The Road of Weirdness

Kage Baker’s favourite season to travel I-5 was the summer. Not only were the days long – reducing the time spent in the dark on that strangest of all roads – but it’s the season for fresh fruit. She could reasonably expect to live on fresh local cherries during any given day’s drive.

When we did have to drive in the dark, which we commonly did during Renaissance Faire season, the air was still sweet with the perfumes of orchards and fields all the way. We would drive through curtains of scent – cherries, melons, corn,  peppers, celery – like a labyrinth of perfumed gauze. It made even fast food burgers taste exotic.

By night, though, one saw terribly weird things off to the sides of the road. Of course, you see things by day, too … but they are admittedly slightly more alarming in the dark.

I drove up today, leaving Los Angeles on a mild, sweet morning and gaining about a degree of heat for every fifty miles I went North. But the morning moon was blazoned on the Western sky as I climbed the Grapevine, which was gorgeous – even though by the time I roared down the Grapevine again on to the flats of the central valley, it was 96 degrees (at 10 AM) and the hills were burned as bone-white as the transparent moon.

But the corn is leaping up tall in every other field! Peppers are showing like sparks amid their own rows; tomatoes are everywhere! Really. Everywhere. The trucks that haul them don’t use tarps, and the road has a thin red line of feral, squashed tomatoes for 300 miles. You can’t pull on to the verge without stepping in catsup.

And there is a new transport company loose on the road, that I have never seen before: The California Carrot Express. Its truck is all painted with ginormous winged carrots, frisking about on the panels. Although that’s not what they look like as you approach from a distance. It’s cheerfully phallic, if a bit startling.

But the I-5 had stranger things to offer me than even that today.

Around Buttonwillow, CalTrans has closed the right lane for about 50 miles to dig up half the road. The reason is not clear, but it means the traffic in the one Northbound lane was incredibly thick and making about 20 miles per hour. However …  that mean I was driving very slowly behind the Carrot Express truck when I glanced into the roadside field and saw … a chupacabra.

To be more factual: I saw a bone-thin, hairless animal like a coyote with a whippet’s tail – no fur anywhere. And it was dark slate blue. It was just standing there amid last year’s tumbleweeds, panting in an amiable way as it watched the traffic crawl by. What it had to be, of course, was a coyote afflicted with super-mange. At least that’s what it is presumed these bald blue chupacabras really are …

But I saw one! Right there by I-5! It made the jammed traffic totally worth it.

And so I offer it on to you, Dear Readers, as a sort of visual bouquet from I-5. If not the Mother Road (that’s Route 66), it surely is the Crazy Auntie of Roads. At least, it sure was today.

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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6 Responses to The Road of Weirdness

  1. Elaine says:

    It has been my experience that the Universe usually does provide compensaton for the inconveniences circumstance throws at us. Today, on the I-5, it was your chupacabra. Three years ago, when I was camping with my SCA Barony at North Fork, it was a magnificent sky full of stars when I had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the privy and it was so cold that I could see my breath a full arms-length in front of me. It was June, for Pete’s sake, and it wasn’t supposed to be that cold, and it was only my second camping trip ever, and I was Not. A. Happy. Camper. So to speak. Until I emerged from the privy, much relieved, and looked up at the sky to see the Milky Way in all it’s glory. It was magnificent; so much so that I stood there and just looked for a good long time, despite the fact that it was still freezing. I had been feeling fairly bitter about having to get up out of my not-warm-enough bed and walk entirely too far to the privy until I looked up. It was still just as cold. But, somehow, with that sky overhead it didn’t matter as much.

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  2. Anthea Rutherford says:

    I recall being strafed by a UFO on one phantasmagoric night drive from LA to Northern Faire. No mind altering substances involved, either…

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  3. mizkizzle says:

    Lucky you to see a blue dog-like critter!
    Every once in awhile a blue animal turns up and then quietly vanishes. I’m thinking of the hairless blue horse that was discovered in South Africa in the 1860s. It was shipped to England and trained as Astley’s Ampitheater in Lambeth (what a place that must have been) before being acquired by a Lord Stanford, who rode it to hounds for most of one foxhunting season.
    After that, there is no record of what became of the blue horse. Maybe it’s cropping grass along the I-5…

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  4. maggiros says:

    I thought you might find this amusing. I looked up the California Carrot Express (this blog post is the very next thing below it in the google search results) and found this. http://agriculture.zibb.com/trademark/california's+carrot+express/30021957
    The trademark, it says, belongs to Grimmway Enterprises, which is probably the same as Grimmway Farms, the largest carrot grower… well, you’ve got to see the website, especially … well, here. http://www.grimmway.com/our-family-story/company.php

    It’s the “Grimm” part that tickled me. And of course, there’s more than you ever wanted to now about carrots, all in one place. 🙂

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    • Anthea Rutherford says:

      Oy. I spent far too many years of my life in that place. I even…packed carrots, one horrible summer. It does make me wonder if my high school friend Steve Grimm was a scion of that lot…

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