Saturday, 21 June 2008


Today I did the dumbest thing...something that everyone warns you about and something I was always so careful about on the last trip and resolve to be more vigilant about in future.

First though.... Set off fairly early after blearily trying to annex someone else's breakfast of the continental kind. I think I was rather put off by the sign above the toaster telling guests of the selfishness of food hoarding. Apparently under the rules of the hotel, people are using breakfast as a means of stocking up for the whole day and often leave uneaten bread and cereals in their rooms when they check out.

Being a dog- friendly establishment I began to think that they preferred pets to people. There was a sign on the Dining Room door saying "No Dogs". However it was a good area for the Wi-Fi. When I asked to go in I was told I couldn't - "There is a dog in there".

Decided to take the scenic route so headed north to link up with Highway 78 to take me through Ramona (that actually would have been a slightly less obscure song title/lyric for this blog rather than a line from "3:10 to Yuma” as sung by Sandy Denny.) and Julian and over the Vallecito Mountains out across miles of desert that comprise the national parachute test range. Still the radio was on about health matters: "A rattlesnake bite causes reddening of the skin, inflammation, excruciating pain and often death. Don't let this happen to your dog, have it vaccinated at....". A huge number of Border Patrol vehicles and several checkpoints sometimes unmanned. Close to the Mexican border so presumably they worry about immigrants. Also they worry about bugs and diseases in fruit. Then they worry about drug smuggling and they also worry about the terrorist threat. They worry a lot in America. This keeps uniform manufacturers very busy. I passed a placard featuring a couple of smartly dressed border patrol officers bearing the legend "Now Hiring". Wonder what their view is on employing Mexican immigrant workers? At one check point it was time for another dog to sniff. Not me this time but the car tyres. Would the wheels be crammed to the rims with contraband fruit, drugs, bomb making equipment or very small crescent-shaped illegal immigrants?

The temperature was rising steadily until it reached 114F/46C. At this point I noticed something on the instrument panel. The fuel light was on. I had forgotten to fill the car up. Hmm, I wonder how long I have left before I run out and am stranded in the desert? There is other traffic but not a huge amount. Also I take small comfort in emergency telephones which seem to be a regular feature unlike last year’s trip through Death Valley where there were none that I saw. Presumably they want to keep the name pure. A few miles up ahead was the small settlement of Octillo Wells- there would be gas there.

There were filling stations there. In fact two of them more or less side by side. One firmly closed and the other derelict. So on again trying to conserve fuel. Air con off. Cruise control set at 50 mph. Mind set in neutral. Heart in mouth. The next town was 40 miles away. a) would I make it? - and b) would it have a filling station?


I make one more stop at a border patrol post to ask how far it was to the nearest garage. They told me 12 miles into Westmoreland and there would be one there and "go steady". I was hardly able to go any steadier thought the purple faced sweating wreck that stood before them.

After filling up and calming down I set off for Yuma with some fresh cold water. In this heat it actually becomes bathwater very quickly. Drove over the Imperial Sand dunes and with a stiff breeze filling every orifice with grit I got out of the car to take the picture you see here. It was like stepping in front of a fan heater. Just to show how resourceful the Americans are, some bloke built a wooden plank road across them in about 1908 just to prove it could be done. Highway 78 isn't a very big road but then turned to a far smaller one - the S34, before reaching Yuma which looked quite big on the map. By the time I got there someone had either hidden a lot of it in the sand or had lied. It boasted being the sunniest place in the U.S, something which I am scarcely in a position to deny. All the evidence pointed to it. Booked into a motel which seemed to take up half the town as it was on both sides of the road with a small pool on each side and also had its own bar and restaurant next door.

After all the excitement it was time for very cold beer and something to eat. The chap sitting next to me at the bar making a play for a female co-worker who was having none of it delighted in the name of Kermit.

Wonder if that had anything to do with his apparent lack of success. Decided that as Alexander, Norman, Charles, Phillips Lester I was probably going to strike out there too. So concentrated on my beer and food.

I went for the healthy option. Chicken, gravy and fresh vegetables. It arrived. Deep fried chicken. Grey sludge (see last year’s trip re : biscuits and gravy in Branson Missouri) and- well I recognised a carrot, a couple of mushrooms but the other things I had no idea what they were but they weren't unpleasant. Lots of slices of what looked like cucumber of different hues.

Come 10 o'clock things were closing down so I went to bed. Had to turn the air con off in the room as it was probably brought across that plank road in a Model T Ford in the early part of the last century judging by the noise it made, and fell into a dreamless sleep. The following morning I learned another salutary lesson about living in hot climes. You work when its coolest. At 5.15am construction workers starting drilling outside my room!

1 comment:

Arty Pete said...

Well done Alex. Glad you didn't become prey to a Rattler.I have been running to catch up with you , crickey you have covered some miles since I last logged on.I shall endeavor to keep up and will go out to buy a gallon of the golden motion lotion which I can e-mail to you to help to prevent another running on empty fun filled "extravaganza"
"Keep blogging" as they say somewhere.Looking forward to reading more about "The Return"
I ask myself are they ready?
Cheers and have a nice trip........