Road Trip

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. 

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.

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. 

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: Doing The Gold Fields II

Apr 24, 2019
Rick Cooper / Flickr

We’re finally heading up the road to visit California’s gold country, those countless mines and settlements scattered across the Sierra Nevada’s western slope. By way of very brief introduction:

Up The Road: Doing The Gold Fields

Apr 17, 2019
Mari Francille / Flickr

We’ve been considering the historic impacts the discovery of gold had on what we might call, today, the “California character,” both the brilliance of that—economic and social innovations—and its darker side.

It all started when James Marshall found flakes of gold in the tailrace of John Sutter’s sawmill on the American River. Hundreds of thousands of fortune hunters—a phenomenal human migration—soon arrived, in 1849, every one of them determined to strike it rich.