The drive from my house to San Francisco has become one of my favorites. First of all, it is beautiful and the landscape is so varied (back to this). Also, once through LA, there is hardly any traffic and you can fly. There are also multiple rest stops with Starbucks and huge mini marts. Always a plus.
The landscape: it is Orange County/LA weirdness -- strip malls, brake lights, weird power plants, car dealerships, sitcom billboards -- until you come to the Getty perched up on the left. Then there is a gradual climb up and the scenery quiets into steep brown mountains patched with brush, and then a decent into "the valley." The net 45 minutes or so, you climb and wind through the mountains. They are a different kind of mountain than we have in the east -- they look much more geologically formed, more sculpted crevices and grooved faces, as if water gushed down them not too long ago. Their surface is different too; rather than being covered head to toe in trees, they are brown dirt and rock with scattered shrubs, desertous ones, patchy over them. The higher you climb, though, the more pines there are, and this morning, I even saw some stubborn remaining snow frozen in the shadows.
When the road begins to wind downward (my ears always pop here), it suddenly straightens out into a perfect ironed ribbon and the land becomes farms as far as you can see. Unfortunately, yesterday when I drove north, there was so much smog that as far as I could see was only a few cars in front of me. . ,
The farm land lasts for miles and miles. There are mostly orchards. Some were shaggy with leaves and full of oranges, but most were barren. Those trees, which I think were almond trees (must ask Eli) were the color of pink tinsel Christmas trees, but quieter -- just the sheen along the bare branches.
My favorite part of the drive is what comes next -- the smooth round hills, much softer than the others, that bulge and roll for the miles before San Francisco. These hills, I think, are where Salinas is -- read East of Eden. These hills, which slope to the road and have cows standing at impossible angles on them, are different every time I pass them. They change with the light and the seasons. Last time I drove, they were soft and downy (see pic below), but yesterday they were different entirely. They looked more like worn leather, the down gone, like skin. They looked muscular, sensual, breathing.
And today they were shadowy and lovely but not striking. These are the hills where the windmills are that make me think of Ben. Yesterday, they were all stopped. Almost eerie. And I wondered who decides that an energy supply is sufficient for the moment, who programs them to resist when the wind blows.