Note to self: Do NOT, repeat, do NOT drive on the Fourth of July

Understand that I expect to be fairly oblivious to the carryings-on associated with the Fourth of July. Usually it amounts to hearing the local idiots in the neighborhood taking advantage of the occasion to make some noise. Which is, of course, annoying, but I now understand why the ban on such practices has little practical meaning.

I’m writing my dissertation right now. I’ve made pretty good progress and hope to finish writing it by the end of July. But at about seven-thirty, I ran into a snag with a neoconservative article that I’m analyzing.[1] The author’s solution to what he perceives as a problem with undocumented migration is mandatory E-Verify,[2] which hadn’t cropped up in my literature searches. And for some reason the on line access I had arranged with three—count ’em—three separate libraries was failing.

That meant a drive to Santa Cruz and the wonderful library at the University of California there,[3] in the hope that I could connect to their WiFi late at night and download some articles. If things went wrong, I would have to stay the night and try again the following day (today) because the library had closed at five pm (on Saturday, July 4th) and would do so again today (Sunday, July 5th), a bit earlier than I’m comfortably able to get down there and have time to work.

So off I went, leaving my mother, bless her heart, behind searching for cheap motels (but on Fourth of July weekend in and around Santa Cruz, she’d have had better luck searching for a unicorn). It was all routine enough until shortly after I crossed the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (this is not the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge with its new and exceptionally troubled eastern span, but rather one farther north).

It seems like every asshole with a backyard anywhere near I-580, I-80, and I-880 decided s/he had to throw his or her own fireworks show. I have to admit, it was pretty spectacular, but here I am on a freeway, surrounded by idiots who are being additionally idiotic because they’re distracted by the displays. They aren’t even able to stay in their lanes under these circumstances.

As I merged on to I-80, it became clear there was another problem. An accident? It wouldn’t take much of one to cause a problem there. No, it turns out a bunch of idiots were pulled over on the shoulder, hazard lights blinking away, trying to catch a fireworks show. I don’t know which one, but in the distance, they’d probably be able to see one that San Francisco has put on from, in various years, Crissy Field in the Presidio, the Marina Green, and Fisherman’s Wharf (and by the way, when they do the latter, forget about getting anywhere near—the traffic is impossible). The California Highway Patrol, of course, would be expected to cite these idiots but there were hundreds of them and this is, after all, a celebration in support of the political order rather than in opposition to it, so we’d see none of the goons in combat gear that night (in fact, I saw very few goons all night, except when leaving Santa Cruz, which seemed an additional reason to leave).

I got through that and pressed on south on I-880. More fireworks. Lots more fireworks. One lit up my truck in red. As I drove south through Milpitas, there was a massive collision in the northbound direction. Glad not to be caught in that traffic jam, I pressed on through Santa Clara County, where the fireworks seemed to diminish. (Possibly, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties are more tolerant of fireworks than the other counties I traversed, although Milpitas is across the line into Santa Clara County).

I eventually made it to the library, sat down outside and spent over an hour downloading articles, saving some of them to my archive on my content management system. It was good I succeeded. As I was wrapping up, I took a whack at email. There was one from my mother telling me the cheapest motel she’d found was back on the other side of the hill in Los Gatos at nearly (but with taxes, over) $200 a night. I actually do still have friends down there whose sofa I could presumably crash on, but it would have been awfully late (past midnight to call), I strongly prefer a real bed in a quiet room with privacy, I’m really trying to work on my dissertation, and I’m just not feeling very social these days.

Fortunately, the motel was not needed. Also fortunately, Santa Cruz has a very vegan-friendly restaurant that’s open til three a.m. on—it looked like—Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays). So I ate, bought gas, and headed back north.

I was wondering if I should have turned west on Highway 85 and taken the peninsula route home. Something like that, but less efficient, was what I wound up doing. Just before reaching U.S. 101, an electronic sign informed me that that accident I’d seen in Milpitas was still blocking four right lanes, so north on 101 it was, but I could have saved a bit of distance going on 85 and maybe using I-280 north (my old truck doesn’t handle the hills on that route well).

As I drove north through Palo Alto—well, I’m still not sure quite what it was I saw ahead of me. It looked like someone spun out and their headlights were briefly pointed the wrong way. As I drove through the scene, I saw damage to the landscaping on the side of the road that suggested someone had not held a curve on the on-ramp. A driver ahead of me was pulling over, but I’m guessing s/he wasn’t the one who blew the curve and was pulling over to try to calm down. The idiot had come much too close to a collision—maybe, there actually was one, but I couldn’t tell—for comfort.

Yay. And coming up real soon was a traverse across San Francisco city streets. I couldn’t wait. Fortunately that turned out to be uneventful and I made it home safely.

All this for an idiot holiday celebrating an idiot nation. I suppose it all fits.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Dissertation Proposal: Conservative Views on Undocumented Migrants,” November 10, 2014,
  2. [2]William Chip, “The Folly of Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” First Things, May 12, 2014,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Gratitude for the UC Santa Cruz library,” June 5, 2015,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.