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California Agricultural Inspection Stations

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This is a little story about a contraband plum. Let me begin by expressing my respect and regard for the California fruit industry, and for all efforts to protect it from crop disease. I was born and grew up in California, and treasure my recollections of the golden state and its many rich agricultural resources. I eat California grown produce as often as I can find it. So I happily stop at their border agricultural inspection stations and cooperate fully, and gladly with the nice people who staff them. But I can’t help laughing about a very special plum.

 

I took a trip on our two lane roads into and through Utah, Nevada and California in November. Early on the third day of my travels from Washington on route to Bluff, Utah, I stopped in Green River Utah. As I am wont to do, I stopped to photograph the Midland Hotel, a marker for the old Midland Trail of the teens of the last century.

 

Green River is the name of a soft drink of my youth. And for you real history bluffs, the name of a anti traveling salesman ordinance. So I have a kinship with Green River.

 

Across from the Midland Hotel is a nice grocery store and I stopped to pick up some snacks for the road. Some bananas, a couple of plums, and a breakfast bar. In the next several hours I consumed the breakfast bar, the bananas and one of the plums. I left the lone remaining plum in it’s thin plastic bag, and I probably tossed it into the back seat. There it stayed for four days, in the sack, untouched, and forgotten.

 

This was no special plum. In fact it was a bit mushy, judging by its companion I had eaten along with the bananas. It crossed the great Utah and Nevada deserts, and experienced four days of fascinating adventures, and now was still with me, on the back seat in its thin plastic bag as I entered California

 

I won’t mention where I entered California, but it was a splendid vista, broken only by the Agricultural Inspection Station that loomed mid road, and through which all traffic was directed to pass, stopping first to check, as I now know, for plums purchased in Utah.

 

I want to repeat that I am empathetic with the intention of the agricultural inspection stations. They have interrupted my road travels since I was a boy, and that is longer then we have had jet planes. For all I know, the stage coaches used to stop to be checked for fruit. I know the routine as well as I know what to do at a signal.

 

The nice lady asks me where I have been and I try to recall. This isn’t easy for a 77 year old to answer on short notice, and I should write it down before I get to California. Lets see, I was in Utah, then Arizona, and then Nevada, I passed through Provo, and Bluff, and Kanab, and Las Vegas….and she interrupts me there.

 

OK, we have established that I was not in Central America. So next, do I have any fruit? This is where it gets funny. If I was carrying fruit that might be disease ridden, at this point I am supposed to confess. Right……..! But I am secreting a lone plum, purchased in Utah. I confess.

 

But I don’t recall where I bought it. “It was in the morning after I left Provo….” I blurt out. Obviously that was some sort of clue that triggered greater vigilance. I am directed to park the car and hand her the plum. Now this is getting serious.

 

They take my plum into the inter station, and another woman comes out and they confer. The cars behind me are being directed through the other lane now, while I sit waiting for the outcome of my plum inspection.

 

I’m thinking, tell her to keep the plum, it is mushy anyway. But I fear this may be perceived as a ploy to escape further inspection. I envision them opening my sack of dirty laundry in the trunk, and perhaps making me explain the fruit stains on my trousers.

 

In about five or ten minutes the nice lady returns and hands me back the suspect plum. She explains that the problem is that it was not “grown in the US.” I can hardly choke down laughter. I could spend a month trying to find a plum in a grocery store in November that was grown in the US. They all come from South America in the winter and I could have told her that.

 

But the California fruit industry can rest easy that no Peruvian plum purchased in Utah is being snuck into California uninspected. Long live the inspection stations. Really!! I hope they are still checking fruit when I take that long last drive. I would truly miss the experience.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Dave,

 

You had me laughing out loud during several passages of your story. This is a very well-written piece, & I'm glad you posted it here for us to read & enjoy.

 

During my Route 66 road trip in 2009, I remember being stopped entering California to be inspected for fruit. I'd been to CA in my younger days on family trips, but don't remember being stopped for inspections. Could be I just wasn't paying attention.

 

Anyway, during my stop in 2009, they just about turned my rental upside down. They were nice about it, of course, but the more they "probed", the more nervous I got, which probably prompted them to inspect more ... LOL. Obviously, I passed inspection, but it was an experience I'll not soon forget.

 

When I returned to CA in 2011, entering a bit further north through Utah, I do not remember them stopping me at all that time.

 

 

Cort, www.oldcarsstronghearts.com

pig&cowValves.paceMaker * 1979 CC to 2003 MGM + 81mc
"Everybody knew it was the end of the line" | Jimmy Dean | 'Big Bad John'

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Those inspection stations do vary quite a bit, from my experience, in how they handle travelers. They do at least have a reason for being. The bulk of the California agricultural industry is insulated from the rest of the country by large mountain ranges and/or large deserts. It wouldn't take much for someone to bring something infested across those natural barriers and contaminate the rest of the land. Mind you, these checkpoints have been used for things other than their stated purposes in the past. During the "Dust Bowl" era, they were partly used to discourage Oklahoma and Arkansas refugees from entering California and "burdening" us with their problems. Today, a few have been co-opted by the border patrol for their inland checkpoints. When it comes to the actual agricultural stations, I have found them to usually be friendly. Could be that I am a Californian and have, with one exception, come across state lines with a California plated vehicle.

 

Nice story though. It is always interesting to hear about others experiences when coming to California.

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Love the story Dave! We had a similar experience, but not with a plum. The offending fruit was a banana.

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Mike,

 

I love the California inspection stations. I was born and raised, educated, and long employed in California, not to mention that my family members were pioneers in agriculture in the San Fernando Valley. I am the first to defend our inspection stations. No one should read my comments as other than a fond expression of a humorous experience.

 

The inspection stations are one of the most enduring and endearing roadside symbols in America. I was not aware that they had ever been used for other than their legitimate agricultural purposes. I'm sorry to hear they were ever misused. That is not my view of my native state.

 

No one who has ever tasted a ripe California orange or tangerine, or for that matter a plum :) would ever want to be responsible for carrying infected fruit into the state. I welcome the protection.

 

My days reach back a few years beyond yours, so I recall the times when one could drive between my home in La Canada to Riverside or San Bernadino (or Idyllwild where we spent vacations) and see practically nothing but orange groves, and perhaps date farms. Pomona and Fallbrook, where i also once lived and worked were both at the heart of that industry.

 

Your explanation of the important purpose of the inspection stations is appreciated by this "native Californian."

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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I should clarify, too ... during my experience in 2009, as I stated, they were nice about the probing ... in fact, they were quite humorous about it, despite me becoming more & more nervous the more they probed. Point is ... tho I was terribly nervous, it was actually a funny & humorous footnote experience to the entire trip.

 

 

Cort, www.oldcarsstronghearts.com

pig&cowValves.paceMaker * 1979 CC to 2003 MGM + 81mc
"We'd drive around" | Cheap Trick | 'In The Street (That '70s Show)'

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Great story Dave! 

Whenever I see a California Ag Inspection Station it serves as a reminder that I'm a day's drive or less from home and that my journey is nearly over.

I've never had any hassles though and have always been waived right through. At one inspection station in the Mojave Desert I didn't even get a waive and by the looks of it  I would bet it's been a long time since anybody has been pulled to the side there for a Peruvian plum.

Rick

 

SC118602-5D04351.jpg

SC118604-5D04354.jpg

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Rick,

 

Thanks for the reply!

 

I like the first image of the deserted agricultural inspection station. It catches what I would call the mood of the place, door open, sufficient light on the interior for some detail without it standing out, I even like the tree, and of course the composition works.

 

I know you are a pro, so tell me how much thought and post processing went into the shot.

 

Was it evident why it was abandoned….for example was it on an old two lane replaced by the interstate?

 

Places like these are great photo ops, but they also speak to us. The folks who worked in this two lane station roasted at a time when the only air conditioning was the occasional breeze. Imagine sitting in the Mohave desert with the tempature 115 in the shade, all day. Frankly the little shelter looks like an oven. They deserved combat pay….but it was as it was.

 

And if there was any traffic and a line formed, the drivers were melting without the wind flowing through the “wind wing” and the floor vent. Maybe they had an evaporative cooler on the window, but it wasn’t cooling while they waited for the inspection.

 

And if you every thought God must have forsaken you, it had to be in that setting, greasewood trees, barren telephone poles and hot concrete. I can almost “smell” the heat rising from the pavement. Great shot of the authentic.

 

Thanks for the photos and comment.

 

 

Dave

Keep the Show on the Road

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Dave,

The location of the abandoned inspection station is a section of Route 66 between Dagget and Newberry Springs that was in use between 1928 and 1972. I have read that the inspection station was closed in 1967 but would have been closed for sure in 1972 when I-40 bypassed that section of Route 66. This is the third and final Inspection Station that was built in Daggett. Its predecessor operated from 1930 until 1953 and was the one featured in the 1940 film version of The Grapes of Wrath. The Joad's traveled this section of roadway at night in order avoid the heat. Today the agriculture inspection station along I-40 is 140 miles further east between Needles and the Colorado River\Arizona border.

The photos actually posted on the forum in the reverse order of what I wanted them to be. 

The second photo was composed to emphasize the approach to the station where you reduce your speed, move off the highway, follow the signs into an open lane, and do a mental inventory of any fruits or vegatables you have with you while you work your way up the queue. When in operation I would think that there would have been cones to help guide you in addition to the painted roadway signage.

The first photo was composed to show the point where you would be greeted by the agricultural inspector with the highway waiting on the other side. There was some extra processing work in Lightroom and Photoshop necessary to balance the exposure due to the difference of the light levels in the shadows and the desert in the background. Both photos were shot looking west in the early afternoon and you can see by the shadows that the sun was in front of me, creating an additional exposure challenge for the background and a challenge to adjust the contrast to my liking (which I wasn't able to do). 

Roadhound

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