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1875 - John F. Powell, an Irish immigrant, becomes Justice of the Peace [story]
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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Friday, Feb 5, 2016

darrylmanzer0215Cue music: “On the Road Again.” Or is it another song, “The Long and Winding Road?” Whatever the song, the journey has started at last.

So it was from Acton to Bakersfield and now in a little town called Nicolaus. I’m just about 35 minutes north of Sacramento on Highway 99.

I’ve been following the existing train route. It is a beautiful drive. Snow-capped mountains and lush, green rolling hills as I entered the great and wonderful land of … no poppies yet, but the green hills were spectacular.

Too bad that when you’re on a high-speed train, you won’t be able to enjoy such a sight because it will go by too quickly.

Stopping along the way, I’ve yet to encounter anyone who likes the California High-Speed Rail project. What I did hear, in no particular order, was this:

1. We need water projects to make sure we have enough in times of drought.

2. How are we going to pay for this railroad? We’ll never see it pay for itself.

3. For a lot less money, we could widen and improve our existing highways.

4. Why do they want to put the tracks through the middle of Bakersfield? This town isn’t a destination that a lot of people want to see.

dman020516Actually, I’m impressed with the town (city) of Bakersfield. As a farming community with a huge background in oil production, there is some old money here. Those folks don’t want the land used for a silly old train. They want it used as farms and ranches sprinkled with some oil wells.

Once here on the flat and vast areas of the Central Valley floor, it would appear that not much is in the way of the proposed train route. Oh, sure, there are towns and homes, schools and businesses, fields and orchards, too. But in the name of all that is sacred, it isn’t going to bother many folks if we build the high-speed rail? It is as if the California High-Speed Rail Authority looked at a map from 1880 and decided there isn’t much in the way of the proposed rails.

There isn’t much in the way. Just the lives and property of some folks who may have worked years or even generations to have a home, business, farm or ranch make a small profit so that maybe, just maybe, their children will have it a little bit better than they had it.

The folks here just can’t see that happening. They think we’ll be paying for this train for years and years. And pay we will, along with our kids and grandkids.

Next to some very rough and poorly designed highways in Oklahoma City, Highway 99 is a little worse off and in great need of a new surface. I don’t recommend driving it in an RV if you have expensive plates and glasses. To say things got a little rattled is an understatement. I had followed my checklist, and everything was secured from flying around the interior.

If the ridership projections of the California High-Speed Rail are reached, some of these roads would be almost empty. The roadside attractions and restaurants would close up shop because traffic that is only local can’t sustain them.

I watched families in vans and other vehicles pass me and at the next exit get off the highway and turn into one of the many small towns. Thanks to some traffic in Modesto, I saw same carload again still heading past me. If they could afford to take a high-speed train, I’m sure they would do so, but looking at what they were driving, the place they stopped was a real treat. It was like my family when I was growing up. Long car trips and snacks and sandwiches in a cooler. Kool-Aid from a pitcher in plastic glasses. We couldn’t afford too many stops at a restaurant.

My aunt and uncle lived in Tulare in the mid-1950s, and we would make the trip from Newhall up and over the mountains to that town to visit them. I-5 didn’t yet exist. Take a train? Nope. What would we do for transportation when we got to Tulare? We would stop at fruit stands and once in a great while stop at a burger stand. Otherwise, we had the metal ice chest filled with all sorts of stuff. Good memories at 60 mph.

One older gentleman said to me, “They want us to drink that High Speed Railroad Kool-Aid, but they haven’t figured a way to store enough water so we can make the drink.”

So far, that about sums up what I’ve learned up here this first part of the trip. As a billboard near Wasco so plainly stated: “WATER NOT RAILS.”

 

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

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1 Comment

  1. Bruce Smith says:

    Darryl,

    If you would have pulled off of Hwy 99 in Elk Grove I would have given you an ear full of why we want HSR and want it now. Sooner or later it is going to happen and the sooner the better. The longer we wait the harder it will be to get the right of ways needed. I have ridden the HSR in France and Spain along with millions of other people. I want it in California ASAP

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