By the Side of the Road

The time has come to shake off the winter lethargy and get back to work.

Welcome to the modern era of Western Civilization.  We are a fast-paced people who are forever rushing hither and yon in our cars, trucks and SUV’s.  We rush to appointments, work endless hours, and even rush around on our vacations.  We are always in such a rush that we never take the time to really see what is around us.

I decided long ago I didn’t like living like that.  I made the decision to take the time to document things we tend to miss on the side of the road.  Some of this “stuff” still exists while others have disappeared into the mists of time. 

This will be a continuing post of things that are seen yet not seen.  These things are visible yet all but invisible to the naked eye as we rush about our business. 

Lunch Time at the Irrigation Canal

Egrets and other birds gathering for a free feast of fish.

People were rushing by on this rural road in Yolo County paying no heed to the congregation just on the side of the road.  A farmer was filling the irrigation ditch with water from either Putah Creek or the Sacramento River.  The Egrets and other birds gathered for the free lunch of small fish brought in from the main water source.  The only thing the birds needed to do was don their bibs and eat.  Life is good.

The Orange Stand

In the era before interstates and air conditioned cars, people traveled 2 and 4 lane highways.  Roads such as Route 66 meandered across the country and through towns and cities.  When traveling up Highway 99, 40, or 101 in California in the summer, it can get very hot.  The ever resourceful farmers along these highways saw a niche that needed to be filled.  What could be better on a hot summer day than an ice cold glass of orange juice?  After all, at that time, California was a major orange grower.  Many farmers set up their stands and a lot were built in the shape of an orange.  One could stop at these stands and get that nice cold drink while your car cooled down, as radiator water was offered for free as well.  Remember, these were the days before McDonalds and cars with coolant recovery systems and air conditioning.

As time went by, some of these roadside stands expanded.  They started offering food and produce along with orange juice.  Rather than tear down the original orange stand, they just added to the existing structure. 

But alas, all good things must come to an end.  President Eisenhower, impressed by the German autobahns, commissioned the building of the interstate highway system, bypassing towns and the stands.  Cars got better cooling systems for the engines and air conditioning was added and improved. All this new technology eliminated the need for stops to cool down the car and passengers.  The little roadside orange stand was no longer needed and slowly disappeared.  Well, almost all.  Sitting at the exit to A Street in Dixon, off Interstate 80, sits one on the last 3 remaining orange stands I know of in Central and Northern California. 

One of the last for the orange juice stands that use to dot Highways 101, 99, and 40 from the 30's to the 60's.

It sits alone and, for the most part, forgotten by travelers.  It is painted and cared for. It should be a historic site.  It is the only one left on what was Highway 40 before overtaken by Interstate 80 and Dixon was bypassed. 

OJ Stand 1

It was still vibrant and in use until about 2009.  Today it sits on the side of the road barely noticed, if at all, by the travelers on the interstate. 


The city of Fairfield sits along Interstate 80 almost half way between San Francisco and Sacramento.  It is the county seat for Solano County.   At the corner of Jackson and Texas Streets is the burned out shell of Pepperbelly’s.  This was once a movie theater that shut down.  It was reincarnated as Pepperbelly’s.  It became a comedy club, small concert venue, and live theater venue.  People noticed the venue for its entertainment, but nobody really noticed its mural.


PepperBelly’s mural, on the Jackson Street side of the building, showed Fairfield and its history.  Travis Air Force Base is here and represented with the C-131 Samaritan.  Solano County is named after Chief Solano of the Suisun tribe.  A depiction of his statue that stands in front of the old county building at the corner of Texas and Union Streets can be seen to the left.


Hardly noticed is the man down in the corner by the names of the artists.


And equally unnoticed is the GI dancing with his lady to the music of a jazz band.  While the walls and marquee of Pepperbelly’s still stands, they are all that remains of this once proud venue.  The mural is still in place.  Stop some time and admire it before it is all torn down.

In the Middle of Nowhere

On a lonely stretch of I-80 from Vallejo to Fairfield, just past the American Canyon exit sits an empty field along the old frontage road.  Today, it is just that: empty.  But once upon a time the owner decided to brighten up the place.


He decided to display his collection of vintage tractors.  He lined them up in a neat row.


He not only had tractors but a horse drawn wagon from a bygone era to display.


He even has a surplus tracked snow vehicle. 


Not to mention a nice surrey buggy.  They were all there to go unnoticed by the travelers flying by.  Today, the display is gone.  Another roadside curiosity lost to history.

The Museum that Never Was

Along the frontage road next to I-80 going from Fairfield to Vacaville, sat the beginnings of a museum.  It was to be a farm museum.


On the faded marquee of a dilapidated produce stand are the words “Museum – Produce and Fruit Stand.”  In the field in front of the stand were pieces of rusting farm machinery. 


This quasi museum has been on the side of the road for as long as I can remember.  Today, it has vanished.  It has become just another curiosity along the side of the road that has vanished into the mists of time.

So, when you are out and about, take the time to see what is along the road.  There are curiosities, monuments, historical sites, and just plain weird things to see.  Also, take the time to photograph them.

Copyright © 2016  John J Campo


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