Kage Baker always swore she would never, ever drive the I-5 by winter night. Nor did she; the summers were weird enough for her. She had a real dread of winter out there: the threats of tule fog, black ice, storms howling down from Sacramento and the rest of the frozen North … snow and wolves and cannibals on the heights of the Grapevine.
I sort of like it, though. It’s … interesting.
I left San Francisco around 3 PM this afternoon, in a torrential rain, heading back to Los Angeles from the 2nd weekend of Dickens. It was a wonderful weekend – more on that tomorrow.
Tonight, though … well, we didn’t actually meet cannibals or wolves, but I suspect they were hiding just off the highway. The rain was mythic. Legendary. Homeric. The Bay Bridge leaks, by the way, producing a sensation like driving through a maze of waterfalls. There was lightning, truck-swaying winds, tumbleweed attacks; 8 hours of driving pretty much underwater, dodging roof-high bow waves from 18-wheelers and wondering where the hell the edge of the storm was. Washington State, apparently. Certainly nowhere near us.
It was 38 degrees at the top of Tejon Pass – the rain was both deafening and blinding, and I am pretty sure it was snowing about 500 feet above us. Pleisosaurs were sporting in Pyramid Lake, and polar bears were colonizing Smokey the Bear Road. We saw cars with purple headlights: not blue white but actual stagelight scrim purple, and other cars with royal blue turn signals. Major weirdness on the road, Dear Readers. Model A Fords raced by us, evolving into real cars as they thundered through reality.
All the phantom cities off the I-5 were displaying Christmas lights, beautiful white and gold and gem-coloured phantasms of light. Avenus of aureate light ran off into the western hills where no roof nor wall is visible by day, But we could see it all through the tower-high curtains of the rain. And it was wonderful.
Now I am safe at home, pecking away in exhaustion at this blog. I saw so many peculiar things tonight -so much to tell to Kage, if the world were running as it should be. I shall have to be content to recite the eccentric wonders in my prayers, and hope they come to her sleep somewhere in the long night … the coloured headlights of etdritch automobiles, the cars with headlights on their rears to try and make you think they are driving backwards, the rain so thick that the ancient sea is rising between the apricot trees ouside Lost Hills.
I’m going to bed now. I can hear the old waves breaking on the hills around Simi. Time to sleep while the hills dissolve …
Tomorrow: the ghosts beneath the trees, and the staring sky
I love all of these posts, but this is surely one of the most magical. You drove through the Perilous Realm to get home to us.
And this is why I will never do Dickens unless I can fly both ways. I’ve driven the Grapevine through that rain–once alone in the daytime under a sky black with rain, coming back from Northern, and once on the way back from Coronation through horrendous night fog that filled it up from side to side, with only one equally terrified passenger (we didn’t either of us speak through that whole passage). Never again.
Kimberly has nerves of steel – she actually dozed off during the downhill slalom last night. How, I cannot imagine; maybe it has something to do with people who have to drive with me. Kimberly, like Kage, has been through the Grapevine at all hours and weathers with me at the wheel …