Monday, May 16, 2011

Crossing California

Cows off San Juan Grade, originally uploaded by sourskittled.
We had about 200 miles of California to cross (from west to east) and were on a bit of a tight schedule. California is interesting in that its freeways are well-designed for traveling north-south (three big trunks converge on L.A. - the 101 on the coast, the 5 in the more barren western part of the San Joaquin Valley and the 99 that hits many of the farm towns along the more fertile eastern side), but quite a bit more difficult to traverse east-west. This was made all the more interesting because our GPS (who we call Hermes) was set in a mode that always seems to favor the scenic route. It's really too bad that I had just scolded the kids about using the camera too much (it was getting a bit worse for the wear and the autofocus was almost completely dead) because no one took pictures on the drive that day and we saw a LOT of gorgeous and amazing scenery.

I found this photo on Flickr of a little of the view from the San Juan Grade, a single-lane paved "cowpath" that takes you from Salinas to San Juan Bautista as it winds its way over and around gently rolling, grassy hills, among idyllic farms - you just have to watch out for cars coming the other direction!

According to various websites I've seen, it's a popular road for motorcycles and bicycles.

We also crossed the famed Pacheco Pass and on the whole, I was feeling pretty excited about tackling some challenging geography all on my own (I can be a rather timid driver, especially in the big van). We spent a little time on both the 5 and the 99, but mostly we zig-zagged our way across the state through lovely fields and orchards of the central valley before arriving in Modesto, where we knew we could find a Trader Joe's to stock up on food for the week.

I was trying to coax Terri into eating some food all day, but wouldn't you know it, it was chocolate that got her back on the road to health. ;)

Highway 4, which takes you from the central valley into the Sierras was absolutely lovely. First it was simply straight on level, grassy land. Then suddenly it started, while proceeding straight toward the mountains, rolling up and down like a roller coaster. Then gradually we started winding in and around some rolling hills and then finally into the mountains.

It was in this area that we found our new favorite city name - Copperopolis. It has such a ring to it, doesn't it?

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