Saturday, July 9, 2011

Seventeen - Coasting

After Vegas I needed a quiet night. So I paid a rare visit to Mcdonalds. For some reason Barstow Mickey Ds is formed from a collection of railway carriages. Which I’m sure has some significance but enables the sound of screaming kids to echo through the building undampened. They also had problems with the Air Con which isn’t funny when it’s 102 outside.
At least it’s a dry heat right? Well, no. It’s unusually humid in the desert this week, so the only solution is to hang out in the pool. Luckily, some inspired genius has put the washer and dryer next to the pool so I can (finally) do some laundry at the same time!
Morning …er, must have been Wednesday, and I decide to head through the Joshua Tree National Park. There’s some great desolate roads on the way there and it’s afternoon before I pull up next to the ranger hut to pay my fee.
“Watch out for animals crossing the road” says the Ranger as I pull away. I nod but I’m too busy checking out the Corvette coming the other way. It’s driver is admiring my Camaro and we share a moment of mutual admira….
Hang on, what animals? It’s the sodding DESERT! There’s nothing living out here, that’s why it’s called a desert! What should I be expecting to see legging it across the road? Rattlesnakes?!
Well, nothing ran or slithered out in front of me, but all around me were Joshua trees and, er, nothing else! It’s quite a sight. There’s no other plants, just boulders. Lots and lots of boulders. The rocks are pushed up through the earth’s crust by some intricate process described in the guide that just blew out of the back of the car…
(Rescue guide, take pictures of car looking shiny)
So you can look at the pile of rocks that looks like a scull, or the pile of rocks that has a flippin huge rock perched precariously at it’s top, or the pile of rocks that.. well, there’s lots of rocks.
More impressive is the view from the top of the hill. There’s a 5 mile road up to Keys View and at its end is a staggering view across the valley. Of course it’s all shades of brown and not picturesque like Yosemite, but it’s quite something to see, especially because it sneaks up on you!
I head out of the park and spurn the interstate for the lure of a smaller road. I’m glad I did as the road twists and turns its way through a desolate canyon. I’m wondering whether a HUD in a car is a brilliant device that allows you to see your speed and gear without looking down, or a completely distracting number floating in your primary point of focus. Best switch it off, don’t fancy scraping a tyre down here!
No, not a tyre, that was an audible representation of the visible change. I’ll try again:
In an instant my whole world changed. The road emerged from the canyon across a railroad track and I was surrounded by 6 foot high vegetation! It looked like a vineyard with an almighty collection of equipment distributing water to the plants from a huge reservoir. It was stunning after hours, no, days in the desert!
I’d reached Mecca.
Well I don’t know what all the fuss is about because Mecca’s a crap place. No hotels, no Subway, not even a bingo hall. It must be very disappointing to make a pilgrimage to here.
So I consulted GPS. There’s one motel 10 miles South which is the way I want to go, but there’s loads 10 miles North. However the one South is by an inland sea, the Salton Sea in the town of Desert Shores. That wins easily!
It’s a crummy motel but it’s a few hundred yards from the beautiful sea, shining like a mirage in the desert. Except like a mirage I can’t actually get there. The whole sea front is fenced off with no trespassing signs. Great. Which is probably why it looks like nobody ever stays here!
North then, and the Indio Economy inn. It’s a nice little place with bungalows around a swimming pool area. A little run down, but they’re working on that. I chat to the owner’s son and he recommends all sorts of Mexican food and drink. Unfortunately I‘m still Vegas’d so I have another quiet night. It’s still over 100 degrees and the swimming pool feels like a bath.
Back past Desert Shores and then the final stretches of deserted roads before heading over the hills into civilisation. Time to drop the roof and crank the stereo then.
…and before you know it, I’m there:
San Ysidro
Forget Mecca, this is the real destination for this drive. The most South Westerly point in the United States. The Fourth Corner. The End.
It feels like I’ve overshot and hit Mexico judging by the Spanish signs and dark skinned faces. It’s crowded, noisy and dirty, but still the USA so I can be a wuss and eat in Subway. Or I could if there was anywhere to park, and somewhere to go for a pee. Hmm. Maybe I’ll just hit San Diego.
So for the first time in, who knows how long, I turn North. Into San Diego and I find somewhere to park, get out of the sun, get something to eat and yes, have a pee!
While I’m eating, a guy recommends PB, which stands for Pacific Beach, and apparently has a mile of bars leading to the ocean, about 20 minutes from here. Sounds great. So I take a wander round the “Gaslamp district” then check my map for PB.
OK, Sat nav?
Never heard of it.
Well I’ll just drive along the shore, how hard can it be?
But this is a city, and cities mean traffic, confusing signposts and junctions, and a few detours thrown in. Stuff this. I’ll get out of the city and back to the coast ten miles up, that should be good for PB.
I pass through La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya), Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encenitas but no sign of PB. I ask a gas station attendant, but she can only point at the ocean and say “it’s all Pacific Beach”
Something’s troubling me about these beach resorts. I’m not tempted to stay here because they don’t seem right. All the beachfront property is privately owned so the hotels are along the main road, a couple of blocks back. What I want is a place where the road follows the beach, perhaps with a promenade alongside. Where the hotels line the other side of the road with views out to sea.
I’ve travelled halfway round the world and I’m looking for Morecambe!
Carlsbad comes close. There’s a promenade and then you get to the hotels. Jim talked about it back in Tahoe city. So I try to stop but the nice places are over 200 bucks, and the cheap places are full. Oceanside is the next town up, but is no better.
It’s getting late so time for the fallback plan. Whack “Hooters” in the GPS, and hope for a hotel nearby.
Jackpot. 3 miles to Hooters and when I get there, there’s a Holiday Inn next door!
In Hooters I chat to Dustin from Alaska who works on the PGA tour erecting “bleachers” so travels a lot, and we swap stories about life on the road. The bar girl, Kimmi, is a lot of fun and very good at her job so I’m never without a drink. It’s a good night and a shame I won’t be back tomorrow.
Sod it. I’ll have another night here.  I need to contact people and sort some stuff out, although I spend most of the day by the pool. Everyone is at the beach leaving me a pool to myself to relax by. I’ve finally acquired some “Australian Bronzer” so it’s time to lose my one-armed driving tan!
Back to Hooters. No sign of Dustin, but Kimmi’s here, and so is Sarah. She’s about four foot tall but cute as hell, and we enjoy watching her attempt to fill 3 foot “towers” of beer. I’m sat next to Joe, who could be the quietest American I’ve met. We prop the bar up until Kimmi throws us out to close up. I bid them farewell, but Kimmi says “see you tomorrow”, she’s probably right.
It’s madness, it’s chaos, it’s …breakfast. The weekend has arrived, and all the kids with it!
I’d like to head back to PB. It turns out to be the area of San Diego I missed when heading out of town. But the hotels are expensive and full.
Sod it. I’ll have another night here.  
“Didn’t you say that yesterday?” asks the receptionist.
Yes. Yes I did. What the hell, I’ve ten days to get back to Vegas.
So I take a drive to PB. Sure enough there’s a strip of bars, and quite a few attractive people walking around. But I’m still high on the memories from Vegas, so I head back to my pool.
My toilet flush handle breaks off inside. I don’t mention it to the cleaner as I don’t want to be moved to a crummy room (Mine has a balcony over the pool) or have hassle with maintenance men, I can still make it flush, and I’m going tomorrow. Definitely this time! But while I sit by the pool, the cleaner discovers the problem, someone fixes it and I return to a clean room and a working toilet.
Holiday Inns rock!

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