Sunday, April 22, 2012

Streets of Bakersfield

When planning our trips, Melvin and I consult many sources, including real live people we actually know. It turns out we both know folks who had lived in Bakersfield, land of the free and home of the Blaze, the third baseball team we saw on this trip.

Asked what we should see while we were in town, a co-worker of Melvin’s provided the address of where she grew up and suggested we could visit her childhood home. Sarah, the roommate of a bartender I know, told me she moved there for six months to be with a boyfriend. Love conquers all, but not life in Bakersfield.

So my pulse quickened when I came across “Origin of Country,” an article in the March 9, 2012 special travel section of the New York Times.  Sadly, it only mentioned attractions I had already read about.

Ethan Hauser’s report was about the “Nashville of the West,” as Bakersfield has been called. Buck Owens, the 1960s country music star, lived in the city and his Crystal Palace is a memorial, museum and performance venue. Also mentioned is Ethel’s Old Corral CafĂ©, where my interest extended only as far as the Indian warrior-style muffler man outside (top).

I hadn’t read about Trout’s before. but that made little difference; When Sarah read this post, she exclaimed, "You went to Trout's?" No, Melvin and I weren’t interested in either “the glossy music hall that civic boosters plaster on their brochures [or] the dives where country purists take shelter.” Instead of spending Thursday in Bakersfield, we headed east to Tehachapi, Mojave and Rosamond. [Revised, Cinco de Mayo.]

Our first stop was the Tehachapi Loop, a spiraling, three-quarter mile section of railroad track in the Tehachapi Mountains that allows trains to climb 77 feet in elevation at a steady two percent grade.  A train of 85 cars or more passes over itself, as shown above.

Next we stopped at the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound, in nearby Rosamond.  Melvin and I got there shortly before feeding time and we at first thought a more accurate name would be the Exotic Feline Pacing Compound, but the cats calmed down after getting their chicken.

The strangely otter-like jaguarundi (Puma yagouarundi) are particularly charming. We also saw a fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), not to be confused with a fisher cat (Martes pennanti), part of the weasel family and a source of much search engine traffic to Baseball Byways.

Photo by Center for Land Use Interpretation
used through Creative Commons license.

Finally, we drove through the Tehachapi Wind Farm, thousands of turbines owned by various operators.  Our route west from the town of Mojave on Oak Creek Road and Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road took us right through their balletic dance.

Back in Bakersfield, we saw the Blaze host the San Jose Giants.  Above, manager Ken Griffey, Sr. looks up at stadium lights that did not turn on, delaying the game 15 minutes.  The game was a tug of war and the Blaze had to score in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings to keep it tied.  Committing five errors did not make their task any easier.

The Giants brought in reliever Jose Valdez in the bottom of the seventh and it took the home team batters a couple innings to learn to lay off his slurve, which broke down and out of the strike zone.  DH Donald Lutz led off the ninth with a single but Valdez struck out the next batter.  He then walked three in a row, the first intentionally, the last to lose the game.  What a tough loss for the Giants.

Box Score
Game Recap

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