It's a long way to Tipperary

trip odometer

And Twain Harte isn't much closer

Drive! he said. With a full tank of gas, a mug of steaming hot coffee, and reckless optimism that the trip wouldn't be "too bad," I set out from Palm Springs yesterday for Twain Harte to observe the Fourth of July festivities at Bob and Carolyn's cabin with other friends from the Bay Area.

To my great surprise and considerable delight, I found traffic to be quite light, except for the area where the I-210 merges with the I-5. Congestion there is predictable as those merging try to jockey across the half dozen northbound lanes to the inside lanes that will actually continue northward as I-5 while a great many others try to jockey across those same lanes to the outside lanes that will split off to Palmdale, Lancaster, and the Antelope Valley. Mix in travelers who don't realize what's coming up and are totally bewildered by all this to-ing and fro-ing, stir in a few road warriors who approach this mess as a slalom course, and you've got what is euphemistically called "slow and go."

traffic

Although I had loaded some favorite CDs into the jukebox, I was able to pull in quite a few public radio stations along the way, interspersed with a few short interludes of Spanish-language broadcasting and moderately-offensive right-wing talk radio. So, it was an entertaining, informative, culturally enriching travel experience.

But let's face it, it's a damned long drive from Palm Springs to Twain Harte. The trip odometer registered 516 miles at the end of the day. Unfortunately, there's no "as the crow flies" route. Before turning north one must first drive due west for two solid hours. At the other end, there's a corresponding eastward leg.

And it's boring along the I-5. Flat farm land is flat farm land. It's like driving through Nebraska and Kansas, except the air is more polluted. It leaves a lot of time for considering the great questions of our time:

Why aren't there more drive-thru Starbucks in travel plazas along the freeway? Would it be so awful to have one fewer Taco Bell, McDonalds, Carls Jr, Burger King, or Jack in the Box in favor of decent coffee? Would just one Starbucks or Peets every hundred miles be too much to ask?

Why doesn't traffic flow smoothly on I-5? The road is perfectly straight for at least 400 miles and not a single stoplight? Why do so many drivers not use their cruise control?

Have those tens of thousands of cows near Coalinga ever seen a single blade of grass? Why isn't their flesh already medium-well done on the hoof from constant exposure to relentless sun?

And why is "News Radio for the Central Valley" still broadcasting a story forecasting 250,000 new jobs in the report out Friday, several hours after the report was already released showing less than half that number of jobs was actually created?

So many questions, so few answers.

Paul swaddled in blankets in the cool Twain Harte morning

Oh, yeah! One more question: Why is it so cold in the morning in Twain Harte?