Page 3 - harrisonscott2004
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divide California into two separate states.
      In 1919, the 20-foot-wide road was paved   1
      with concrete and was a showcase of what
      highway engineering was all about at a time
      when people were just concerned about
      "getting out of the mud."
         On the  outskirts  of Bakersfield,  our
      Teamster noticed the neat row crops and
      orchards had given way to a forest of oil
      derricks. Entering town he followed a simi-
      lar path and turned onto Union Avenue, the
      main north-south artery. Traffic started to
      thin out now,  and he was making good   A Jeffry quad truck stuck in  the  mud  between  Fairmont and  Neenach  after a heavy storm.
         In the distance he could see the small community of Greenfield.   "thump, thump, thump" as they hit the seams separating the neat
      Hay trucks, tankers and livestock rigs were parked along the high-  sections of pavement.  The old Teamster started counting the
      way in front of the Tropics Cafe. Drivers would be inside swap-  bumps to while away the time.
      ping stories over coffee, waiting for the sun to go down. Climb-  In the distance, he finally saw Grapevine and the mountains
      ing the mountain grade with a heavy load on a hot summer day   looming above the small community ofRichfield Oil workers. He
      would almost guarantee your radiator would boil over and leave   wondered what he would have for dinner. Grapevine's cafe was
      you stranded on the infamous incline. The Grapevine grade put  smaller than the Tropics back at Greenfield, and didn't have a large
      the best trucks and drivers to the test of conquering elevation and   menu.
      the mountain barrier separating the state.               A few trucks were parked near the cafe here too, but now that
         There were so  many trucks lining the highway this day in   daylight was fading they were pulling back onto the highway to
      Greenfield that the Teamster decided to keep going to the smaller  begin the torturous climb. He could hear the loud snap of the old
      town of Grapevine, located at the foot of the mountains and named  chain-driven trucks as the transmissions engaged the links and
      after the very grade that begins in its back yard.     began to torque the wheels forward. He decided to stop and eat
        Up ahead, near the end of tree-lined Union Avenue, heap-  before joining their parade.
      proached 17-mile tangent, the straightest and longest section of   Motorists were pulling into the small cabins at the far end of
      cement highway in the state. It was so straight that it was almost  town. They would tackle the grade after a good night's sleep and
      boring, but that would soon change.                    during daylight. Children were running about, happy their parents
        Waves of heat rose above the pavement, giving the illusion that   decided to stop for the evening.
      you were about to hit water. The solid rubber tires of his Mack   With ample refills of coffee and a substantial dinner, the Team-
      bulldog truck lumbered down the highway making a rhythmic   ster pulled back onto the highway in line with the other truckers.
                                                                              Starting the ascent he noticed a sign which
                                                                             read, "Bowerbank Radiators: They Cool." It
                                                                             was certainly an appropriate place to adver-
                                                                             tise their product, right at the beginning of
                                                                             the Ridge Route and Grapevine grade.
                                                                                Although the road cut 5 8 miles from the
                                                                             old Midway Route, the down side was that
                                                                             you had 697 curves to navigate before reach-
                                                                             ing the small community of Castaic far to the
                                                                              south at the bottom of the mountains where
                                                                             the Ridge Route, with all of its curves and
                                                                             grades,  ends -  or begins,  depending  on
                                                                             which direction you're going!
                                                                                There were so many warning signs up here
                                                                             on the ridge to announce the many curves that
      Mclarty, the first town  on  the Grapevine,  was  home to many  Richfield  Oil  workers.   folks complained that the signs outnumbered

      WHEELS OF TIME  /                                                        September/October  2004   41
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