Kim Weir

Host, Up the Road

Kim Weir, a former NSPR news reporter, is editor and founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project dedicated to sustaining the Northern California story. She is also an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers. North State Public Radio’s Up the Road program is jointly produced by Up the Road.



Think July 4, 1776, Independence Day for the United States, and sights and sounds crowd the imagination—the Liberty Bell, American flag, George Washington, fifes and drums, smoking muskets, and fireworks. Red, white, and blue, rat-a-tat-tat. Clear across the continent, colonial life in California—with its missions and modest military outposts—was just beginning. It would be almost 75 years before California would join the first and subsequent United States, as the 31st state in the union. But foreign exploration had been underway since at least 1543, when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his men rode at anchor in San Diego Bay.

David Yu

As we mentioned earlier, California has had a surprising number of capital cities—starting with Monterey. Even Santa Barbara, if you want to consider Spanish California’s cultural if not legislative capital. California became a state of these United States in 1849 with a quick succession of American capitals: San Jose, then Vallejo, then Benicia, and then Sacramento, which has remained California’s capital city ever since, not counting a brief move to San Francisco during the floods of 1862.

Jaybeatle at English Wikipedia

When people ask me where to go or what’s worth doing, I never know what to say. What makes a memorable trip depends on who you are, and what interests you. It’s hard to make that call for someone else. So, I ask questions, to get some sense of a person’s passions and preferences, and what to them makes a great trip.

And that’s how you plan an unforgettable do-it-yourself tour. Anyone can do it, once you settle on the right idea. Just DIY. Ask yourself those questions.

Edmund Garman

Just as we’re finalizing summer travel plans comes word that travel is a bad actor when it comes to climate change. According to a study published on May 7 in the journal Nature Climate Change, tourism—meaning pleasure travel—accounts for 8% of all global greenhouse gases. Four times more than previous estimates, because someone finally looked at the big picture, and included the climate costs of all aspects of tourism, not just jets and other fossil-fueled transportation.

Courtesy of Joan Didion's Facebook page

This week we appreciate New York-based writer and New Journalist Joan Didion, born and raised in Sacramento, the Big Tomato. Pioneer stock. Some of her people were part of the Donner Party, in fact—those who wisely turned north to Oregon instead of scaling the Sierra Nevada.

One of my favorite Didion books is Where I Was From, first published in 2003. Note, in the book title, that she was from here, from California, but that past tense suggests she no longer is. The physical facts of the matter haven’t changed—she was born in Sacramento, on December 5, 1938, and lived here for much of her life—but everything else has. I’m glad she took an entire book to explain. Didion’s voice in Where I Was From isn’t so different from that in her debut collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, also exploring California. But the perspective is.

Steve Herring

The English-American poet and writer W.H. Auden was a big fan of M.F.K. Fisher, an American culinary icon. He called her called America’s “greatest writer.” In 1963 he also said, provocatively, “I do not know of anyone in the United States who writes better prose.” One of the first to engage food in all its variety as a cultural metaphor, Fisher knew she was the real thing. Further, she believed that writers are born, not created. Once, when asked by a young girl why “so-and-so’s” books were best-sellers while she was barely known, Fisher reportedly replied: “Because he is an author, and I am a writer.” Being a writer, however, didn’t spare her a lifetime of scrambling after book contracts and New Yorker magazine assignments. Everyone has to sing for their supper.

Jack Liu


We head up the road this week to remember Berkeley-born Ursula K. Le Guin, award-winning novelist, poet, essayist, and science fiction writer, who died at age 88 in January of 2018. A wonderful companion on California road trips if there ever was one. Since I heard the news I feel I’ve been mourning a long-time friend. I know I will miss having her in the world—my world, this world—for a very long time.


We head up the road this week to brand-new Mojave Trails National Monument, 1.6 million acres in the south state’s vast desert that serve as a wildlife corridor connecting Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park; that preserve unique desert wildlands as well as General George Patton’s WWII-era desert training camps for troops heading to North Africa; and that protect the largest stretch of ghost towns along historic Route 66, which—with some effort—you can still follow, more or less, to its memorable end at the Santa Monica Pier. (Most of you boomers will remember the early-1960s Route 66 TV show with cool ex-GIs Todd and Buz, not to mention Todd’s Corvette, loosely inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road—though I have a hard time imagining Kerouac in a Corvette. Before that, Route 66 was the how most Okies and Arkies fleeing the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression got to California.) Get the larger story at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville.

Todd Lappin


This week we’re heading out to the 24 Hours of LeMons endurance car race at Thunderhill Raceway just west of Willows, a free-wheeling parody of France’s 24 Hours of LeMans. LeMons is best described as “the Burning Man of car races.” Just plain wrench-monkey fun, folks, with lots of NASA and sundry other engineers here, not to mention creative Silicon Valley computer jockeys. (Thunderhill is owned by San Francisco’s branch of the Sports Car Club of America, so how can you keep the city folks away?) On a good day, expect to see such things as flying pigs, backhoes, upside-down sports cars, and even the Starship Enterprise out there lapping the track.



Joe Behr

Tell someone you’re going hiking, they usually assume you’re heading to the mountains, maybe the coast. But California’s deserts offer sublime hikes. Just not in the summer. So we’re wrapping up our extended stay in the California desert this week with ideas for memorable family hikes.

The national parks and monuments offer world-class hiking opportunities, so yes, do plan to hoof it through Death Valley—November into March is best—and try out trails in Joshua Tree. Also prime is immense Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, well south, between San Diego and the Salton Sea.