…they mostly cook and eat
Our Dogcon report proceeds.
Day One: In which we travel through 1954 California and see many Giant Oranges.
At a few minutes before dawn this morning, we drove the bus over to Auburn Boulevard (about a mile from our house), popped back to 1954 (when it was also Highway 49) and headed west until we got to Highway 99 South. Our trip had started.
(Daisy: And all before any dogs…)
(Leon: ...or cats…)
(Max: …or rabbits…)
(Daisy: …were fed.)
We have traveled to some strange places, folks, but driving along roads I use every day, but 62 years in the past and a good 57 years before I remember first ever traveling on them was hella strange. Some buildings are still there in 2016, a few even still occupied, but most are gone. We saw motels, burger joints, diners, gas stations (remember, this was and still is part of the Lincoln Highway), houses, farms (!) and all manner of businesses. “Hamburgers! Buy ‘Em By The Bag!” read one sign. “Ice Cold Beer!” read another. “Rooms: $5.00 per night” was on a motel sign. Gas, by the way, was about 18 cents a gallon.
(Silky: Wow, the past smalls funny, yet oddly familiar.)
(Sasha: People smell a little stinkier, at least to us dogs. We approve of this.)
Everyone was looking out the windows, checking this all out. Spike was riding up front with me and we chatted about how this might be a fun thing to do in Baltimore, Toronto and other cities.
Speaking of Spike and I, it behooves me to point out that everybody on this trip has been fitted with a personal holo-projector that will make sure we look period proper in the 50s and beyond. With our long hair and beards, Spike and I would stand out like whores in church in 1954. The womenfolk would also attract unwarranted attention. And just to avoid any REAL catastrophes, the critters will be in android bodies whenever off of the bus. Also, our destination sign is off and the bus is no longer tie dyed, it is now white and says “XXXX First Church Of God” (with the XXXX being constantly updated to a town 100 miles further along the road) in big blue letters. We also have a sound unit to make the normally quiet bus sound like a 1940 school bus with high mileage.
After about 2 hours of driving the 60 mile an hour speed limit and stopping to take pictures every so often, we ate breakfast at the Red Barn Restaurant, in Lodi. I’m pretty sure at one time or another, every town in North America had a Red Barn Restaurant, most of them little independent joints like this one. The food was great, the service was great and the prices were crazy great. 12 people ate for just over 25 bucks, including a buck fifty tip. The only slight eyebrow raiser for out waitress was when Max (a vegetarian because rabbit) asked for fruit for breakfast. Thinking quickly, Daisy said “My fiance is having some digestive problems” and all was cool. Well, except for Max who was stunned to hear Daisy use the word “fiance”.
(Max: It just caught me off guard!)
(Leon: Dude, you looked like a deer in the headlights!)
(Sasha: I checked as we left to see if he pooped.)
Around 8:45, full of very tasty food, we got back on the bus, but only after “Pastor Cross” was asked by a carload of folks traveling north to do a little pre-breakfast prayer for them. Despite me being a lifelong atheist, many generations of Southern Baptists, Irish Catholics and Portuguese Catholics is in my DNA, so I was able to pull it off very convincingly.
(Sasha: I got the feeling that Daddy would make a hell of a fire and brimstone Pentacostal evangelist.)
(Silky: He’d sure be making more money.)
(Roxie: He has a nice preaching voice.)
We drove for another 3 hours, stopping once to take pictures of the House Made Of Glass, which was closed to the public and scheduled for demolition, and once for the Giant Jesus Of Merced. As Giant Jesuses go, it was merely ok. It was barely 18 feet tall and the sculpting and paint job were very average. Still, another one for our photo album.
(Daisy: Definitely not even in our top 20 Giant Jesus List.)
(Leon: What kind of family has a Giant Jesus List?)
(Sasha: The kind with our Dad in it.)
(Daisy: Don’t even ask about the competing Museums Of Body Parts Lists that Dad and Auntie Mary have.)
As we drove along 99, we saw a vivid memory from my early childhood: Giant Orange drink stands. Indeed, you’d see one about every 20 miles.
For those of you not from California or born after about 1970, these stands were, well, let’s read this bit from the Weird California website.
In 1926 Frank E. Pohl started his chain of “Giant Orange” stands opening up his first orange shaped stand on what was 11th Street near E Street in Tracy. Before trying out orange juice stands, Pohl had a giant lemon from which he served lemonade in Menlo Park called Jumbo Lemon Stand. But his first “Giant Orange” was in Tracy, California and spawned a franchise and imitations throughout California. The franchise peaked in the 1950’s with approximately 16 different stands built throughout Northern California from Bakersfield to Sacramento to Merced and Redding. It’s rumored that a stand could easily go through six thousand oranges during a week as it quenched the thirst of weary travelers who pulled over for a quick drink.
So yeah, there were more Giant Oranges along 99 and other routes from Redding to Los Angeles than you could shake a stick at. Naturally, we stopped at a couple for cold drinks and pictures. I think the last time I drank at a Giant Orange was about 1971.
The rest of our trip saw us stopping at a burger joint for lunch (cheeseburgers were 20 cents each, real milkshakes were a 30 cents), viewing a bunch of plaster statues telling the history of Fresno and closing down a roadside zoo.
For those of you who are under about 45 years of age, roadside “zoos” used to be very common. They generally featured wildlife native to a given area, plus a few monkeys and maybe a chimp and a lion or bear. They were almost universally small, dirty and terrible for the animals. When we saw the first sign advertising one at a truck stop north of Bakersfield, I could see the critters tense up. Being pretty pissed off by the thought of suffering animals, I was also pissed off and so we stopped.
It was pretty large as such things go. Lots of local wildlife, including 4 deer, plus two lions, two bears, a wolf, two chimps, a half dozen monkeys and an elephant. The cages, while clean, were way too small and little was done to mitigate the 100 degree heat
Normally, if one of us is going to go off on a tear and try to change history, it is usually Sasha or I, but this time, it was Silky (in an 18 year old looking human body). Below, the transcript.
(Silky walks up to the owner of the place, a big beefy ex-Texan, with her fists clenched and a neuralizer in her hand. There are about 30 other patrons standing around.)
Silky: “Hey, you son of a bitch!”
(Texan turns quickly to look at her and she drops him with a roundhouse right.)
Silky: “I did NOT fight Nazis in the war just to come home and see this shit! Game over, motherfucker!”
(There are many gasps in the crowd. Silky holds up the neuralizer and zaps everyone but us.)
Silky: “You will all get back in your cars and leave here. You will NOT ever again tolerate animals being treated like this! You will be KIND to animals for the rest of your lives! Now get the fuck out of here!”
(The crowd disperses rapidly. Silky turns back to the Texan. Spike, Sasha and I look at each other. It is looking like this is an instance of MAKING history, because you cannot change it. Silky zaps the Texan.)
Silky: “Listen up, you cowboy asshole. You are going to close this zoo permanently TODAY. You will release the animals that can survive in the wild and then take the exotics back to their homelands OR a really top notch zoo. You will spare no expense in doing this. You will then devote the rest of your life to helping animals and shutting down these fucking roadside zoos. Now DO IT!”
(After a few seconds, the Texan springs into action, yelling at his helpers to cool these animals down. We all get back on the bus and Silky, now back to more or less normal, asks Jeeves to please pour her a double synthehol bourbon on the rocks.)
After we were back on the road, Sasha checked the timeline and found out that, sure enough, that guy and many other animal rights activists started their careers that day. Another case of one of us causing history to happen as it should.
(Daisy: Holy fucking shit!)
(Roxie: That was incredible!)
(Leon: That was a wicked bad punch she gave him!)
The rest of the trip was much less eventful, being mostly through the desert to Blythe, where we stopped for the night. We had dinner in Palm Springs and saw several big name stars like Bob Hope, Ray Milland, Benny Goodman, Shirley Temple and Barbara Stanwyck. Even better? A ritzy meal for 12 cost me only $157.87! SCORE!
So right now, we are parked off a side street in Blythe. Tomorrow we shift to 1968 and drive across Arizona. Right now, however, I am off to play some games and partake of pints of Guinness.
More trip reportage tomorrow.