A few years ago, I traveled California’s Highway 41 on my 41st birthday. I had hoped to make this a regular tradition, but various circumstances have kept me from following through, until this year, when I drove the southern half of CaliforniaHighway 45. It wasn’t exactly on my birthday, and I didn’t complete the route, but was still a fun and eccentric way to celebrate the conclusion of my 45th year of life. It was also a good excuse to try out the new travel-mapping feature in our Highway☆ mobile app.
Highway 45 begins in the small town of Knight’s Landing in Yolo County, so I first had to schlep up there via Interstate 80 and then turn north on Highway 113 near U.C. Davis. 113 is a major freeway at this point, but a bit further north it narrows to a two-lane country road before reaching the junction with 45.
Knight’s Landing was actually a very small but cute town along the Sacramento River. Before embarking on the formal part of the trip, I stopped along the levee at Front Street to view the continuation of Highway 113 across the river. Front Street was rather beaten up compared to the rest of the town center, perhaps due to the nature of the levee or to discourage unnecessary driving, but it made for a nice little walk.
I then returned to the car and finally turned onto Highway 45, heading northwest out of town.
The highway zig-zagged on a grid between fields on the western side of the Sacramento River, but far enough for the river to mostly remain out of sight. But there were some lovely wide-open farmland vistas, made more dramatic by the bands of clouds in the sky marking what was a lovely day after a week of dreary weather.
It is when the landscape opened up that I was able to fully relax into the trip. There is always a point along the journey during which stresses, mundane or otherwise, start to melt away and the road, landscape, and solitude take over the mind. As Highway 45 is remarkably well signed, there was no ambiguity or uncertainty. The result is a sense of flow and well being that allows one to both think about other ideas, like music, while remaining fully engaged in the moment. It is something I have experienced many walking the streets of San Francisco, but not lately. I certainly hope it isn’t gone – as much as I enjoy these long excursions to other regions, I would love to return to the sense of external flow in my own community as well. Perhaps it is the familiarity or the many stresses and dramas, but I hope to regain it.
The highway turned due north in Colusa County, providing great views of the Sutter Buttes, considered to be one of the worlds smallest mountain rangers.
The Buttes are a small circle of volcanic lava domes that rise suddenly from the rather flat Sacramento Valley. The contrast is fascinating, and I would love to come back and explore the geology at a warmer time of year. Unfortunately, public access to the Buttes remains limited as far I can tell. (If any readers have any advice or new information about public access to the Sutter Buttes, please share in the comments.)
At this point, Highway 45 comes closer to the river, and between Grand Island and Grimes, comes right up against levees, before turning north again. It is not surprising to see such high levees, as the entire region seems like a giant flood waiting to happen.
Further north, we join with California Highway 20, a major east-west highway in this rural part of the state connecting to Yuba City to the east and to Lake County far to the west. The road became wider, smoother, and significantly busier as we continued on the duplex into the town of Colusa.
Colusa is a picturesque town on the river, with a small but nice town center and a quiet park along the levee and riverbank. It had warmed up considerably since I last got out in Knight’s Landing, so stopped for a bit to enjoy the sight and sound of the river. You can see a bit in this Instagram video.
Nearby I found The Tap Room, a small pub that had a large selection of beers including some local brews. I don’t think they had Sutter Butte Brewing, but they did have some selections from Berryessa brewing including this IPA.
In the enjoyment of the trip, I had completely forgotten that it was St. Patrick’s Day. But I was quickly reminded by the bartender who was decked in bright green regalia and informed me of the holiday pub crawl that would be happening that evening. This was the talk of the local patrons who started trickling in as the afternoon wore on. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, but a night of drinking was not going to be compatible with my plan to get back to the city safely at a reasonable hour. So I bid farewell and headed out on Highway 20 back to I-5 and I-505 to return to the Bay Area.
Tired but accomplished, I crossed the Bay Bridge back into San Francisco and home later that evening. That would usually be the end of the story, but after resting, we made the last-minute decision to go out again that night. So I found myself getting dressed up and heading back over the bridge for the third time to Oakland to see Chrome withHelios Creed. We met up with quite a few friends at the show and had a great time. You can see a bit of Chrome’s performance in this CatSynth TV.
It was a great day of diverse geography and experiences, albeit a long one. Not every day can or should be like this, but hope there are more to come this year…
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A tribute to John Cage on his birthday (September 5), by the Merce Cunningham Trust. The photo is courtesy of the John Cage Trust.
John Cage’s beloved black cat was named Losa Rinpoche. From the John Cage Trust (on his 101st birthday in 2013):
John Cage had a very close relationship with his second black cat, Losa. (His first black cat, Skookum, was tragically set loose on the streets of New York by a well-meaning worker on the roof. John was so bereft, Andy Culver told him we were going to have to send him back to Zen School.) One of their favorite games together was for John to put Losa under a cardboard box. Losa would then move around the loft, the box on his back, weirdly animated. I was horrified the first time I saw him do this. “He must be scared!” I cried. John just laughed. He said Losa liked it, and, furthermore, his new name was now Losa Rinpoche Taxi Cab. Of course, Losa would, after a time, simply shrug the box off, look disdainfully at us both, and calmly walk away.
He is still going strong, composing and performing regularly. I had the chance to see him perform last year at SFJAZZ with his quartet. This was only his most recent musical incarnation, quite different from what he had done before with the Miles Davis Quintet in the 1960s and then with his own band Weather Report in the 1970s. Weather Report is sometimes under appreciated, but their early work is great and something that deserves its own article. Most recently, I have been listening to the album Algeria which includes members of the quartet I heard last year.
Although I’ve known and appreciated his work for years, it is only the past couple of years that it has become a stronger influence and part of the regular rotation of music at CatSynth HQ. And we hope there is still more to come.
Today is Luna’s 11th Birthday! As you can see, she is happy and healthy after all she has been through this year – and looking great!
It is a particularly sweet one for us at CatSynth, as it seemed for a little while this summer that this day might not have come. But here we are, and grateful for all the time we still have together. We’re hoping for a lot more to come.
This evening we celebrated in style. With treats, a nip cocktail, and fresh tuna sashimi!
Luna took right away to her birthday treats.
The sashimi was particularly delicious, both the tuna and salmon. Quite buttery.
Although this toy isn’t new, it’s the one that Luna seems to be particularly attached to this evening while high on nip. I think it was a comfort for her at the kitty hotel while I was away.
Yes, this is one spoiled and contented birthday girl. As she should be.
Please join me in wishing Luna a very happy 11th Birthday!
A few years ago, I acquired several highway shields to use in photography, including one for California Highway 41. It was particularly good for photos like that one shown above. But I only knew small bits of the road itself. So when a certain birthday came to pass recently, I decided it was time to travel Highway 41 in its entirety.
Highway 41 begins in Morro Bay at an interchange with Highway 1. Morro Bay is a cute seaside town, and is distinctive for its large volcanic rock along the ocean.
The highway heads northeast through a relatively gentle section of the coast range and crosses US 101 in the town of Atascadero. It then climbs into the hills as a narrow two lane highway. Along the way it passes the many bucolic scenes of farms and ranches. As it climbs the hills, the trees disappear but the landscape remains quite green.
A little further north, Highway 41 joins Highway 46, a major east-west connector, and runs concurrently for a while. The change in traffic and speed was unmistakable.
As one heads east, the land becomes a drier and more sparse. 41 splits from 46 and heads north on its own. After coming over a ridge, the highway descends into a rather arid valley, quite different from the coast and the verdant hills further south.
We cross Highway 33 at a rather unassuming junction. There was an interesting looking roadhouse there, and I wish I had the courage to stop and try it. But I did press on across another, even more arid ridge to a junction with I-5 near Kettleman City. Kettleman City, which is not really a city or even an incorporated town, is probably the single sketchiest location along the entire route. I had been here before and taken a few photos. One of my favorite sites is still “alive and well.”
Continuing north, we move to the interior of the Central Valley at the edge of the former Lake Tulare, once the second largest freshwater lake entirely within the United States. It has since completely dried up, leaving a very flat landscape of farms. Many fields appeared to be fallow, perhaps due to the drought. It is a beautifully bleak landscape.
Just west of the town of Hanford, Highway 41 crosses CA 198, another major east-west highway. 198 is a freeway here, something I was not aware of. 41 itself becomes a four-lane expressway north of the interchange, and increasingly busy as we head north towards Fresno. As we pass the city boundary, it becomes a full freeway. It traverses the area south of downtown as an elevated viaduct, where it crosses Highway 99 and provides access to both downtown and nearby industrial neighborhoods.
I stopped here to do some photographs, one of which already appeared in an earlier Wordless Wednesday. Here are some more.
Heading north out of Fresno, 41 becomes the Yosemite Freeway, as it heads north towards the park.
The freeway narrows and then becomes a surface road as it approaches the foothills of the Sierra. The road climbs steeply into the hills and then descends equally steeply into the town of Oakhurst. The road narrows and climbs again into more mountainous wooded terrain.
We find the signed END of Highway 41 as we approach the southern border of Yosemite National Park.
But this is not the end the real end. The legal definition of Highway 41 continues into the park, although it is not signed as such. It goes through a tunnel the exit of which provides spectacular views of the Yosemite Valley.
Ultimately Highway 41 ends at a junction with (also unsigned) Highway 140 as it enters the valley.
This was an interesting road to complete beyond its numerical value in that it crossed through so many terrains and parts of the state. And a worthwhile and unique trip.
Finally, we have a free morning, so we are celebrating Luna’s birthday two weeks late. But we’re having fun, and Luna is enjoying getting a bit wasted on catnip. She also received a birthday card from a dear friend of ours.
After a short time, Luna went to sit contentedly in one of her favorite morning spots, under the glass. I am quite happy with this photo (snapped with my iPhone) that captures Luna’s natural beauty in an abstract setting.
Luna officially turns 9 years old today. At moments like this, it certainly does seem that time flies by too quickly. Unfortunately, we are not able to celebrate together as I am still in New York, but we certainly will do so when I get home.
Please join me in wishing Luna a very Happy Birthday!