Small Stone: Descent to California

Descent to California

Over the Siskiyou pass and down I-5, into California.  We grind up the hills at 35 and glide the down-slopes at 60, tap-tapping the brakes for the curves, playing leapfrog with a half-dozen semis — I in a sedan, my husband in a pickup truck hauling a U-haul trailer.   Some trucks pass us on the up-hill legs; we pass a few trucks ourselves going up, and we pass more headed down. High-stakes leapfrog.

Swooping down the S-curves over Lake Shasta, tunnel vision focused on the trucks, barely a glance to spare for the lake, drought-stricken, iron-colored mud and steel-colored water.  From here, it looks damn near empty.

Into Redding, by some trucker magic, we all fall sedately into single-file in the right lane at 59 mph, just a tad past the limit for trucks and trailers.  Two state troopers whiz by at 70.  A few miles down the road, whirring blue lights on the right shoulder — they found less wary prey.

We pass the first sign-post of hundreds that line the freeway, markers in California’s water battle.  This one, in an orchard of dead fruit trees, reads “Welcome to the Congress-Created Dust Bowl.”

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