Thursday, July 10, 2008

Schwarzenegger in Paradise

"Arnold Schwarzenegger was in Paradise today," said the male voice on the radio.

"Too good to be true," I thought to myself. This was three days ago, on Monday, when I drove the length of California. It costs about $120 in gas, provided you have a car that can get 30 mpg or so.

California, the Golden State, used to be synonymous with Paradise, but on Monday it was more like the sixth circle of Dante's Hell, where heretics are trapped in flaming tombs, and even those are about to be foreclosed upon.

Left Desert Hot Springs at six a.m., got to Bakersfield by ten, I-5 shortly thereafter. Straight up the middle of the state, the Great Central Valley, for the next eight hours. The entire valley -- 600 consecutive miles -- was smogged in, and very hot and sultry. It's what you call an ecological disaster.

Didn't see the big fires, which are over on the coast by Highway One, but I saw a caravan of fire trucks cruising at 65 on their way there.

Some summer or fall in California, the wind will blow over the parched earth, then a bank of clouds off the Pacific will send down dry lightning. Then the whole state will catch fire, and there won't be enough fire trucks or firefighting crews or airpanes or helicopters or fire retardant in the world to put it out.

California has had it, and on Monday I escaped.

In Redding, at the north end of the valley, the temperature was 112-114 at six in the evening, which is about what it had been in Desert Hot Springs, at the other end of the state, the day before.

Spent the night in Dunsmuir, CA, at a pretty, cool spot up the in the mountains, about an hour south of the Oregon line. The next morning I crossed the frontier without incident, and escaped from California about seven. There was no stop at the border; I didn't even have to show my passport.

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