California Quirks


I’ve read a number of travel guides, but when we were out in California last week, I noticed a few things that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else. I pass them along for any travelers in the Coachella Valley area and surrounding area in Southern California.

DRIVING

On our way to Goldstone we ran into Tank Crossing signs at Fort Irwin. Apparently, they practice desert warfare out there north of Barstow. While we never did see any tanks – crossing or otherwise – we could hear them in the distance. Their guns sounded like someone pounding on the inside of a dumpster.

There is apparently a federal prison somewhere east of Joshua Tree National Park. I didn’t see the prison on my way to Arizona, but I saw the signs. They warned not to pick up hitchhikers (like anyone who has even heard of a horror movie in the past three decades would even consider picking up a hitchhiker!). In any case, no orange jumpsuited hitchhikers graced the shoulders of Route 10. I naturally assumed they were all waiting at the conveniently located rest stop about a mile down the road from the NO HITCHHIKERS sign where they could kill and eat tourists and wash them down with something from the Pepsi machine.

WHAT TO SEE

If you have the choice when looking at the smog in the Los Angeles area, I recommend looking from the top down. I was in the mountains north of San Bernadino on the highway called the Rim of the World. Near the 6,000 foot level, I looked back towards Los Angeles and the pollution cut a straight line across the area. It was opaque and white. The sky was a deep blue and the sun shone down. It reminded me of a low fog and the mountain peaks that were poking out looked like misty green islands. Compare this to the view from down below where the sky was the color of month old snow.

After spending the day at Goldstone, we drove over to Calico. Calico is a ghost town and – as far as we could tell – “Ghost Town” in California means the same thing as “Renaissance Fair” back home. We drove way out into the middle of nowhere and parked halfway up a mountain near a street sided by old wooden buildings. Out of the 20 or 30 buildings, only five of them were actually from the original town of Calico. The history of the town reports there once were 22 saloons on the main street. Unfortunately, these have all been supplanted by quaint shops that sell scented candles, hand crafted jewelry and quilted cozies for pretty much whatever you need a cozy to cover. They did have a gun demonstration. The sheriff of the town came out and demonstrated his quick draw. I felt there was some symbolism in the fact that he only shot blanks, but it could have just been me.

I kept seeing signs for Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club; that put a whole new spin on “handicapped accessible”.

WHERE TO EAT

There is a Mexican restaurant down from Rancho Mirage called Un Pequeno “Bit of” Mexico. Now, I’m not a native Spanish speaker, but – then again – I’m not claiming to be serving Mexican cuisine either. To me this restaurant just sounded lazy. I mean, if you know “A Little” is un pequeno, and Mexico is the same in both languages, how much work would it have been to look up “Bit of” in a dictionary? By the way, it’s mordido de.

Fatburger. ‘Nuff said.

LOCAL INSTITUTIONS

Would you trust your life savings to an institution called Rabobank? To me, that just sounded like an offer to criminal elements.

To be fair, every place in America has its own local quirks. Where I grew up in Schaumburg, we had two major roads that criss-crossed. The locals understood how this worked, but it confused everyone else. I’m sure residents of Waukesha, Wisconsin, have no problems navigating from one side of their town to the other. However, they are in the distinct minority compared to the ones who can’t (i.e. the other six billion people in the world). And don’t even get me started on Belvidere’s habit of scheduling Halloween on October 28 or the Fourth of July fireworks on the first.

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