Yuma to Del Mar: Across the Imperial Valley

Friday, 14 June 2013 22:12
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leadinToday was a study in contrasts. Hot and cold, rich and poor, dry and wet...it was definitely a day with some variation and range.

I woke up early in Yuma, and got to re-packing the trunk of the car to be a little more functional. Things I don't necessarily need all the time on the bottom, things I need to get to on top, and re-packing some of my clothes and toiletries into a smaller "go bag" so I didn't have to haul my larger bag into wherever I was staying each night. That seemed to work pretty well, and it allowed me to get everything I've got into the trunk if I have to (as opposed to some in the car, some in the trunk). I'm sure I'll re-shuffle it again at some point--I still don't have any room at all for any acquisitions on the road other than starting to fill the interior of the car, and I really don't want to do that, so I'll probably be slowly divesting myself of some things along the way to lighten up.

I got to see Yuma in the daylight for the first time as I left the hotel this morning. It's a pretty depressing place--all flashy payday loan centers, dingy dollar stores, and pervasive desperation. Having a tough time with the economy? Here, let us make it harder for you with a 1000% paycheck loan.

Out on the Imperial Dunes..."The trick is not minding that it hurts." Thanks to being located over the San Andreas fault, most of the valley is below sea level

As I made my way out of town, past the Imperial Dunes, and into El Centro, Brawley, and Salton City and made a few stops along the way, the general sense of depression and resignation was palpable. The terrain was uniformly desolate, and not in a good way.

Some of the lovely Imperial Valley scenery... Everything was pretty much the same color It's like a live version of "Fallout 3" Some of the lush local foliage

When I traveled through central and northern Nevada, that landscape was desolate too, but it was magnificently desolate--huge stretches of empty, natural land from horizon to horizon. It was right there and very honest in nature...the roads were there to just pass through an otherwise undisturbed landscape, and the "real" desert started about five feet out from that 24 foot wide piece of tarmac you were driving on. You were just visiting, just passing through. The desolation in southeastern California and around the Salton Sea is different. Everywhere you look, there's evidence of people trying to do something with the land, and conversely with the land and the climate trying to shrug off those efforts. It's like looking at the world's largest trashy inner city empty lot, for mile after mile after mile. The roads are there not to pass through, but to either bring things to the land that shouldn't be there, or take things off the land that it really should be keeping. They're access, not transit, like hypodermics stuck into the desert flesh. (And I know that I sound a bit like an environmental wacko there, but it was really pretty nasty.) They've got farming trying to keep hold of the land where no farm has any natural right to be, but manages to just hang only by the amazing engineering feat of regularly draining the Colorado into the desert. Even the Salton Sea itself is a mistake, an accidental body of water formed when mother nature decided to show irrigation engineers who was really boss during a large flood in 1905. And everywhere you look, the people who live there seem to have this look about them that says they know that this is a messed up situation, but it's all the cards they were dealt, and they're going to try to play the hand they've got. Apparently, it's a billion dollar a year agricultural region, but the price for that is that the Colorado river doesn't make it to the ocean anymore, and many years it doesn't even make it to Mexico. John Powell would be rolling in his grave. 

If it sounds like I didn't really enjoy the lower end of the Imperial Valley, then you're hearing it right. It was a remarkably depressing place, but for reasons I can't entirely put my finger on. As for that part of the drive itself, it was hot. Much hotter than yesterday...I stopped and bought a thermometer to put in the car, and it got into the mid-120s inside.

"Devil's Playground Casino"...somehow, I don't think they have a gaming license Getting a little warm in here Shade can be good wherever you find it

This isn't just sitting in the sun either; this is driving along and getting as much airflow through the cockpit as I possibly could. I drove out of Salton City to Borrego Springs, where I ran into a fellow desert sports car traveller in a Ford GT40. Turns out he's Tim Mikulecky, a stunt coordinator, and we had several friends and projects in common. He was out there to shoot a commercial for Lincoln...no doubt they'll manage to make that part of the desert look less depressing, although I have to say it is genius in a way--ANY car would look completely awesome compared to that terrain. 

The lovely Imperial Valley (and Borrego Springs)

Thankfully, Borrego Springs marked the end of the depressing part of todays travels. The upside of driving through a below-sea-level manmade wasteland is that eventually, you have to climb out of that wasteland. "Climb" means "mountains", and "mountains" means both "cool roads" and "cool temperatures", and that means "fun".

From my GPS track (see end of post)

That road up through the hills is one of the most fun I've ever been on--great pavement, nice twisties, and beautiful scenery. I hustled through there, and jumped on to another even twistier road up to Palomar Observatory. The Observatory itself was unfortunately closed by the time I got there, but it was still a great drive.

Always a good sign Ironically, I needed a telescope to see the observatory I don't think I was at any risk of encountering snowballs Unfortunately, this was as close as I got

I'd made arrangements to have dinner with Dawn Simon-Wilrodt, an old friend from back in my Atlantic City "Celebration on Ice" days, so leaving Palomar, I drove down into Escondido, and then we went together into Encinitas for dinner. Where earlier in the day I'd been driving through featureless desert, an impoverished population, and dry 120+ temperatures in the car, now I found myself in a lovely little town right on the Pacific, weaving in and out of Mercedes, Porsches, and Ferraris, and enjoying a brisk and humid 62 degree day. The contrast was jarring, but it was a nice change of pace. I think my skin was sucking moisture out of the atmosphere by osmosis.

A little more water with my new views in Del MarDinner was great, and we followed up with a walk on the beach to help the food settle and catch up on things after many years without seeing each other. Once we parted ways again, I made my way south to Del Mar, where I'm in a little motel on the beach. I'll be hanging out here for the weekend, then getting back on the road headed northward up the coast. I'll try to get a little San Diego flavor over the next couple days, so keep those suggestions coming.

And now for a little technology...I'm keeping track of my actual path, and can show that track here. It's click-able, zoom-able, interactive, all that...the "Details" part will show things like min/max elevation, speed, grade, etc.  I was actually going put the track for Day 1 up here too, but then realized that it was basically a map directly to my house (which I am obviously not at), so I'm skipping that one. Enjoy!


#1 Zippy67roadster 2013-06-15 19:38
Amazing! I am so jealous. My wife's grandma live in Yumas for more than 60 years of her life and my father in law grew up there. His family owned a dock and cabins on Martinez lake only 30 mins or so out side of town. You should have gone there! Did you post this blog on 311's? I think most of the guys would love to drool over your trip day by day.
#2 admin 2013-06-17 08:58
I haven't put it on 311s, but maybe I'll do a quick post there if you think they'd be interested.
#3 Zippy67roadster 2013-06-17 09:14
I absolutely think they would be interested. You should have seen how many people followed Richards (from the Netherlands) trip just around the west here on his trip in for Solvang.
#4 sk8rchk 2013-06-21 12:01
I'm fairly certain I was just called old. Remember, 2 months and 19 days younger than you "Ferris".

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