April 17, 2017: California´s Greatest Floral Display
I heard about the super bloom in Carrizo Plain National Park in an LA Times article. There, a park ranger described the flowers at the most amazing display he had ever seen. I asked my friend Julian if he wanted to go that upcoming Sunday and he said yes.
We met up in Brentwood around 7 am and drove up in his car. We went 90 miles north on the 5, over the Grapevine and into the Central Valley. Eventually we reached the town of Buttonwillow, the southernmost gas station town in the Central Valley. After gassing up, we headed west on California’s Route 58.
We passed through the Midway-Sunset oil field- the country’s third largest before climbing high into the remote Temblor Range.
At the crest, we crossed from Kern into San Luis Obispo County. Suddenly, flowers started to carpet the mountains’ western-facing slopes. They were mostly yellow with occasional patches of purple and orange.
The Carrizo Plain, a huge expansive native grassland, lies beyond the mountains. It too was covered in acres and acres of flowers. To reach the heart of the valley, we cut onto a dirt road and headed towards Soda Lake.
Julian drove quickly, but the dirt roads were in good shape. 15 minutes later, we reached a huge pocket of yellow flowers and decided to hike around.
We got back in the car and continued along towards the lake itself. We then both started to feel the bumps a little more. I wondered if Julian had turned on some sort of turbo.
We then walked around the lake, which had another amazing display of flowers.
Returning to the car, we discovered that we had a flat tire- most likely caused by hitting a rock at high speeds on the dirt road.
There was no cell coverage anywhere nearby to call AAA, so we started to change the tire.
We set up the jack and started to raise it. As the car raised higher and higher, the jack started to sink into the soft soil and tilt. While taking the tire off, the jack fell over, leaving the car to fall on the tire. We needed help.
Luckily, there were lot of other flower enthusiasts nearby and we got someone to lend us a second jack. Using a floor mat to stabilize the jacks, we raised the car up carefully. We took the tire off, dug a deep hole and put the spare on. The car was safe!
Unfortunately, our spare tire was a donut, so we could not go above 50 mph or on rough dirt roads. Although it was only 11am, we started to head back.
At the base of the west side of the mountains, we noticed a ton of cars parked so we decided to get out and see what was going on. A vacant hillside lot was covered in flowers. We walked up the hills and saw the incredible display of flowers that the ranger had mentioned.
It was so beautiful!!!
At 12:30, we got in the car and drove homeward. It was annoying to go 50 mph when the speed limit was 65, but there was nothing we could do.
We reached cell coverage on the Central Valley side of the mountains, but were once again out of luck once we realized that every single tire shop within a 50 mile drive (the posted warrenty of the donut spare) was closed on Sundays. One shop was normally open on Sundays, but was closed for Easter.
Getting lunch at a diner in Taft, we reviewed our options and decided that there was no choice but to go on over the Grapevine. If the tire gives out, then the tire gives out.
We climbed over the mountains in the truck lane of the 5. In Castaic, LA County, a full 105 miles from the Carrizo Plain we finally found a tire shop open on Easter: Benny’s Tires. They were able to give us a used spare for cheap.
Finally, we headed home.