Highway 58 West of Bakersfield
After a daylong drive from a newly discovered national monument to Arcata, I arrived to my almost birthday dinner of organic roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and steamed beets. A nice greeting after plying California's roadways, finding roadway and routes new to me. I can especially recommend CA Sate Route 58 west of Interstate 5, a sometime winding road taking you through some beautiful high desert landscapes. There are also some incredible desert hills outside of Taft on Route 166, the view especially spectacular while proceeding up a mountainside near the turnoff for the Carrizo Plain National Monument. While enjoying the view I retrieved two tossed beer bottles, mindless trash tossed by the mindless. Also in this general area were ugly reminders that oil production was once the ruling and crowned KING--- passing vast fields filled with giant oil derrick pumps working away, their up and down motion siphoning oil fueling today's carbon obsessed nation. My late brother-in-law John was an oil field "mud engineer," someone who kept deep drilling holes thousands of feet into the ground open, explaining why John and my sister JoAnn lived first in Bakersfield, then Tehachapti. And if you ever have the time, explore this part of California, seeing real parts of the state not presented in Disneyland or Hollywood, waving hello to all those alert raptors sitting on road signs peering for mice and kangaroo rats.
Putin the Taxicab Driver
Last week, Vladimir Putin revealed the hitherto surprising unknown personal history that in the late 1990s, while the new post-Soviet Union Russia was struggling to find its way to a new future, Putin, still the KGB employed (Committee for State Security) Colonel, moonlighted as a cabbie in Saint Petersburg (Leningrad). It was hard times for the future Russian leader but just as he maneuvered the streets of the city, Putin was also working in the national government where, with contacts made, propelled himself and his friends to great wealth and political power.
Cynics might say that driving cab made perfect sense for someone like Putin, one type of criminal activity leading to another, cabbies historically tarred with a malignant brush---all of us one step away from a jail cell. But taking a more positive view, you could instead say that Putin's ascension to the pinnacle of leadership of a great and powerful nation proves just how capable your average cabbie is, and how underrated they are.
University College London is currently studying a group of volunteer London cabbies in a comprehensive brain study due to their larger than normal hippocampus part of the brain, attempting to understand whether their intensive street knowledge of greater London can assist in finding cures for neurological maladies like Alzheimer's. And Philip Glass, the now famous American Classical composer, drove taxi in NYC until he hit the big time sometime in his mid-30s, the rhythm of the big city streets music to his minimalist ears.
I am sure there are many more examples but the point is made: we cabbies aren't just a bunch of stumblebums. If folks keep insulting cabbies, you better watch out or Putin will fire one of those hypersonic missiles he keeps bragging about and blast you to smithereens. Be forewarned!
Carrizo Plain National Monument: Embracing Silence in a Noisy World
It wasn't until I looked at a California map Saturday morning did I notice there was this very large national monument piece of land directly west of where I was in my Bakersfield motel room. It seemed close, and given my exhausted state, closer far better than miles away. Proceeding west upon the Rosedale Highway (W-Bound SR 58) I left McDonalds/Taco Bell franchise-land behind and found myself in farming and orchard territory, driving until I passed under I-5 when suddenly I was alone, not much around but sagebrush and open country. Coming to the intersection of SR 33 & 58, I turned south and finding my way, like I said, through "oil pump station land," and on to Taft, California where I mailed a letter (2:30 PM pickup). From there, I soon picked up SR 166 and the turn to the monument.
Again, I had no real idea what I was about to find. High desert, yes I knew that but nothing beyond the hope of discovering a land and area special to know and be in, hoping to wrap myself in the gift that surprise delivers if only you try to find it somewhere, anywhere upon this planet. Stopping at the sign stating I was now entered the Carrizo Plain National Monument, I saw that it was jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Nature Conservancy, which I saw as something very positive, foretelling that I had made a good choice---nature's splendor and grandeur.
What I found myself in was a extremely broad valley formed by two mountain ranges, Temblor to the northeast and Calientes to the southwest, an area considered to be California's last great native grassland, and there I was, driving right smack down the middle of its 250,000 acres. And making it all the better, there was almost no one there, seeing a total of 12 people during an entire day. Pretty amazing when you think it's only a two hour drive from Los Angeles and nearly four million people packed in amongst all those freeways. Was I happy? Yes!
Later, with perhaps two hours of real daylight left, I found a campground nestled in the hills about 2 miles off the road. Putting my "Big Five" sleeping bag down, I went for a walk and sat upon a hillside watching the full moon rise and the sun set. Here is a haiku poem (5/7/5) I composed while sitting there.
Birthday Moon Over The Temblors
December full moon
rising amidst a pink glow
caressing parched hills
And that is exactly how it was, the longest in duration full moon of 2021 rising above the mountains and desert floor, along with a rapid dispersal of pink pastel daylight. I spent a cold night looking up at the clearest sky, the full moon a bright lamp in the sky, with the Big Dipper directly above me poring bliss down from the near heavens.
A Mere 310 Votes Cancelled the Recall
Sawant fended off her recall by the slimmest of margins but now she is calling it her great vindication. I am right in calling her another version of Donald Trump. Reality? There is only one reality. Hers!
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