Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Trip Home—Part I

My drive back from California was full of memories. The whole trip was about 4300 miles. The remembering started while I was driving east on the San Bernadino Freeway (I-10).  That was the freeway we used when I lived in Hermosa Beach in the mid to late 60s and early 70s to go to the desert for hiking, rock climbing at Joshua Tree (I hated it) and winter mountaineering (going down a snow field on my back trying to get the ice axe to dig in is also in the I hated it category).

Passing exits signs for Banning and Cherry Valley brought memories of my Aunt Gaby, my mother's sister,and her husband Uncle John who lived in Cherry Valley and Uncle Amedee, her brother, and his wife Aunt Augustine who lived in Beaumont.  We didn't see them often during my years there as our lives revolved around our children and Ken's mother in San Diego.  Our lives had a regular schedule of one weekend in San Diego, one weekend camping, hiking or sightseeing, and two weekends doing household things.

Wiki photo of white pelican
I had decided that I wanted to see the Salton Sea.  I had never gone further south inland than Indio and I was curious as to why people liked the Salton Sea so much.  There were lots of birds there, and although I wanted to stop, the areas to turn out were closed.  This was really off-season, so maybe there weren't enough people to warrant keeping them open, on the other hand it could have something to do with ecologic concerns. The sea is below sea level, quite saline and the home of white pelicans in addition to being on the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds.  Lots of environmental issues around contamination due to agricultural use and water usage.

Izzie and I spent the night in Yuma, Arizona.  I had never seen Yuma, nor driven east on I-8, so that was a new experience.  I guess we could have gone on to Tucson that day, but I didn't want to be tempted to just drive through and not see the Saguaro.  I was unaware that Yuma is such a big railroad town.  The motel we stayed in was very dog friendly, the Oak Tree Inn.  Many of the rooms are reserved for railroad people.  I've stayed at Oak Tree in Elko, Nevada and Green River, Wyoming.  Breakfast was at Penny's Diner next door.  They give you a voucher and it buys a good meal.  I sat at the counter and chatted with someone who works for the railroad.  He had just come off an overnight run and was going to sleep after his breakfast.  He asked where I was from and when I told him Maine, he said "that must be your van outside."  People seem to find it odd that it's just me and Izzie.

After breakfast we started for Tucson.  Right after Gila Bend I began to see saguaro cacti.  They are really limited in their range living only in the Sonoran desert of Arizona, Mexico (and a little of California).  To see whole hillsides of these magnificent beauties was quite spectacular. (Wiki photo)  I was warned not to let Izzie out since she could easily pick up a nasty prickly on her paw. She actually did pick up something sharp on one of our walks outside the motel.  Fortunately I caught it right away and removed it.  I never did get to the Desert Museum.  Time was running out, but I saw enough to know I'd love to go back.  I bought some cactus candy, something I hadn't had in years.  Love it.

While near Tucson, I saw a roadside sign, you know the kind that tells you who is paying for keeping the trash picked up along the roadside, that said Lazy K Bar Ranch.  In high school one of my girlfriends would go to Arizona for spring break. Her father eventually ran that particular dude ranch and they moved to Tucson I think in our junior year.  In Nashua they ran the Howard Johnson's so obviously they knew what they were about.  My friend competed in barrel riding and I think became a nurse, but I lost track of her so I have no idea where she is now, but it's odd how a little sign can trigger memories.  From Junior High on four of us would walk to and from school together.  We'd all meet at one house and go on from there.  In really bad weather someone's parent would drive us (not mine since we didn't have a car).


Grandmère Mimi said...

Nice travelogue, Amelia. I'd love the see the saguaros. I had an Uncle Amedee, too, but we called him Uncle Med. He and my aunt and their 10 children lived in Gulfport, Mississippi.

motheramelia said...

Uncle Mitte and his wife had no children. He and his wife moved back to New Hampshire for the last years of his life. He was a plumber and had worked at the naval shipyard in Portsmouth during WWII and after the war went to California to plumb homes in Palm Springs. They were pretty well off, at least compared to my family.

Grandmère Mimi said...

We didn't have a car either. The only wheels were my uncle's bakery truck. He and my aunt lived across the street from us. When my uncle was done with his deliveries, on weekends, we'd pile in the paneled truck, which had seats only in the front, with the kids riding in the back on the floor of the truck. But hey! We had wheels to go on our outing. And the smell of fresh baked goods never went away.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

I´m fond of Arizona. I lived in Scottsdale and worked as a Buyer for Goldwaters Department Store (then Associated Dry Goods but owned formerly by Barry´s family)...Arizona was a place that ¨grew¨ on me...I´d moved from San Francisco and I thought my life was over (even though I had lots of Buying Trips to Los Angeles and New York to keep me ¨ALIVE¨)...but then, suddenly the quiet of the place grabbed me and held me...I started painting again (I was a Art Major just a few years away from College) and I have a wonderful painting hanging over my bed tonight that I painted around 1967 outside my arcadia doors which was almost immediately natural desert on a very large isolated piece of property...I lived behind Camelback Mountain and accross the highway from Camelback must be very populated today...then, it was spacious and hauntingly beautiful...your memories brought memories back to me...thank you, yes, it´s interesting what one, so much to think of. I´m fortunate to have a ¨spirit of adventure¨ just like you.

Rick+ said...

     I'm loving the travelogue, Amelia! I'd never heard of the Salton Sea - a sad lack of education given I live next door. I want to hear more about your travels. Your public also demands insider gossip on Grandmère!

motheramelia said...

Mimi, it was my uncle Donat in NH that served the role of transporting us places. He was married to my mother's other sister Clarinda and they were wonderful to us.

Len, I never liked the desert until I was away from it for some years. I usually got a sinus infection if I was there for more than a couple of days and it took me a while to see the beauty in the very special light that bathes the landscape.

Rick, the trip to Mimi's is for today, but as to telling insider gossip, I'm bound by the seal of the confessional.

The Cunning Runt said...

I saw the Salton Sea for the first time last March; it was spectacular in its absurdity as a monument to devastation and obsolescence.

I haven't driven cross-country, though, since the early eighties, and am really enjoying this!

motheramelia said...

Cunning, there was a lot of absurdity to be sure. So much broken down stuff and I understand that agricultural runoff is putting some pretty nasty stuff in the sea. Glad to know something is being done, but with money issues, California is not likely to get at it for quite a while. I was fascinated by the number of birds though.

Grandmère Mimi said...

I'm bound by the seal of the confessional.

Thank you, Amelia, Indeed, my sins, they are many. ;-)