The Grapevine, looking south
|Elevation||1,499 ft (457 m)|
|Official name||Top of Grapevine Pass|
Grapevine is an unincorporated community in Kern County, California, at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. The small village is directly adjacent to Interstate 5 and consists mainly of travelers' and roadside services.
At an elevation of 1,499 feet (457 m), the community is located at the foot of a grade known as The Grapevine that starts at the mouth of Grapevine Canyon, immediately south of the community, and ascends the canyon to the Tejon Pass, which separates the Tehachapi Mountains from the San Emigdio Mountains via Interstate 5 (formerly U.S. Route 99). The village and grade are named, not for the once-winding road known as the Grapevine that used to climb the steep mountain canyon, but for the canyon it passed through with its wild grapes that still grow along the original road. Its Spanish name was La Cañada de las Uvas, i.e. Grapevine ravine.
Before the road was straightened and widened during 1933-34 by the three-lane Ridge Route Alternate (US 99), the Grapevine was infamous for its high accident rate. There are escape ramps branching off both sides of the downward part of the road for heavy trucks whose brakes fail on this five mile long, 6% grade, 1600-foot ascent - and now straight - grade.
The road is subject to severe weather and closure to traffic in winter. The stretch of I-5 through the Grapevine and the Tejon Pass is sometimes closed by the California Highway Patrol, generally because of the icy conditions combined with the steep grade of the pass, and the high traffic during the winter holidays. Occasionally, heavy rains will cause mud and rockslides, closing the freeway. The Highway Patrol is also concerned, especially with the large number of big-rigs that pass through, that just one accident in the icy or snowy conditions might force traffic to slow down or come to a complete stop, leaving hundreds of vehicles stalled at once. Whenever there is such a closure, traffic must either wait for it to reopen, or endure a slow multi-hour detour running between Bakersfield and Los Angeles via SR 58.
In 1955, Charlie Ryan wrote and performed a popular song known as "Hot Rod Lincoln", about a teenager who races his souped-up Lincoln against a Cadillac up the Grapevine hill. While Ryan never drove up the Grapevine, this song was inspired by his own experience racing a friend between Coeur d'Alene and Lewiston, Idaho. The song was an answer to the 1951 song "Hot Rod Race" by Arkie Shibley, referring to the same stretch of road in central California.Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen recorded another version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" which was a hit in 1972.
The ZIP Code is 93243, and the community is inside area code 661. A post office operated at Grapevine from 1923 to 1960. The community of Wheeler Ridge lies three miles north of Grapevine on Interstate 5, with Lebec nine miles south.
[Highway Patrol Officer John Lutz] adds that the Highway Patrol regards this short-term closure as routine: "This happens nearly every year"
the California Highway Patrol on Tuesday strongly defended its decision to cut traffic off, saying that the icy road surface, steep grade of the Tejon Pass and heavy post-holiday traffic volume made the Grapevine simply too dangerous to navigate.
If an accident forces traffic to slow or come to a complete stop, and snow continues to fall, hundreds of vehicles can become stalled at once. The Tejon Pass is particularly vulnerable because of its steep hills and the number of big-rigs that travel on it