Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Southbound To San Diego

Fun fact: this is another year for a Streicher daughter milestone birthday - this time it's my third-born's turn - and you know what that means. The ladies of the family (minus Gracie) took off on a special adventure, planned by the birthday princess du jour.

For their special trips, daughters One and Two both opted for a seaside resort in Mexico. But there's no lounging about the pool in Cabo for my third-born woman of action. 

This time, we are road-tripping to San Diego.

It's a familiar, if not necessarily easy, two-day's drive down Interstate 5 to San Diego. Up here in Washington, we call that "Eye Five" but in Socal we know better and say it like the locals: "The 5." Either way, this major west coast asphalt artery reads like a scenic photo book and a family scrapbook: rivers, mountains, barren desert, and endless miles of almond orchards provide not only gorgeous scenery but countless stories of "Remember that time we...". Flowing 1285 miles through Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, and of course, LA, we break the trip into two days with an overnight in Redding, California and savor the journey.

Here are a handful of the highlights of our two-day southbound trip to San Diego.

Santiam River Southbound Rest Area - south of Salem, Oregon

^ Streicher Family Road Trip Tradition calls for picnic lunches at interstate rest areas, grazing from the rich assortment of delicacies packed into our intrepid cooler and a couple of grocery bags. Ham, summer sausage, salami, sharp cheddar and crowd-pleasing Laughing Cow cheese spread work for building sandwiches, heaping on crackers, or you know, just eating with your fingers. Cherries, watermelon, and red grapes were prepped at home and now ready for noshing. And no one ever said no to a few crunchy snacks or sweet treats to finish off the feast in fine style.  

Mount Shasta - elevation 14,179 feet.

^ Driving from Seattle to central Oregon is mostly a piece of geographic cake, with the relatively straight route meandering over gently rolling terrain. Things begin to get interesting south of Eugene, where the interstate loops, climbs, drops, and weaves through the tightly twisting Cascade foothills. But it's just north of the border with California where we haul ourselves up the maniacally steep grade to the Siskiyou Summit and zoom across the high mountain plains for an hour or two with panoramic views of this volcanic mountain beauty. It's an exhilarating stretch of highway and even though I've driven it at least 20 times in my life, it never gets old. 

The In-N-Out Double Double served protein style aka wrapped in iceberg lettuce. A bun-less cheeseburger may seem like diet culture gone wrong, but I say don't knock it till you've tried it. 

^ There was a time, not too long ago, when the northernmost store in the In-N-Out chain was this one on Dana Drive in Redding, CA. That's why, one summer night in 2007, I loaded up a van full of teenagers and drove there - straight through from Mukilteo. We each ate a Double Double, marveled at their majesty, then got back in the van and drove home. Yes, we did. Nowadays, the franchise has crept closer to home with several stores up the road in Oregon, but this one on Dana Drive will always be my favorite. 

Sunset in Redding, California - from the In-N-Out parking lot

^ Our traditional overnight stop en route to Southern California is Redding, which is almost precisely half way to San Diego. Even though we are still a long way from the Hollywood Hills, Redding sports a nice collection of palm trees, and when I can find them silhouetted against a glowing sunset, I get all the happy Socal feels. 

My phone attributes the location of this photo to Los Banos, California. Lol. 

^ The morning of Day Two finds us humming along through the Central Valley, where for many miles we drive past untold acres of happily irrigated fields full of food. Abruptly, somewhere south of Stockton the landscape turns barren and we stare at wild, windswept, utterly barren hills. It's a chilling reminder of our earth's fragile fertility, and as always, I feel a bit overwhelmed by this oppressive and over-baked scenery.

 In-N-Out in San Diego on Camino Del Este, near the junction of the 8 and the 805. 
Just down the hill from our Airbnb.

^ After the long, hot slog through Central California, we climb the hills south of Bakersfield and settle back into our seats. We've officially arrived in the LA Basin and while the scenery gets much more interesting, I'm behind the wheel and in no place to record any photos. Winding passes, heavy traffic, a bazillion required lane changes, and outrageously aggressive drivers keep my mind sharply focused until we finally roll into San Diego just after 8 pm, the perfect time for another round of In-N-Out.

Always neat. Always friendly. Always working hard.

^ I'm a huge fan of the food at In-N-Out. But I'm also fascinated with their consistently amazing workers, who seem always to be the epitome of first class burger operators. Seriously, I would like to meet the person in charge of training at In-N-Out because every single person seems to know exactly what to do, and how to do it well, and with a staff as young as these restaurants typically employ, that is no small feat. Also I adore their uniforms - women wear red caps and crisp white shirts with daintily puffed sleeves; gents sport soda-jerk style paper caps and classically tailored shirts. But everyone gets to wear my personal favorite: the red rectangular apron, wrapped snugly around the waist and secured in back with a colossal shiny steel apron pin. 

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With our delicious burgers in our bellies, we straggleback to the car for a quick trip up Texas Street to our happy little home away from home. After a thorough inspection and prolonged negotiations about bedroom assignments, we all crash under our covers, ready for a good night's sleep and the San Diego adventures awaiting us in the morning. 

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