Night 21: 50 Degrees

Trip Start Jun 20, 2012
Trip End Jul 18, 2012

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Where I stayed
Travelodge Barstow
Read my review - 2/5 stars

Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Night 21: 50 Degrees

Today we managed to drive 240 miles over three mountain ranges and across the San Joaquin Valley. The travel day started at 59 degrees and rose to a high of 105 degrees. There was sun all day.

Today was about temperature and inconvenience. I won't write much today because I am tired from the decisions of the day.

We began at the San Simeon State Beach. I broke camp quickly in the wind and we had a quick bite to eat. Even though it was cold, I put on my shorts having heard that a heat wave was gripping the California valleys only 22 miles away in Paso Robles. The night was spent listening to our camp neighbors sing religious songs in a foreign language.

We drove down the coast to Cambria in search of ice. We found it in my favorite: block form. Block ice lasts twice as long as cubes ice on a trip. It is not easy to find. The gas at the ice store was up to $4.45 a gallon, way more than the $3.49 we saw north of Monterey only yesterday.

Cambria might have been gouging the many European tourists who seemed to fill the town. As unknown as Cambria is to us Americans, it seemed to be the final destination for the French and the Portugese. They must have quite a marketing pitch across the Atlantic. No one at the gas station knew how a gas station worked. Thru struggled with the concept of "self service" worse than an Oregonian. (Oregon only allows gas stations to run full service or mini service to save jobs. It is actually very nice to gointo the station while someone else takes care of the pump.)

A man saw my New Orleans Saints hat, recognized the trademark fleur de lis, and started talking to me in French. This went nowhere fast.

From Cambria you can catch one of the few passes east over the coastal mountain range. As we climbed the yellow hills, I noticed much of the land was used for ranching. On the way down the hills, the land was covered in wealthy vineyards offering tastings. At the center of all this wine-themed activity was the old Californio town of Paso Robles. We stopped here for much cheaper gas and moved on through more vineyards and up the next, much taller mountain range.

As we descended a patchwork of farms and the glint of rooftops appeared. We were in the San Joaquin Valley and it was about 100 degrees, a difference of 41 points. The valley is fed by the California Aquaduct and enjoys quite a rain shadow. I will try golfing for the first time recipe.

The valley was full of orange groves and other fruit and nut trees. Every natural river bed was dry. Agriculture is the name of the game in these parts. People in the cityveven care about it. In Balersfield, a rather large city in the valley, people in daily chit chat talk about the harvests and the effect of the weather on crops. This whole system depends on the aquifer which delivers snow melt from the Sierra Nevada to the farms. Otherwise the valley would be a dusty desert as it is in unirrigated parts.

During all this driving Andrew kept busy writing out postcards, drawing maps of imaginary KOA's and playing word games with Mommy.

We came to Bakersfield along the Stockdale Highway. The city proved to be the friendliest town I have ever visited in America. It was an oasis of myriad services.

I dropped Jessica and Andrew off for lunch at Chic-fil-a and went to get an oil change. I was at about 4700 miles since I got one before this trip. The oil change was cheap compared to Chicago and included a free hand car wash. What a deal! The van was covered in the dirt of 4000 miles and bugs from a third of the U.S. Did they know what they were in for giving me a free car wash? They even vacuumed out the interior, which was getting disgusting. It was a brand new van when I got it back. What's even mire amazing is that nothing was stolen from the car. Not knowing I was getting a hand car wash, I left a lot of valuable things out. I tipped the guys for a fine job and went to try California's ubiquitous In & Out Burger. For $3, I got a pretty good burger with pretty good fries along with more fiendly service. Confusing. In Chicago, at my local Wendys, they hang the bags of food out the window, always get orders wrong, and never look at you.

I also got those melt in your mouth Chic-fil-a nuggets that I know from my forays into the Deep South. (I understand there us one in downtown Chicago now.) Usually when I pass a Chic-fil-a it is closed because, luck always has it, it is a Sunday. The chain is owned by a Christian who enforces the Sabbath and holds it over profits. I respect that.

I metbwith Jessica and Andrew and we intended to drive satisfied from Bakersfield and across the Mojave Desert. It was 105 degrees. The AC blower was not working. This happened right before our trip too, but it miraculously fixed itself so the mechanic said it was okay. What a place for this to happen!

Jessica insisted that we get someone to look at it. She was right. My suggestion of rolling down the windows would not have been too nice. I pulled into the Universal Repair Shop owned by a guy named Jose and his wife. It was a tiny shop full of cars. His wife said they had been staying late and neighbors came in to gossip, one saying, "Jose must be making lots of money then."

Jose took a look and figured that the blower motor was fine and that it was somewhere in the wiring. He took a half hour though he was very busy. When he said, he'd do a diagnostic for his hourly rate of $85, I told him only if he thought he could fix it in a couple hours. He only said ge thought he could and would try. Thinking of Jessica and Andrew, who had taken refuge in an ice cream shop called Foster's, I told him okay if he could fix it. I was content to roll down the windows for $85. Well, $90. They don't take checks, especially from Chicagoans, and charge a $5 fee for credit cards.

I settled in the office and talked to his wife about kids and weather and Chicago. She kept handing me local sales papers to read, which I reminded her were useless to me. Since Jise was working on the van and since he's the boss, he was interupted every minute from working on the van.

I noticed quickly that this was a family run operation and that these people were cornerstones of the local community. The neighborhood would come by for visits and gossip in Spanglish. A woman and her son bought a car from the shop. A pregnant girl came in to ask whether or not she should get an epidural. The lady from Foster's next door and her kid and husband came in to shoot the breeze. They complained about Mexicans, although it was clear they were all Mexicans. They said that part if Bakersfield was "dirty like being in Tijuana." They talked about the working conditions for migrant farm laborers who can make up to $400 a week but should "stop pissing on the food when there's portopotties everywhere." Whenever these people left, Jose's wife would discuss things with me. Jessica came in and they talked about snow and heat, etc.

Soon Jose came back in and explained that he did not fix it, but that it was working. There is something wrong with the wiring behind the controls. He told mebwhat to hit if it stopped again. Irritating. I lost 2 hours and $80 to have a guy hit the blower on and not fix anything. He could fix it, but it would take a ling time and a few more bucks. It was working so off we went into the desert, a bit poorer.

Before the Mojave you must climb a pretty steep mountain range called the Tehachapis. It was 100 up here at 4000 feet and the engine was running hot. When I decided to adjust the AC to cool the engine, the blower stopped working again. Then, just for fun, an accident shut down the road. We were on a big grade, not moving, in heat. Oh, well. The smell if thousands of onions from trucks all around us filled the heavy air.

I passed the time praying for the people involved in the accident ahead. Helicopters were needed and when i saw it, it was just a charred mess of unidentifiable stuff. The BLM fire crew was there.

We slipped down the mountain and into the Mojave Desert Valley. It was breathtakingly beautiful (like most of California.) The sunset skies were pink and a variety of changing pastel colors. Joshua trees, amazing ghostly desert palms, dotted the desert floor, branches twisted reaching for the sky. And it was hot, even at night.

We decided to stop for the night in Barstow, of Route 66 fame, since there was nothing east of it for two hours and since we were tired from the full day of troubles. In Mojave, CA, which has a "spaceport," we booked a cheap room in Barstow an
hour past Edwards AFB.

Barstow was another oasis. Everything you need is available. We got a clean, quality room. There was a pool, heated by the Mojave sun. Across the street we got sandwiches that claimed to be gyros. (As a Chicagoan, I can only eat Kronis from now on.) Andrew and I laughed at the Vegas ad books available outside for the gambling shuttles from L.A. Two hours to the south. This is the halfway to Vegas stop from L.A. and bus operators ate for free at the place we went.

We are too close to a triailer park. There are prostitutes nearby and a man us riding around in a bike carrrying a shovel. I hope this stuff disappears in the morning and I hope my van doesn't get broken into.
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barbara bezold on

thanks for writing this , i m glad i wasn't along for this adventure, but it's fun to read

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