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Wisecracking Across America - 58. Chapter 58

Friday, July 9, 1999

 

Goin' Earp City, gonna have some fun. Yep, there it was---right on the California border: the one-room, Earp post office, "Wyatt" added in script on its stucco side.

Why?

'Cause.

And we were almost home.

"Gonna kiss the ground?" I asked Tom. Instead, the dog baptized it for us. But I did swing from the Welcome to California sign.

Between Wickenburg and Earp, there was little to recommend: Salome. Quartzite. East Blythe. Between Earp and Yucca Valley, there was even less. Sand to the left of us. Sand to our right. Somewhere, there was Lillian Gish.

The road could've been one-lane. No one passed us. For years. By Twenty-Nine Palms, we'd counted every frond. We were breaking the speed limit, doing eighty, easy, though I feared more for our air-conditioning than for our lives. It was blazing out there, and we could've been standing still. Nothing changed. Nothing.

Well, almost. We crossed the Colorado Aqueduct a few times. The water than lets L.A. dance. Without it, we'd be Son of Earp.

And there were train tracks following the road, and rocks along the tracks. I don't mean ordinary stones. I'm talking small painted boulders, each the size of a football. They seemed to be set in purposeful designs, unless the heat was making me see things. The best I figured, though there was no one at all to ask, it was a local high school custom: You make it through puberty in the desert, and you get to collect a pile of rocks, whitewash 'em, and spell out your name for posterity. Then you get the hell out of town.

The horizontal roll call stretched on for an hour. Each name seemed to average ten feet, though we didn't stop to measure. The heat would have zapped us faster than a mouse on Mercury. I approximated as we drove, but you do the math: 80 miles an hour. 60 minutes' drive. 10 feet per name. Lotta people wanting out.

And one poor dolt on a bicycle, pumping hallucinogenically toward us. Dressed in black spandex with a pitch-dark helmet. Tugging a cart with a ten gallon tank. Sucking water through a tube. Trying to prove he was a man? Why not just hump a cactus?

We waved. What else could ya do?

Dead ahead was Palm Springs and big money, looking just like a little L.A.---only hot. The best thing I know about Palm Springs is the cable cars. Go up the mountain, throw snowballs. Come down, fry eggs.

We passed. I'd been up the mountain. I checked the map and guessed it was maybe another hour till Victorville, Dale, and Roy, though I don't know what I was expecting. The name alone had a certain Dashiell Hammet ring. Gangsters. Corruption. Red Harvest. But, like Canyon Country, the name offers a picture it can't deliver. Still, I could see how the once-unbroken skies could attract a singing cowboy. Open spaces. High desert.

Now, it was smashed, all K-Marts and Wal-Marts and Shoe-Marts and every kind of Marts and their strip mall diminutives. This was our last night outside L.A. And this was Hell.

"We can't stay here," I muttered to Tom. "We can't end the trip this way."

"What about Roy 'n' Dale?"

"Roy's dead, and I know what killed him."

Still, it was hard to pass their museum. But, as with the Alamo, we waved. Fortunately, once we'd reached California, my detailed maps kicked in, and I could easily pick our way around traffic.

"Where are we going?" Tom asked, for maybe the last time.

I checked the road ahead. There was nothing left to see.

"We may as well go home."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah."

So we did, driving perhaps the most beautiful road possible, through the San Gabriel Mountains. If there'd been an open ski lodge---if it had been the right time of year---we might just have stayed overnight. In fact, we might have stayed one more night if we'd happened on any kind of lodge. Though we were so close to home, we could almost feel it. This wasn't supposed to be our last day, but abruptly it was. Meanwhile, after a week of burnt out scrub, we were unexpectedly surrounded by green. And after Point A to Point B directness, the road was a coiling spring.

"Are you okay?" I asked Tom, meaning "You want me to drive?" Though having done it that far by himself, he was hardly likely to break.

"I'm fine," he answered firmly. But we were losing light.

And suddenly, there was a huge billboard at our side. "Welcome Back" it read, advertising a ski resort. Of course, we had to take pictures.

First, Tom and the dog. Then, the mutt and I. Astoundingly, she even looked at the camera.

Our first sight of L.A. was a twinkling at dusk. That swiftly resolved into strips of light, and, all too soon, we were back on a crowded freeway. Eight o'clock on a Friday night and everyone was going places. Both not fast enough, and too damn quickly.

An hour later, we pulled into Tom's driveway. Everything was as he'd left it, the gift of a watchful neighbor. Except for a pile of mail, rivaling Christmas. I was sure I had one of my own.

"We're back," I told the dog---who immediately lunged for the back yard. Maybe to report to The Big Dog, her boss: "Okay, I got the two jerks back alive. Now do I get my promotion?"

Tom started to unload.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "I'm ready to start again in the morning."


445 miles

13,704 miles, total

2000 Richard Eisbrouch
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Rich  Thank you for the Journey I did enjoy it

You made me cry about the dog as I am about to lose one that I have had for eighteen years

                 waiting for the next saga

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First, I'm really sorry to hear about your dog.  But eighteen years is terrific.  Fluff's mixed breed might have made her last another couple of years.  But our present dogs, Boxers, usually don't live past ten, and they're already eight.

 

And, yep, I knew that adding that coda was a risk, and I wrote it for this edition, but now I'll add it to the print and e-book versions.  Though I suppose the risk with any pet is you know you'll probably outlive them.  So you just have to focus on the time you have.

 

Again, thanks to all for reading along. 

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YEAH!

This was great! I grew up on road trips.... my mother looking at the trip tick and saying "honey, it is only so far and the kids could see...", and to their credit we have been to all states west of the Mississippi, except Arkansas (for some reason).... and from New York to South Carolina and back.

Never gotten to do around the whole circumference, but seen lots of the interior.

 

Sounds like y'all had a great trip, and it was a fun read. Thanks for sharing.

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13 hours ago, RichEisbrouch said:

First, I'm really sorry to hear about your dog.  But eighteen years is terrific.  Fluff's mixed breed might have made her last another couple of years.  But our present dogs, Boxers, usually don't live past ten, and they're already eight.

 

And, yep, I knew that adding that coda was a risk, and I wrote it for this edition, but now I'll add it to the print and e-book versions.  Though I suppose the risk with any pet is you know you'll probably outlive them.  So you just have to focus on the time you have.

 

Again, thanks to all for reading along. 

Fluffy would be considered to have lived 136 in human years.  Each year of a dog's life is considered to be seven human years.  We had a dachshund who lived over fifteen years.

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Yep, I've also crisscrossed the United States, seeing 48 states, so when I was planning to take this trip, I wanted to do something new and decided to drive the perimeter of the US and occasionally detour into Canada.  What first got Tom interested in coming along was my description of Lake Louise, which my great-aunt had seen in the 1920s, and I first saw in 1970.  It was beautiful then, and I wanted to see it again.  Of course, I initially saw it in August, and the joke in the book is that Tom and I saw it in late May, under very different conditions.

 

Glad you enjoyed the book.  It's been fun taking the trip again in memory, but, boy, I've got to go back and re-proofread and repunctuate.

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Nah, Fluff lived to be 12 1/2, and if I do the math right -- 12.5 x 7 -- it comes out 87.5.  Still not bad, considering the oldest man in my family hasn't made it past 80, so that's what I always figured would be my expiration date.  And I sometimes think that Fluff learned more in her fewer years than I have in all of mine.

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