California is one of those states you can drive through for days and not escape. I know; I recently took a week off and drove from almost one end to the other and didn’t even reach its borders, though I did stand and watch the waves pound the North Coast, which should be on every human being’s bucket list.
If you are ever in need of cooling off the brain’s circuitry and rebooting your attitude – at the risk of possibly offending some from various other scenic California counties for not mentioning them – I personally recommend standing at the western edge of Humboldt County with your gaze fixed upon the horizon. Better yet, sit and watch the tide leave and return.
I never realized just how much land California covers until I lived on the East Coast and took my first trip from Upstate New York to Washington D.C. Eight hours in a snowstorm with a ’68 Buick was all it took to get from near Lake Ontario through three states and onto the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Eight hours of driving in California wouldn’t even get you from San Diego to the State Capitol.
The drive from Mexico to Oregon on I-5, for instance, spans 800 miles of asphalt jungle, farmland, more farmland, even more farmland, and mountains interspersed with more farmland. If you choose to take the scenic route and cruise up Highway 1, plan on spending at least a week behind the wheel because you’ll want to stop often and breathe in the salty aroma of the coastal air, sip some of the worlds greatest wines from grapes grown nearby, and take in views post cards and paintings are made of.
I think one of the more interesting gems one can mine from a trip around California is to see the variety of agriculture that goes on from region to region and how the local culture incorporates it. While the Central Valley is home to much of the state’s commercial production of everything from almonds to zucchini there is an amazing amount of agricultural production in other regions too.
I’ve seen back-yard and front-yard gardens of artichokes and organic produce on the North Coast; irrigated pasture and hay in small mountain valleys in rural parts of the state most people in Sacramento and Los Angeles don’t know exists, and small shops filled with gobs (probably not the most correct term) of different flavored cheeses made from cows that graze on organic pastures next to giant redwoods.
While each region in California may not be unique in what it produces, they all have a quality all their own that adds to the distinct flavor to the culture and experience of the region.