Backroads California


San Jose          Talking about my planned visits to some of the California cities where we had assisted communities in applying for low power FM radio stations, my friends could only shake their heads.  There was unanimous consensus that this was a crazy idea, with too much driving and traffic that would kill the best made plans of mice and men.  One comrade introduced me to a feature of Google Maps that would allegedly tell me what the traffic might be when I wanted to drive, as opposed to when I had been thinking about driving.  Very helpful, though I may need another tutorial.

In northern California we had worked with various people to file applications before the FCC for low power stations in Antioch, Fresno, and Stockton.  I had not been able to schedule Stockton, even though I was going to pass within miles of the city going back and forth, but I was good to go to visit with station organizers and partners in Fresno and Antioch.

I was driving a tank, almost literally, only defensible in climate conscious California, because it was a hybrid.  Arriving on Monday night at 12:35 AM on Tuesday morning, my super economy, super cheap rental was history, first because I was many hours late without a guaranteed car, and secondly, because they closed at 12:30 AM.  Only Budget/Avis was open, so I soldiered into the queue with the rest of the beaten and bedraggled, only distinguished by the fact I was without a reservation and desperate.  He offered that all they had available would be a minivan.  At the last minute, he said he had a Jeep Wrangler.  Let’s go with that, I said.  It turned out not to be a small Jeep, but a giant 4-door monstrosity good for hauling, pulling, 4-wheeling and more.  One friend waggishly suggested before I left the Bay Area that if I endured the worst possible calamities on this ride, I could drive go off-road and forage my way if I ran into trouble.

Hybrid or no, with only a 225-mile range, it meant keeping an eye open for gas stations.  Google Maps on the first leg to Fresno couldn’t help me avoid any traffic, most of which was epic getting through Oakland, then the outskirts of Stockton, and even Modesto.   I made it though 30-minutes earlier than predicted.  The next two stops looked impossible, but Google Maps took me through the backroads away from the interstates and worked miracles on streets like Camino Diablo and Bryon Road.  I made it to Antioch fifteen minutes ahead of my meeting, and to San Jose right on time.  That last leg was fascinating.  Going against the grain, I was driving almost alone on the highway while watching literally 10 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic going north, as I went south.

Besides an appreciation of California backroads, there were other takeaways.  How do people in California come to grip with the soul sucking level of traffic to get anywhere and everywhere?  Where Teslas are rare as hound’s teeth in Louisiana, they were boringly ubiquitous when I was on the main roads.  On the backroads, they aren’t necessarily welcoming the EV movement with open arms.  Gas stations were locking their bathrooms or closing them completely in a passive-aggressive response to nearby charging stations.  Driving through some of the rain-starved brown hills on the backroads, I passed up the offers to pick cherries, but shook my head at the acres of almond trees and the Blue Diamond water tower.  I’m not sure eating almonds anymore is a favor to the limited water supply California is facing.

Crazy as the trip seemed, the results were excellent.  The facility at Fresno with the teachers’ union is perfect, and they are excited about having it up and running before their next contract bargaining sessions.  We even have a good prospect for the antenna in Antioch.  Now, if the FCC will finally get these construction permits out the door, we’ll be excited to go on-the-air in California.