It was time to bust out of the city. An afternoon drive into the mountains and desert was just what the doctor ordered. So was a slice of Julian Pie Company Dutch apple pie (déjà vu).
It had been a tiresome week filled with mundane things like completing my tax returns and scribbling out checks for silly amounts to both the state and the Feds; scribbling out two more checks for my vehicle registration renewals; and battling a stubborn external computer hard drive that was acting up. I needed to step away from the bureaucracy for a few hours.
My 1997 Ford F-150 made a beeline from my home to the Julian Pie Company but, along the way, the trees and shrubs along twisting CA 79 were a vibrant green in the afternoon sunlight. Spring is in the mountains.
JPC had just three customers in it mid-Thursday afternoon, which meant that I was able to walk right up and place my order for my dessert delight. (A Navy buddy always said you should eat dessert before dinner, that way if you die choking on a chicken bone, at least you’ll go to heaven with dessert in your stomach.)
I didn’t linger long after eating my treat; I was quickly back in my truck and heading down the Banner Grade on CA 78.
The Banner Grade is a fun little drop of about 2,000 feet in elevation from the mountains to the desert floor. Worse than CA 79 in places, its twists and turns aren’t for those prone to carsickness. In most places, there’s little if any shoulder, with rock outcroppings on one side, and a guardrail on the other. Dotting the shoulder between the rocks were what appeared to be lilac bushes in bloom. I would have loved to stop and smelled them, but there simply wasn’t anyplace to do so. They did, however, remind me of Walt Whitman’s poem written in the summer after Abraham Lincoln’s death (150 years ago April 15th):
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Instead of heading east on CA 78 to Ocotillo Wells, as I had done many times before, I opted for a new route to the southeast on San Diego County Highway S2 into the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I was pleasantly surprised at how scenic it was.
As I was driving along, something running along the side of the road caught my attention, and it was a California quail–the first I had ever scene in the wild. Now I’m not a big “birder,” but this was exciting because the San Diego Natural History Museum uses the California quail in its logos. Kind of cool to see the real thing in the wild.
Desert delights included the ocotillo and cholla in bloom.
Unlike the Banner Grade, S2 had plenty-wide shoulders for parking, so I stopped to snap a few photos. Of course, each step I took across the warm sand and rocks was very deliberate in hopes of not coming across a rattlesnake that was out enjoying the afternoon sun.
Highway S2 apparently runs along the route of the Great Southern Overland Stage Route, and there’s a small county park highlighting one of the stagecoach stations along the route (it was too late for me to go in and see it–another trip in the future).
As S2 nears Interstate 8, it runs through the middle of a modest wind farm, with towering wind turbines spinning in the afternoon breeze. The late afternoon sun cast shadows of the spinning blades onto the ground, and that was a tad freakish and slightly disorienting to see this large dark shadow chasing me down the highway.
On the way home, I headed west along I-8 where my truck put on its 170,000th mile, and then hopped down to CA 94 to get to my house via the scenic, back door route. For a short distance, CA 94 parallels the imposing border fence between the U.S. and Mexico just a few hundred yards away. Seeing the fence delimiting “the land of the free” always gets the thoughts flowing, at least for me. No solutions; just thoughts.
The afternoon ended with an impromptu stop at my Navy buddy’s house, and he and his wife invited me to stay for dinner. Chicken. Boneless, in a salad.
So that was my little afternoon escape from bureaucracy. I need to do it more often. After all, I just shelled out about $3,400 to own a bit of I-8, CA 78, and CA 79. That was not a delight.