Friday, June 18, 2010

Back On The Blog

It's been an interesting week.

I've had about a week off, but now it's time to go
Back To The Blog.

Last week, I took a much-needed few days off to attend a
family reunion in Monterey, CA. In that I had waited just
a bit too long to get a cheap airline ticket from Las Vegas
(I could have flown on a last minute Priceline deal, but it
would have entailed a four-hour wait in Salt Lake City in
each direction), I decided instead to drive.

From Las Vegas to Monterey ( actually Salinas), is about
591 miles, so I was expecting a pleasant eight or nine
hour jaunt. Loading up my trusty Jeep with my overnight
bag and some bottled water, I set out across the Nevada
desert to Barstow - the first refueling point and the takeoff
for Central California.

Heading west on California Highway 58, you transit
through miles of Joshua Tree scrubland, past the town
of Boron with its tribute to the "Twenty-Mule-Team" of
Death Valley Days fame, and skirt the town of Mojave,
with its airport a sea of mothballed retired airliners.
Then, you start to climb up out of the Antelope Valley
toward the town of Tehachapi and its world-famous
railroad grade of switchbacks and tunnels, which parallels
the highway and offers a spectacular view of mountains
and bristle pines, with air so cool you can turn off your
air conditioning, even in the middle of June.

Crossing the Tehachapi summit, you descend into the
Bakersfield area, where despite the much-advertised
water restrictions, Big Agriculture appears to be
thriving. Motoring past miles and miles of orange and
almond groves, you arrive at the city of Bakersfield,
home of country music stars Buck Owens and Merle

A running California joke is that if for some reason
you want to impress people that you are "country",
or "a redneck", or a "hick", you don't have to pretend
that you are from Arkansas, Tennessee or Oklahoma -
just say you're from Bakersfield or Fresno and they'll
get it. And judging from the number of pickup trucks
and farm vehicles I saw, it's probably accurate.

Heading North on California 99 - the main artery of
the San Joaquin Valley, you leave Bakersfield looking
for Highway 41 and the Wasco exit. Turning onto 41,
you pass Wasco and more miles and miles of almond
orchards and alfalfa fields until finally you get to
open rangeland, with real cattle and cowboys on
horseback. Finally you come to the little hamlet
of Lost Hills where Interstate 5 cross the 41. This
is the next refueling stop and now it's time for lunch
and stretching the legs.

Leaving Lost Hills and its surrounding oil fields (the
area resembles nothing so much as West Texas with
the oil derricks and bobbing pumps), you stay on
41 all the way to the picturesque town of Paso Robles,
with its surrounding wineries and green fields of
broccoli and asparagus. Leaving Paso Robles,
you head north on US Highway 101, and cover the
last ninety miles to the Salinas-Monterey area,
the Salad Capital of California.

After a pleasant three days in Monterey, we retraced
the same route back to Vegas, the trusty ol' Jeep riding
the road as if on rails and putting out a respectable 22
mpg at 75 miles per hour without even breathing hard.
Upon arriving back in Vegas, I found a small assignment
waiting for me. Now that that is out of the way, it's Back
On The Blog - with lots to talk about.

First topic up will be the rise of California's two Republican
Mama Grizzlies - Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, running
for Governor and The Senate respectively. Both are hugely
wealthy ex-tech CEO's, and both are intent on using their
accumulated fortunes to attain office.

In my view, the record of wealthy ex-CEO's succeeding
in government is decidedly mixed, as the skill sets
required to be a CEO and a success in government are not
the same. But, that is a topic we'll examine in the next

All in all, it's good to be home - and good to be Back On The Blog.

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