Notes from a long road trip

Notes from a long road trip
Mt. Shasta, taken from a Weed, California rest area

Last week I drove about 2,000 miles from northwestern Oregon down to Southern California and back. It was about 15 hours each way and I saw a lot and took a few notes along the way.

Nothing beats dead straight roads for audiobooks

I've done this trip close to a hundred times over the last 20+ years of living in Oregon and I knew Interstate 5 between Redding, California and the Los Angeles area is basically a 600-mile, dead flat, straight road with barely any distractions. Thankfully, most modern cars have lane-keep assist and radar cruise control that means you get about 80% of an autopilot-like driving experience.

I did this trip saving The Bezzle audiobook just for it and I really enjoyed it as it made the time go by quickly. Another fun thing to do on such a long road trip was listen to the daily Dodger pre-season games on the MLB app. I also dipped into turntablists on YouTube again to keep my music fresh.

Changes in trucking change food options

I have a friend that works in logistics and shipping and he frequently interacts with long-haul truckers and mentioned a few years ago that the demographics of truckers are slowly changing. As wages decline, immigrants are filling a lot of roles and there's a sizable contingent of south-asian truckers on American roads these days.

I've driven between Oregon and California dozens of times and I can count the interesting places to eat on one hand. There's an ok Thai place in Ashland, Oregon, an ok Mexican place in Yreka, and an ok Italian restaurant north of Sacramento. All the other food options up and down the state are limited to drive-thru burgers from fast food chains. So what happens when you have a workforce that doesn't eat red meat?

In my last few trips to California I've noticed a few billboards for Indian, Tandoori, and vegetarian options that never existed before. It's cool to see and if I had more time I definitely would have skipped In-N-Out and tried one of these places.

Caveman sloganeering

Whenever you drive along the 5 freeway, you're in a mostly rural, agricultural area from Seattle to San Diego, and you frequently see some pretty out-there right wing opinions scrawled on signs. There are billboards about the precious rights of the unborn, but what jumped out to me on this trip was all the handmade farmer signs that were critical of California Governor Newsom and policies to control water use by farmers.

This photo was taken right outside of a gas station, where presumably everyone mad at high fuel prices should be mad at democrats for making it so (oddly, I noticed gas was $1.00 less per gallon about 20 miles up the road so I think the farmers' main beef should be directed more towards the owners of the gas stations).

My favorite sign was DAM WATER GROWS FOOD which sounds like something a caveman from 10,000 years ago would say in an argument. I admire their tight, easy to understand slogans, and as we start removing dams that restrict wildlife, farmers are pissed and so it should be no surprise I saw dozens of these occasional caveman slogans scrawled on signs.

A real Tesla truck?

Outside of a McDonalds one morning (life rule: every significant journey begins with a single Egg McMuffin) I saw a Tesla semi truck pulling a supply trailer in the wild. Never seen one on the roads before.


My main reason for going down to California was to play test/beta test a scavenger hunt at Disneyland. It was fun to go to the parks but not be stressed about getting on as many rides as humanly possible. Instead, my aunt and I meandered around the park for hours counting awnings and weather vanes while eating Dole Whips as we deciphered clues to unlock a puzzle.

I enjoyed spending a 77ºF winter day wearing shorts and getting a bit of sunburn. It was also nice to see the actual San Gabriel Mountains dusted with snow on the horizon, and I got a lot of compliments for my t-shirt I assume because it was refreshing for people to see non-Disney IP?

Shasta update

Shasta Lake was pretty full again after years of drought. Mt. Shasta looked like it had pretty decent snow levels too.

Highway mileage

I drove this trip in my 2022 Ford Maverick small pickup. It has their larger four-cylinder turbo engine and in the past 2 years of mostly city driving it's gotten around 25mpg which is great for a truck, but pales compared to their lower powered hybrid version that gets closer to 40mpg.

This trip averaged over 28mpg, which was impressive. Honestly, I still think Ford should be kicking themselves that they can't produce enough of these small high-mileage cheap trucks. Their lowest end model is barely over $20,000 and gets close to 40mpg in a truck? If Ford could convert their factories to production I bet the Ford Maverick could be the best-selling car in America, period.

Last signs

Sometimes you drive by a sign and think "I don't know what happened here in the past 150 years but I imagine it couldn't have been good."

And finally, I love that the very last exit at the tippy top of California's 800 mile long state is called Hilt. It's just so perfect.