Country roads

Rob and I are taking a breather. After a couple of months of intense work, we’re in sunny California setting up a new second home. Well, it’s a second home for us. Really it’s a new travel trailer. We said good-bye to the Class C RV the last time we were down, and now we’re adjusting to our new space.

We’ve been roaming the north/central part of California the last couple of years, slowly getting to know this region a bit. Sacramento is the big city hub, but we’re only there briefly, picking up a vehicle from storage and then leaving the hustle and bustle behind. No doubt about it, California has hustle.

But once you drive out of the city, into the countryside, you’re in a completely different world. And that’s the California I love. You leave the multiple-lane freeways and find yourself driving on two-way rural roads that probably look the same as they did 50 years ago. The houses you pass may be newer construction. But often, the barns and homes are old fashioned too. They’ve stood the test of time and weather, and look a little rugged, like some chiseled movie star from an old black and white film. They may be repurposed and give the small towns the quaint flavor of historic meets tourist. Or they may be falling down, remnants of a past century and past usefulness that won’t last many more years.

This is historic gold country (as in the ’49..that’s 1849… gold rush), farming and ranching country, dotted with wide spots in the road, all boasting some hole in the wall restaurant that’s probably a gem in disguise. The winding roads take you round hills and streams and seem to be going nowhere in particular. Nothing out here runs straight.

I’ve decided any road that takes me past rounded green hills, grazing cows and standing horses, vineyards and fruit orchards growing hot in the mid-day sun, old pick-ups and farm stands selling farm to table produce…take any road that runs past these delights, and I’m charmed.

I’m completely fascinated with the scale of it all. The landscape is amazing, the rolling hills spreading far to the horizon and a faint view of snowy mountains, barely visable to my eye. But the buildings that dot the land along side the two-lane roads, they’re scaled to human size. Nothing is big-box shaped, overwhelming, giant structures that make humans seem like ants in comparison. Everything in the country, except the land itself, seems tailored to people. I guess because when a lot of this land was settled, that’s who they were building for.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the convenience of big shopping and all that goes with it. There’s a place for that, I guess. But all in all, I’m still small town at heart. Maybe it’s in my veins, the way my mom and my grandmothers, and surely their mothers before them, all grew and lived in small communities with human-sized stores and buildings.

There were farmers among my ancestors, and maybe that old influence is why I love the sight of cows and the acres of fields we pass. I remember my dad could always identify the crops, and I wondered how he knew what was growing in the fields when he wasn’t a farmer. But he grew up with that heritage, and so he knew.

I am not a farmer, and I can’t always guess the type of crop in the field we’re passing. But I love it, and I identify (a little guiltily, feeling like I’m faking it) with the rural spirit of the region. I love to support the local markets, love to think I’m contributing to a family’s way of life, and an American heritage of growing food and making it, encouraging the little guys with their small farms. It’s a nod to our shared past, a nod to my parents, the road warriors of my youth, and an acknowledgement that for a lot of people, farming and rural living is still an everyday way of life.

So I’m enjoying the new trailer, and getting settled. But to be honest, I’m almost as excited to see the cows again.

Doesn’t seem romantic, really. Until you get out on those open roads. And then I know I’m home, honoring the American spirit, loving the freedom, the space, the independence.


See you out there!

What do you find that’s charming on the road?


  • May 6, 2014, 3:03 am  Reply

    Being a mid-western girl, I am not very familiar with California- the hustle bustle or the country roads that you shared! Your post aptly captured the joy in connecting with our past!

    • May 6, 2014, 9:36 am

      Thanks Debbie! It’s just an amazing experience to move so quickly from the big city environment to the quiet of the country-side. I really think CA keeps the best part of the state a big secret. Everyone knows about LA and the beaches. But the ranches and farms don’t seem to get that much publicity. Maybe that’s really a good thing though! Keeps it real! ~ Sheila

  • May 6, 2014, 3:06 am  Reply

    I love the open skies and winding roads, too — and your affection for the rural parts of California just might bring another tourism boom!! Enjoy your time away — and I’ll look forward to more updates.

    There’s something soul-stirring about getting out, away and into that wide open wonder, isn’t there?


    • May 6, 2014, 9:33 am

      Exactly! I know you understand the pull of wide open spaces! Looking forward to some great photos and stories from your upcoming trip to your home roots. Enjoy your visit with your mom and siblings, and the sights of that beautiful Canadian scenery! ~ Sheila

  • May 6, 2014, 3:07 am  Reply

    I don’t need a lot of reminders of how lucky I am to live on a farm and live on those country roads you described so well in your post. The agricultural community needs more folks like you who have an understanding and appreciation of our way of life. There is much criticism because of misunderstandings about livestock, GMO’s, chemicals, antibiotics, and factory farms.
    Glad you had time to enjoy the road in your new home and really glad you are writing about it!

  • May 6, 2014, 3:59 am  Reply

    Nice photo, what a lovely sunshine!! 🙂

  • May 6, 2014, 4:07 am  Reply

    An advertisement of our country for sure!…I was riding along with you…looking for cows!

    • May 6, 2014, 9:28 am

      Yes, I know you love road trips too! You do a great job of sharing your adventures. Looking forward to hearing about your trip next month! ~ Sheila

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