Driving to Northern California? Read this!

If you're planning to drive to California over the Memorial Day weekend or later this summer, there are things you should keep in mind.

First, California is open for business. That means several things.

Upon entering California on Thursday, May 11, the Pest Inspection Station just south of the town (?) of Hilt, had sign stating, "No inspection. Please drive safely." That is not a permanent change. Staffing shortages have forced the California Department of Food & Agriculture to focus its current operations primarily on commercial truck traffic, which is the highest risk pathway for pest introduction into California, an official told TheTravelPro in an email. However, they do staff auto lanes as often as possible.

It also means that the California Highway Patrol is out and active. In the first hour of our drive on southbound I-5 from the Oregon border, we spotted no fewer than six CHP units along the freeway. That's not a bad thing (unless you have a lead foot) but it does show that CHP officers are no longer hesitating to contact motorists for fear of contracting COVID. 

Starting in early 2020, officers in most all departments nationwide backed off of making all but the most necessary contacts for concerns over the new (and not well understood) virus that was sweeping the world.  Now, with 70 percent of Americans vaccinated (per the CDC) and variants that are far less lethal than the original COVID-19 virus, things are becoming more like they were pre-pandemic.

Second, California is still in the midst of a long-term project of rehabilitating its roadside rest areas.  Along I-5 between the Oregon border and Sacramento, we noted that every other rest area was closed for refurbishing, but that not every rest stop had signs stating that the next rest area was closed.  Plan on driving about double the distance between rest stops if you rely on them. In a pinch, of course, there are always Starbucks and numerous casinos, which all have restrooms... 

Third, the recent rains have been a boon to Northern California.  Lake Shasta is at the highest water level we've seen in years -- maybe decades -- and it bodes well for just about everyone. Several people we spoke to are eager to get back to the speed boats, the houseboats, the jet skis -- pretty much anything water-related. 

Lake Shasta, full again after many, many years

The abundant precipitation has also left a good blanket of snow on Mt. Shasta and other peaks, which will also prove beneficial as spring turns to summer and the snow melts, providing much-needed water for farmers and city dwellers alike.

Still quirky after all these years

As regular readers know, I'm a bit of a Grammar Guru and I've already seen more than my share of oddities this trip.  

Shortly after entering California, I spotted a roadside sign that read, "Rest Stop 3 mile."  Not "miles" which would have been correct, but "three mile," singular.

That same day, my wife spotted another sign that read, "Fresh strawberry, straight ahead. Cash or Credit." Strawberry. Juuuusssst one berry, apparently.

And the signs in our hotel room reflect the realities of the 21st century in "The Golden State." 

"Smoking is prohibited in the Room," read the text below the international "no" icons for cigarettes, marijuana and vaping. No discernable reason for capitalizing "Room."

Oh, and traffic?  Volume is back to pre-pandemic levels, though it seems many people forgot how to drive during that time, including many "professional" truck drivers. DO be careful if you choose to hit the road this summer.

Safe travels!

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images