The Star-News


The road less travelled paved with nostalgia

Sat, Nov 03 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Pena

A few weeks ago the Merrie Ukes entertained the residents and staff at the Collingswood Assisted Living Home on F Street.  One of the highlights of the program was a solo by Scott Humphries. He sang, and accompanied himself on the guitar ala Willie Nelson fashion with a rendition of “On The Road Again.”

I bring this up at this time because the other day I returned from being on the road again.  My caregiver, Patricia Atkinson, and I made a motor trip for a 10-day stay in the Sacramento area with daughter Margaret and her husband, Gregg. Actually this jaunt had been on the books for some time.  But it had not blossomed beyond the planning stage.

Patty has been my designated driver for some time for those chores and appointments that are out of my range, you know the kind: doctor’s appointments, meetings and luncheons of some type out of the area, and the like.  But I thought that since she is a good driver with sound judgment why not an extended motor trip?

In retrospect nostalgia had a lot to do with it.  My wife, Zula, and I had made this journey countless times in the past 30 years. Kids in college in the Bay Area, and jobs in the State Capital were the motivation behind such adventures.  And they were adventures. We enjoyed them immensely and I suppose I wished to relive the trips one more time.

Humphries would have sung in hill-billie style, “So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly,” but in our case we loaded up the family sedan and moved, temporarily, to the State Capital.

There are many routes, roads and byways that have been written up in song and verse, that is, those that might inspire a bit of romance. Route 66 comes to mind as well as the old 101 and Coastal Route 1.  Then there is the storied route that Fra Junipero Serra took on his Mission founding trips, El Camino de los Reyes, I think they called it.  In contrast our route to make this northern trip, Interstate 5, might inspire a bad limerick but that is about all.  There is nothing romantic about it.  It is strictly a working man’s road.  It is the worker who comes to work in the morning, dressed in khakis or dungarees with one objective in mind: to move folks from here to there.  And it does it in the most efficient way known to road construction.

About the only thing that has ever been written about I-5 is the section known as the Grapevine.  This is that stretch of highway well north of Los Angeles that climbs until one wonders if he ever will hit the apex and then comes down making one wonder if he ever will hit the nadir. This has received some attention from some writers. The novelist Eugene Burdick, mentioned it in a story and I daresay perhaps even Raymond Chandler threw it in somewhere. For the most part it has remained absent in California lore. Oh, there is the mile after mile of orchards and other growing plants in the vast valleys and the fields of live stock that will probably wind up being someone’s Big Mac in the near future.  But other than that the only pleasant scenery are the ubiquitous coastal range to the west reminding us that there is an ocean beyond them hills.

Sacramento is a pleasant, lovely city.  It’s only drawback, as I see it, is its awful weather.  If it were not for the humidity in the summer and the bitter cold in the winter I think it would attract more folks.  Nonetheless, it has many interesting features most that would be of interest to most California residents and visitors as well.  Of these, we might start with the Capitol building itself.  We took a docent tour one day and, though I had been there many times before, I learned a bit about design and history. We will have more on Sacramento, as well as San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in a future column.

By the way, because of my creaky legs daughter Margaret had acquired a wheelchair for my capital tour.  I learned that Patty can drive a wheelchair as safely as she drives a car.


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