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July 16, 2009



The poppies only bloom in spring from April to March or thereabouts. On another drive, you might discover junkyards full of old jet plane and rocket parts, signs advertising "Se venden [sic] borregos" (Goats for sale), smelly cattle feedlots, El Mirage Dry Lake, the Predator unmanned aerial drone flying around or Charlie Brown Farms: a store that sells frozen meats like deer medallions and ostrich patties. The area between Lancaster and Vitcorville is one of my favorites. You could also continue north past Victorville and check in on the stripper museum in Helendale. Victoville is also home to the grave of Brownie the Railroad Dog. Good luck in your aimless travels!


My therapy back when I was young and anxious and troubled was long drives on I-80, which crosses the big fat belly of the lower 48.

I lived in Iowa, suffering grad school, poverty, bad and ill-advised early relationships. I did 3 epic summer solo drives to the Bay Area (to crash with friends from college), each one nearly non-stop (36 hours total driving time; I averaged about 42-45 hours door-to-door). Then there were the regular drives east to the family in the Conn. suburbs of NYC, and some down to DC to see my biological father. None of these were all that mysterious -- but they did offer the magical sensation of being out-of-time, off-grid -- just OUT and free, where no one can get to me, because I'm nowhere and gone. Suddenly hitting real traffic in NJ, sleep-deprived and complacent from hundreds of miles of sedate midwestern cruising, was rattling, but thrilling too.

Cell phones have sort of ruined a lot of that. And creeping middle age means marathon driving is an even more unsafe proposition than it was in my 20s. I get calls on my long drives now, and stop at a plush motel after 12 hours on the road. Jockeying for position on the Tappan Zee and the Thruway is no longer a romantic welcome-home experience; it's merely exhausting.

Mr Fab

Poppy season is deffo. something to check out. Quite spectacular. And Vasquez Rocks merits a return - very unusual impossible-looking shapes, where the legendary bandito Vasquez hid from the law.

Actually, the stripper museum "Exotic World" has packed and moved to Vegas, and hasn't reopened yet.

Other SoCal tips:
- Grandma Prisbee's Bottle Village (eccentric old lady built houses out of bottles 'n' junk)

- Sequoia National Park, famed for the world's biggest trees, but the best part is Crystal Cave, a proper dark chilly stalactites/stalacmites cave.

Rick Garcia

I agree with the theraputic value of the "mystery drive," something that I would do in my youth. With a family, it is difficult to leave for the epic road trip, but, my wife sometimes notices that it takes me an hour to move my old convertible out of the driveway and onto the street when I'm getting ready to mow the lawn. I know every back road around my neighborhood, in a 20 mile radius.

A. Bono

That's a great find. It took me a few years in LA to happen upon the 14 and its tributaries. All of the burnt out cities, like Boron, have interesting histories, and the the folks that live there are more than welcome to share the weird charm of their town. If your ever in Boron ask around for "Pastor Dave". He makes things interesting. Following Sand Canyon Road up into Angeles National Forest is interesting too, but you need a 4x4 to follow the old WPA ridge-back road. Happy Hunting!


Couldn't you at least ride like a bike? Instead of stinkin' up the place?

Rufus J Squirrel

I live in Alabama and I usually don't take such long drives but I routinely go driving for an hour on my lunch break. My usual route is to drive out to and around the airport and then back into town. But sometimes I will go on adventures into the horribly dilapidated parts of town. I'd done it a lot less since gas had gone up so much but now that it's back down I'm getting back into it.

Listener #109577

Hey Mr Fab, on my vacation last April, I hit Vasquez Rocks (lived next door to it in 1961), Grandma Prisbrey's place (closed but still worth it, you can see a lot through the fence), and Sequoia National Park (fantastic if you don't suffer from vertigo) -- you're not my wife posting under another name, are you?

Swan Fungus, as long as you're still in SoCal, I recommend you stay on I-5 til you get to Santa Clarita, then head north on San Francisquito Canyon Rd. for a very scenic drive through the site of the St. Francis Dam disaster -- you can cut over to Vasquez (also known as the planet Vulcan if you believe the last Star Trek movie) afterward. And, for a southern trip, try driving up Palomar Mountain to the observatory -- that's one you'll never forget.


I, too, have employed the drive. I've also biked, though our hills here in Seattle make this a less forgiving option when hitting a dead end. Last night, my car in the shop, I walked home. Walking often puts my troubles in the forefront of the brain, whereas driving seems - in a way - to run away from them. At least until they find you again. Which may be the point.

I've definitely shared the aimless drive experience with many adolescent to 20-something male friends. Nothing yet has seemed as cathartic and empowering.
Thanks for your thoughts.

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