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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

From Sea to Desert

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 7/22/2024
Occurred: 1/30/2003
Page Views: 365
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Might I be getting the hang of this driving thing after all?

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Today's run began early in the morning, when I arrived at the big Sears distribution center in Delano, California. I picked up the loaded trailer I was to tow, parked, and went to sleep. It was 4 AM.

At noon I woke up, continuing the day but on a new shift. My eight-hour DOT break was complete, and I was good to go for another ten hours of driving, at the end of which I hoped to be in Prescott, Arizona, with my load, ready for the local Sears to unload in the morning.

I headed south on CA 99 to Bakersfield, then east on CA 58, towards the Mojave desert.

California basically has two mountain chains running up and down its length. The coastal mountains, which are, literally, on the coast, act as an airfoil, pulling high-altitude air downward. The moisture in this air causes the fog that so often surprises the truck driver as he or she first enters the Central Valley after descending the dreaded Grapevine, the very steep entrance to this breadbasket.

The Central Valley is very fertile, thanks mostly to this moisture. Still, it might keep going eastward if it weren't for the second range of mountains, the Sierra Nevada (Spanish for "snowy mountains"). When the moisture-laden air hits these walls, the water is wrung as if from a sponge; in January, the hillsides are fresh and green as any Irish landscape.

California's "golden hills" become green in January.

Here and there, cows and horses dot the hillsides, enjoying what is, to them, a buffet. Everything seems alive and fresh, making me glad the situation required me to drive this during the day rather than at night.

As one continues eastward, the landscape gradually becomes drier. The thick, green, grass gives way to scraggly bushes; the occasional rock outcroppings begin to dominate as the rich loam of the Central Valley becomes thinner and then disappears completely. Even so, the constant winds provide one, last, crop before the desert manifests in earnest: electricity. The hilltops become fringed with windmills, hundreds of them, in every size. At any given time, some of the windmills are off-line for repairs, or simply to save wear on them during those times of the year and the day when the full capacity of electricity is not required. The fact that many of the windmills were not turning last summer, when there was supposedly an energy shortage in California, belied that story for those who bothered to look.

Windmills line the hills east of the Central Valley.

There is, of course, no reason for the United States to rely on oil other than the greed of those in power (who happen to own the oil companies). Wind is everywhere and windmill technology has reached the point where anyone who wants to put one up would be rewarded with free power for life. As one looks at the hills, one can see the older, larger windmills dwarfing the newer, smaller ones. The newer ones actually generate more electricity than the larger ones, the same as modern, smaller dams are much more productive than huge dinosaurs like Hoover or Glen Canyon dams.

As I continued through the desert, eventually the sun began to set behind me, turning the sky in my rear-view mirrors salmon and purple. Then the stars began to peak out, timidly at first, and finally with a brilliance they only display in the clear, dry air. I always marvel at how hard it is to find the constellations in the desert; the lesser stars shine so brightly that the constellations are almost lost among them.

I stopped at the TA truck stop in Kingman for fuel and a shower; then drove to AZ 89 and headed south. The last time I was on this road was in 1995, with my daughters Karen and Jennifer. But now, it was dark, and the only reason I knew when I reached deep and treacherous Hell Canyon was the sign posted on the bridge as I rolled past.

There was one other truck sharing the road with me, a guy who didn't know how to use his microphone properly and who had a Hispanic accent, besides. It took five minutes of my asking him to repeat himself before I could figure out that he was encouraging me to tune into an AM radio station that featured Hal Lindsey. Lindsey's guest was explaining how war with Iraq could only be averted by the Second Coming of Christ; I turned the thing off and returned to the more soothing (and enlightening) sounds of the Carpenters.

Eventually, I reached the mall in Prescott where the Sears was located. I positioned the truck in front of the loading bay, so that they'd be able to unload without disturbing me in the morning, and shut down for the night. I had driven over 600 miles in the previous 24 hours. Perhaps, finally, I was getting whatever hang there was to be gotten of this driving thing?

I could only hope!

—There's a lot more scenery to see.