California: I-5 Grapevine to Sacramento

Living in Oregon with family in Southern California I always dread the drive to visit them. We used to fly but now that we have a dog its no doubt by car. The drive on I-5 isn’t bad from Salem to Redding but from there, well let’s say “Yawn”.  The worst is between Sacramento to the Grapevine. It’s an expressway of sorts and the quickest way to Los Angeles from the North.

To keep myself from getting bored this time I had my trusty cheapo cell phone and started to take pictures of anything that was even slightly interesting. For anyone who has wondered what the Wild West could have looked like or has a passion for old John Wayne movies here is a pictorial from the Grapevine to Sacramento. And anyone who has not visited California before don’t let this scare you, the state is very beautiful everywhere else.

I apologize for the bad photography in advance, it was the best I could do with my cell phone.

Tejon Outlet mall

The start of this trip is a popular gas and meal stop at the Grapevine. Until recently it was just a small truck stop but now there is an outlet mall and lots of restaurants!

Scenery from the I-5 Freeway between the Grapevine and Sacramento

Here we go. See? I wasn’t kidding about boring was I! There is a lot of brown’s and golds along this drive.

Raceway next to the I-5 Freeway just out of Bakersfield CA

Not too far from the I-5 interchange you would never expect a world class raceway like this one. It right next to the freeway and comes up out of nowhere.

A tractor tilling up a field in the desert

Is that something moving along the road? OMG, there’s life out there!

Cattle ranch along I-5 near the popular Harris Ranch Restaurant

Holy Cow, there’s life out here! And wow, does it ever stink! If you are driving this part of I-5 here is a hint: have something that smells good you can grab and stick your nose into while passing by. This cattle ranch is huge and seems to go for miles. I don’t know if this owned by the famous Harris Ranch but it is just outside of Coalinga where you might want to stop if you want a good meal. I’ve heard pilots from Los Angeles and San Francisco will take off to eat here on weekends.

Palm trees along I-5 in California

This must be what it feels like if you are out in the Sahara Desert for days and all of a sudden you find its not a mirage after all, its and Oasis!

No water signs along I-5 in California

It seems the reason this part of the I-5 corridor is so boring is because the water has been cut off to the farmers. You will see signs like these up and down the Freeway. The Farmer’s are making quite a statement.

No water signs along I-5 in California

They are everywhere!

No water signs along I-5 in California

At least this one let me know there is a gas station coming up soon. But really, you do feel for these farmers. In fact there are just as many “Ranch for Sale” signs along the road.

Rest stop along i_5 in CA

Time for a pit stop for both me and my dog.

Rest stop along I-5 in CA

Most of the rest stops are not bad. They are clean and modern. Well I can’t say the toilets were perfect but I’ve seen worse when traveling in Italy and Turkey. There are coffee, soda candy and snack machines if you forgot to bring munchies along with you. There are plenty of picnic tables and pet areas. You will also find an info board that has a map showing where you are and info on the area. If you are in need of hotel, restaurant or travel info there are free magazines at every stop.

Canal of water along I-5 in California

Hey, I thought California was completely out of water! Its good to see they have a steady flow to at least keep the livestock watered.

The long road between the Grapevine and Sacramento on I-5

Oh good, a mileage sign! Looks like its still 2 hours to Sac.

Santa Nella along the I-5 corridor in California

Famous for Anderson’s Split Pea Soup, Santa Nella is the perfect place to take a break and have lunch. Unfortunately I packed too many snacks and couldn’t eat another thing so I skipped this stop. Santa Nella also has a comfortable, clean hotel if you are too tired to make the rest of your drive. Its the tall building off to the left.

Gas stop along I-5 between the Grapevine and Sacramento

Stopping for some gas. It amazes me how small these stops are. And by the way, where the heck to these people live anyways? There is not towns in sight!

Travel Plaza along I-5 in California

Oh! They have a Travel Plaza at this one! Hmmmm… wonder if there is anything interesting to buy here?

Windmill and water tank in a dry meadow along I-5 in California

This is one of those scenes where you expect John Wayne to come galloping over the hill on his trusty steed, reins in his mouth, shooting guns out of both hands. Bad guys BEWARE! Yeah, I’ve been driving a little too long….

Mandarin orange orchard

An orchard out in the middle of all this boring brown stuff? Is it real or just my imagination? My camera got it, it real alright and healthy looking too! Along with the mandarins are lemons, grapefruit and oranges.

Sign for Sacramento on the I-5 Freeway

Yay! Made it! Sacramento so glad to see you!

If you have thought about visiting California along I-5 there is a rustic beauty like nowhere else. Parts of the drive brings back memories of having to read The Grapes of Wrath in high school. It takes you back to a different era that makes the drive interesting if you are willing to look for it. Boring? Yes it can be but bring a camera or use your cell and the 4-5 hour drive will go by quicker than you think.

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