Thursday, August 13, 2009

The rolling hills of Pacheco Pass

I drove to the central valley yesterday to visit customers. It is several hours each way. I drove south on 101, then cut through the foothills to reach the glacier-formed irrigated desert that forms the salad bowl for much of the US. Climbing the golden rolling hills in the morning, where the narrow winding 2-lane road has been a death trap for motorists for generations, the temperature dropped to the 50's and was blanketed with heavy fog. I passed the St. Luis reservoir, carpeted with green grass and sporting islands instead of being a uniform sea as in most years. I hear it will be an el Nino winter, and it will be a good thing if it is, as the reservoirs will be replenished only if we have heavy rains.

My day's journey was to visit several environmental firms who test drinking water to plant material to remediation sites for explosives. One family run company, in a building started in the 18th century with an art-deco foyer and maple floors that squeaked, was about to go under, losing clients and workers. Another company had just built a state-of-the-art suite of labs in a new office park, sporting art and long ventilation hoses dropping from the ceiling to vent dozens of instruments to the outside air. Three generations worked there, oozing enthusiasm, professionalism, and the marketing manager had a new infant at home. What a contrast! Then there was the long drive home. The car said it was 102 on the black asphalt road, the air conditioner could not keep me from sweating, and the radio could not find the channels as I wound back over the pass home.

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