I-5 Slow Burn …

While local dining legend SF’s Original Joe’s suffered it’s own fire on Friday, a scary big rig fire in a tunnel near Santa Clarita has severed the main commercial road artery through Northern & Southern California.
[ map of alternate routes around the I-5 south during closure after the jump]

The Governor, possibly eager to please the Republican voting base of Santa Clarita that helped get him into office, Arnie made sure to immediately declare the situation a “State of Emergency“.

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One wonders if certain inevitable “Emergency” situations like this can’t be seen coming, and with the obvious transportation risks better managed or mitigated…

P.S Speaking of “State of Emergencies”, seriously, has the governor or any of his minions tried eating out here on the 5? Where the hell am I supposed to find a decent dining location with small plates, that has a trained staff capable of suitable bio-dynamic wine pairings, and perhaps proper vegetarian options out here that go with the smell of the horrendous cow sh*t…

Read the road rage addled rant of a Frisco Foodie Fraught With Fears For Us All after hours spent inching along the I-5 yesterday out of Southern California, miles from a decent warm organic frisee & Treviso radicchio salad topped with thinly sliced pear, sundried heirloom tomatoes, herbed chevre and bottarga in a Barolo-tangerine vinaigrette …

Is this California or Oklahoma for gawd sakes?

With maintenance and construction deferred, and more vehicles arriving daily, our statewide roads are aging dangerously. There are many many more trucks careening at high speeds through windy dark holes like the one in the rugged mountains south of the grapevine, than when these roads were planned. 225,000 vehicles a day apparently use the I-5 where the accident occurred. A similar stretch of I-5 just a mile away had been shut for almost 12 hours by a different big rig accident just 10 days earlier involving a truck carrying 50,000 pounds of melons in early October …

In the last 50 years commercial freight traffic has moved off rails and onto California’s already over crowded roadways. Dozens of big rig accidents a week occur in the state, most occur in areas where truck traffic is mixed in with general passenger traffic. The Bay Area is prone to it’s own trouble along the 80 corridor, but the most dangerous stretch is the 710 North coming from the busy Port of Long Beach which averages at least one big rig accident a day, and in addition LA almost always has at least one big rig accident occurring somewhere in it’s 4000 sq mile county…

The tunnel the trucks collided in on Friday wasn’t all that much different in concept than this one pictured below that was dug in the 1870′s by some 1000 or so Chinese railroad workers in the same area. The single lane tunnel pictured here was along Southern Pacific’s San Joaquin Line, linking the Santa Clarita Valley (in Railroad Canyon) with the rest of Southern California.

People yesterday claimed the traffic was horrendous and expect it to remain so, and I was indeed among those who spent hours inching along the I-5 yesterday in Southern California, and can testify to the chaos…

But now that I finally am back up here, and free to think about it … hey, the harrowing 2 hour crawl to get 14 miles is about how long it takes to get across town and back in San Francisco anyway. I mean seriously, try to circumnavigate the length and breadth of San Francisco’s 7 miles across and back sometime in less than 2 hours…

Especially if one is prone to use MUNI, or stop for the numerous & delicious gourmet tapas joints popping up everywhere… I loves me any place that calls Mayo by it’s fancy name Aioli, then puts lime in it. I don’t think you can go 15 minutes in SF without being offered seared Ahi. I am prone to think Spicy Pineapple Saffron Coulis is a regular side dish on the lunch menu at Marina Middle school …

Am I digressing?

I wonder if it would be any better if a proposed billion dollar bullet train derailed at the same junction on the 5?

Do you think the Tapas on a bullet train would be any good?

Anyhow… After some radical rerouting & dusty detouring, I got to see sleepy little Newhall California, which has a few more taco stands, trailer parks & brake repair joints since the pic below was taken, but it captures the essential spirit of the place. The semi-bucolic backroad outpost was surprised by the traffic influx, and the local gas station had run out of gasoline by about noon.

All I know is that there was no place serving “Small Plates”…but things could be easily “SuperSized“…


Bay Area Foodie Fraught with Fear on The Five

I think the worst part being trapped on the wrong side of the fire was knowing that even after escaping the grid lock delays of the southland, I was being faced with the bleak and unexpected prospects of spending Saturday Night on Highway 5. I had just passed up the last 210 exit to Pasadena, a town in the midst of their free fall arts festival headlined by Viet-retro-rockers Dengue Fever when I learned of the impending doom and traffic blockage. I was already past the last turn off on the Highway 5 and the only thing to do was sit and bear it, finding one lone AM english language radio station with traffic updates…

Alas, with my LA escape route blocked, and chance of dining anywhere within range of a San Francisco bay breeze fading, I resigned myself that I would not be enjoying any sort of award winning fusion cafe cuisine on the horizon. Outside of a Subway sandwich stop in a truckstop, the prospects of a meager serving of simple fresh baked bread would be difficult to find.

Indeed, there was a man in a Box named Jack, who confirmed via a drive thru speaker that his fish sandwich contained no wild caught Pacific Salmon smoked on a cedar plank. Despite a royal pedigree, the so-called Burger King did not offer anything resembling free range and his friend Wendy, she was not familiar with a fresh organic green mesclun salad topped with beets & apricot pistachio goat cheese from Pescadero, which would’ve possibly made the long journey home more palatable.

I ended up avoiding the “animal style” drive thru line at In-n-Out, and to get the “small plate” feel, ate off the kids menu at a quaint place called Chili’s. Apparently they are well known purveyors within the strip mall “baby back rib community“. Not sure if anything there was “free range”, except the soft drink refills…

The traffic was slow…and the food was decidedly faster…

The traumatic traffic stalling accident on the 5 outside LA, brings to the fore not only dramatic public safety & trnsportation issues but also of how foolish faux foodies can attempt to cope with the highway’s seriously un “haute” cuisine scene.

Meanwhile, behind me the smoke from the tunnel was still visible, and the southland shuddered with fears that it may be quite awhile before the southward part of the 5 is able to open…

News media reports & a map below:

SF’s Channel 5 adds info on the slow moving cleanup process on Saturday …

At the end of the Ch 5 report you briefly see the very worried family of missing trucker Ricardo Cibrian, whose family was holding a roadside vigil in hopes of hearing some positive news.

View Larger Map

Sources: Caltrans, California Highway Patrol, LA Times and in the field foodie reporting

3 Comments so far

  1. Miriam Owen (unregistered) on October 19th, 2007 @ 8:06 pm

    You are an amazing reporter, a true SF Bay Area humanoid! Yes, the accident needed to be described and thanks for including the video spots. Your grueling inching thru the worst traffic slow down in recent memory, I commisearte but your brilliant description of stomach angst…and the food situation on Hwy 5, put you at the top of my must reads on this blog. I guess one of the statements embossed on a plaque at the new railing at Pier 3, which says San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality, is truely a truism. Never has a city turned more innocent souls into hardened hedonists. Bon apetite! :> M


  2. Miriam Owen (unregistered) on October 19th, 2007 @ 8:06 pm

    You are an amazing reporter, a true SF Bay Area humanoid! Yes, the accident needed to be described and thanks for including the video spots. Your grueling inching thru the worst traffic slow down in recent memory, I commisearte but your brilliant description of stomach angst…and the food situation on Hwy 5, put you at the top of my must reads on this blog. I guess one of the statements embossed on a plaque at the new railing at Pier 3, which says San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality, is truely a truism. Never has a city turned more innocent souls into hardened hedonists. Bon apetite! :> M


  3. Johnny (unregistered) on October 24th, 2007 @ 12:58 am

    If this wayward Angeleno may for a moment weigh in–

    I get the feeling you’d be much better suited to the 101 north-south option. While it adds an hour or so – or subtracts an hour in this case – it offers a number of culinary oases en route. Even though the tapas per capita ratio is not quite up to SF levels in places like Ventura, Santa Barbara, or San Luis Obispo, there are far better options there than the barren Burger King wasteland of I-5.



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