Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Next rest: 200 miles

I’m not really going to talk about that Ducks @ Sharks game.  It does not merit the effort.  I pity the souls who were obliged to do it.  As I tweeted last night, the time I spent watching that game would have been better spent gouging my eyes out with a plastic fork.  So I’ll tell you about driving from the Bay Area to Los Angeles instead.

You need to drive California to get a sense of it.  Flying over it will not do and often takes as long. I don’t know how the first Euro-Californians could even conceive of California as a single geographical unit. There are states back East and countries in Europe that could fit on a cattle ranch in California.  I think General Vallejo, when he designated his Northern California ranch, he must have said “I do not want to be able to find the boundaries of my land.  If I can find the end of it, it is too small.”

If they just stood on the mountains and said “from here as far as you can go, to the sea or to Mexico, that will be California,” I guess that works. But to hold the place in your head as a single space is hard even today.

I-5 is underrated as a drive. The drive down 1 or even 101 is prettier and more varied. But if you actually have to get where you’re going today, I-5 is the way to get there. Besides, I-5 gives you a view of the state that you don’t get on those picturesque winding roads to the west- it shows you how really great big this beautiful state is. You spend hours on a flat straight road with as little to break up the horizon as if you were in Iowa. You pass orchards and cattle ranches and patches of growing stuff you didn’t realize was being produced on such a scale in this place. If you can grow it, I think it can be grown in California. I’m not sure about Macadamia nuts. Maybe we can’t grow those.

So driving down the interstate I started out with revived pride in this crazy over-sized state.  I felt like a Lilliputian running across a body so large I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman and I wouldn’t know which direction to run to find out.  Green or brown or gold, flat or lumpy, sometimes this state fills me with awe.

I was on my way to So Cal for what I hope will be an annual trip to visit relatives and go to a game with them.  I went to the morning skate in SJ and figured I could make it to my uncle’s house in time for puck drop in the Ducks game.

As usual it got monotonous before I got to the mountains. I amused myself by making my sat nav clock run backwards—making the ETA earlier and earlier.  It went from 7:23 pm to 6:49 by the time I could see the Grapevine.  I know that the Grapevine isn’t quite the end of the road but it always feels that way to me, a welcome change in terrain after hours on the flat: a wall of mountain, the top of which gets cut off by your car roof long before you start to climb. Thank goodness, you might think, I made it, I am almost there.

You hit the base of the grade feeling good and optimistic before your engine starts to strain and the vehicle slows down like it hit a sand trap. “Oh, I guess I needed some more speed coming in here,” you realize.  The trucks are to your right going about 40 mph, you can’t jump in behind them or you’ll never get back up to speed. The clock is running forward again, you are going to be late. You wasted too much time along the way.

You push the pedal down harder, the engine pitch rises, the RPM needle climbs up, up, up… at this rate someone’s going to be on your tail honking for you to get out of the way if you can’t get up over the speed limit again. You make sure the RPMs are still below the red line and press the gas pedal a little more. You check to your right at the truck lanes, thinking “am I really going to have to…” when the car leaps forward like someone just cut a heavy trailer loose, the RPMs drop, and you’re flying up the Grapevine.

That “I made it” feeling comes back.  All the time in the world, at this speed I’ll arrive in plenty of time to figure out my uncle’s tv and see the game.

Near the top of the mountain there’s a rest stop. It is closed now. I don’t know why I check for rest stops. There are always gas stations and other places to pull off but I like to notice rest stops. Just after the “Rest stop closed” sign there was another:

“Next rest: 200 miles.”

I wonder where that rest stop is.  Seems like 200 miles could put you in Mexico, but as I was saying, California is too big to really conceive as a piece.  Probably the rest stop is not due south, probably it is somewhere southeast of the closed one.

200 miles.  I had already driven that but I was still glad I did not have to do it again today.  I started down the other side of the mountains.  The road got a little windy, and I realized I would have to brake to keep myself below 80.  That’s nice.  Speed is good, need to make up time, just keep my hands light, stay alert in this traffic…

The downgrade was over before I knew it and I slammed into the sluggish LA traffic even after six pm.  Oh yeah.  Right.  So, not there yet.  I reached for the Droid and got ready to listen to the first period.  No way I would make puck drop.

That, of course, was more difficult than I had expected.  The phone didn’t want to cooperate, I couldn’t keep the feed going.  Sort of like the Sharks playing the Ducks.  The Sharks have done it before, many times.  Like Charlie Brown, they took another kick at it and, as before, fell on their butts. If you’re keeping track, I just called the Ducks “Lucy,” a smirking little brat of a girl.  Someone has to go after them, and the Sharks aren’t going to.

I have no idea what the Ducks know about the Sharks that makes them able to beat San Jose when they can hardly beat anyone else.  I have to think the Sharks hit the climb at the end of the season running late:

Ryane Clowe called his team’s fourth loss to the Ducks in five games “a rut you don’t really see coming.”

“You feel like your game’s there, and it’s a good opportunity with everything on the line,” he added. “You just shake your head and don’t know what happened.” -Mercury News

I’ll tell you what happened: you stopped for one too many lattes along the way, that’s what friggin’ happened!  Did you really need to go back and buy the President Obama Commemorative plate with the wrong year on it just because it was only three dollars and one of the funnier things you had seen in a while?  That’s not going to get you there, that’s road rabies!

The Sharks’ engines are screaming, not because they are over-taxed but because they are headed up the mountain and forgot to shift gears when they needed to.  They thought they had made up for it, they beat a couple of good teams, they were smiling and feeling good and flying along.  First place was right there in front of them.

They forgot about LA traffic.  That traffic will always be there, waiting, like the Kings, tonight.  I cannot say with any certainty if the Sharks are going to make it in time, they waited longer than they should have, and they dropped the ball last night.  They made one too many stops along the way.

200 miles.  That Ducks game?  That rest stop is closed for the season, Sharks.  You better not need to take a nap or stretch your legs from here on out.  Pull over to do that now and you could end up as road kill on the side of a dark highway.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: anaheim+ducks, california, i-5, la, road+travel, running+late, ryane+clowe

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net