Tuesday, November 29, 2011

At the Dentist with Frank Sinatra
It was 8:45am when I stepped into the dentist office in Los Algodones,Mex. My appointment was for 9am. I was told that Dottore hadn't arrived yet so I placed myself in a chair with a view out the window. It seemed that everybody in town was going about their usual business. Girls went by, old buggers went the other direction. The cars going by were of all ages. some nice and new, others looked rather beaten up. A few guys were working on a roof a few houses down the street. A Military Humvee was passing with a grim looking soldier sitting on the truck bed. No police though.

From the reception desk came blaring Mexican music. The song played on an endless loop. Soon I would be able to sing it myself. After xxxxx times hearing that same tune the receptionist changed to another. I learned the second Mexican song as well. Then, at about 9:30 the Dottore came through the door. After another 10 minutes I was called into torture chamber.

After the preliminary procedure encompassing picture- taking, and explaining what to do and why, I gave my oral consent to go ahead. What I thought would be a single crown and maybe a root canal, turned out to a crown, two root canals and a bridge between two molars. Cavities were involved as well.

If there was already music out at the reception desk, here in the inner chamber was even more of it. Surprisingly not Mexican but rooted deep in the American great song era with Frank Sinatra and friends. Not enough with that, but the music was so enticing that both Dottore and that beautiful Mexican assistant were just picking up the tune and doing a nice duett. I was stetched out into the horisontal position, I had some rubber and stretch apparatus in my mouth, otherwise I would have loved to join the two. Matter of fact I was feeling a tad dumb being so absolutely defenseless without any ability to say neither OUCH nor STOP.

I have been in dentist chairs in other places and the most time I have spent during a single visit was 1 1/2hrs. And that was BAD. But it was nothing compared to today's session. Yep, I spent three (3) hours in that unfortunate position. Dottore asked me whether I wanted a break, but I figured that the suffering would just have been pro-longed, and that, I thought, was not desirable either. So I stood out with it and hoped for survival.

When all was over - no it wasn't yet. Dottore was mixing some concoction in a little bowl and it turned to a rubbery jelly. He put that stuff on a little metal form (you may imagine a baking form for X-mas cookies) and then he shoved that whole thingy in my mouth and pressed it down onto my gum. Holding it there seemed to take some strength. My mouth was aching and I must have slowly shut it, cause all-of-a-sudden Dottore withdrew one of his hands telling me that I should not bite into his finger. He started wailing about that just about everybody was biting into his fingers and why was that? Well, I kinda knew the reason, but didn't say nothing. I couldn't, as I had the mouth full of that rubber stuff. When he was done with the lower portion and had broken it free, I looked at it and it had changed color from strawberry red to a nasty looking yellow. He then took another rubber imprint from the upper mouth as well. Geez...

4 hrs after arriving in the morning I walked the street, numbed in parts of my mouth, and eager to leave this dentist town and get through the border back into the good old U.S.A. 
I have three more of those nice dates with Dottore to look forward to.

A beautiful Morning

Had to get up early as I am headed for Algodones,Mex. and the dentist. OUCH!!! But at least I had the honour of a beginning sunrise. So it seems we are having another beautiful day in the Desert South-West. The weather man was suggesting 84F today, and that's pretty warm.
So I have to get off now. Maybe I'll see you later, if the dentist was nice to me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Slab City"

It is certainly not for everybody and we have never stayed there, just visiting the place a few times, but SLAB CITY as it is called, is still populated by Snowbirds and year-round squatters from across North America.
It takes its name from the concrete slabs and pylons that remain from the abandoned World War II Marine barracks Camp Dunlap there. A group of servicemen remained after the base closed, and the place has been inhabited ever since, although the number of residents has declined since the mid 1980s.
Several thousand campers, many of them retired, use the site during the winter months. These snowbirds stay only for the winter, before migrating north in the spring to cooler climates. The temperatures during the summer are unforgiving; nonetheless, there is a group of around 150 permanent residents who live in the Slabs all year round. Most of these "Slabbers" derive their living by way of government checks (SSI and Social Security) and have been driven to the Slabs through poverty.

The site is both decommissioned and uncontrolled, and there is no charge for parking. The camp has no electricity, no running water or other services. Many campers use generators or solar panels to generate electricity. Supplies can be purchased in nearby Niland, California, located about three miles (5 km) to the southwest of Slab City.

Located just east of State Route 111, the entrance to Slab City is easily recognized by the colorful Salvation Mountain, a small hill approximately three stories high which is entirely covered in acrylic paint, concrete and adobe and festooned with Bible verses. It is an ongoing project of over two decades by permanent resident Leonard Knight. I have been blogging about it before and you can access the posting here.

Today was a hot day with temps around the 80F. Nevertheless I went ahead and made a cheese cake. It was a first for me, and since we haven't had a bite of it (the thing must cool down first) we don't know whether it's edible. But I am hopeful. Our friend and neighbour Earl has his birthday today and he should be celebrating today, but the day was marred for him as the fridge in his Motor Home won't work. He replaced two electronic boards, but nothing helped. So part of their stuff is now in our fridge.

So long, friends, stay cool in the heat and warm if you are still up north.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

For us snowbirds and boondockers it is important to be not too far removed from common town facilities, such as fresh water and propane supply. Also shopping for groceries should not necessitate a 100mile-drive. 

Thus the small town of Holtville, being 8 miles away is just what we need to have nearby. Holtville has a privately  run dump station two grocery stores and a couple of gas stations. Of course we also receive our mail there and there is a local bank in town. That, pretty much covers the basics. For other things we make the drive to El Centro or sometimes even to Yuma, AZ.

The city of Holtville was founded by Swiss-German settlers in the 1880s often coming in through the U.S.-Mexican border from Mexico. The construction of railroads in the 1890s, the All-American Canal in the late 1940s, and U.S. Route 80 in the 1920s which later was converted to Interstate 8 in the 1970s, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) led to an economic boom in the 1990s and brought more people to Holtville and the Imperial Valley.

The city of Holtville, which was originally called Holton, was founded in 1903 by W.F. Holt, and incorporated on June 20, 1908. The name was changed to Holtville due to a request by the Postal Service because the name Holton sounded too much like Colton, (in San Bernardino County), the regional headquarters of the Southern Pacific Railroad at the time.

The city lies on the northeast bank of the Alamo River formed by the floods of 1905-07 when the Colorado River break made the river's course turn west and filled the low-lying depression of water now the Salton Sea.

The old U.S. Route 80 once ran along Fifth Street through the center of town. A small obelisk in Holt Park, just north of Fifth Street, gives the distances to various points to the north, east and west. U.S. Route 80 has been decommissioned and made a County Route S80 in California.

Much of the east-west automobile traffic has been diverted to Interstate 8, about 2.5 miles to the south. Holtville is easily accessible through the Orchard Road interchange. The newly constructed State Route 7 connects Holtville with the factories and industrial areas of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.

The city was once joined by railroad to El Centro, but this line (nicknamed the "Holton Interurban"), and another railroad line going to the north, have been abandoned. The closure of the railroad station brought on economic decline to the town in the late 20th century.

The city's major civic event is the annual Carrot Festival, held in late January or early February. It usually features a parade, a carnival and other activities over a 10-day period.
 Yet another follower has jumped aboard, and I dare say it's someone
I know very well. Wilfried is a fellow I went to school with back in the sixties in Germany. Willkommen an Bord Wilfried! I know Wilfried would prefere everything I scribble in German, but that's too much of a work load.

Thanks for looking in here.

The Imperial Valley
The first time we came into the Imperial Vally we were mighty astonished to find such a vast agricultural area being so close to a dry desert landscape. The valley is located in southeastern Southern California, centered around the city of El Centro. Locally, the terms "Imperial Valley" and "Imperial County" are used synonymously. The Valley is bordered between the Colorado River to the east and, in part, the Salton Sea to the west. Farther west lies the San Diego and Imperial County border. 
The reason for the far-stretched agricultural landscape is the All-American Canal which conveys the rich water supply, from the Colorado River into the Imperial Valley.
Neatly prepared agricultural fields 
Irrigation Pipes along the Highway

It is the Imperial Valley's only water source, and replaced the Alamo Canal, which was located mostly in Mexico. The Imperial Dam, about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Yuma, Arizona on the Colorado River, diverts water into the All-American Canal, which runs to just west of Calexico, California before its last branch heads mostly north into the Imperial Valley. Six smaller canals branching off the All American Canal move water into the Imperial Valley. These canal systems irrigates up to 630,000 acres (250,000 ha) of good crop land and has made possible a greatly increased crop yield in this originally semi-desert area. It is the largest irrigation canal in the world, carrying a maximum of 26,155 cubic feet per second (740.6 m3/s)
The All-American Canal as it runs by the Hot Springs LTVA
The Imperial Valley is rich in natural beauty, local history, and culture. The unique culture of the area blends the two different countries of the United States with Mexico, due to its regional history and geographic location along the international border. This creates a small town atmosphere, and an economy based on agriculture, and a strong work ethic for the people of the valley. From early in January through the winter holiday season, the Imperial Valley hosts many festivals and activities that keep things moving. From the North to the South. Imperial Valley offers visitors and residents a taste of many cultures such as those from Mexico with all its sights, sounds and tastes waiting to be savored. 
Strong hispanic traditions in the Imperial Valley
El Centro is the promising new major commercial and industrial center of Southern California for the imperial valley, being the center of shipping exports as well as being home to retail, transportation, wholesale, and agricultural industries. There are also two international border crossings nearby for commercial and noncommercial vehicles. The city's population was 37,835 at the 2000 census. The 2006 population is 40,563. The city is 50 feet (20 m) below sea level and the largest city in the United States below sea level. Fifty percent of the jobs in El Centro come from the service and retail sector. However, the economic recession hit El Centro and surroundings hard, and the city has a current unemployment rate of more than 25%.
Anza Borrego in Spring - blooming Desert
Two new followers have joined the American-Traveler. Be welcome, Sue and Doug from Big Dawg and Freeway an Ruth from Five-Just Rolling Down the Road
Thanks again for stopping by.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Just a few Thoughts
The day after Thanksgiving. It's "Black Friday". I could add Christmas, Halloween and Easter. All these special days, holidays or whatever you call it have become days of endless commerce. Today's news from various places in America weren't good news. In the heat of getting to the best deals somebody used pepper spray to fight off "competitors". Other places shooting in stores erupted and robbers stole what others had purchased of "good deals".

Is our society going nuts over "saving money" on deals? What are these deals anyway? Do we absolutely need the latest version of an I-phone but are not willing to pay the full price for it? Are we dependent of getting the advertised 42inch TV at $244.00 at "Worst Buy"? 
One gal being interviewed had camped out in front of the store since Wednesday evening to get into the door when the store would open on friday night at 12:00 midnight. What was she thinking??

What's going on folks? It sure looks like commerce has taken out our brains and hidden it somewhere in the pile-up of electronic products. 

When I accompanied friends today, who were in need for a new laptop I saw frenzied people everywhere. It was almost impossible to make headway through the throng at Costcompany, and at Wailmart the masses had clogged up every direction in the electronic department with half-hour wait times at the till.

It sure isn't looking up for the days before and after Christmas or Easter either. When the major retailers are offering a limited supply of merchandise at what they call bargain prices, everybody seems to get the run. We must elbow ourselves to the front of the line in order to grab that product and fork over the dollars for it.

Do we ever think of the main reason why we in our part of  the Christian World celebrate Christmas or Easter?
This Sunday is the first of Advent. And if I remember that right there are three more Sundays of Advent to follow. It is a time where we prepare for the birth of Christ. It is a time where we should take opportunity to sit down and spend a few thoughts about our family, our neighbours and friends. We might as well decide to shut off that noisy TV for once, take a book and read, or play a game with the kids, or visit the old generation in the nursing home.

When I went to school, (yes I know, it's awfully long ago) our schools were still allowed to celebrate the time of advent with us students. I remember that on monday morning after Advent Sunday the main lights in the hallway were shut off and a teacher had lit another candle on a wreath of spruce hanging from the ceiling. When class started we sang a Christmas Choral before we went on with our studies. It was a sure way to educate us about Christmas, teach us values and make us feel well and at home. Those were my favorite days in school. 
In those days commerce wasn't all that bad. We could buy chocolate candies from the beginning of december, but not in August or September. 
Easter bunnies were available a few weeks before Easter but not right after Christmas.

Well, this is just my opinion of course and everybody must decide for himself where and what his/her priorities shall be, but I'm just saying....

Wishing everybody a great Weekend and a wonderful 1. of Advent.

Take Care!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A cool Thanksgiving Day
The early morning showed a thin band of dark clouds above the eastern horizon, and only an hour later these clouds had spread almost over the entire sky, only way out, toward the west, was still a blue sky.  This weather lasted the whole day and turned this day into a rather cool Thanksgiving event. But anyway, we had our Turkey Thanksgiving supper within our fellowship of friends at the Host Station. And it was good sitting together and having a chit-chat about this and that. 

Earl and Carol came finally down by car from Saskatchewan yesterday but couldn't get their motor home out of the storage as the starting battery was flat. So they slept in the Motor home inside the storage and today we drove to El Centro, where Walmart was the only store being open, and purchased a new battery. After it was mounted. the coach sprang to life and all there is left to do now, is getting all the stuff they brought stowed into closets and cupboards.

More and more RV-owners leave their rigs in the south, in order to save on fuel costs. However, it is a real calculation  how much one can save, as going by car would require overnight stays in a motel and eating in restaurants, plus the fee for the storage.

Now the last part of our west coast drive in 2005:

November 04
We say farewell to Refugio State Beach and its wonderful 
campground and head farther south towards Los Angeles. 
Highway 101 follows the beaches for miles until we have to 
take off towards San Bernadino. The freeways around L.A 
are 4 to 5 lanes in every direction and lots of big trucks are 
coming up from behind all the time. Finally after several hours 
on L.A. Highways we reach Victorville at Interstate 15.  We 
have ordered a solar panel here which we plan to install while 
being on a campground. Victorville, a town in the desert is all 
spread out and the traffic here is terrible. Our campground, 
the KOA lies directly besides the Interstate and accordingly 
the noise is deafening. Definitely not a place to spend your 
vacations on. However we have desert temperatures and 
during the day it gets up to 30 C.
November 05
The morning starts out busy as we have to get downtown to 
purchase some groceries and accessories for mounting the 
solar panels. The shopping takes more than a couple of hours, 
because we can't find a food mart. First after lunch I can start 
on my work with the solar panels. Unfortunately some parts are 
missing and I have to improvise to get it all done.  Now I need 
another day to finish up the installation.
November 06
Another day working at Victorville. While I am buzzing about 
Bea washes the outside of our rig.  
November 07
Aah, what a relief to leave this noisy place behind. 

Interstate Traffic
In the desert

We travel through the High Desert landscape. Lots of Yuccas on both sides of the Highway 247 as it leads through Yucca Valley. As Highway 247 climbs down and enters Riverside County we cross a huge area filled up with wind mills. 
Bell Mountain at Hwy 247
Windpark at Palm Springs

Palm Springs lies just a bit off to the south of Interstate 10, which we 
leave at Coachello. Highway 86 gets us farther south and for the first 
time we see Palm Tree Nurseries along the road.

Our destination for the day is Mecca Beach at the Salton Sea. From 

the village of Mecca Highway 111 runs on the east side while Highway 
86 runs south on the west side of the lake. Mecca Beach lies on the 
east side and is just one of 5 local campgrounds belonging to the 
California State Recreation Area. The first campground we see is 
the local Headquarters. A very friendly lady Ranger offers us a job 
as camp hosts for as long as the season goes. We receive an 
application but decide to look around before we accept her offer.

After settling in for the night at the headquarters campground we 

drive down Hwy 111 until we reach the little village of Niland. Of 
the 5 State Recreational Campgrounds only Mecca Beach and 
the Headquarters can be recommended for a longer stay. These 
sites are very well maintained and offer a few hook-ups , a day-use 
area and shaded tables. They are spacious enough to accommodate 
big rigs too.

Headquarters campground has a very nice little marina and a 

service building surrounded by beautiful palm trees.

The Salton Sea is only 100 years old as it was created when the 

Colorado River went on a rampage in 1905. having created a dam of 
sediments against the California Gulf the mighty river found an outlet 
to the north, filling a low basin between two mountain ranges. It 
created the Salton Sea. However the basin is so low that there was 
no further outlet for the water. When reaching the height of the 
sediment barrier towards the Gulf the Colorado again found back 
into its previous bed and washed out into the Gulf again leaving the
Salton Sea to its own. Evaporation was leading to an increase of 
salinity and while no water outlet was possible an increasing amount 
of salt remained in the lake. The water is of a reddish color and does 
not appear to attract many visitors these days, and that should not 
surprise as the lake is heavily polluted, and produces a profound 
ugly smell. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

A beautiful day at the Hot Springs 
The fact that nights can be cool or downright cold in the desert is commonly known. But it still amazes me how fast it warms up again after sunrise. I made the morning walk with Molly right around 7:30 and the air felt cool though with a warming sunshine. At 8:00 I went into the pool at the Hot Springs and enjoyed a 30 minutes soak. 

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day, and we will have a delicious turkey dinner at the host station with a bonfire afterwards. Bea had made a list of what was still needed and at 9:00 we made the drive over to El Centro for groceries, and it was hot! 
We have been waiting for some mail which was sent to our mail box in Holtville by friends in Saskatchewan, but every day it turned out to be empty. The mail has now been "on-the-road" for 2 full weeks. At least we now know  why the post is called "snail mail".

I will wrap up today's post with another peek into our travel diary from 2005. These were the days before we arrived at the Holtville Hot Springs for the very first time.

November 03
After breakfast we have the mentioned beach walk. And it sure is gorgeous on that long wide beach. We fly off our jackets and shirts and are soon walking in our T-shirts in the bright morning sun and it is only 8.00am!  The dogs enjoy it as much as we do. But we have to go on and so we pack up and hit the road at about 10.30am. Again we ride through a beautiful valley area where vegetables and wine for world export are grown. 
At noon we reach the town of Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley. Since Solvang is known as the Danish town we turn off Hwy 101 and go the three miles n Hwy 246 into town, where they have an RV-Parking lot at the far east end of town. Already on the d rive-through we recognize the danish construction style of the houses. The side walks are flanked with red brick. The houses have a typical Danish style frame construction. The names of the store owners ar mostly danish or at least Scandinavian and there are several Bageri (bakery) and danish flags are hanging out everywhere. On our stroll through town I enter the tourist information office and have a chat with the lady behind the counter. She directs us to the Bethanian Church which is behind the danish-style school. It truly looks like a copy of any church in Denmark and is beautifully maintained. On our round I also buy a few cakes and a nice sourdough-bread.

The Town of SOLVANG

After saying farewell to Solvang we are now heading towards Santa Barbara on the coast.
Reaching the Pacific again we discover Refugio Beach State Park down below. Spotting the huge Palm trees and a few RV's make me change plans and spontaneously I decide to look for an overnight campground. And we are lucky, as the park is almost empty. We back the rig into a nice spot and settle in.

Refugio Beach State Park

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Point Reyes and farther down the Coast

Let's continue on the drive down the west coast in 2005:

November 01
Our 2.day at the Olema Ranch Campground. Since there is wireless Internet I do my "homework" and update the web-site. Meantime Bea makes the run to the laundry. After 2 weeks on the road there is quite a bundle to wash. The morning is beautiful with bright sun, so I make plans for the afternoon to explore the surroundings. We drive to Point Reyes, the little village only a couple of miles away from Olema.

Snake Dance
  View towards the Pacific
The Point Reyes National Seashore

The place has only one little main street but there are plenty of little stores and they have nice street fronts.
We decide to follow the Sir Francis Drake Blvd on it's last leg, where it runs out to the Point Reyes National Seashore ending at the Lighthouse Visitor center.  Again we get on a roller coaster, but without the trailer it is not much of a problem. By now the weather has changed completely and sea fog has come in over land. 
The landscape is hilly and formed by the dunes. The road follows most  it's narrow valleys. The sides are grown with myrtle trees, some willows and dogwood. When getting into the outer area the tree are more sparsely, and dairy farms are lying besides the road. The cows are grazing the hilly land and there are many of them. These farms are from the 1800's and they are numbered alphabetically. The grasslands with it's rocky coasts out here remind us of Scotland or even the Norwegian coast. Whipping winds keep vegetation low and into protected places.  On a day like today with wallowing fog you might forget that you are in sunny California at all. But from the parking lot 4 miles from the Lighthouse we catch a view of the long beach far down under. We also check out the Chimney Rock Road. Here, on the south side of the peninsula, the coast is so steep, that you hesitate to approach the edge. 
We find a beautiful spot of fall-colors on a cacti species when we drive down to south beach.


Back home at the campground we download all the pictures we've taken and do some e-mails.

November 02.
Today we leave Olema and are heading farther south. We avoid the City of  San Francisco and choose to drive the Richmond Oakland Bridge which leads us over to the Oakland side and onto Hwy 580. From Oakland we take Hwy 880 through Alameda until we come to San Jose. There we return to Hwy 101, which will be our main road connection all the way down to the Los Angeles Area.

On our way south we cruise through one of the biggest vegetable gardens and vineyards on earth, the Salina Valley and Monterey County. The fields seem endless as they stretch across the wide bottom of the valley.
Workers are to be seen on the fields and huge machinery is parked besides or in active use.

Pismo Coast Village
What we noticed in San Francisco is getting more and more obvious: We've come into the spanish speaking part of America. Mexican-style radio stations offer Mariachi music all day. It fits the landscape though and I feel on real holiday for the first time since leaving home.
We stop for the night at Pismo Beach and have to wait in a long line in front of the reception office.
When we finally got registered and drive through the gate we realize that this is the most luxurious upscale campground we've ever seen. And upscale is also the mixture of camp guests. The biggest and most expensive rigs up to the 500,000 Dollar mark can be seen in this ocean-front resort. For the overnight price they offer a complimentary WIFI and a heated pool. There is a store, laundry and washroom nearby. A security guard watches the entrance. All roads paved and full hookups on every site.
But the best here at Pismo Beach is --- the beach. It seems endless and huge waves are rolling ashore. But that we first get a chance to experience tomorrow morning.