|The Mother Road, Route 66: Day 9 (Map)||
< Back to Day 8
San Bernadino, CA to Pasadena, CA (via Salton Sea, CA and Mexico) - 673 km (418 mi)
I forget what we had for breakfast, but shortly after, we were at the Jack-In-The-Box for the first iced coffee of the day. I don't remember where it started, but U.J. got me hooked on their iced coffee & that turned into a 3-a-day habit from here on in.
Other than that, this day involved driving on a seriously high-volume California interstate, and also marveling at all of the wind turbines on the surrounding hills. Whereas it may seem that there is some wind turbine separation distance law in Ontario, it seemed like they could shoehorn thousands upon a hill here in California, with nothing more than blade-length separation between them.
Our first destination of the day was the Salton Sea.
This area occasionally flooded and evaporated as far back as man knows. This changed in 1905 when the Alamo Canal failed and the Colorado River flooded the area, creating the permanent Salton Sea. The area would have continued to flood & evaporate, except for the fact that the Southern Pacific Railroad Company tried to fill in the Alamo Canal with dirt & it backfired - the Colorado River flow grew deeper & stronger, making the Alamo Canal a better route for water to flow into the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea became a Southern California tourist destination because of the water sports, recreation and the abundant bird life offered by the inland sea.
The problem with the Salton Sea is that has no outflow (it's endorheic). Therefore, the salts in the feeder rivers & agricultural runoff, collect in the Salton Sea as the water evaporates instead of flowing away towards the ocean. This increased salinity has already made the sea toxic to certain fish & it is said that only tilapia will be able to survive in the future.
The first Salton Sea community we entered, Salton City, actually built a network of surveyed streets thinking the location would boom, but many of these streets never saw many homes.
Sea Wind Place sounds like a street I wouldn't mind putting on my envelopes, but I don't know about having dead fish and abundant heat wafting about my house.
We parked near the marina, as the road down to the sea didn't look passable.
A brief walk down to the shore resulted in steel structures, fish carcasses cooked to a crisp under the unwavering sun & this skeleton of a Route 66 Philips Gas Station sign.
The dead fish smell wasn't overwhelming as the heat had long ago baked away their insides.
A diverse collection of birds were using the seashore very close to the marina. U.J. wasn't walking around because of the fish & the heat, but I angled towards the birds as I wanted a closer picture.
As I tried to move closer to the birds, I found sloppy soil beneath my feet. Looking down, my feet were sinking a good six inches into this mixture of rotted fish and sand. I only made it 30 feet before the pelicans and gulls started to stir & fly off as I was sinking more & more.
We explored the rest of the town after returning to the car, but there wasn't much for structures. We had both seen plenty of structure pictures online from the Salton Sea, so we hoped that these buildings waited for us when we explored the east side of the Salton Sea later on...
...because right now we were going to Mexico!
When I mapped out this trip, I realized that we would only be 2 hours from the border & asked U.J. her thoughts on visiting Mexico. Of course we've all heard about the recent dangers of our North American neighbour, but these seemed to be more concentrated in Tijuana & Juarez.
I can't say I wasn't nervous as we drove down the highway towards this Calexico border town. I honestly weighed telling U.J. that I didn't want to go & that this was a bad idea. Thankfully I let the miles run down until we finally reached Calexico.
Calexico had a nice library and a few nice hotels, but the main street honestly looked like pictures I'd seen of rough Mexican towns. We drove straight to the border and marveled at the size of this fence guarding America. A host of US border guards were stationed out in Ford Rangers along the fence within eyeshot of each other. Noting the guards yet wanting a picture in front of the fence, we made deliberate moves as we pulled our car somewhat near a border guard, set up our tripod and got a picture of ourselves by this 20 ft fence.
The border guard didn't seem overly concerned, but he also didn't look like he would put up with us overly mocking his protection of American freedoms either.
After getting our picture, our plan was to walk across to Mexico. We drove down the road in hope that there would be another crossing which wasn't as chaotic as the downtown crossing into Mexico's 13th largest city - but there wasn't. The 20 foot fence seemed to stretch out forever, even as Calexico quickly ended and there was nothing but desert.
We eventually accepted having to cross downtown and took advantage of Calexico by parking our vehicle in the Calexico Police Department's parking lot.
We walked down the main street which ended at the border crossing. We were both sweating heavily due to the incredible heat, meanwhile keeping our heads on a swivel about our surroundings. Near to the border, we began to see a procession of people into the border infrastructure. We followed that past a fountain and through a corridor, noting to each other the enormous line of people waiting to get back into America.
As we gawked at the people and sighed at the thought of waiting that long in the heat, suddenly we encountered turnstiles and with two click turns, we were in Mexico! Viva country numero quattro! Ola Mexicali! No time for savouring the moment!
It should be noted that the hassle associated with Canadian & American border crossings made this experience of entering a country no-questions-asked, all the more unique.
Our plan was to grab lunch in Mexico. We walked south for a block and noticed housing to our west, so I suggested walking east into the area I remembered as downtown from previous research.
We weren't seeing many appetizing options; mostly taco stands and places of questionable visual cleanliness - and neither of us wanted to spend the rest of our time in California with food poisoning.
We solved one problem when we found a money exchange. We were now ballin' out of control with all of 200 Mexican Pesos ($20 American dollars). Quickly stashing the money, we walked our third block and continued fawning at our surroundings (while keeping an eye on everyone).
At the next corner there was a newsstand where I noticed that the National Geographics were from 1996! This wasn't a guy selling National Geographics from 1996, but a guy who had a newsstand set up on the corner, but with 1996 Nat Geo's. I smirked at the sight and had to buy one for the fact of saying I did. I asked the guy how much, but had no clue what his response was since I don't speak Spanish. Next, clearly using my brain, I pulled out the majority of my 200 Pesos and tried to give the guy a fraction, to which he motioned that I needed to pay more. I really doubt that the 14 year old National Geographic cost 80% of my money, but I was hoodwinked before I could think twice.
Afterward, the man produced a 20-issue stack of 1996 National Geographics and continued hustling, but I had what I wanted - he was already ahead for the week anyway.
A large portion of our 5-block walk resembled what you see above. Throughout the walk, my eyes were glued on all of the changing stores, examining and observing everything I could in this all-too-short time. The only store we went into was a convenience store to get some much needed water. It was lukewarm, but it was still thirst quenching. The store was really empty in terms of goods, but the storekeepers were really nice. They looked a bit confused at our presence.
I also noticed a number of men noticing U.J's ankles & feet - she reasoned it was because of her tattoos.
We passed the Hotel Del Norte and the dining room didn't seem too fancy, yet seemed clean and inviting.
It was a repeat of trying to read French menus as I harassed U.J. with questions as to what all of these Spanish items were.
I ended up ordering the exotic quesadillas.
In addition to my quesadillas, U.J. got some kind of tortilla soup & we got 5 bottles of water between us0: for $9 American dollars! Forget all of the fear people instilled in me about Mexico, I was loving these dining costs! (And this was at a nicer hotel!)
Finishing up our meal and refreshed from all of the Kroger water, I wanted to walk a few more blocks before leaving Mexico. Asking U.J., it looked like I was lucky to get one more block out of her - she was a lot more uneasy than I was.
...and so, we walked one more block before getting into the line back to America; which was an amazing 200-300 people deep.
In fact, we were all the way back in some sort of shopping plaza as we crawled forward in this line. Standing there, the brilliant idea of having a beer appeared in my brain! A beer was about the last thing I wanted as I was incredibly dehydrated, but drinking in line while waiting to get back into America was something I couldn't pass up.
I asked U.J. for her remaining pesos as I spent all of mine on that damn National Geographic. Checking the stores in the mall, none of them seemed to have beer & I wondered if I should be drinking in this mall...but fuck it, this is lawless Mexico.
So I told U.J. I'd be right back & ran back into Mexicali to the nearest convenience store for a Tecate Light.
Returning back to the line, I think U.J. moved about 30 feet & I had to drink my Tecate Light post haste. I was still greatly amused.
I was also amused at the border as I stated my citizenship and the fact that all I bought was a 1996 National Geographic - which apparently seemed reasonable & the Americans let me back into the U.S.A..
I'll never understand their choices in harassing & easing off on me. Maybe they didn't think I could be up to much in Mexicali.
We followed the highway up the east side of the Salton Sea this time, finding much of the same weak results as we had earlier in the day. I particularly wanted to find a certain abandoned motel because Van Homan rode the motel pool in his famous section (and subsequently I was dying to ride this pool), but after 2 hours of driving and asking locals, we gave up on finding the Van Homan pool.
The funny thing about searching for this pool was that California has these weird immigration/border checks in the middle of the desert...so where they were confused with us going north from Calexico once, they were extra confused when I went through the crossing a second time & explained that I was looking for an empty pool.
I'm used to a lot of border guards being salty, but these guys were actually amused and told me that I don't need a pool - the Salton Sea was all I needed for swimming.
Very funny, guy.
Leaving the Salton Sea and returning to the interstate, we stopped at some giant dinosaurs along the roadside as U.J. has an obsession with giant dinosaurs.
I actually enjoyed the stop as it was dusk, the warm winds were blowing and glowing eyes made for decent pictures.
We were staying at U.J.'s friends' house this night, but we needed some grub first.
I pointed the GPS towards a Del Taco, and as we turned onto the road, U.J. informed me that we accidentally happened back onto Route 66.
After dinner, it was a short drive to Pasadena where our floor space was. Upon arrival, we piled into U.J.'s friend's car as we went for a short drive into the mountains to try and reach this spot with a supposedly great view of Los Angeles, but unfortunately the wildfires had closed the road.
We returned home & went to sleep shortly after, not before checking the internet and finding out the Van Homan pool had been destroyed.
Onto Day 10.
Windsor,ON to Mooseheart,IL via. Michigan City,IN
St.Clair,MO to Bentonville,AR via. Cuba,MO & Mt.Magazine,AR
Conway,TX to Albuquerque,NM
via. Armadillo,TX & Tucumcari,NM
Albuquerque,NM to Williams,AZ
via. Flagstaff,AZ & Winslow,AZ
Williams,AZ to Rialto,CA
via. Oatman,AZ & Needles,CA
Rialto,CA to Pasadena,CA
via. Salton Sea,CA & Mexicali,Mexico
via. Big Sur,CA & Monterey,CA
San Jose,CA to San Francisco,CA
via. Lick Observatory,CA
San Francisco,CA to Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
via. Sacramento,CA & Carson City,NV
Hickison Petroglyphs,NV to Casper,WY
Casper,WY to Winner,SD
via. Keystone,SD & Oral,SD
1 - Mexicali - Wikipedia
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