As we rolled south toward Fresno it became clear that the air was not... clear, that is. You see, Fresno and most of the San Joaquin Valley are often saddled with some of the worst air quality in the nation.
(Purple haze all in my brain ... Lately things just don't seem the same...)
Prevailing winds from the Pacific are trapped in the valley by the high surrounding mountains. All the "stuff"... the yuk... from the super-populated, hyper-industrialized, super-agriculturized economy in the valley -- dust, exhaust, chemicals, bad-breath, cow-farts, irrigated humidity, and more that I don't even want to know about -- combine to form a nearly constant haze that's optimistically called fog by locals. Others call it smog... still others "the gas". Sometimes like today it's just a general haze. You can see the sun... sort of... but the super-bright dispersed harsh lighting bores in from every side and makes for almost painful viewing. We were moving in a south and southeasterly direction, directly into the solar maximum, for much of the morning... and the dull brightness made for a, shall we say, less than agreeable time.
(Actin' funny, but I don't know why... 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky)
But once we cleared Bakersfield, made a turn to the east, and started climbing out of the valley, into the foothills, and into the Mojave Desert, things improved a lot. First, we were now heading east and the now-afternoon sun was behind us. Second, all that valley haze and smog was gone. The air cleared up and it was pleasant to see things more than a few blocks away.
The miles clicked off quickly as we passed the northern border of Edwards Air Force Base. And before long we were coming up on Barstow. Ah, Barstow... the point on old Route 66 where the road took a bend to the south, toward San Bernardino. Barstow...the place where we're "lot-docked" for the night, in a large parking lot belonging to the Idle Spurs Steak House -- where we also had a very tasty and enjoyable dinner tonight. We look at the deal like this: we traded a full hookup site at an RV park for a great steakhouse dinner. Who needs hookups? Not these two intrepid explorers.
Tomorrow we set our course toward Joshua Tree National Park... which will be 5th new National Park in the past few weeks. Not sure where we're staying yet... but if there's a good steak house with a big parking lot nearby... hmmm.
(apologies to Jimi Hendrix)