January 12, 2006

SR 140

Mariposa, Planada, Merced, Gustine... you know you're nearly home when you can see the Diablo Range ahead on the horizon through the flat thick Central Valley winter haze. Just west of Merced I watch a horseback rider gallop along a levee a few hundred yards from the road, a dog running along enthusiastically behind him; they disappear quickly into the characteristic half-light of the lingering Tule fog. A few miles further down 140, a bright red New England-style barn looms up off the side of the highway in the gloom, ringed by tall palm trees and dead farm machinery. There's a fringe of sodden tumbleweed around the machinery; almost everything else on the ground in this landscape is that unnaturally-bright and lush California winter green.


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