January 1 will mark the 20th anniversary of my arrival in California. This New Yorker had trouble adjusting at first: roses in January? green hills in winter and brown hills in summer? It was a very different world than I was used to.
What made me finally fully appreciate my new state was a long slow bike ride. The 1999 AIDS Ride took me (and several thousand other bikers) through miles of rolling golden hills and steep valleys and dramatic coastline. I especially fell in love with the tawny hills – the shapes, the contours, the lonely oaks casting a circle of shade!
I’m not doing long-distance biking any more – I’ve replaced that with an even slower mode, long-distance hiking – but I still love exploring the small less-trafficked roads of California. And I’ve started a series of prints celebrating them.
I began with I-5. Not that the Interstate is small or has little traffic! But I love its wide horizontal views, and the odd human constructions that cross or follow it: the aqueducts and high-tension wires.
Next up was a favorite turn of road in Napa, on Hwy 29. As you leave Napa, just after the road to Sonoma, the road curves to the left, and there is a vineyard and a line of eucalyptus trees in front of you. The land lies low beyond, so the trees are silhouetted against the sky creating a beautiful pattern of positive and negative space.
Closer to home, just north of Davenport, Big Basin State Park meets the ocean where Waddell Creek empties into the sea. Dramatic cliffs tower over the highway, and there are usually para-surfers and hang gliders taking advantage of the upward wind drafts. It’s big and bold and beautiful and kind of quintessentially California. It’s also one of our favorite beaches for walks and treasure hunting.
SR1, Waddell Creek
The newest highway print celebrates my new home town of Watsonville. If the midwest is the breadbasket of the world, Watsonville is the berry basket. Field upon field of strawberries, raspberries, and boysenberries climb the hills that surround the valley. Often the berries are protected from the intense sun by large tents, similar in shape to old Quonset huts. And rows of corn or sunflowers act as windbreaks for the berries and for the workers who labor under the tents.
These prints are small, 4″ by 6″, and done quickly. I want the cumulative effect to be that of a sketchbook – quick notes of a specific place and time. I’m looking forward to my next road trip and the chance to make another California print.