(Photo:- Misty Morn. Arizona Rt. 10)
That zone on the dashboard, thermometer dial, vertically divided into half moons; green zone to left, red zone to right; green backdrop to the cool degrees set between -20˚F and 70˚F and mirror contrasting the red backdrop to the warm degrees set between 70˚F and 160˚F. Once a place infrequently visited, a distant memory, and now a place most often inhabited with days started and ended each Arizona morn and each Arizona eve. An unfamiliar place. An uninvited guest. An intrusion. Welcomed with sighs and relief by most, but wrestled and fought and combatted by me each day unhappy to revisit daily highs within 50 degrees fahrenheit and 10˚F below ‘normal.’ I’m having none of this.
The great thing about driving out to California before dawn; West along Dunlap Avenue, South along I17 and finally West on Rt. 10 towards Solvang for Thanks Giving Holiday, is that the sun is permanently in your back … once it arrives, finally, of course. The desert awakens exposing long whiffs of grey mists, long shadowed Saguaro Cacti and Tickey’s silhouette dancing and leaping over roadside tumbleweeds like an energetic Elk. An eight-hour drive that seemed impossibly long and exhausting in concept and surprisingly easy in reality. Just shift into automatic, let play the “Solvang TG Mix,” MP3s burned on a CD, and watch as this ‘National Geographic documentary’ unfurls before me. Rough, naked mountains and the scratchy scrubs of Arizona giving way to the softer, gentler, higher and green covered hills of California. The mountains in Arizona are huge and high. In California they reach into a different climatic zone; crests snow dusted and Wintery. (Photo:- Tickey @ rest. Rt. 10)
Much advice given from many travelers who have taken; which routes to make, which to avoid and which to circumnavigate downtown LA and its impossibly congested highways was ultimately irrelevant as my Garmin steered me past Palm Springs, CA57 towards Santa Ana, I210 towards Pasadena and Ventura Freeway, slightly above LA and then the famous and much filmed and photographed, the winding Pacific Coast Highway, Rt. 101. Not sure why I was suddenly surprised to see the Pacific Coast laid huge and cool and calm to my left as I wound down the window to luxuriate in salt air, because it was always there and always expected. But, it made me immediately realize with awe that Tickey and I finally, had indeed driven from America shore to American shore and my transition West was finally complete. What an exhilarating feeling of accomplishment. (Photo:- I see the sea. Pacific coast at last.)
The other ‘Green Zone;’ California’s green grass, and ‘wall-to-wall’ green, over hills and mountains and gardens, contrasting with trees in Autumn splendor, oddly orange and unfamiliar and strange. I thought I had seen the last of Fall color. This brilliance brought forth to immediate memory driving through Jersey within months of my East escape and wondering what life would be without a world of trees? Tall trees, green trees, Autumnal trees which turned first yellow, second orange, third gold and later in full, glorious, Spring bloom. I can’t say that I have noticed their absence yet, until witnessing this brilliance. Curious I was to see them again now as this vistas included tall Palms, taller mountains and constant sunshine. But, this seaside place also brought forth to memory a familiar fragrance. Pine and damp earth now whisked together with Eucalyptus like a sauna Spa.
(Photo:- Santa Ynes Valley, CA.) Finally, an hour lost to CA’s time change and AZ’s reticence against daylight savings; an exit onto Rt 154 which wound its way wiggling constantly and cliffwardly upwards towards Solvang past burgundy, bronze and ochre vineyards, Danish windmills and hills draped, carved and landscaped as neatly as an English country garden. Mission Spanish and Danish domicile. A Thanks Giving tradition with ex-Southern Rhodesians who have been following me since my 19th year to London, England, Kingston, Canada, Syracuse, New York, Montgomery, Alabama, Spokane, Washington and now, Solvang, California. A constant journey, a perennial friendship and an heartfelt Holiday. This is going to be an interesting visit.
Gas $3.13 p/gallon, Arizona
Gas $3.65 p/gallon, California