Road Trip

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? 

David Berry / Flickr

This week we start touring California’s gold rush history with Carey McWilliams as our guide. “California is no ordinary state,” he said in his book, California: The Great Exception, published in 1949. “It is the anomaly, the freak, the great exception among the American states.”


Up The Road: "Coastwalking" The Coastal Trail

Feb 6, 2019
Christopher Brown / Flickr Creative Commons

This week we head up the road to again explore the California coast—this time on foot, by bike and wheelchair, and on horseback. We Californians love our 1200 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline. Love of the coast has inspired fierce battles over the years about just what does, and what does not, belong there. Among the things most Californians would agree belong along the coast are trails—the reason the California Coastal Trail now exists. And also why the nonprofit group Coastwalk California exists.

Marshal Hedin / Flickr Creative Commons

We’re strolling California beaches this week, to appreciate the northern elephant seal, another seasonal migrant.

Once you’ve seen a two- to three-ton male swing his fire-hose of a nose and bellow as he chest-bumps the next guy, just to impress the gals and win mating rights—well, you won’t ask how the species got its name. Don’t even think about getting between two fighting males, or a male and his females. Or between moms and their big babies. Also: No taking selfies, or any up-close shot. Keeping a distance of at least 100 feet offers reasonable respect. Elephant seals are much faster than they look, and can be fierce.

Katja Schulz / Flickr

This week we’re going coastal again. Winter is a great time to go to the coast, for many reasons. Fewer people, so you can appreciate landscapes and towns when they’re not inundated by tourism. Experiencing the ocean when it’s moody and brooding, if not angrily pounding the shore, which in these times feels right too. In winter you’ll also encounter magnificent coastal migrants, the California gray whale being the most famous. Now back to historic population levels and doing swimmingly, California’s gray whales seemed doomed 50 years ago.

Up The Road: Pacific Ocean And California Coast

Jan 9, 2019
Damian Gadal

This week we head up the road to appreciate the California coastline and the Pacific Ocean. People don’t always think of winter as prime time for a coast visit, but in many ways it’s just perfect—especially if you appreciate surly surf and a big, lonely landscape. Exploring the coast in winter is also perfect for avoiding the crowds.