© 2020 by Vernon Miles Kerr, vernonmileskerr.com, writersclass.net
Loved those lyrics, “…don’t know whatcha got till it’s gone,”
That’s the upside of Coronavirus— if there is one.
For a California road-warrior, lockdown is hell.
I’ve worn out tons of tire sets (even down to the cords and belts,
In leaner times)
Pursuing work, and far-flung friends & kin
All the way up and down
This lion’s share hunk-of-the-Left Coast.
Whether trips perforce or trips per pleasure,
I’ve grown to crave the rumble and whine
Of tire-tread on California pavement —
San Ysidro to Crescent City — all 862 miles of 101,
Along with thousands of klicks, spent meandering
The branches and twigs of side-roads, East and West.
California, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
There’s the summoning fog bank, peeking over brittle-dry Altamont crest
As we cross up and out of blazing-Valley-Summer
And down into perpetual-Coastal-Spring.
There’s the great leap of Hiway 99 across 400 miles of Prairie,
Red Bluff-on-the-Sacramento to Bakersfield-on-the-Kern,
Gracefully arcing through crazy-quilt fields of green
Bordered by palms of North Africa and Blue Gums of Australia,
Just two more immigrants from elsewhere — like the rest of us.
Okay, Interstate 5 is the quick way to go from SF to LA,
Shooting uninterrupted, as it does, along a quarter-thousand miles
Of rolling, boring, monotonous, cattle range;
But 99 is — and has always been — California’s Main Street,
Giving glimpses of towns set up by the railroad in the 1880s:
The M-towns: Madera, Merced, Modesto and Manteca (Lumber, Mercy, Modesty, and Lard.)
Spanish names were the rage in those days,
But with little thought toward meaning:
If it sounds Spanish, name it!
Then comes the Big Ag town, Fresno, built by figs and wine grapes,
With it’s surprising sky-scrapers sprung up to deal out Big Ag loans.
Then, ultimately, Bakersfield, final stopping place of Dust Bowl refugees,
Once, endless cotton and watermelon fields punctuated by pumping oil wells,
Now, endless wine vinyards and almond orchards, punctuated by pumping oil wells.
In my daydream, the pavement gently winds through Bakersfield,
With the aroma of crude oil wafting through the window,
Evoking memories of my California advent, as a six year-old.
Back to reality, I read the Tweets of sequestration-frustration —
Adding a few of my own,
Yearning for the murmur of rubber on asphalt.