The 18-wheel landslide

Humboldt County, especially Southern Humboldt, is hard to get to and hard to get out of. To drive anywhere requires getting from Highway 101 over into the I-5 corridor to the east or northeast or the Bay Area to the south. This is a four to five-hour drive, much of it on winding, two-lane roads. Parts of Highway 36, heading eastbound over the mountains to the Sacramento River Valley, are so narrow as to be nearly one-lane for short stretches.

Of course, more than a few people will tell you that’s why they like it here.

One practical limitation of our remoteness is that there are only a small number of trucking companies that work this region. Right now, their main cargo is bagged potting soil. If there is one visible indicator of the scale of pot cultivation here (short of flying over the gardens in an airplane), it is the steady stream of semi-truck loads of soil disgorged daily onto the doorsteps of garden centers in every little Northcoast town.

With outdoor planting season nearly complete, the 18-wheeled landslide has slowed a bit, but from February through June I’d usually pass 3-6 trucks headed south every time I drove the 60 miles north to Eureka. On the 1-1/4 hour drive south to Willits, I’d see a similar number of trucks going north, with brands of soil manufactured and bagged to the south of the Humboldt/Mendocino area. On top of that, we have several bulk soil depots locally where they mix their own and will deliver up to 40 yards at a time to your site.

No questions asked.

I mention all this because I have in my mind’s eye some sort of collage of soil truck clips in the film as a visual metaphor for the scale of pot gardening taking place here. I’m thinking about it now because today I was in a local building materials supply yard and overheard the owner telling a customer that he hadn’t been able to restock Sheetrock wallboard for two weeks because the trucking companies were too busy hauling soil! According to him, they charge $200 more per load from the San Francisco Bay Area when hauling soil than when lugging more prosaic cargoes.

It is virtually impossible to convey the extent to which the pot economy pervades and shapes every aspect of life on the Northcoast. It is simply what we do here.