I have been in four convenience stores in the last four days, all owned and operated by people from India. Now I mention that only because it no longer seems like an anomaly, but more like the norm, like twenty years ago when so many convenience stores were owned by Koreans or Vietnamese.
I wonder why that is? Has there been a change in immigration policy? Is there some particular reason why Indians are suddenly buying up small businesses in the U.S.? I have no opinion on this one way or another, and I certainly don’t care who owns a Quick Mart. But I do find it curious.
Tomorrow we will be passing through Bakersfield, a farming city if you ever want to see one, surrounded by some of the richest soil, and driest soil, you are likely to ever see. And then we will move into the desert as we meander, in a not-so-direct-line, to Campo, California.
We could actually make it to Campo in two days if we chose to, but I suspect it will take another week or so. In case you haven’t clued into the fairly obvious by now, I am avoiding Los Angeles like the plague. I just can’t do the traffic or the hordes or anything that goes along with it, so I am willing to drive days in the wrong direction to avoid visiting the City of Angels.
Once we finally arrive in Campo, we will boondock as much as possible, for about three weeks, while Bev gets herself back into Trail shape, and while we make some alterations to the bus. You see, once Bev hits the Trail, there will be no need for this current configuration, so some carpentry work will be done prior to Bev leaving.
I’ve never seen a rattlesnake in the wild. I suspect that statement will no longer be true by June. That is actually my biggest fear concerning the dogs; I hope they are smart enough to keep their distance from the rattlers in the desert.
And, for those of you who have asked on Facebook, Puddle Walker is purring along like a champ. I do need to get the oil changed in the next few weeks, and I have no doubt I will need new tires in the near future, but performance-wise, this 1999 GMC Savana has been impressive to say the least. And for that I thank the stars.
THE HUGENESS OF IT ALL
I might be wrong on this fact, but not by much. You can drive from Madera, California, to Bakersfield, California, and not see a hill.
It is flat country.
And it is farming country.
Remember when I marveled at the size of that winery we stayed at? We crossed over a slight rise (no way it could be called a hill), and I happened to look to the right, and a cherry orchard stretched for as far as my eye could see. It literally filled the entire panorama. And shortly before that I glanced to my left, at a large sign welcoming everyone to the Halo Oranges Company, and I saw the largest, longest warehouse I have ever seen. I am not exaggerating, the warehouse had to be a quarter-mile in length.
Scale gets obscured when you see things of such mammoth proportions. It is hard for your mind to reconcile with what your eye just saw. There is no frame of reference to compare it to. It’s pretty hard to shock me, but twice, in the span of fifty miles, I was shocked by what I saw.
I also saw two completely dry riverbeds, and a viaduct down to a trickle. The drought this area has endured is a real thing, affecting real people, and altering lives forever. It is not some thirty-second news story, not some political punch in the gut during an election year. The drought is real and no, I won’t get drawn into some discussion about the why’s and the wrongness and the blame game. I’m talking about real people who are hurting, and real consequences which will follow, so real they will be felt by those of us who are just passing through, who live thousands of miles away.
This is a hot area. It also supports a huge percentage of the farming in this country, and produces a huge percentage of some very important crops, and it is drying up. Thousands of acres lie fallow because there is no water to sustain them. Put that in your political pipe and smoke it. While the swinging dicks in D.C. play the blame game, real Americans are feeling the real of it all.
Anyway, if you get the chance, come see the western breadbasket of America some day. It ain’t Hollywood by a long shot, but it is important to this country and, in a global economy, to this world.
DESCENDING INTO THE DEPTHS OF HELL
Back when I was eighteen, that summer, my best friend, Frank, and I, in need of cash and both having fathers who believed able-bodied teens should work summers, hired on with the Longshoremen’s office as temp workers.
We showed up our first morning, six a.m. sharp, and was told to report to Dock B, where the captain of the cargo ship would tell us what to do. What to do turned out to be shoveling coal into a blast furnace in the bowels of that ship, on a day which was to reach 90 degree outside, 115 degrees in the cargo hold.
We shoveled like crazy until the whistle blew for the mid-morning break, nine a.m., all hands on deck, smoke them if you’ve got them, down as many liquids as possible. I looked at Frank, the sweat literally flowing off of his chin; he looked at me, the same scene of flowing sweat; we both shook our heads, walked to the gang plank and walked out of the Longshoremen portion of our lives.
I was reminded of that as we descended, today, out of Tehachapi, California, down into the Mohave Desert.
Into the bowels of hell!
I drove through the city of Barstow maybe three or four years after the longshoremen fiasco, and it was 122 degrees that day.
Read that again, just in case you think it was a typo on my part.
Now, don’t misunderstand, it wasn’t that hot when we drove through it today, this being February, but one look at the city, drained, seemingly, of its life force, and one look at the surrounding area, and you know damned well it’s going to be 122 again in the near future.
Which almost prompted me to say, as I did fifty-some years ago, “why in the hell would anyone live in this Godforsaken hellhole,” but I caught myself, and I contemplated, and the answer to that question flowed forth.
There are a multitude of reasons why people live where they live. Jobs, family, tradition, necessity, and on and on we go, all valid reasons, none of which require my blessings. The fact that I don’t understand why anyone would want to live in a blast furnace does not negate the validity of their reasons.
The older I get, the more I fervently embrace this truth: it is not my job, as a member of humanity, to change your way of thinking to match my way of thinking. It is simply my job to find a way to live in harmony with everyone else. I do not need to agree with your place of residence, your politics, your religion, or a million other things of inconsequence, nor do you have to agree with mine. The only thing I accomplish, by trying to bend your will to meet mine, is to increase my frustration and disrupt my tranquility, neither of which I am willing to do today.
And, so, I salute the hardy people of Barstow, California. Bless you all!
ANOTHER BIAS BITES THE DUST
There’s a storm coming in off the Pacific. It is currently February 21, so storms off the Pacific are nothing too newsworthy, and I can’t say that Bev and I are terribly concerned about this upcoming one. Still, we are in no hurry. We are literally about 200 miles from our destination, and we have over three weeks to get there, so why rush out into a storm if we don’t have to do so?
We are hunkering down in the Lilac Oak Campground and RV Park, about eighty miles north of San Diego, and about thirty miles inland, and here we will stay while it rains proverbial cats and dogs.
This is actually a lovely place. It has four ponds, some tent camping areas, full-facilities, and some full-time RV residences as well . . . but it looks like an RV park, and in the past, in many circles, that would be frowned upon and, dare I say, ridiculed as the place of lower-income, bordering on poor, residents.
I say that because that was once my impression of RV parks, places where RVs, and RVers, went to die, those people who couldn’t afford to live in traditional homes, those people with rusted Chevy’s in the front, and Doberman’s chained to a bumper, sitting at the picnic table smoking a pack of Marlboros, waiting for their social assistance checks to arrive from the Government.
Shame on me!
I have been a card-carrying member of the RV Revolution for less than a month, now, and already I see the fallacy of that way of thinking. I am not poor. I am not destitute. I do not live off the Government. And yet an RV, a restored bus, is my only residence, and I am spending two days living in an RV park rather than a Hilton or some other fancy, schmancy, hotel.
Bev and I took the dogs for a walk around the grounds this afternoon. I was mildly surprised how large it is. There must be fifty permanent residences here, as well as maybe ten part-time, temporary residences, in addition to the traveling trade like us. The permanent residences were easily recognized because they had the signs of ownership for all to see, the little lawn gnomes, the strings of Christmas lights, the small gardens, the names on signs sticking out of the dirt, their own little slice of the American Dream, twenty miles outside of Temeculeh, California. And for two nights, and days, I am allowed, and proud, to share this slice of Americana with them.
Has anything caught me by surprise, Ann? What a great question. Let me think about that, and I will answer in an installment of The Journey. I want to give that question the thought it deserves.
I better send this while I still have a signal.
Thank you, dear friend. The first time I drove through Montana, it confused me. I didn’t think it was possible to be in one state for so long. 🙂 Until I drove the length of California, that is.
We are doing well, and I am loving this trip. It has been the best possible thing I could have done, and I look forward to each day of new adventure.
I hope all is well in your life; hoping for happier days head for you.
Lil Sis, as a matter of fact, I have dabbled in fiction now and again. 🙂
Me and big cities, not going to happen.
This trip has been good for me, Cynthia. Very good for me. I am at peace.
That is very kind of you to say, Liz. This journey has been inspiring for me, but it’s nice to read your words and know that inspiration is noticeable.
I hope this finds you well.
I am enjoying the virtual tour. You are so gifted in being able to give vivid descriptions that it feels like I am visiting places that I would not otherwise be able to travel to.
Hah…when we road trip, we always try to avoid going right through the big cities. We often take whatever roads we can to go AROUND. Granted, sometimes it’s unavoidable, and if we’re driving through at 11pm, well, there’s no need to divert because there’s no traffic. lol. but I feel you 100% about Los Angeles. It’s infamous for its traffic snarls. In other news, I wanted to compliment your writing: it’s lovely and descriptive, like I can imagine myself where you are. You must be a fiction writer or something. 😉
Bill, I’ve always known you are a wise man–this post is living proof. Avoiding LA is the best thing you’ve done thusfar on this journey. I white-knuckled it through L.A. about 25 years ago, and I am certain it’s only gotten worse–much worse.
The vastness of this country is simply mind-blowing, isn’t it? I’ve always been struck by how big this place really is when I drive to/through Montana.
Stay safe dear friends. Soak up the ‘everything’ life has to offer. I look forward to your next post.
You paint a great picture, Bill, of the amazing countryside you’re travelling through. I can see it all, right down to the RV site.
Has anything caught you by surprise, apart from the hugeness of it all? I mean something totally different from what you expected. Something tells me you just go with the flow anyway, but I just wondered.
Keep safe and keep enjoying it all! Your wonder comes through so well.
I’m looking forward to your next report.