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.


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.

Up The Road: California On July 4, 1776

Jul 3, 2019
Kyle Magnuson / Flickr

July 4, 1776, the first and original Independence Day for these United States: The Stars and Stripes, Liberty Bell, George Washington, with or without cherry tree. Fifes and drums, rat-a-tat-tat, smoking muskets, fireworks, the rockets’ red glare. Those thirteen colonies finally busting loose.

It would be almost 75 years—the California Gold Rush—before anyone on the Eastern Seaboard gave a thought to the continent’s western coast, if there even was a coast over there.

What was it like to live in California on July 4, 1776? Depends on who you were, and where.

Up The Road: Mono Lake

Jun 27, 2019
Robert Shea / Flickr

Today we continue up the road on US Route 395 to Mono Lake, 750,000 years old and an ecological marvel in the dramatic eastern shadow of the Sierra Nevada.

Nothing at Mono Lake is all that impressive, at first, especially if you’ve been smitten by the eastern Sierra Nevada’s craggy granite peaks, crystal-blue lakes, and all that snow and blue sky. Big, gray lake sprouting freeform white towers of tufa, or calcium carbonate, giving the place a craters-of-the-moon look; highly alkaline, salty water; sometimes an odd smell complete with flies and the endless swirl of seagulls; and a sparse day-old stubble of sage all around. 

Chuck Holland / Flickr

Summer’s here, road trip time. Whether you plan to head north or south, find a way to go via US Route 395 on the Sierra Nevada’s east side. Route 395 was once known as The Three Flags Highway, because the original ran from the Mexican border to British Columbia. What a trip it is, still.

The summer view is distraction enough, the grand drama of the Sierra’s craggy eastern side, all that snow.


Up The Road: Lava Beds And Captain Jack

Jun 12, 2019
Davey Nin

Native people called the high Modoc Plateau in northeastern California “the smiles of God,” still a strangely fitting name for this lonely remnant of the Old West. There is great beauty in Modoc County. On a clear day, from the flat-topped, blue, and brooding Warner Mountains, majestic Mt. Shasta to the west seems so close you can imagine reaching out for a handful of snow.

Lassen is right there too. And the view east to the alkaline lakes of Surprise Valley and across the Great Basin is nothing short of spectacular.

Will Smith / Flickr

We’ve been talking about doing something different this summer, something meaningful, personal, local. Tracing old highway routes with help from the 1939 WPA Guide to California. Volunteering to build trails and restore habitat. Following a personal passion. We wrap up this conversation by focusing on local heritage tourism—different aspects of our collective identity.

Cultural heritage includes it all—history and other special-interest museums, art galleries, performances of all kinds. If you have particular cultural interests, plan your summer travel accordingly.

Up The Road: Summer Vacation 3: Follow Your Passion

May 29, 2019
Wayne Dunbar / Flickr

While we’re still waiting for the rain to end, or at least turn from torrent to occasional shower, it’s a good time to plan some summertime “time out.”

We talked earlier about voluntourism, making yourself useful, and also the zany idea of following routes laid out in the excellent 1939 Works Progress Administration (WPA) Guide to California. Zany, because who knows where you’ll end up? 

Up The Road: Summer Vacation 2: Make Yourself Useful

May 22, 2019
U.S Bureau of Land Management

It’s almost summer, almost time for some serious time out. And don’t we need that this year, especially in far Northern California? Given these extraordinary, exhausting times, let’s do something new. Do something more. Let’s get out there and make a difference, close to home.

We’ve talked before about voluntourism, or service vacations, typically at least “somewhat organized” trips built around a cause or useful purpose—planting trees, building trails.

Jeremy Thompson / Flickr

It’s time for summer vacation. I say: Do something new this summer. Do more. Add an entire new level of travel to your itinerary, an investment in sanity, serenity, creativity, and just plain joy in these very challenging times.

Because we’re all so different—some of us are on very tight budgets—I’ll propose various approaches, starting, this week, with a customizable trip into California’s past with the 1930s WPA California guidebooks as, well, your guide.