Kern River

The Kern River as seen in the canyon above Richbar. On April 22, the flow was 3,170 cubic feet per second from Isabella.

I thought Bird was gone. The electric scooters that charmed some and bewildered others, as in “You’ll never get me on one of those things.”

I was one of those “you’ll never” people until I downloaded the app, rode a Bird and fell in love as the wind whistled through my pink hair at 15 mph.

Then, the scooters seemed to have disappeared. A couple of weeks ago, you could hardly find one downtown, which had held the biggest concentration, and the company, which had dropped off 100 Birds in December, appeared to be having second thoughts about their Bakersfield experiment. Too much vandalism, too few riders? Bird wasn’t talking.

Last week, a friend’s son spotted five Birds locked to poles on Ashe Road and a couple of days ago, I found one close to Jenks Tire on 21st and P. I scanned the barcode and rode home after having dropped off a car at John Axt’s. Still fun and still handy.


Not everybody agrees. A woman from San Diego said they’re thicker than pigeons down south and about as welcome. She said you can’t walk without having to hurdle scooters sprawled across the sidewalk. She also made a good point, echoing friend Glenn: “Rather than using Birds instead of their cars, people may be walking less.”

The scooters do have some exercise value. You can’t underestimate the effort it requires to push off for two feet before the electric motor kicks in.


What happened? The Birds disappeared, then the river. One minute we were floating on paddleboards from Beach Park to the Park at River Walk — the water was between a foot and 5 feet deep — and then it became sandbar city in the middle of the river and unnavigable.

Having a river flow through town is transformative. Translation: It makes Bakersfield look less like the Australian Outback and more like Scotland. There is still a ton of snow in the Sierra, it’s melting and the water has to go somewhere, so why not here?

Rather than continuing to make up stories about why we don’t have more water, I called John Ryan, the water resources superintendent for the City of Bakersfield.

“We had a water district take a bunch of water recently but the river will be rising over the next couple of weeks,” Ryan said.

Everybody likes a buzzword and feel free to use CFS or cubic feet per second with your friends or rank strangers who you are trying to impress. When the river was deep, fast and wide few weeks ago, the water was flowing around 1,100 CFS (3,000 CFS from Isabella, but downstream, the river becomes more sluggish).

“Right now, it’s running at around 605 but we’ll be bringing it back up to around 1,100 over the next few days,” Ryan said. “This weekend should be good and next, maybe even better.”

John “Good News” Ryan had more.

“Our goal is to keep the river active through Labor Day,” Ryan said.

In other words, we might have water in the river all summer. How great is that?


A note from Patricia on how to make a car with a bad case of the funk smell good.

“When you mentioned how good your car smelled on your trip home from Bolles nursery, it made me think that when you have enough rosemary to season every roast in Bakersfield, cut a few branches, rinse under cold water, and dry it in a paper bag in your hot car during Bakersfield’s flaming hot summer.”

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.

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