Saturday, July 18, 2009

California Part One - Marin City, Sausalito, Oakland, Sacramento, Truckee, Manteca, Madera, Fresno, Selma, Tulare, Bakersfield, Tehachapi, Mojave

"... then up the Sierra Nevada, pines, stars, mountain lodges signifying Frisco romances—a little girl in the back seat, crying to her mother, ‘Mama when do we get home to Truckee?’ And Truckee itself, homey Truckee, and then down the hill to the flats of Sacramento. I suddenly realized I was in California. Warm, palmy air—air you can kiss—and palms. Along the storied Sacramento River on a superhighway; into the hills again; up, down ..." (54).

(Just Truckee for this quote. I spent the night in Sacramento, or technically Antelope, but left and didn't realize I hadn't taken a picture).

“Mill City, where Remi lived, was a collection of shacks in a valley, housing-project shacks built for the Navy Yard workers during the war; it was in a canyon, and a deep one, treed profusely on all slopes” (55).

(This is another instance in which Kerouac uses a pseudonym for a city. Mill City in On the Road is Marin City in reality).

“I had just come through the little fishing village of Sausalito, and the first thing I said was, ‘There must be a lot of Italians in Sausalito” (56).

“In Oakland I had a beer among the bums of a saloon with a wagon wheel in front of it, and I was on the road again….Two rides took me to Bakersfield, four hundred miles south….You never saw a driving fool like that. He made Tracy in no time. Tracy is a railroad town; brakemen eat surly meals in diners by the tracks. Trains howl away across the valley. The sun goes down long and red. All the magic names of the valley unrolled—Manteca, Madera, all the rest. Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries. I stuck my head out the window and took deep breaths of the fragrant air. It was the most beautiful of all moments.” (73)


“Ponzo was a big, loud, vociferous type who knew everybody in San Joaquin Valley….we wound up in Madera Mextown …” (85).

“We got to Sabinal in the wee hours before dawn. I had finished the wine while Terry slept, and I was proper stoned. We got out and roamed the quiet leafy square of the little California town—a whistle stop on the SP” (84).

(Kerouac says Sabinal, but the town is actually Selma. He changes the names of several places in On the Road).

“We raced through the crazy streets of Fresno …” (85).

“We bounced over the railroad tracks in Fresno and hit the wild streets of Fresno Mextown” (86).

"At dawn, in snowy passes, we labored toward the town of Mojave, which was the entryway to the great Tehachapi Pass” (156).


(I've never saw so many windmills in my life. What a funny mountain).

“Next stop was Tulare” (158).

Miscellaneous California:

(to give you an idea of the enormity of those Redwoods).

“Here I was at the end of America—no more land—and now there was nowhere to go but back. I determined at least to make my trip a circular one: I decided then and there to go to Hollywood and back through Texas to see my bayou gang; then the rest be damned” (71).

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I tore through northern California at night, but parked somewhere along the coast so that I could sleep with the ocean in the background; I had intended to sleep on the beach, but the shoreline consisted of boulders where I had decided to stop. Nevertheless, I slept royally and was awoken when the cold fog rolled into my car, and I saw nothing but white. A perfect awakening that set the mood for the rest of that day.

Hundreds of miles later I was in Marin City, and then Sausalito. I drove up an absurdly steep hill which made my engine work to the point where I could smell it, barely making it to the top as I was trying to negotiate the delicate equilibrium required to keep my car from stalling. But once at the top, I observed the sailboats sitting in the harbor--from a distance, simple white triangles on a blue backdrop, with a lighter blue above for contrast. From there I made my way passed San Francisco (intending to go there the next day), and on to Palo Alto, where I would spend the night.

--San Francisco has its own post--

After San Francisco, there was a drastic change in the climate and suddently it was Sacramento for the night. I had intended to take pictures of Sacramento in the morning, but it had slipped my mind--off I rolled to Truckee, and from there Nevada. After blistering Nevada it was back to equally blistering California, where I got on the interstate at Stockton and drove south to Fresno, passing through town after town no differently than Jack and Neal had done in On the Road (almost like I had planned this trip with that in mind...)

I didn't stay longer than a night in Fresno, but t hat was enough; I was itching to get head South and on to mythic LA, etc. On my way south through all the nondescript highway towns, Tehachapi was the only one that stuck out for me. I have a feeling the windmills had something to do with it; their numbers can only be described as comically obscene. It was like someone planted hundreds of them in an attempt to make the mountains take flight. It was a welcome scene after the hot monotony of the afternoon rolling through central California.

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