First Night Drive of The Season

Kage Baker, for all her love of Dickens Fair, always worried about our getting home once Sunday had ended. She would agitate to leave early, or at least on time; make sure we were packed and ready to go, so that as soon as the performance ended we could race down the road for home.

The last 10 years, we lived in Pismo Beach – a 5 hour drive down Highway 101, and she was always afraid I would fall asleep somewhere around Prunedale. This year, though, I have returned to Los Angeles: and so it is a different drive all together, on a far weirder road: 6 hours on I-5, culminating in the Grapevine and the long descent into the L.A. Basin.

If I leave Fair at 6 PM, I can hope to get home by midnight – if I don’t throw a rod, lose a wheel, or get lost in tule fog or get run over by a truck full of tomatoes or get abducted by UFOs predating on the Sea of Cows at Harris Ranch … today, though, it being still rehearsals, I left at 3 in the afternoon. Made it home by 9, with nothing more alarming than the usual fevered glow of the turning windmill at Gustine, and seeing a Delorean being towed backwards up the Grapevine.

My co-pilot is currently my nephew Michael. He used to travel this road twice a weekend, for Renaissance Faires; of course, he was in a baby seat in the back of my van, gurgling with delight at the truck lights on the road. Now he is 19, moustached and protective, and tonight he got his first conscious impression of a night trip down I-5. I think he liked it. It certainly fascinated him – the empty-ballroom darkness, the vast flat valley floor by starlight, the mysterious lights off on the side roads.

I will speak more of this, but for now I want to get this in before midnight so I don’t lose a day. We built the Inn and we made it home alive while it was still Sunday! A win on the I-5 by any standards.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to First Night Drive of The Season

  1. As I was driving back to SF on I-5 last night, I thought of you (and of Kage), the blogs you have written about the way things look on that lonely road at night, the ancient seas and the mysterious lights. I wondered if we passed each other, unknowing, in the darkness, somewhere around Grapevine. I thought about the lights and actually made an effort to look into the dark as my Harry Potter books on CD were not in this car and I needed a distraction. Reading about the travels you and Kage took, gave me a new appreciation of that drive and the mystery out on those lonely roads. Thank you and glad you got home safely.

    • Kate says:

      There was an awful backup on the northbound I-5 last night – about 4 miles of parking lot just south of Harris Ranch, around 6 or so. I hope you were not in that! We cleared Buttonwillow about 7:30, and there was another jam up on the north side there, too. Not a good night for northern travelers, I fear.

      I’m glad our adventures are entertaining. God She knows they kept us awake, and still do. Now I am not only driving that great weird unknown again, I am telling all manner of old stories and lies to my nephew-copilot. No end of fun!

  2. I know that the great long dark of the I-5 is the chosen route for those making the festival pilgrimage. But although I haven’t made any such trip since the last century, when I drive to see my cousins in Paso Robles or friends in the City by the Bay (sorry folks, California has more than one “city”), I prefer the 101. It only takes an extra hour or so and when you’re trekking that distance, who’s counting, really. The drive past the ocean and through Santa Barbara is heaven and you can stop at Andersen’s for pea soup and ham rather than the fast food nightmare that is Buttonwillow. Since neither Kage, nor Cheryll dwell with us any longer, the drive up I-5 is too pensive for me, too filled with loss, not to mention harzardous tule fog and stinky livestock. Although when I drive up north, I listen to Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” in honor of Cheryll and David Bowie’s “Lodger” for Kage. (I loathe the Beatles, which is anathema to both Kage and Kathleen, I know, and for which I tug my forelock in penance, but Kage always asked me to play that one album by Bowie when I drove her anyplace and so I listen to “I am a DJ, I am what I play” whenever I miss her.)

    • …okay, so the Beatles “Across the Universe” is pretty awesome, but I like both Fiona Apple and Rufus Wainwright’s covers of it better than the Masters’ original itself.

    • Kate says:

      The I-5 is not for everyone, I will readily admit it. I just like it. And the 101 is more full of recent memories for me than the 5, so it’s an easier road right now. The first time I drove it after Kage died, it was a like a journey through Cautery World: a hot iron at every mile marker. Now, I have gotten into the memories of the Epic Times, and am enjoying it. And it’s only a 6 hour drive! It’s going to be a while before I can drive the 101 through Pismo Beach again.

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