvilla abound along roadsides and by residences as a shield from traffic. Bird of paradise and unidentified succulents adorn store fronts and parking lots making any stop a study in botany. I love it.
    The last few miles are within the city limits of Thousand Oaks, a lovely residential city in Ventura county, bordering on the Orange county which encompasses Los Angeles, Anaheim, and the schnoze's favorite - Cucamonga, where Jimmy Durante often hailed "Mrs Calabash, where ever you are" at the termination of his weekly radio comedy show.  Ok so not all you readers of this are of my generation.
    One thing I am aware of are the origins of the cars and trucks I pass. License plates are varied within each state but I noted Massachusetts, Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and California. Lots of folks like to drive!
    Many of you may not care to drive as much as I do so I hope you could see what I find interesting to pass the time when I drive. 

Naomi Sherer