In fact, going from The Ranch to anywhere inland in California right now is like going from Paradise to Hell. And you don't have to go very far inland to start hitting Purgatory.
The drive down from LO (Los Osos) to SLO (San Luis Obispo) is a lovely one, past fields of red and green lettuce, artichoke fields forever (and I always have to sing it to the tune of Strawberry Fields Forever,) soft, curvaceous rolls of hills, black and brown cows and hard bodied cyclists. 101 is not too bad, either, taking you through picture-book farmland, acres and acres of vineyards and strawberry fields that scent the air delicious.
We left the ranch this morning (LO to SLO!), then turned off of 101 and onto 166, just north of Santa Maria ("The Murder Capital of the Central Coast!" I announced as we approached. Big Dog rolled his eyes at me. "Well, it's true, isn't it? I think it has the highest murder rate in the Central Coast..." my eyes stabbed his rollers.) This is the road that leads you East of Eden. At first, it's still gentle hills, grazing land for the happiest cows on earth (I know PETA wants to refute that, but I just KNOW it's a whole lot better than being penned up in some factory farm...and although Indian cows are revered, I can't imagine that life in India is much better for cows even if they don't end up on your dinner table...all life must end sometime, anyway...) but as you keep going east, the land -- and air -- turn hotter and meaner. You can feel a definite change at the turn off to Tepusquet Canyon. Further east, there is no more marine influence and the scorching inland climate takes over.
"Are we stopping at Jolly Kone for a burger?" I asked Big Dog.
"Oh, so now you're a fan, too?"
"Not really, but I know how you enjoy their burgers and I'm getting hungry."
We take 166 when we go from The Ranch to the DogFather's and have taken to stopping at Jolly Kone in Maricopa, a dusty little town the kind you see in every cool road movie. In fact, just stopping in this town is like being in the middle of a cool, off-beat road movie. And when there's a Korean-run burger stand, well, it become some kind of surreal scene in this movie.
Last summer, when we stopped there, Big Dog wanted to use the bathroom that was at the back of the shop. Locked, of course. So he asked the cute lady at the window, "Toilet?"
"El baño?" When you ask in English and they don't answer, try Spanish, right? This IS California, after all.
"I'm Korean," announced the woman.
"Kamsahamnida," Big Dog said in reply. You could hear someone in the darkness of the shop yelling, "Chee-bagga! Chee-bagga! Ya! Wee fies..."
I had to shake my head in disbelief at this surreal conversation.
But isn't it totally apropos for a trip from Paradise to Hell? And Hell is FUN! Extreme weather is extremely entertaining. Even when I am miserable, I am having fun. Because I can tell you how my eyeballs dried up and were ready to crumble, the moisture from all the mucus membranes in my body got sucked out. I was fried, dried and crispy! Like something you can find in a really authentic Chinese restaurant! I couldn't believe everything in sight wasn't spontaneously combusting.
Real Hell, however, exists further east and further south. Real Hell is on the edge of LA County. Real Hell is always made by Man.
Labels: Central California, mondo bizarro, on-the-road