Saturday, June 16, 1973
Day two was another “let’s see how far we can get” day. I do find it amusing that I thought I was on I-5, when judging from my comment about going through Fresno it was obvious we were on 99, but that’s just me. We did rejoin I-5 at Sacramento.
I have driven and redriven parts of that day’s trip as an adult, especially the section north of Sacramento, and while I didn’t have much to say about it in my diary, I can tell you that there really aren’t many drives as boring as the one lengthwise through the Central Valley of California, no matter which highway you’re on (well, U.S. 49 is pleasant as well as historically interesting — there’s a reason it’s numbered 49, even though that’s out of order geographically — but it’s in the foothills of the Sierras, not the Central Valley).
Highway 99, as I remember it, alternates between small towns and extremely flat farmland, with the Sierra Nevada barely visible in the hazy distance off to the east. The ‘highlight’ between Bakersfield and Sacramento is the city of Fresno. Well, and the signs saying this way to Yosemite National Park. Field crops and orchards and farm stands and downtowns with one stop light apiece, mostly, especially back then. Except for those downtowns, it was a great highway for making time, which we did. 456 miles that day.
About an hour north of Sacramento, the landscape begins to change. The northern end of the Sacramento Valley (the northern half of the Central Valley, as opposed to the San Joaquin Valley, which is the southern half’s other name) is roughly U-shaped, and just north of the city of Redding, the highway starts to climb and the last of the palm trees disappear. Ten years after my trip to Alaska, my first husband and I moved from the Bay Area to Oregon, and managed a flat tire on that first climb out of the valley. Changing a rear flat on a car with a U-Haul trailer attached in 95 degree wind was not fun, as I recall.
By the time you get to the small town of Dunsmuir, which was our destination that night, you’re in the mountains, with junipers and pine trees, and canyons and rocky cliffs. A whole different world. There is a state park nearby called Castle Crags, which is lovely, but since we had the trailer, we stayed at a private campground in town.
And that was the end of our second day.