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Route 99: 1939

Route 99: 1939

April 1939. "U.S. 99 on ridge over Tehachapi Mountains. Heavy truck route between Los Angeles and San Joaquin Valley over which migrants travel back and forth." 4x5 inch nitrate negative by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Long way to Anywhere

In the '30s, Dad drove a tractor near Fresno. Mom had to move back to Burbank to run her beauty shop -- too poor to stay together. Two hundred miles in a Model T coupe or in Grandpa's old Buick were the only means of travel between. I have the love letters they wrote. Years later and on trips much faster, we called 99 "the looooonnnngggg stretch."

Lonely Road

I hope that driver doesn't need to stop for directions.

Woody's Words

This photo by the incredible Dorothea Lange makes me think of Woody Guthrie's song lyrics to his fellow Okies who were trying to find a better life in California:

Lots of folks back East, they say, is leavin' home every day
Beatin' the hot old dusty way to the California line
'Cross the desert sands they roll, gettin' out of that old dust bowl
They think they're goin' to a sugar bowl but here's what they find

Now the police at the port of entry say
"You're number fourteen thousand for today"

Oh, if you ain't got the do re mi folks, if you ain't got the do re mi
Why you better go back to beautiful Texas
Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee

California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see
But believe it or not you won't find it so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi

Nope, not that one

It's a great photograph. I can appreciate in that location Dorthea Dorothea Lange heard only the sounds she made and possibly the sound of the car. I wonder how many vehicles had passed and how long she had to wait before she got the photograph she wanted?

[Six. - Dave]

Looks Like the 5

I’m pretty sure this is the 5 now, atop the grapevine between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

Pre I-5

Before there were interstate highways, this was transportation a la mode. Twice I traveled cross country (SF to Mississippi) before the Interstates. It was part of the vacation, spending four or six days hopping from motel to motel, packing and unpacking the Buick, meeting exotic girls from St Louis or Cleveland in the motel; pools,. and loading up the swamp cooler with ice twice a day... and yes, we did go this route!

Then it all changed. I always wished we'd taken the train! I-40 and I-10 were simply different.

Hairy Road

We lived in Tehachapi for three years, 1984 to 1986, and that road is positively exciting at times when you go down to Bakersfield. I was pregnant in 1986 and had to go to the hospital in Bakersfield to deliver. The small local hospital in town didn't do deliveries unless you were having the baby on their doorstep, and the fire station halfway down was very practiced at deliveries! The other direction into Mojave was a much easier slope at least. The worst problem was staying out of the way of big trucks going down to Bakersfield, their brakes often overheated and they had to pull off to let them cool down. I learned very quickly to not get in their blind spots. Foggy conditions, or snow the occasional ice/snow could make it extra exciting.


What that stretch needs is a WaWa, McDonalds, Starbucks, and maybe a Taco Bell to make it more civilized and up to date.

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