OOIDA’s tour trailer stops at Wheeler Ridge, Calif.

January 18, 2021

Chuck Robinson


After a tour on I-5 through the San Joaquin Valley from Santa Nella, Calif., OOIDA’s tour trailer is scheduled to stop at the Wheeler Ridge TA.

The Spirit is scheduled to be at the Wheeler Ridge TA on Jan. 19-21. It is at the Laval Road exit from I-5.

The Wheeler Ridge TA has parking for 306 tractor-trailers, but no dine-in restaurant for them to get a meal. There is a Black Bear Diner there but not only has the inside dining room been closed but so has the outside seating area, thanks to state and county coronavirus restrictions. There is a Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeye’s and Taco Bell for making do with carryout.

The Wheeler Ridge TA exit is just south of the junction of California Route 99 and Interstate 5.

Going south, I-5 takes drivers to Los Angeles, 90 miles away. The highway is known as the Golden State Freeway.

Going north 35 miles or so on Route 99 leads to Bakersfield and Fresno, which also is part of the Golden State Freeway. I-5 going north toward San Francisco is called the Westside Freeway.

There are distribution centers for Dollar General and IKEA not far from the Wheeler Ridge TA. There are several more distribution centers north on Highway 99, including Men’s Wearhouse, Target, Amazon and Walmart.

In a past life, drivers knew California Route 99 as U.S. 99, but it became a state highway in 1964.

Dead Man’s Curve and the Grapevine

The Wheeler Ridge TA actually has an Arvin, Calif., address since Wheeler Ridge itself is an unincorporated community. The Wheeler Ridge community takes its name from the Wheeler Ridge land form where the San Joaquin Valley meets the Tehachapi Mountains. The Tehachapi Mountains loom to the southeast, dividing the San Joaquin Valley from the Mohave Desert.

To get to the Wheeler Ridge TA from the east, drivers have to navigate the Grapevine, a stretch of road that winds through Tejon Pass. Before it was an interstate, when it was U.S. 99, the road wound around like a grapevine. A section of it was known as “Dead Man’s Curve.” Here’s a photo of a remnant part of the old highway.

Many of the loops and curves are gone, but there remains a steep grade to I-5. There is an unincorporated community named Grapevine at the foot of the incline.

Osburn will get to navigate the Grapevine going up the Tejon Pass on the way to the stop after Wheeler Ridge in Barstow, Calif,

Stop by when you see The Spirit

If you see OOIDA’s tour trailer, stop by and say hello to Osburn. He enjoys visiting about the Association’s activities and current issues. He usually has copies of Land Line Magazine to hand out. You can join or renew your OOIDA membership for $10 off the regular price there. Free face masks are available for anyone with a commercial driver’s license at The Spirit. You also can get forms for uninsured drivers to get flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccine vouchers at The Spirit.

After Wheeler Ridge, The Spirit is scheduled Jan. 22-24 to be at the Barstow, Calif., TA.

Here is the schedule for The Spirit. LL