Driving Through San Joaquin Valley. And Starbucks.

Taking a quick excursion to Northern California for a few business meetings and a little relaxation. Decided to drive the infamous (5) five freeway. After laboring through the relentless stop and go of LA traffic, I finally broke loose just north of Valencia near Tejon Ranch. About 100 miles later and I'm beginning to feel the head nods. A few scary moments where my eyes closed and it was time to pull over for a rejuvenation break. You'll never guess what I found. A drive through Starbucks. Unbelievable. This was a first for me. Well. Not really. I'd seen one on route 80 a few miles east of Berkeley. But in the San Francisco bay area I'd expect something like that. But this drive through was different. And it's best described by the Barista who served me window side. I asked him how long they'd been opened. He explained just six weeks. When I enquired about wireless internet access (T*Mobile HotSpot) he assured me that they would be installing it in the next month or two. Before I rolled up my window, I asked one last question. “By the way, where are we?”

He rolled his eyes and said, “in the middle of nowhere.” I pressed for the name of the town. He said “Buttonwillow.”

As I pulled away satisfied I'd have my early afternoon caffeine boost, I thought that he and Buttonwillow aren't in the middle of nowhere. They are in the middle of perhaps the greatest state in the Union — California. Not only that, Buttonwillow is smack in the middle of one of the most fertile and agricultural-rich valleys in the world, responsible for providing much of the rest of our country with tomatoes, melons, walnuts, garlic, artichokes, onions, watermelons and more. But to him, he was truly in the middle of a social and cultural wasteland. Nowhere. With no place to go.

Buttonwillow is a typical 5 freeway pit stop town. Its center of commerce runs about 1.5 miles parallel on the east side of the 5 freeway bookended by a Super 8 Motel and one end and a Motel Six at the other. In between littered with just about every neon fast food franchise you could name. Though tucked behind a tire repair facility and sneaking into the corner of my eye I saw the Willow Ranch BBQ. This must be the place to dine in town. I even noticed two Kern County Sheriff patrol cars in the fairly packed lot.

And they've got a Starbucks. Soon with wireless. Things are happening in Buttonwillow.

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