Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Earlier today

Gotta keep the Rolling Steel Tent rolling. Oil change and transmission fluid flushed/replaced. The fluid was brownish instead of pink when I checked it, and a little low, so...

Dinner time

How might someone turn soup into the main (or only) course? I don't know about you, but I added dehydrated vegetable mix to chicken corn chowder. Also pepper, because I like some kick. And oyster crackers, of course. It was very good.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Farther down the coast

Sunrise in Oceanside, California, where you can pay to overnight in a parking lot at the beach. So I did. Again.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Your name in stone

I learned of the Valley of the Names a few years ago, but all the info I had found advised that four wheel drive was required. So even though I’ve spent several winters about ten as-the-crow-flys miles from Valley of Names, I never went — particularly in the wetter times.

But I finally saw video of the road there. Oh, I can do that. 

No doubt there would be washboard. I mentally prepared myself for that. As I drove I kept thinking a passenger car, with its soft suspension, would be a better vehicle choice for the drive than something with stiff springs, like my van. The contents of the Rolling Steel Tent got rearranged a little, but high ground clearance wasn’t necessary.

Originally called Graffiti Mesa, the names began as the work of soldiers training in the area. After WWII the names became less about leaving your own name and more about memorializing the names of fallen comrades. But since it’s all unsupervised folk art, many of the names are now about departed friends and family, John + Mary true love forever, and personal I-was-here ego gratification.

Whether the original name has become more apropos than Valley of the Names, I still have to give a nod to the work put into collecting and transporting all those rocks.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Another post about a road

In 1912, Arizona had just been made a state and it looked like Phoenix was going to be a bigger deal. People on the West Coast thought, “Hey, we could be doing more business with that miserable desert outpost if only it were easier to get there. And back. Alive. ”

Automobiles were still in their infancy, but a road could be built and operational a lot faster and cheaper than a railroad. At the time, the state and federal attitude regarding road building was essentially, “If you want one so much, build it yourself.”

Business and civic leaders in Los Angeles and San Diego wanted in on the Phoenix trade, so the push to become the fist of them to establish a quick route to Phoenix turned into an actual contest.

In October of 1912, San Diego businessman Ed Fletcher raced a representative of the Los Angeles Examiner (whose name has disappeared into the dustbin of history, because loser) from their respective cities. Fletcher gave the Examiner driver a 24-hour head start but still got to Phoenix ten hours sooner.

Fletcher’s more direct route required crossing the Imperial Dunes (sometimes called the Algodones Dunes). Since dune buggies hadn’t been invented yet, Fletcher had his car towed through the sand by a team of horses.

Having convinced backers the route was feasible, Fletcher set about finding a more workable solution for the dune problem. And the Plank Road was born.

Timbers held together by iron bands were laid across 6.5 miles of sand, the first sections being placed in February 1915. Double width sections here and there allowed vehicles to pass. An improved version was built in 1916 and was in operation for another ten years.

After being abandoned for nearly 50 years, most of the Plank Road had been buried under windblown sand. Some timbers had been hauled away for use in local mines and construction projects. Some were used for fuel. In 1973, a few of the road sections were rescued and reassembled into a 1,500 foot facsimile within spittin’ distance of I-8. That’s where I was today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Hurray for infrastructure projects

(Big exhale)

I’m back on the road. Back to my normal life. My vagabond life. And it feels a little weird to have a totally open agenda. No appointments, no routine, no one with whom I must mesh my existence. I don’t need to hurry back from a short trip to help anyone out. I’m gone for good — well, except for a brief return to clear out Lou’s shop and sell his truck.

(Big exhale again)

So… Yesterday I got as far as Ironwood Forest National Monument outside Tucson. I’ve been there several times before but now something was different — other than my state of mind. The last couple of miles of road before the turnoff to a camping area had been utter crap. A layer of asphalt had been coming up in chunks. It was so bad people had been driving on the much smoother dirt shoulder. But now:

The new paving is a surprise since this is just a lightly traveled road out in the boonies, not some high-priority thoroughfare in town. Maybe it’s a sign for me. Or just a sign of public works working.