I was lucky enough to head out to Buttonwillow on Saturday for Global Time Attack, it was a great day. The drive out there alone is worth it, if you take the back way over the coastal ranges. Some of California’s best roads and scenery are to be found en route to the hardest working part of the state, the mighty San Joaquin Valley. Springtime is the best season for it as you cross the temporarily green hills, and the oppressive summer heat has yet to set in. Enjoy as Magnus Walker’s 277 shows you around the middle of the Golden State:

There are no sun-soaked beaches, no palm trees, no Hollywood BS, no big city scene. This is real California, the part you don’t see on TV. Expansive plains between chaotic rolling hills leading to sharp mountain ranges, lush valleys, old ranches, agriculture, mining, natural gas, oil, and recently solar fields as far as the eye can see.

In the background of the below two shots is one part of the largest solar farm on the planet, Topaz, near Soda Lake and Carrizo Plain National Monument (which nobody here wants reduced in size, thank you very much). This area is often bathed in sunlight, and is crossed by existing transmission lines from the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, the only one still operational in California, so it makes sense as a location for solar fields.

Advertisement

Out here, if you don’t like a speed limit, you shoot the sign. That’s daylight between the arrow and 30...

Also you can do whatever you want for a mailbox. I really like this picture:

Advertisement

Lush fields west of the California Valley, getting into the La Panza range. The small community just east of here is being heavily impacted by pot farms (legal and otherwise), it’s kind of the wild west, and there are serious water problems with unregulated grows sucking all kinds out of an overdrawn aquifer:

Advertisement

Below is Highway 58 into the Temblor Range, which separates the San Joaquin from the Carrizo Plain and California Valley. It’s called the Temblor Range because of a little thing called the San Andreas Fault. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It runs parallel to the western side of these mountains. Makes for some really, really interesting landscapes. And jumps, if you’re going fast enough...

Advertisement

In the background below lies the San Joaquin Valley, as seen from about 1,500 feet off the valley floor, climbing Highway 58. One of the most productive agricultural regions in the world:

Advertisement

On a clear day you can see the Sierra Nevadas from here, about 100 miles away, looking East. The air pollution in the Valley is brutal, especially in hotter seasons, for a variety of reasons. It was about 90F this early Spring day. Summer temps can break 120F. Now to the Valley floor, we cross the California Aqueduct on the Lerdo Highway, between I-5 and Highway 33:

Running hundreds of miles, the Aqueduct takes water from the Sacramento River delta and other northern resources in several branches and distributes it throughout the southern part of the state, as far south as Los Angeles and San Bernardino (San Berdoo, in the, uh, parlance of our times) . Bordering the Aqueduct to the West are the unbelievable and irresponsible waste of water that are the immense nut tree orchards of horrible companies like Paramount Farms or the (not so) Wonderful Company:

Advertisement

These companies and others use groundwater at a heinous rate and manipulate control of it to their benefit, in the name of selling you pistachios, almonds, and pomegranate stuff. Certainly not dietary staples. The Valley floor is dropping at an alarming rate because of such behavior, as drought depletes the underlying aquifer. Each nut uses at least a gallon of water. Walnuts use almost 5 gallons apiece, it’s estimated. Makes that bag look a little different, right? Closer to home, The Wonderful Company bulldozed an entire field of old-growth native oaks outside Paso Robles (El Paso de Robles, The Pass of Oaks...) without permission to plant more grapes for the already expansive and water hungry vineyard they bought a few years ago. Think about such things next time you enjoy a nice California vintage, or pick up a bag of happy-sounding California nuts. The drought is never really over here, despite the official line. Water is the new gold in the Wild West.

Highway 33 on the Valley floor, before it gets fun. To the left, those greedy orchards. To the right, oil and natural gas fields for mile after mile.

Advertisement

Hope you enjoyed something a little different, a bit of background that those outside California might not otherwise see. Now to middle of the Valley right next to I-5, the reason for the trip: GTA at Buttonwillow!

Advertisement

Advertisement

And some of just the cars:

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

The blue Civic a few shots up won the day, with a blistering 1:39 lap. For reference, 2:00 is a “fast car” benchmark. The Honda looked like a Pikes Peak car, totally insane. More:

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

That Juke is the reason I was there, more specifically its driver, my great friend Lars Wolfe. Unfortunately not a great day for him as the Juke “MPR2.0" developed a misfire during the warmup laps that we couldn’t solve at the track. Nice to get out and hang in any case, I used to be a track rat, out here about every month but haven’t been in many years. My bachelor party 10 years ago was a track day here, in fact, a 117F day in August! Congratulations if you got this far, thanks for indulging me.