Expedition 11: Avoiding Smoke

September 20, 2023. The AQI in Berkeley was just under 150, about to verge into the red zone, due to wild fires. I decided to go north where it was still about 90, but better. I looked for places to go where I could stay in the car with the air recirculating (online sources disagree about how long it’s safe to do that so I turned it off and on as I drove).

The Rohnert Park Gravity Hill was already on my list so I headed there. Something about the leaning trees and not being able to see the horizon line makes it look like you’re driving up hill when you’re actually going down. I repeated an experiment I found online and drove to Lichau Road (“gravity hill” appears in Google maps). The effect happens when you’re going west and it was late in the day so my video is pretty washed out.

I drove down the real hill to what looks like the lowest point and then put my car in neutral. Took my foot off the brake. And kept moving, all the way up to the metal gate on the left. Wow, it worked! It was pretty cool! My car didn’t accelerate as it went down, as some people reported, but it was trippy anyway. Disorienting, in a good way! 

After that I hoped to enjoy a pleasant drive on the Silverado Trail but every time I dipped below the 55 mph speed limit someone would tail gate me, so that turned out to be a bust. On the way home I was able to drive more leisurely down the back roads. It still looked plenty smoky despite the much lower AQI. With luck, our wildfire season will be over soon.

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