Travel is the seasoning that gives life zest. The caveat to this is that if travel is to add spice to life, the traveler must have an open mind, a sense of adventure, and the ability to find humor in all situations. A traveler without these attibutes will find little joy in a road trip or in experiencing new and different places. Of course an individual void these traits will most likely be just as miserable at home as on the road. Our recent trip to California was a condensed vacation filled will all manner of opportunity for adventures and new experiences. It was also an opportunity to foster deeper appreciation for what we have in Kingman. As we motored west into the darkness that hid the harsh and sterile landscapes of the Mojave Desert there was ample time for reflection on how just how much of a blessing the interstate highway system is. Such reflections on the modern era are always tempered by thoughts on the price paid for these conveniences and what has been lost in providing corridors for high speed travel where the traveler is insulated from the sights, the sound, the smells, the feel, and the very essence of the towns or landscapes being driven through. From Barstow south over the Cajon Pass on I15, even during the early morning hours, the traffic is fast and furious. For those who seldom encounter such motorized frenzy there is an initial exhilaration that is soon replaced with the overwhelming sense of being caught up in an automotive game of Russian roulette.
Leaving the freeway to weave through the maze of surface streets where drivers test their vehicles horsepower and braking abilities with rapidity enhances the sensation that the Fates are being tempted. Only arrival at the destination, in our case Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank, brings a brief interlude of relief. The Internet, like the freeway system, is a mixed blessing. On one hand it enhances travel by allowing for careful research of motels and restaurants eliminating nasty surprises. The flip side is that more often than not the surprises are what are most memorable about a trip. As we knew exhaustion would be nipping at our heels after the long drive and the book signing, we utilized the resources of the Internet to locate a motel that we could afford and that was in a location where we would not have to take turns sleeping. Now, as the crow flies our destination, Calabasas, is less than fifty miles to the west of Burbank on legendary U.S. 101. In this, the modern era with our freeways and high powered, motorized cocoons, it was about an hours drive with speeds ranging from near eighty to zero, often within the distance of a city block or two. I should add this was on a Saturday afternoon when traffic was considered light!After locating our motel, an adventure that included asking directions from residents who knew less about their town than we did, it was time to find some place unique for dinner as our custom when traveling is to avoid the generic unless faced with starvation. In this instance we discovered a delightful place with prices that ranged from the upper end of moderate to expensive. Isabella’s Italian Kitchen29020 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills, CA 91301-2573(818) 865-8472The food was excellent, the service even better, and the atmosphere, enhanced by dearest friend, was superb. The frosting on the cake was a tremendous touch of irony that tickled my funny bone. Here we were in an Italian restaurant eating some of the best, most authentic Italian food since a visit to Chicago some years ago, and the entire staff was Mexican. Even better, the owner is Carlos Lopez. As we left, I was awarded another opportunity for a journey into the ironic. At the other end of the parking lot was a night club that, according to the poster out front, was in essence a nudie bar. On one side of the entrance were photos of the girls that would be performing that evening. On the other side was the clubs strict dress code. For breakfast we discovered the Marmalade Cafe conveniently located near the Barnes & Noble store where I was to sign books. Again the prices were at the high end of moderate but the food was superb as was the service. Best of all was the availability of sidewalk seating even though the morning chill necessitated a light jacket. The chill seemed to enhance the flavor of the coffee and the song birds that danced on the rail at arms length from our table added to the conviction that we were no longer in Kansas, or for us, Arizona. Over breakfast I jokingly noted the excellent whole grain bread was filled with bird seed. Apparently the birds agreed as when I returned to leave a tip several were dancing on the table with a stray crust.
Avoidance of the crush of traffic that dominates the highway system in the Los Angeles area was our excuse for taking the long way home via the beach at Malibu, the strawberry fields near Oxnard, the vast orchards amongst the rolling hills near Fillmore, and the breathtaking fields of poppies east of Gorman. Our little detour added about 150 miles to the trip but isn’t that part of the fun when it comes to road trips? Semi refreshed I am ready to face another grueling month that includes the real job that makes such adventures possible, an appearance and book signing at an authors reception at Mohave Community College on the evening of May 14th, a book signing in conjunction with the Bob Waldmire Memorial Exhibit at the Beale Street Gallery this Friday evening, and another signing at the 6th Annual KABAM Festival and Downtown Merchants Association Spring Fair in historic downtown Kingman on Saturday, May 15. I am not a greedy man nor am I unaware how fortunate we have been to have our weekend adventures but the carrot at the end of the stick is our twice postponed vacation, a journey east on Route 66. This will be our first real vacation since April, 2009.On a final note, I have received notice that the second printing of Ghost Towns of the Southwest will be available the first week in June. As our trip is scheduled for the last week in May, I will be unable to deliver signed copies in person to those businesses along the old double six that sell books I have written. However, I should be able to fill orders for signed copies immediately upon our return but there will be shipping charges. However, if you order copies of Backroads of Arizona or Route 66 Backroads, I may be able to accommodate requests for a delivery. Moreover, if you have a business, museum, or event planned, and feel a book signing would be advantageous, please drop me a note in the next ten days or so, or contact Maurrie Salenger, the marketing manager at 612-344-8154.