26 May 2021, Traveling the Breadth of California

… and most of it through desert.

I released myself from the hotel/casino palace at 7AM, after a breakfast of fruit cup (which included some nice berries) and coffee, purchased from a small konditori adjacent to the hotel lobby. No other eating places were open. There was a half-loaf of formerly fresh, seeded bread and a banana in the car, left over from the day before.

The hotel is located near the entrance to US 15 South, so I was quickly on my way to Southern California, but not so far south as Los Angeles—I pray I never to have to be there again.

The plan was, first, to take US15 to Victorville, California—the area outlined in red at the bottom left:

Highway 15 goes mostly through desert until it reaches Victorville. Two oases, shown along the route as dots in the map, are the cities of Baker and Barstow (affectionately known as ‘Barstool’ to aficionados).

The prospect of being in Baker intrigued me because I have a California-born friend in Sweden with that last name. I wondered what I might find there to tease him with. In addition, there were many roadside advertisements for a restaurant in Baker named “The Mad Greek’s” beginning at least 50 miles ahead of it. (Note: three of my grandparents were born in Greece).

A few miles before I reached the border of the town, I saw a sign that read: “Welcome to Baker, Gateway to Area 51” which, if examined closely, is not strictly true, since Area 51 is in an area north of Las Vegas (click the link, above). Nonetheless, it seems that the town, or some people in it, have adopted Area 51 as their own, including the putative aliens (who were captured along with their flying saucer) that the U.S. Air Force is allegedly holding there for the CIA to allegedly examine them. Here is an effigy of one of the aliens which greet the traveler from the east:

Also, the Mad Greek is advertising his gyros in the background.

I stopped to examine the alien. It was advertising “Alien Fresh Jerky” at this establishment:

Another advertisement at the roadside, by the parking lot:

Upon parking the car, I heard strange, irregularly intermittent squawking sounds. Could these be the aliens? Or was the sound transmitted by a hidden speaker? Finally, the source, no doubt guarding the parking lot:

I have seen many ravens at high desert altitudes in Arizona and California, at ~3000 feet of elevation. Their wingspread is surprisingly wide when first seen in full.

The Mad Greek’s was a disappointment. It was ‘temporarily closed’. It was a small place with garish, Greek-themed decorations and colors—not at all inviting.

Heading into Barstow, new and intriguing signs regularly appeared “Peggy Sue’s 50’s café”. I was ready for another old-fashion café. “Peggy Sue” was a popular song by Buddy Holly in 1957:

If you knew Peggy Sue
Then you’d know why I feel blue
Without Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Oh well I love you gal, yes, I love you Peggy Sue

It was not a disappointment. I was greeted in the parking lot by the café’s wandering tortoise:

Here’s the history of the place on the back of the extensive menu:

In addition to being a popular café, evident from the many customer almost filling the large place, it is a museum of artefacts of cartoon characters and effigies and photos of movie stars and the roles they played. And, like the cafes I remember from my youth, the was a tall, refrigerated glass cabinet filled with lemon meringue and apple pies.

I had scrambled eggs with rye toast and tomato juice.

The next leg of my journey was from Barstow to Palmdale where I would turn south on highway 14 toward Santa Clarita at bottom left):

For no reason that I can remember, I turned left at Elizabeth Lake Road where Highway 138 turns eastward from its coterminous path with Highway 14, instead of continuing south on Highway 14, and it was a serendipitous error.

I realized something was not quite right when this ‘Elizabeth Lake Road’ started winding its way deeper into the hills. Finally, I came to an intersection where I had to make a decision. Did I want to go to north toward Lake Hughes, or did I want to go, apparently, southwest on San Francisquito Canyon Road toward Green Valley? I knew I was ‘lost’, but I didn’t feel lost. I was headed in the right direction and the countryside was inviting. Green Valley seemed like a place to travel through, so I did. It was a lovely ride, with light traffic so I could travel below the speed limit to enjoy the farms and fields and green hills.

San Francisquito Canyon road, from where I entered it, is a descending mountain road roughly paralleling the route of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the huge, white pipes of which I could crawling over the mountain ridges visible from the road. I turned a corner, and there they were, all three together, descending at 45˚ down a slope I was about turn toward:

Los Angeles takes water from many other places, north and east and from underground, and these pipes deliver it. When in Arizona, I wrote a short article for my Pavellas Perspective blog on the subject: In the Great Sonoran Desert.

To shorten this story, for I am about to leave Santa Barbara early morning 27 May, San Francisquito Canyon Road connects with Copper Hill Drive which connect with Newhall Ranch Road which crosses US Highway 5 at Castaic Junction where I entered the intended road toward Ventura–State Highway 126. Here’s the maze at Castaic Junction:

From Ventura I would drive the familiar Route 33 to Oak View and the Oakridge Inn, a few miles south of Ojai.

The remainder of this day’s trip, a visit with a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and later with my son and his lady in Santa Barbara, will begin the next journal entry.

Stay tuned.

For the next journal entry: GO HERE