I would endeavour to say that the driving part of this road trip was far more interesting than the actual destination. We were warned ahead of time that Fresno is an odd and strangely unpleasant destination. And, I have to say that I agree with that assessment. Fresno is now on the list of places that I’ll never visit again (this may actually be the first place to make the list). To sum up the city: it’s hot (110F/43C during our visit), barren, derelict, dusty, and run down… not in a cool ghost town kind of way.
But the city isn’t the point of this post: it’s the journey.
The trip started on the 101, which was backed up like a regular weekday morning. Because it was a Saturday, this meant that there was an accident somewhere along the chain of cars; this added a significant amount of time to our journey.
We passed an accident where a car somehow managed to hit the cement median between two sets of 4-lane highway… smashing a hole through the median. So, there was debris on both sides of the highway and police cars to guide people around. From this point on, we saw accident-after-accident. One person somehow managed to get the nose of their car stuck in a dirt hill… another was completely off the road and stuck in a very large bush.
None of this, however, was as thrilling as seeing an SUV completely engulfed in flames just outside of Gilroy.
By the time we made it to the 152, traffic mayhem died down and we began the fruit and vegetable portion of the trip.
The sides of the roads from Gilroy to the San Luis Reservoir are lined with fruit stands. And, to clarify what these fruit stands are selling, leading up to each stop there are huge signs shouting cherries! strawberries! watermelon! corn! avocados! I will admit that nothing is more delicious than buying fruit from the source and we bought whatever we could get our hands on.
The roads here are dominated by large, two-trailer, dump truck-like vehicles transporting vegetables. It’s garlic season, which is apparent when you drive through Gilroy. The place stinks like garlic!
We passed a couple of double trailer trucks full of garlic bulbs and later stopped at a roadside market to get watermelons and honey. While there, one of these garlic trucks passed us and left behind a trail of bulbs on the side of the road. We joked that rather than buy veggies, we’d just follow the trucks and pick up the fresh food left behind.
It was the same for tomatoes. We passed trucks and trucks full of small tomatoes and on turns, we saw red circles lining the curbs.
However, neither of these was as exciting or as talked about as what happened at the halfway point.
Somewhere between the reservoir and Los Banos, La Nina saw her first dust devil. At first, it looked like something in a farmer’s field was on fire, but I couldn’t see what was burning. As we got closer I could see that it wasn’t smoke, it was dust, and it was spinning. For a while, it moved through the field and pulled up dirt, vegetation, and whatever else happened to be in its path.
When it made it reached the road, it fizzled out and dropped what it was carrying in the vortex. Then we moved on.