Monday, May 12, 2008

California or Bust -Part 2

By Saturday afternoon, we had been traveling in Texas all day. Our dd is really into the trip now and decided to get into the spirit with a new hat--Texas style...sort of. Notice, that Mom is now in the BACK seat -- to take pictures of course!

Around 4:45 Becky pointed out a sign... "Prison Area - Do Not Pick Up Hitch-hikers". Well, you won't have to tell me twice! We were closing in on the western edge of Texas. We've seen a lot of what we refer to as "5-Star Hotels" or "Resorts." These usually consist of either a very old travel trailer or very old and rusty single-wide mobile home set up in the middle of NOTHING but scrub trees, dirt and rock. Each 'resort' usually has an equally old car or truck parked outside. In the 'parking lot' there are usually several retired vehicles of undetermined age. They just look so strange out in the middle of nowhere!

By 5 o'clock, the interstate made a big turn and we found we were driving parallel to the Rio Grande. You could see the mountains of Mexico on the other side. For some reason, I thought the river would be bigger.

El Paso was a strange place. The northern side of the city is closed in by huge, rock mountains. But nobody lives on the mountains. The mountains are bare. No trees. We're used to the mountains in Georgia, N. Carolina and Tennessee where there are houses all up the side of the mountain -- not here! On the tops of the mountains are many towers (like radio towers).

On the US side, buildings are pretty normal--what you would see in most cities. On the Mexican side of the river are thousands and thousands of (for lack of a better word) shacks. They are piled on top of each other like I've seen in pictures from slums in India and other 3rd world countries. I did not expect this.

A little while after we drove into New Mexico, we were routed off the interstate through some sort of 'drug seizure' check station. They had cones on the interstate routing west-bound traffic through this huge metal shed-type building. As you come up to this little toll-booth type building ...the guy was just waving every car through. I don't know if we were x-rayed or what?

Our grand plan for this trip was to get to California to pick up the car as soon as we could...then take our time coming home. We had stopped Friday night, slept well and planned to drive the rest of the way through to California without stopping to sleep. The only downfall of this plan was that it was dark when we drove through southern Arizona and California. The only Saguaro Cactus that I saw was the shadows in the moonlight. You could make out the arms of these tree-like cactus...but alas, I didn't get to see one clearly.

After leaving Cochise, AZ we could tell the road was climbing into more mountains. Even in the dark, the mountains were beautiful. The rocks have changed into huge boulders piled on top of each other. As we came down the mountain, Benson, AZ was all lit up in the valley. All the lights looked so sparkling and pretty. We loved going through all of these towns we had only heard of in movies or the news. We stopped in Gila Bend, AZ for a potty break and enjoyed looking at lots of pottery, old tractors and metal sculptures. Of course, this was at 2:30 am (ET) so we were getting a little punchy and enjoyed just about anything!

During these early morning hours, we were doing different things to stay awake. Wayne listened to Merle Haggard for 3 hours! We also listened to Jack Benny on Sirrius radio. At one point, we stopped at a rest area and I just walked around and around the truck to get my blood pumping again. Why was 'I' doing this? Because it was my job to stay awake to keep the driver awake!

We stopped in Yuma, AZ for one final fuel stop before heading into California. We're figuring fuel is probably much more expensive in California. (We were right!)

Finally! We made it to California about 5:45 am (ET). Shortly after entering California, we were routed off the interstate once again for what appeared to be an inspection station much like those we have in Florida for organic materials where they stop trucks. This place stops everybody! As before we were waved on through after coming to a stop.

As we traveled through this area (in the dark) you could see these huge dunes on either side of the road. According to the map this was the Baja Recreational Area. It was the middle of the night, but there were dune buggys with lights going up and down over the dunes. It actually looked like a lot of fun! Too bad we didn't have time to stop and check it out.

About 10 miles down the road, we were detoured off the interstate again. This time it was pretty scary. It must have been an illegal alien checkpoint. As it came our turn at the stopping point, the truck was surrounded by armed Border Patrol agents. Complete with big dogs, automatic weapons, and other devices used to look under the vehicle. One of the agents came up to the window and asked dh "What country are you a citizen of?" (You'll be proud that I didn't correct his grammar). Actually, it was kind of frightening. After dh stuttered a little, he said "United States of America" and the guy said "Good, me too!" After they finished looking around the truck, they waved us through. Whew! That was strange.

By 7:30 am (ET) we had climbed very high up a mountain (4,700 ft). At the top of the mountain we were once again routed through a 'gestapo' checkpoint. This time, the guy asked us where we were from, where we were going and what we were doing. After listening to the answers, this guy actually looked into the truck -- then waved us on.

By this time, we're getting kind of used to this kind of thing (how sad!). But we laughed because we had two huge boxes in the back of the truck that were closed and locked. In one, we had all our luggage and extra coats. In the other, Wayne had any kind of tool he thought he might need on the road. Either of these two boxes could have contained at least 2 people. We were surprised they never asked us to open them.

By 8:00 am (ET) we arrived in Vista, CA. But since it is only 5am here in CA, we had to chill for a few hours before arriving at the man's home (the seller) where we were to pick up the car. We parked in the parking lot of a "cultural center." Okay, it was a Wal-Mart parking lot. It didn't open until 6am local time, so we slept a bit. By this time it is daylight. We had culture shock. EVERYTHING was sooooo green! The grass and trees were so green and there were lots of flowers everywhere!

We showed up at the seller's home about 15 minutes early (7:45 local time) and got to work loading the car on the trailer. The man had purchased the car 34 years ago. He and his wife were moving to Italy, so he was selling the car. He nearly cried when the car was loaded and tied down. What an ugly car!

After visiting with this sweet couple and getting a tour of their beautiful home, we got back on the road about 1:15 pm (ET). Now our mission is FOOD! We're starving since we haven't had anything but junk food since early last night --in New Mexico!

Now our plan included:
#1 -- Find Food
#2 -- Find a motel to stay for the the Daytona 500 Nascar race on cable television--somewhere!
#3 -- Take a nap....

More tomorrow.....

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