October 4th to the 6th : Tucson to Bakersfield to Morgan Hill
On Thursday morning, at 6am, with my mom safely tucked away in the glove box we started on the first leg of our road trip to San Francisco.
10 hours and 656 miles later we arrived in Bakersfield where we spend the night at the Vagabond Motel ($41.00 + tax 46.86).
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
Here is the route we took to Bakersfield. Most of the route went through the beautiful and sometimes dramatic basin and range province.
The Basin and Range province is familiar to anyone lucky enough to venture across it. Steep climbs up mountain ranges alternated with long treks across flat basins. This pattern extends from eastern California to central Utah and from southern Idaho to the state of Sonora in Mexico.
Within the province, the Earth's crust (and upper mantle) has been stretched up to 100% of its original width. As it expanded, the crust thinned and cracked, creating large faults. Along the trending faults, mountains were pushed up, and valleys carved below creating a distinctive alternating pattern of ranges and valleys.
For the most part the ride was enjoyable and interesting. If I had stopped every time I saw a shot it would have taken days to get to Bakersfield. It was painful to see it all go by with not photo record. But, perhaps there will be another time.
One of the most dramatic areas as far as rock formations was the area along RT 95 just south of lake Havasu. Except for the countless trailer park and RV resorts sprawling along the Colorado River the area was quite beautiful.
One section of road I will NEVER travel again is the section along the east side of Lake Havasu. What a mess! Mile after mile of congested development and traffic. I couldn't wait to get our there!
But, when I did get out there it was up past Needles to I-40 through the area around the Mojave National Preserve and more beautiful scenery.
Mojave National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in the Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County, California, USA, between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40. The preserve was established October 31, 1994 with the passage of the California Desert Protection Act by the US Congress. Previously, it was the East Mojave National Scenic Area, under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. Mojave National Preserve is vast. At 1,600,000 acres (650,000 ha), it is the third largest unit of the National Park System in the contiguous United States.
Natural features include the Kelso Dunes, the Marl Mountains and the Cima Dome, as well as volcanic formations such as Hole-in-the-Wall and the Cinder Cone Lava Beds. The preserve encloses Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve, which are both managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Impressive Joshua Tree forests cover parts of the preserve. The Cima Dome and Shadow Valley forests are the largest in the world. The ghost town of Kelso is found in the preserve, with the defunct railroad depot serving as the Visitor Center. The preserve is commonly traversed by 4 wheel drive vehicles traveling on the historic Mojave Road.
At Barstow I left I-40 and picked Rt 58 - the Barstow to Bakersfield Highway. Most of this is 4 lane roadway. The sections which are not are clotted with thick, slow traffic. There is ongoing work to eliminate the 2 lane sections and also some re-routing. This road has a lot of truck traffic which makes the slow sections even more miserable.
Much of this section was open creosote bush flats which looked pretty dry and severe.
Eventually I reached the town of Mojave which is on the east flank of the Sierra Mountains. Just before start of the climb there is a large industrial wind turbine project call the Alta Wind Energy Center.
Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC), also known as Mojave Wind Farm, is the third largest onshore wind energy project in the world. The Alta Wind Energy Center is a wind farm located in Tehachapi Pass of the Tehachapi Mountains, in Kern County, California. As of 2013, it is the largest wind farm in the United States, with a combined installed capacity of 1,547 MW (2,075,000 hp). The project, being developed near Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm— site of the first large-scale wind farms installed in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s—is "a powerful illustration of the growing size and scope of modern wind projects".
As I climbed up the mountain I watched the temperature drop on the car display. By the time we got to Tehachapi the temperature had dropped to 65 degrees.
As the summit was achieved we dropped sharply down the grade towards Bakersfield. The change was dramatic. We went through a thin conifer forest and then as we descended we entered a beautiful oak woodland that I was so happy to see again.
In the distance I could see a lush valley and as we dropped in elevation the temperature increased commensurately. By the time we were in the valley proper the temperature was just shy of 85 degrees. An increase of nearly 20 degrees in a matter of minutes. But, if you consider Tehachapi is at 4000' elevation and Bakersfield is a mere 450 feet the reason for the temperature increase becomes obvious.
Rt 58 into Bakersfield was busy, busy, busy and I was glad to get off the road and be able to sit in the sun with a beer on the balcony of the Vagabond Inn.
Can you believe it!? This is the only pic I took the entire day - the clouds as seen from the balcony of the Vagabond.
The next morning I was up at 4:30 and on the road at 6:00. Next stop: Morgan Hill in Silicon Valley.
This shows my hand drawn map for the route I would take from Bakersfield to Morro Bay.
The big picture.
The McKittrick Oil Field is a large oil and gas field in western Kern County, California. The town of McKittrick overlies the northeastern portion of the oil field. Recognized as an oil field in the 19th century, but known by Native Americans for thousands of years due to its tar seeps, the field is ranked 19th in California by total ultimate oil recovery, and has had a cumulative production of over 303 million barrels (48,200,000 m3) of oil. The principal operators of the field as of 2008 were Chevron Corp. and Aera Energy LLC, but many independent oil exploration and production companies were also active on the field. The California Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) estimates approximately 20 million recoverable barrels of oil remain in the ground.
Just west of McKittrick Rt 58 took a sharp turn to the west and started to climb, climb, climb up a very narrow steep and winding section which was a beautiful drive through more oak woodlands in the Temblor Range. We then came down into the San Jaun Valley and then on over towards Atascadero where we picked up US 101.
This old wall along the road was built in 1941 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
The Works Progress Administration (WPA; renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration) was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing millions of people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. In a much smaller project, Federal Project Number One, the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.
Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge or school constructed by the agency. The WPA's initial appropriation in 1935 was for $4.9 billion (about 6.7 percent of the 1935 GDP).
I have no idea what this is. I saw a number of them up on the road bank in the San Jaun Valley.
If you know what this is - let me know.
Now we have made it all the way over to US 101 and will soom be in Morro Bay where mom and Suzi spent a number of years. They lived at 635 Fresno Avenue but I did find this out until the after our visit. So we did not get to stop by the place where my mom once lived.
Here is the famous Morro Bay landmark - a 581-foot-high mountain of volcanic rock rising from the water.
And here is another not so fondly thought of landmark: three 450-feet-high power plant smokestacks, visible from 10 miles away.
The power plant was decommissioned in 2014 and there was no provisions for the decommissioning of a plant when it was built. So, Morro Bay is stuck with it as it would cost upwards of $30 million to take the stacks down.
I got lucky with the weather - the day before it was socked in with fog.
There were lots of surfers and lots of people watching them
A local snapped this for me.
Here is a little bit of mom that will now forever be at Morro Bay.
Next we headed north up SR 1 and stopped at Cayucos which is located on Estero Bay a few miles north of Morro Bay.
Beaches and bikinis. Ahh...
This is the entrance to the Cayucos pier.
The famous Cayucos pier was constructed in 1872 by Captain James Cass, the founder of Cayucos, and was then rebuilt and lengthened to 982 feet in 1876. The pier helped to establish Cayucos as a commercial port for ships sailing from Los Angeles and San Francisco to bring in passengers and goods such as butter, milk, lumber and other various goods.
After years of wear and tear by the ocean and limited maintenance, the Cayucos pier was closed for safety reasons on July 5, 2013. The pier was missing 14 crucial pilings and had dozens of unattached or weakened pilings that had been degraded by worms, large storms and waves. The County had the pier stabilized in December 2013 and scheduled it for rebuilding it October 2014. The entire project is estimated to cost around $4 million.
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors awarded a $1.7 million dollar contract to Morro Bay-based Associated Pacific Constructors Inc. Construction on the pier began in October 2014 and is currently underway in Cayucos. The project is predicted to finish in May 2015.
The view from the pier looking to the east.
The view from the pier looking to the west.
By now it was almost 11:00 and I was getting hungry. I walked down the street looking for a bite to eat and settled on "The Schooner" since they had a nice upper level seating area which looked out over the Pacific.
Some of the funky indoor seating at The Schooner.
I decided to order the snapper tacos.
I enjoyed the view while my lunch was being prepared.
Time to eat! This was a big lunch for me but I managed to polish it off.
A splurge for frugal old me.
A view from the street. I sat at the table on the right side.
After lunch I started the last leg of the drive hoping to be in Morgan Hill by 2:30. I back tracked down SR 1 and then hung a left on to Old Creek Road which wound it's way up over the mountains to Rt 46 which took me back to US 101. From here it was a straight shot up the Central Valley which is flanked on both sides by 1000s of acres of produce.
It is California's single most productive agricultural region and one of the most productive in the world, providing more than half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. More than 7 million acres (28,000 km) of the valley are irrigated via an extensive system of reservoirs and canals. The valley also has many major cities, including the state capital Sacramento; as well as Chico, Redding, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno and Bakersfield.
At just about 2:30 I rolled into Morgan Hill home to my friend Steve and his family. Steve and I met 20+ years ago when a group of us would meet at the West Virginia Brewing Company for happy hour every Friday.
At that time Steve was studying computer science which turned out to be his niche. He moved to silicon valley, found work and did pretty well for himself and his family.
Meet Steve, proud owner of nice home with beautiful grounds and a nice pool to boot. Indeed, hard work does pay off.
Unfortunately Steve's wife Erin was gone for the weekend but that did not stop us from having fun. The first morning after I arrived Steve, son Andrew and I went for a walk at a nearby county park. It was a beautiful morning to be out and about. Above is the view from the walking path looking west.
A nice place to have for a walk, jog or bike.
A look at some of the surrounding oak woodlands.
Later on Steve took me to a hight point for a look down into Morgan Hill.
Looking down the boat ramp the lake. I has been drawn down to facilitate repairs for seismic strengthening.
In January 2009, a preliminary routine seismic study suggested a small chance that a large-magnitude earthquake (6.6 with the dam at the epicenter, or 7.2 up to a mile away) could result in flooding in Morgan Hill and as far away as San Jose. In response, the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) lowered the water level to 74 percent of capacity and announced further analysis of the situation, which could possibly result in retrofitting the dam if necessary. Updated findings in October, 2010 indicated that the dam could fail if a magnitude 7.25 earthquake occurred within 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) of the dam, potentially releasing a wall of water 35 feet (11 m) high into downtown Morgan Hill in 14 minutes, and 8 feet (2.4 m) deep into San Jose within three hours. In response SCVWD has lowered the water to 54% full, which is 60 feet (18 m) feet below the dam crest.
This was shot from atop the earthen damn. All you see below could be wiped out should there be a catastrophic failure of the earthen dam.
Tomorrow morning I will be up and out of the house and on my way to San Francisco. But first I need to fuel up. Steve suggested this place which opens at 6am on Sundays. So, I will be there when they open their doors and then mom and I will be on our way to The City for three days of walking and vising our old haunts.