Today's adventure was a drive through the morning mists into the bright warm sunshine of the San Andreas fault. I've been reading a book called A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 which is an amazing mix of geology text and history (for example, it includes an aside that our alleged President's great-great grandfather was once rector of San Francisco's Grace Church, which was later destroyed in the quake). It focuses a bit on the middle-of-nowhere town of Parkfield, epicenter of the 6.0 magnitude 2004 quake. Apparently there are tremors almost all the time, and it is the most seismically monitored site in the world, with a USGS station there.
So I decided to go see for myself. I figured if the weather was okay (it was) Christmas would be an easy drive down 101 and into the hills. It took me about 10 minutes to get through San Jose, at 9:45 am, which would have taken an hour or more on a normal Monday. I was doing my usual 65mph + about 10%, which comes out to 69. I 69ed my way most of the way (except for a stretch which had a 70 mph speed limit), and cars were passing me like I was standing still.
I haven't been on 101 south of Gilroy ever, I don't think. Usually if I'm heading that far south I'm on Amtrak or I-5. The road degrades into a poorly maintained 2-lanes in each direction non-freeway for quite a while, but stays at 65mph, then slows to 55 for a stretch, then to 65 and 70. It's a little over 150 miles to the San Miguel turnoff, and then about 30 miles of back roads to Parkfield. Most of that was safe at 50 mph, give or take 5. Leaving 101, the road starts climbing into the hills, with a steep rise toward the end.
I didn't need a map to get from 101 to Parkfield - there are clearly posted signs at every needed turn. I guess they get a lot of important visitors. It's a tiny town, just a few homes, a school, the USGS cluster of puke-green buildings, a log cabin inn and a log cabin cafe (both deserted today).
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
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About 10 miles south of SJ, an inversion layer hit so hard, wood smoke, that I had to close the vents and turn on the heater and air conditioner to be able to breathe. This lasted most of the way through SJ.
Looking at the USGS web site, I was a few hours late for a small quake:
A microearthquake occurred at 10:56:54 AM (PST) on Monday, December 25, 2006.
The magnitude 1.9 event occurred 1 km (1 miles) SW of Parkfield, CA.
The hypocentral depth is 11 km ( 7 miles).
The whole set of photos of the trip can be found here.