Music on Mondays—Everything was fine up the Grapevine Hill

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Dare I say that one of the highlights of this millennium for me was being a vendor at the May 3 fundraiser for Cat House on the Kings? Yes. I’m just a silly softie for Mother and Father Nature’s critters, especially those rather closely related to Zoey the Cool Cat.

Zoey the Cool Cat

Jim and I drove from La Mesa to Fresno, 350 miles. Going over Grapevine Hill (“The Grapevine”) between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, with its twists and turns and up to ten lanes of traffic in each direction, was an experience itself.

Grapevine Hill

Go to location on Google Maps

Hundreds of big rigs were going up to 25 mph in the two right lanes while trying to make it up the 6% grade to the top of Tejon Pass, elevation 4,183 feet. They had their emergency lights flashing and were stomping on the brakes going down the other side. There are many runaway truck ramps on both sides of Tejon Pass.

Grapevine Hill is one of only two places in the United States where traffic is inverted, i.e., northbound traffic is on the left side of the freeway instead of the right side. Yuma, Arizona, has an east/west inversion.

Grapevine Hill handles extremely high traffic volume at all hours of the day between Los Angeles and the Central Valley (Bakersfield and points north). Traffic can be doing 110 mph in the fast lane and 25 mph in the slow lane. I tended to stay in the middle lanes doing 50-70 mph since I was unfamiliar with The Grapevine.

Back before Interstate 5 was built, The Grapevine was a long, winding road notorious for racing and accidents, made famous in the 1951 hit song, “Hot Rod Race” by Arkie Shibley & His Mountain Dew Boys.

“Hot Rod Race” tells the story of a Ford and Mercury racing on Grapevine Hill, neither driver gaining an advantage, and staying “neck and neck” until they both were overtaken by a kid in “a hopped-up Model A.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1955, Charley Ryan & The Livingston Brothers recorded “Hot Rod Lincoln” as a response to “Hot Rod Race”:

“You heard the story of the hot rod race that fatal day, when the Ford and the Mercury went out to play. Well, this is the inside story and I’m here to say, I was the kid that was a-drivin’ that Model A.”

At 0:45 is this verse:

Left San Pedro late one night
The moon and the stars were shining bright
Everything went fine up the Grapevine Hill
We were passin’ cars like they was standing still

San Pedro to the north side of Grapevine Hill is a whopping 100 miles, not exactly a leisurely drive, but this was when the car culture was gaining momentum in Los Angeles.

San Pedro to Grapevine Hill

Go to location on Google Maps

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Probably the most recognizable version of “Hot Rod Lincoln” is the 1972 song by  Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen which peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

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5 thoughts on “Music on Mondays—Everything was fine up the Grapevine Hill

  1. laurie27wsmith

    Who doesn’t love hot-rods and the open highway? Except when the big rigs are blocking all the lanes. 😦


  2. Patty B

    You bring back so many good memories and give a great start off for the week with your Music Mondays! Enjoying some good music here in PA. 😉



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