Up The Road

Wednesdays at 4:44 and 6:44 p.m. and Thursdays at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m.
  • Hosted by Kim Weir

A production of NSPR

Produced by Matt Fidler 

About Up the Road

If you travel mostly to escape the daily drudge, Up the Road host Kim Weir suggests you think again. Travel matters, every bit as much as other choices you make every day. Which is why Up the Road encourages everyone to travel responsibly. Here in California as elsewhere around the world, responsible travel means appreciating nature, valuing natural resources, respecting and preserving culture and history, and supporting local economies in healthy ways.

Up the Road is dedicated to responsible California travel—to sustaining the California story by deepening your connection to this unusual and surprising place. Each week Up the Road shares stories about the land, its natural history, and its people, the lives they have lived, the stories they have told over the centuries, and the stories they are creating right now. The stories that keep us all here, that create California’s unique ecology of home.

Host Kim Weir is editor and founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project dedicated to sustaining the California story. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, and author of all of the original California “handbooks” put out by Moon Publications, now Avalon Travel. Weir lives in Paradise, California.

Up the Road is a joint production of Up the Road and North State Public Radio, initially produced by Sarah Bohannon. The show is now produced by Matt Fidler and distributed by PRX. Up the Road’s theme song was written and produced by Kirk Williams.


Bon Doran / Flickr

This a perfect time for heading up the road, what with fewer fellow travelers, fall colors, and cool weather that’s not yet wet.

For autumn road trips, California classics include Hwy. 1 along the coast, just about any stretch from Santa Barbara north, and U.S. 395 along the eastern Sierra Nevada, from Mammoth to Lone Pine to Lake Tahoe, with so many stunning stops in between. 

Bruce Fingerhood / Flickr Creative Commons


We head Up the Road this week into the heart of the State of Jefferson and its once—and possibly future—capital, Yreka, and then continue on toward Oregon. It’s a good trip, one to work up a plan for, given that far northern California and southern Oregon also comprise the State of Jefferson, which almost came to be in the 1940s.

There’s something profoundly different about a place proud to be in a constant state of rebellion. That place would be California, which has generated more than 200 different independence proposals since statehood in 1850. The first serious attempts to break away came from thoroughly dissed Los Angeles, still a dusty cow town when the streets of San Francisco were almost literally paved with gold, after the gold rush.

Darron Birgenheier / Flickr

“Lonely as God and white as a winter moon.” That’s how 19th-century writer Joaquin Miller described Mount Shasta, California’s most majestic mountain. So it still is.

Shasta is California’s fifth-highest peak but more impressive than any other—perpetually snow-covered, glowing orange, pink, and purple at sunset, casting shadows on the lava lands below. Sometimes clearly visible from as far away as 150 miles, close up Shasta is more obscure, mysterious.

Tosh Chiang / Flickr



We head up the road this week in search of cool once again. To the mountains this time—lonely Lassen Volcanic National Park, fully accessible only in summer and early fall.

But do cultivate a better sense of direction than the park’s namesake, Danish immigrant Peter Lassen. According to a journal entry by his friend, Gen. John Bidwell, Lassen “was a singular man, very industrious, very ingenious, and very fond of pioneering—in fact, of the latter, very stubbornly so. He had great confidence in his own power as a woodsman, but, strangely enough, he always got lost.” This almost led to his lynching on at least one occasion, when he confused Lassen and Shasta peaks while guiding a party of immigrants westward, taking them more than 200 miles out of their way. Oops.

Bob Wick / U.S. Bureau of Land Management

We head up the road this week in search of natural air conditioning, along the California coast again. The Lost Coast, this time, that unruly stretch between Fort Bragg and Eureka that made even road builders give up—which is why Highway 1 and 101 angle inland in these parts. 

Locals, of course, snort at the very idea that this splendid area was ever lost. It’s always been here, albeit shrouded in fog most of the summer and inundated with rain otherwise. California’s isolated “Lost Coast,” virtually uninhabited and more remote than any other stretch of coastline in the Lower 48, has since been found by folks looking to get away from all those other folks.

Michael Balint / Flickr


It’s August, hot and sure to get hotter. We head up the road this week in search of natural air conditioning, starting with the coast. The redwood coast, to get specific, one of the most unique environments on earth—moist, mild-mannered forest where old-growth coast redwood communities are making their last stand. Again. 

Once millions strong, California’s native population of coast redwoods has been whittled down through logging and agriculture. Only isolated groves survive, along a strip of foggy coast now reaching from Big Sur up into southern Oregon. Ancestors of these Sequoia sempervirens, or ever-living sequoia trees—quite different from the Sierra big trees honored at Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks—were well established here, and throughout the Northern Hemisphere, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Up The Road: Travel That’s Not About You

Jul 31, 2019
Cultivar 413

These days tourism boards promote the newest selfie hotspot, and talk about top “Instagrammable” destinations—“to make your friends jealous.” So Up the Road’s opinion sounds out of step. Nonetheless: It really is time to leave the narcissism behind.

We’re living in an age of narcissism, one that can’t end soon enough, in my book. But it’s not as if it’s the first. Nazi Germany is the classic collective example, from last century. Still, if everything you see and do is always about you, you, you—and photos of you, to prove your own existence—then why travel? Changing the scenery won’t change the story.

Up The Road: Why Local Travel Matters

Jul 24, 2019
Bob Wick / U.S. Bureau of Land Management

We’ve considered why we should travel, and then how to travel responsibly. Very short answer: We should travel because it makes us better people. And then, as better people, we naturally care about the consequences—the environmental, economic, and cultural effects—of our travel choices.

Up The Road: How To Travel

Jul 17, 2019

Last week we asked: Why should we travel at all in this world, given that, researchers say, global tourism—pleasure travel alone—is responsible for 8 to 10 percent of the greenhouse gases now driving climate change?

Conceding that we need to make big changes in how we travel, Up the Road contends that the benefits of travel still outweigh the costs—or, could outweigh the costs, once we make those changes. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Which, these days, makes getting out and about downright patriotic.

Up The Road: Why Travel?

Jul 10, 2019
Guiseppe Milo / Flickr

We head up the road this week on a philosophical trip, to answer the question: Why travel? We travel because we’re a migratory species, on the most basic level, and we’ve gotten good at it over the eons. At first, we traveled strictly to survive, as many still do. Now the middle-class travels for fun, as only the upper class once did.

But there is a cost to so much travel. According to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change earlier this year, tourism—meaning, pleasure travel—accounts for 8 percent of all global greenhouse gases. Some sources put the total closer to 10 percent.