Saturday, May 19, 2007

Faraway Eyes

It was another gorgeous day as we drove over the hill and out of our valley on Thursday. Los Osos Valley was a patchwork of dazzling greens and chocolate browns appliquéd with brown and black and white cows. It doesn't last long, unfortunately, when you are driving a truck, however. In no time at all, you are in the town of San Luis Obispo and the south end of town is mostly housing developments and strip malls.

San Luis Obispo…the beach towns of Avila, Shell and Pismo…Arroyo Grande…Nipomo…

Big Dog had read on some website that the gas station at Tefft in Nipomo was the cheapest in Central Cal, so we get off 101 to fill up, only to find that we could have gotten gas for a penny less just before we got on the 101.

Late in leaving the ranch, it was already after 4pm when we filled up and if we were driving to Santa Monica, BD would have been going insane thinking about the hellish traffic ahead, but we were heading to the Antelope Valley, turning onto Highway 166 just before Santa Maria.

166 takes you through the Cuyama Valley, to Maricopa on the edge of the San Joaquin Valley. There is something wild and raw and captivating about the Cuyama Valley. As you go further east, the land gets drier and even wilder. Cattle ranches turn to brush, then large stretches of barren nothing. My mother who was born and brought up in Shitamachi (the old part of Tokyo,) and can't understand why I would want to live outside a city, sees absolutely nothing in barren land, but vast stretches of land untouched by human hands never ceases to make my heart sing. I figure it's my father's DNA speaking -- pulling me back to the open dusty fields of his Manchurian Life.

I remember going to a tiny town near the north end of the Big Island (Hawaii) when I was in my early 20's and seeing a Nisei grandmother shopping at the only store in this town. "She had faraway eyes -- vision not shortened by life in the city," I wrote in my journal. Well, it might have been different words, but I still remember how connected I felt to this beautiful, wrinkled lady and secretly hoping that one day, I, too, will have that "look."

Maybe I already do, I think, as I narrow my already narrow eyes.

The orange groves start just before Maricopa, and then, as you approach the I-5, the vineyards begin. The Grapevine Pass…Gorman…Hungry Valley…Tejon Ranch…I wonder if it's changed much over the years. Aside from a few truck stops, it's still relatively undeveloped here. We turn off the I-5 before it heads into Canyon Country and take the highway that turns into Avenue G…and before you know it, we are standing in front of The DogFather.

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