I for one don’t feel off during the off season, but hey I don’t own a business. Soon I-5 will begin to pump visitors into our valley. A trip to Europe by air, a weekend in L.A., up the road to see a friend all start with this nation-spanning interstate. To those passing through, we are represented along this artery as Food-Gas-Lodging, the bare necessities. Just by virtue of having these beacons of roadside respite we will always be somewhat of a tourist community. Here’s some of what keeps blinkers beating on exits nine through 30.
As soon as breaths are caught on the decent from the hair-raising Siskiyou summit, they are once again taken by the forested hills along the horizons. You can almost hear a shocked Californian point out that people actually live here. A mile past plains of farms and vineyards lies a surprisingly busy little town with the tallest building you’ve seen since you last stopped for the night. As you continue, you find the following on your left: a wall of willows shading a mobile home park, an old sandlot that seems forgotten and a rest area where Christian fellowships hand out free coffee.
Just past the 19 there are some cool old abandon houses on both sides. As you pass exit 24 you can see an old abandon factory outlet mall, where people still buy products with Big Dogs on them. On the other side of this exit there is a new Home Depot with a few new homes being built to support it. Soon things will feel busier, up on the right a great compound sits on the top of the hill. Even to those who don’t know, it could be where the valley sends its honored citizens to sit atop the hill and their children with binoculars. On the left, the countries first “Home Town Buffet”, the place that settled that age-old quantity vs. quality debate for you, once and for all.
If you blink now you might miss the reassuringly named “Good Guys Guns” or the conspicuous yellow 24-hour adult shop. As you continue through the greater Medford area you see great strips of strip malls, and themed restaurants and wonder which exit you take to get to them, grudgingly waiting for the next one, exit 26, where the great Rogue Valley Mall is king. The mall eclipses the left side of the horizon, it screams “last place to stop for a George Forman grill for 150 miles,” in three understated stories. As you pass through little stretch you can see the famous “furniture row” at exit 30 where you can get a mattress, armoire, laz-E-boy, and carpet without having to change parking places. On the immediate right come the red, white and blue streamered Jackson County Fairgrounds and Fun Center and their unfortunate lack of blinking neon marquee. Last thing to watch for is the curiously misspelled “online auction.com” billboard on your left.