Conquering My Fear

Is it too late to turn around?Even as a child, I heard horror stories of this stretch of road. Yes…the stories even made it to Florida! Years passed. I was now married and lived in Washington State.

The day came when our daughter decided to go to graduate school in Pasadena. Yeah! We would get to visit sunny So Cal! Yeah! We would get to go to Disneyland. We would fly of course. Who would want to take 22 hours to drive the 1,000 mile trip?

Uh, oh. My thoughts were interrupted with our daughter’s statement. “We have to drive. I’ll need my car.” Sigh.

So at long last, her car was packed and I was settled in as co-pilot. We were prepared with everything we needed. Of course, we could hardly move inside because every available inch was filled. The weather was perfect and I loved all the photo opps. By the second day of our journey, my daughter’s back pain was unbearable. I knew early that morning, I would be driving….and that included driving the Grapevine, that dreaded stretch of road I had heard about for years! No such thing as automatic pilot!

As we neared the Tehachapi Mountains, my heart was pounding. The Lord and I had already been deep in conversation. I pleaded “Lord, You realize You could heal Miriam right now?! And if You could do that, I wouldn’t have to drive!” Silence on His end!

“Lord, You realize You could calm my spirit and give me courage?! And if You could do that, I could drive the Grapevine!” Drive on, daughter!

I’m not sure which had caused me more fear: the number of trucks, the speed of the other vehicles or the steep grade. Pick one….pick all of them! But that day, there was a forest fire along the road. Three lanes of traffic had been channeled into two. That meant no one could go fast! No one could pass! And the steep grade had to be taken so slowly, who could tell it was steep?! That was too good, Lord!

A year later, our daughter had to fly into California and once again, we needed to get her car to her. A ha!! Another Grapevine experience. This time a close friend rode with me but she was in a neck brace and was not able to drive through that pass…but she sure could pray! Do you think the Lord was trying to continue my lesson? Or maybe He was going to pound it into my head that I did not have to fear! This time all three lanes were open. I calmly let anyone who wanted to pass me, go right on by. But I discovered I was keeping right up with the flow of traffic!! Major life lesson here!

In keeping with my love of history, here are some interesting things about the Grapevine. Don Pedro Fages during his exploration of California, passed through the top of the Grapevine in 1772. It is a California Historical Landmark.

I was given permission by the California Historian to quote from their site. You’ll want to read the whole article. But meanwhile check this out…

The “Grapevine” is the 6 1/2 mile segment of the Ridge Route that extends from
Fort Tejon to the bottom of Grapevine Grade. Many people erroneously believe
that the “Grapevine” got its name because the original 1915 highway had a series
of “switchbacks” which allowed early vehicles to gain elevation as they climbed
the grade heading from Bakersfield toward Los Angeles. The serpentine path
resembled a giant grapevine. Although this observation was true, the name
actually came from the fact that early Wagoner’s had to hack their way through
thick patches of Cimarron grapevines that inhabited “La Canada de Las Uvas,”
Canyon of the Grapes. Traveling the grade today, look for patches of what
appears to be ivy on both sides of the canyon near the truck run-a-way escape
ramps. What you see are descendant vines which date back to the 1800s.

The stage fare between Los Angeles and Fort Tejon near the top of the Grapevine
was $12.24. The first mail stage from St. Louis stopped at Fort Tejon on October
8, 1858 en route to San Francisco. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the U.S.
government abandoned Fort Tejon in 1864.

In 1915… The reason the roadbed followed the ridge contours was to save grading costs at
a time when highway expenditures were tightly budgeted. Due to the elevation and
circuitous nature of the new highway, the speed limit was set at 15 miles per
hour. The speed limit for heavier trucks with solid rubber tires was 12 miles per hour.

There was no joke about the speed limit edict issued from the
Sheriff’s office. It was set at 15 miles an hour and vigorously enforced. It
took about 12 hours driving time under normal conditions to make the Los Angeles
to Bakersfield trip.

Before the road was thrown open, the Automobile Club of Southern California was
given only 24 hours notice to post warning signs along the new highway. The work
for which two weeks had been allotted was accomplished between the glowing and
dimming of the morning sun. From the instant a motorist set his wheels onto the
Ridge Route he found himself in a forest of warning signs. It was the most
gigantic feat of road sign posting ever achieved anywhere. In only 36 miles
there were 697 curves. Adding up all the turns it worked out that the motorist
drove around 97 complete circles between Castaic and Gorman. Considering the
entire route of 48.31 miles, there are 39,441 degrees of curve, roughly equating
to 110 complete circles.

Unfortunately, the constant merry-go-round
caused many motorists to lose the contents of their stomachs. The old Ridge
Route was one of the most nerve-racking, perilous roads ever built. Thirty-two
persons were killed on it between 1921 and 1928.

After reading the history of this highway, I decided traveling in the 21st century is a breeze!

My lesson learned?  Trust the Lord in all things.

  • Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9
  • Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD! Psalm 31:24


Anybody ready for a road trip south?!!



Be sure to read “The Ridge Route: the Long Road to Preservation by Harrison Irving Scott. You’ll discover an amazing part of California history!! Thank you, Christine Esser, of Conference of California Historical Societies,  for permission to quote!




This entry was posted in Historical Event, Journaling, Life lesson. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Conquering My Fear

  1. Phyllis Burchett says:

    of course, I’m ready…You let me know when, and my bags will be packed!


  2. Amy Putkonen says:

    This is beautiful, dear Ruth. We were just in Hawaii and there is a road there called “The Road to Hana”, 68 miles of switchbacks and single lane bridges (sometimes BOTH at the same time!). My husband was smart and decided to let the TOUR BUS GUY drive it! lol… I am so happy for your courage. That is a good thing to get past those fears. I had a similar fear that I had to overcome on this trip as well – we BIKED down the mountain on little switchback roads. I was scared. I did not sleep well the night before but we did manage to do it and the company we did it with was so good. They made it safe and blocked the cars from zooming past us and I felt very comfortable and I overcame a huge fear. There is something so wonderful about saying, “I did it!” Isn’t there?


    • Ruth Packard says:

      Yes! Absolutely gotta love that self satisfaction!

      We chose not to drive the road to Hana when we were there! It was their wettest February in decades and much of the road was covered in mudslides. Maybe next time?! And then I’ll remember your suggestion about the tour bus!


  3. Meegan says:

    This brings back memories! My husband is a southern Californian and we lived there the first five years of our marriage. Being avid road trippers we traveled the Grapevine a few times a year, sometimes hauling a large horsetrailer. Now that was always an experience! Reading this has made me a bit homesick for CA. I loved living there. Nice meeting you in Soul Restoration!


    • Ruth Packard says:

      Oh my goodness! I cannot imagine pulling a horse trailer up that highway!

      As a child I used to be terrified of a two lane road near our home. One side had a steep shoulder into a deep canal. Writing this post gave me cause to remember roads I was afraid of…and there were lots of them. I was often in the grips of fear. So glad those fears have subsided in my adult years!

      I’m enjoying our Brave Girl class! Timely, don’t you think?!


  4. What an incredible story and cool history. I didn’t know anything about that stretch of road at all and it was interesting reading about the reason for the name and the signs and curves. Way to go for overcoming your fear!


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