Friday, December 30, 2011

Pearblossom HIghway

Click all photos to "embiggen"
CA route 138 is the Pearblossom Highway.  It runs through northern Los Angeles County's Antelope Valley, a high desert valley north of the San Gabriel Mountains and south of the Tehachepis.

It's dry here. It's so dry the vegetation is low, crabbed, and prickly - Joshua trees, creosote bushes, and cholla.  The ground underfoot is grey grit studded with rocks that are rounded from being tumbled in sudden washes, or shattered bits of quartz and granite.

The Pearblossom Highway's two-lane route runs through the dry land between Palmdale and Victorville. As a sometimes short-cut between LA and Las Vegas the road can be traffic-choked and dangerous on weekends, or deserted during the week.

We drove out on a holiday Monday - we were visiting some family property in Phelan.

My view from the back seat of the car, was pretty much the same as the one artist David Hockney saw back in the 1980s when he began driving around near the small town of Littlerock, taking hundreds of photos.

His photo-collage, "Pearblossom Hwy., 11 - 18th April 1986, #2" shows the desolate land, the sky, and through it all, the road, leading into the distance.

But I'm not sure Hockney ever stopped at Charlie Brown Farms in Littlerock.

This long, low series of buildings is the epitome of a highway tourist trap. It's a hash house, a gift shop, and a kaleidoscopic chaotic jumble of cheap crap, crammed so tightly inside you find yourself wandering numbly through the aisles, gazing at things you can hardly imagine someone thought to make - let alone to buy.

Novelty joke junk. Clacking teeth and fart cushions.

 Bacon-flavored everything.

A "serve yourself" pickle barrel. You can also buy prickly-pear marmalade, Slap-Ya-Mama Cajun seasoning, and Kickapoo Joy Juice soda.

There's even this - Cthulhu mints.

But macaroni and cheese band-aids? I don't get it.

We stood in line for the famous date shakes, and while we waited for our number to be called (ahh! that's how they trap you!) we filled a basket with weird novelty candy for Our Son to bring back to England to show his friends.

We got out of there with our loot, choosing not to join the other tourists eating hamburgers and french fries in a sun-blasted patio surrounded by plaster dinosaurs and bronze-cast statues of skateboarding urchins, and made our way back down the Pearblossom Highway to another attraction.

I'm not sure what Hockney would think of Charlie Browns, but he'd probably enjoy the sandwiches at Valley Hungarian Sausage and Meats.

This little place has been out here for decades, making Hungarian-style smoked and fresh sausage, and selling deli meats and European delicacies from its little store.

We ordered smoked summer sausage sandwiches on onion rolls. While we ate, an elderly lady sat in the area behind the counter, chopping up onions. Perhaps they were destined for the advertised pirogis, which you can buy frozen by the dozen.

The atmosphere here was homey and welcoming, as unlike the sensory overload of Charlie Brown Farms as anything could be. Hungarian maps and photos adorned the wall. Pots of blooming Christmas cactus - clearly, someone's hobby - were arrayed on a shelf beneath the sunny window. Christmas decorations were up for the season.

Fortified again, we got in the car and hit the highway again.


Max Sartin said...

Awesome story, great pictures. I don't know about the bacon (or buffalo wings) soda, but the Mac & Cheese band-aids sounded cool.
I love a good road trip!

Jason, as himself said...

Leave it to you to take Pear Blossom Highway and turn it into another fantastic post.

I know Pear Blossom Highway well. Too well, perhaps.

It seems so strange to me that it is so close to civilization!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

There's even this - Cthulhu mints.

Makes your breath "ocean bottom" fresh!

Hungarian food is really underrated- damn, the Hungarian butcher shop on 2nd Ave is temporarily closed.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Big Score for your son, Aunt Snow.

Janet said...

mmmm, pierogies! We went to Salem, MA on 12/31 to get a maple soy latte (for me) and since our freezer is full with trout & venison, opted to not add a package of homemade Polish time!