Up the valley

My lack of enthusiasm for either California or agricultural vistas is contradicted by my deep devotion to Amtrak’s San Joaquin route.  I’ve probably taken the train up and down the Central Valley 50 or more times in the past five years and the scenes that unfold outside the panoramic windows still don’t wear old.

Rose fields, corn fields, dairy cattle, beef cattle, almond orchards, vineyards, the accompanying dusty roads, earth moving equipment, stacks of pipes, standing and chemical-hued ponds of waste water, acre feet of shedding: it’s all agriculture at its most intimate, a landscape where there is no room for bright lights or big city smells or sounds. Both ramshackle and pristine housing line the way–the latter including subsets of Victorians that came with the first rails and cookie-press McMansions that have risen from the soil since my last trip, each next trip.

The north end of the route includes miles through the Delta, best viewed at dawn, when the herons and storks are taking slight or floating.  Today it was mid-afternoon, and hot, and therefore birdless.  Instead there were small motorboats, crewed by sunburned men with six packs and waves for the passing train.

Only as we passed Crockett and I started to look for Point Pinole did it sink in for me that this is probably my last trip on this route.  I know I’ll be back in California multiple times in the foreseeable future, and even will visit Dana in Burbank, but there will not be the same structure that brought me north and south and north again along the valley.

Oh well.  It was a good time when it was.


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