More Highway 99, OCD edition
Just got off work a little while ago, and I grabbed my dirty clothes and made a beeline for the local laundromat, the one adjacent to the tattoo parlor on the corner, which seems to be somewhat of a magnet for a lot of unintentional comedy acts. The drive on Highway 99 was a bit of a dog’s breakfast, with a lot of start-stop traffic through Galt, which proves my adage: If you name your town after some asshole character in an Ayn Rand novel who gives a 70-page-long radio address, you’re probably asking for trouble.
Most of the drive, however, was pretty darn peachy. I got on at Turner Road in Lodi, cranked my latest favorite album — Causers of This by Toro y Moi, the much more cut’n’paste electronica predecessor to this year’s best album by anybody, the stellar Underneath the Pine — and got an eyeful of grape vineyards. The road overcrossings followed: Woodbridge, Acampo, Peltier. Next up was Jahant, home to the southernmost of my little OCD stations of the crossroads, little points I’ve picked out that I acknowledge, which started out as a way to keep from getting highway hypnosis.
I say started, because now it’s kinda moved into “step on a crack, break your grandmother’s back” territory. Just west and north of the Jahant overcrossing is something called the Woodlon Diner, which is in this building formerly occupied by Rockin’ Robin’s, which I was sorry to see go out of business before I got a chance to get food poisoning there, because the hand-painted sign and giant bass guitar just screamed “ptomaine.” The Woodlon has added a huge inflatable gray semi-truck conventional cab on the roof, as some kind of truckdriver semiotics. Dunno if the food’s any good, though, but people seem to go there.
I’ve also got a hankering to try the Airport Cafe on the frontage road south of Jahant, next to the airport where parachuters come floating down over the highway if you time your drive right. I’m surprised the CHP or CalTrans hasn’t told them to knock it off, because it provides a major distraction. Anyway, the Airport Cafe always has the same two Chevy trucks parked out in front every morning. The guys at work tell me the food’s good, but pricey for a breakfast. Oh, and the Douglas DC-3 nearby is another landmark to keep an eye out for.
A few miles north, across the San Joaquin-Sacramento County line, you’re in the aforementioned Galt. On the left is my second point of interest, D2 Trailer Sales.com, which just cracks me up every time I pass it. Keep on going and there’s a ramshackle city on the right off of Mingo Road, which I’m told is used for Airsoft army games. This is one of the prettiest stretches, over a couple of verdant creekbeds, with cornfields and dairies interspersed with greenery. West of the highway, you can find some beehives in boxes, and then you cross Arno Road.
On the right is something out of a redneck horror movie off in a stand of trees: A greenish-gray gun tower, octagon-shaped like the gas chamber at San Quentin, with a red roof, my eye-check OCD station number three. It’s really an ominous sight, overlooking some wetlands where the water hyacinth chokes out the egrets, or maybe July’s just too damned late for them so they flew up toward Portland where the mushrooms are fresher. After that is Dillard Road, then the Cosumnes River and overflow areas, a pretty thicket of woods with lots of sunflowers now lining the roadside. Is there some Johnny Sunflowerseed at CalTrans on a personal highway beautification mission this year? I’ve never seen so many sunflowers as this.
Soon, you go up on a bridge over what used to be the Southern Pacific track, and those two giant propane tanks loom ahead, the ones some crankster hillbillies threatened to blow up back in 1999 or so, and you’re suddenly in metropolitan Sacramento (this is roughly where the attached video starts, and I do apologize for the music, which I didn’t choose, and if you like you can turn it off … well, hell, Paul VanDyk or whoever he is ain’t too bad, just not my personal cuppa).
There’s a pretty funny billboard for some HVAC company called Huft that says “Beyond Pros … We’re Heroes!” and has what looks like the company owner with a shadow that looks like a Batman cape, which is, well, pretty ridiculous. Across the freeway, north of Grant Line Road, is some kind of major architectural snafu that started out to be a postmodern take on a regional shopping mall, but then they ran out of money so it sits, unbuilt, an eyesore of Brobdingnagian proportions. Love to see what kind of rat population that place has.
Keep going and you’re in Elk Grove, which is where Republicans in Sacramento move when they don’t feel like living in Roseville. Before Elk Grove Boulevard, on the left, is a huge “auto mall”; after it, on the right, is what used to be Bob Batey Chevrolet and Frank Cate Ford, but now the Chevy dealership has been taken over by Mike Daugherty, who used to sell Chevys and Hummers on Fulton Avenue before the General Motors bankruptcy forced him into south-county exile. The former Ford dealership is now the Calvary Christian Center, which I’m told offers an oil change, lube job and altar call to accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior for the low, low price of only $29.95. I’d check them out if I were you.
Across the freeway is station number four, this messed-up and falling-down red house that sits among the tilt-up dentist offices around it like some kind of “Hey, condemn my ass” taunt to city building inspectors. All around it, save the little white church up toward Bond Road that looks like it’s seen its share of rattlesnake-handling revivals, is beige stucco newness. And you wonder why I have to invent games like this to keep my attention, um, attentive.
Past the Applebee’s-East Lawn Mortuary combo, where I hear the drink specials will put you six feet under, it gets kinda dirt brown. Oh, there’s a Logan’s Roadhouse at Bond-Laguna, and then a Texas Roadhouse at Calvine, but I don’t have another checklist until just before the big highway bend south of Mack Road, with my final station on the right, at Stevenson Avenue: A seriously ugly building with a six-sided tower, which until recently had cheap plastic pennants flapping in the wind, but the real-estate agents who are trying to lease or sell this property removed the pennants and broke one of the flagpoles in the process, so now there’s only five poles. It’s surrounded by barbed wire, and it has this stupid-looking rainbow painted over the gate, and what it was before is a mystery. It’s been on the market for at least a year. Good luck with that. Hey, it’s really close to the Costco!
And with that, we’re back in town, and my laundry is done, and I am Audi 5000. —Jackson Griffith