It's math that makes perfect sense to anyone living in Bakersfield the last couple of unbearable weeks: A 40-mile drive -- even at 4-plus bucks a gallon -- to shave maybe 10 degrees off the August swelter.
The Tehachapis never look more inviting than they do this time of year from the vantage point of valley dwellers staggered by the one-two punch of triple-digit temperatures and dirty air. Which makes the timing perfect for this weekend's 49th annual Tehachapi Mountain Festival.
"We're just a short drive from Bakersfield and it will be a lot cooler up here than down there this weekend," said Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce president Ida Perkins, having the good grace to sound only mildly smug.
"That's a big selling point."
Weather aside, there are plenty of other temptations at the five-acre Central Park and nearby lot where most of the action takes place: arts and crafts will be on display and offered for sale, as will the wares and services of dozens of commercial vendors and nonprofits. Add to that live entertainment, 20 food vendors, a gem and mineral show, rodeo, car show and what Perkins calls the hub for children: a carnival with about 20 rides, ranging from easy-does-it toddler amusements to "some pretty good E-ticket stuff."
Most of the activities (save the price of ride tickets) are free.
"Central Park is a big park, just gorgeous, and it sits right in the middle of Tehachapi, and people come on Friday morning or early Saturday and bring blankets and pop-ups and stake their claim, and just stay there all weekend," Perkins said.
"That, I enjoy seeing. It can be a very inexpensive weekend for somebody."
But that doesn't mean visitors won't spend. That's kind of the idea of the festival, whose purpose -- in addition to providing a good time -- is to promote Tehachapi and its businesses.
"Kind of an economic stimulus is what the Mountain Festival does," said Perkins, who said the chamber lays out about $70,000 in expenses. "The restaurants, every year they seem to break a new record. It's a really good boost for our economy."
Perkins predicted well over half of the expected 40,000 festival attendees will be current or former Tehachapi residents. Most of the remaining visitors drive from Bakersfield, Palmdale, Lancaster and Los Angeles.
"I've seen a big push over the last five to six years to really focus on bringing visitors here," Perkins said. "We have a lot to offer the tourist."
Though she will "eat, sleep and drink the Mountain Festival" for the next few days, Perkins already is looking ahead to the 2014 event, which will be the 50th.
"It'll be the golden anniversary. But we're focusing on this year for now. Everyone gets so psyched up. It's a part yin the mountains. You can just feel it in the air."