Part 4: Fresno to Hollister - Don, the Mustang Ranger
I am across!
Steep incline to climb out: Punch it!
Up and out and over the hill – the road straightens out, becomes more firm – and I see pavement! At last, blessed pavement! Hmmm, on second thought: Crappy pavement!
Looks like this road has been patched over but never resurfaced since they laid down the first asphalt back whenever that wuz. Oh my, I don’t know which is worse: being beat by dirt washboard or beat by pot-hole-filled cracked pavement. It is still hot though and now I am in search of shade. I see some in the far distance; maybe the road will go right by it.
After about 3 miles of pavement I began to pass farm houses off to the left and right, and then I spotted my first human being in what seemed likely the last two hours: He was a farmer riding high upon his old tractor; front loader – empty, with rear-hauling fork carrying a large poly-box-crate. He was slow-enough going in the opposite direction and I ambled over to his side of the road waiting for him to pull up. Correction:
Not a farmer, but a Mustang Ranger named Don Douglas
We had a great fun chat about my trek and his local issues. Don told me that the reason the west side of the Valley was so desolate was because the farmer’s had drilled too deep and had pulled up seawater from the ocean onto the land and had ruined it. He also said that this here Panoche Valley is the best farmland around if they could only get to the water. Up until the 1970’s this whole valley was in production, but then the OPEC crisis hit and the cost of electricity shot through the roof – making pumped water too expensive, then one by one each farm collapsed and failed. Don bought the last of the farms and changed the business model to raising mustangs.
He then told me how the rangers are fighting to prevent cheap Chinese solar farms from moving in: These companies are flush with capital; they go out and buy out farms, then put their cheap crappy solar technology – not the high-quality stuff, and cover the land with panels. I asked what happens to the ground when they do that, and Don says they already did it on one area and it ruined the ground; no grass will grow, thus there is nothing to hold the dirt down, and this leads to dust storms and the precious topsoil floats away. He says he’d rather have Nuclear Power come in and set up before they’d accept solar. His thinking – and I could tell it was well-researched, is that a Nuclear plant would have to drill deep to get to water. What kind of water is plentiful? Seawater. The plant would desalinate the seawater, producing fresh water which could be used for irrigation, whilst the brine could dry out in the heat, and sent off for refinement; salts and mineral extraction. My only problem with the plan was how to dispose of the spent fissile material – which really bespeaks the challenges of the global problem at large.
We talked about the road and he told me that Panoche Road was meant to be an extension of Hwy 180 but they never came up with the money. He was surprised to learn that I came over the Rancher’s Road; most people he says come through the slot canyon to the north over Shotgun Pass
– whereas I had come over Jackass Pass
. I sure felt like a jackass
for taking it.
Snakes, Zombies, Chupacabras – oh my!
Don gave me the short story of creating champion mustangs; when he first started talking about mustangs instead of farming I had figured he meant horses and not cars. I like both; farms, mustangs, horses… Heck I was happy to just find some shade and then I run across a very interesting and enterprising individual! Our conversation actually began as “Is this the road to Hollister?”
- He says “Yeah; you’re real close now”.
Then I says “How close is close?"
He says “Oh, about 48 miles”.
I bet he was thinking ‘close for cars’
. Then I got to thinking about Albert
, the cyclist I met north of Truckee; I wondered how far he’d think ‘close’
was? My Pa would like to say “Close only counts with hand-grenades and depth-charges”
, and I would counter with “Yeah, and it’s not too bad with nuclear weapons either”
was still a long ways off for me though – and it was farther than I wanted.
Don said he could put me up for the night, feed me steak, whatever I want, no problem. Heck – if I had left for my holiday on time, I would have taken him up on it. As it was, I didn’t have time to spare. Definitely an interesting person! A car came from the west; first time I saw a car since leaving I-5. That broke up our conversation as we both moved to the opposite sides of the road; he told me to keep an eye out for the Schoolhouse as there’s shade. I said my good-bye and thanked him for the intel. Three miles later I came around a corner and there was the schoolhouse; the angle of the sun provided just enough shade for a break and I took my 5 minutes to water-up good and long.
Leaving the schoolhouse the road trended northwest and up through a shallow incline between two mountains and in doing so the heat began to decline some, but in exchange a headwind developed. I stopped one more time to water-up under a tree next to a pair of horses which took an interest in my passing; for once I wished I had two apples to share. The summit, aptly named Panoche Pass, was reached about 4:15 PM, and I took a parting shot in the direction that I had come. Don said it was a steep downhill. It would have been fun I am sure except for the headwind which prevented any serious speed buildup. On the backside of the pass the evidence of tectonic folding was hugely evident by the radical erosion and unstable hillsides. The road was complete shite on this side of the pass too. I have a new acronym for you: It’s called BtFS. Two points on who can translate it first. As I neared the Pass, the weather did turn cooler and progressed more so as I descended. The forest increased in thickness and variety changing from oak and pine to that of more shrubbery with larger variety. Life existed here in plethora. The steep winding road gave way to washed out valley floors and undulating margins until I had finally reach Paicines at the junction of Hwy 25 at 4:45 PM. Here I paused for 15 minutes or so to eat and water-up. The sun was closing down behind mountains and the wind was picking up.
EDIT: Panoche Pass - looking east back over the region that I had crossed. Added on 9/1/2011
EDIT: Paicines - This is a view from the intersection of Panoche Road and Hwy 25 looking NE; the rest of the panorama is missing
Added on 9/1/2011
Heading north on Hwy 25 towards Hollister, now less than 20 miles away was a little frightful after having so much solitude; no margin to speak up until I was able to clear the mountainous portion nearing Tres Pinos where the highway finally opened up to provide ample margins. Entering Hollister at 6:15 PM was like riding into a mecca of consumerism; big huge wide roads with massive malls on both sides. Where is the old town? I pulled off at Sunnyslope Road to find my bearings. By this time I didn’t care about Santa Cruz; it’s windy, I am fatigued, the sun is in my eyes, and all I want is a hot shower, food, and bed. It takes me ½ hour to sort out my motel options and convince myself that I am here to stay. I followed Sunnyslope west then took a right onto San Benito Street – through the Old Town (yea!) which changes names to San Felipe Road after crossing the railroad tracks exiting the town to the north. My first shot was the Best Western, having some Internet discount offered, but when I pulled up the sign in the window said it was booked out.
OK, no problem – I saw at least two candidates on the way here; backtrack to the first alternate: The Cinderella Motel
. Now – I had to laugh cos the reviews on Google just cracked me right up. One reviewer says “It should be renamed the Witch Motel
; horrible service”, while another said “Should be renamed the Bates Motel
”, and still another exclaimed “BEDBUGS!” RotFLoL!
OK – now I am intrigued; how could this place remain in business if it had bedbugs? I have got to check it out, and I did: The manager was extremely friendly and most helpful in selecting a room fitting my needs. Each room is themed; mine was “The Pines Room”
, and inside I had a carved wood bed – right out of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Little Red Ridinghood. It was absolutely charming!
The hanging lights were made to look like lanterns, and the bedspread was quilted. The towels were rich and vibrant in color; not washed out or bleached stale white. And the cost: $48.60.
Setup the charger, got my shower and went across the street to Pizza the Hut
and ordered up a medium pie and salad with a single Widmer Hefe, then set out to scribe the days’ incredible story until the place began to close. Retiring, I moved back to the room and kept writing until my eyes were sore and I fell asleep with pen in hand. The rest of the details came from memory. It was a pretty hard day of riding despite the short apparent distance.
Starting V = 63.1, Ending V = 56.1; possibly enough to get to Watsonville had I not been so beat.
Distance = 122 miles
Regen = 2.7%; Vmin = 54.7
MaxS = 35.8 mph; AveS = 26.9
Trip Time = 4:31:33
Total Odometer = 1370 miles.
Note: I will backfill as I can in the coming days now that I am at a desk. Pictures will be posted as well when I get to it