. elsewhere . . letters from the inaccessible .


24 June 2001
this will only take an hour. or two.


if you look closely, you can see all the nicks and cuts!

For the first time in 5 years, I shaved my goatee last night. Having been in the car and on the road for about 15 hours, that afforded me a great deal of time to think, and think I did. About nearly everything, but I didn't think very hard or dark thoughts. Anyway, more on that trip below.

Here you can see the result of the shaving, which I did after taking a shower in the hopes that I would cut myself less and have a closer shave without razor burn. Naturally, that was not in the stars for me last night, but taking this picture (which, I believe is nearly the best I've ever taken, supplanting previous images by a considerable margin) was. The only photoshop trickery used was some color-balancing (I boosted the cyan and red just a tad, as it was a very yellow shot) and, for no reason at all, I photoshopped out the toilet paper holder which was right there underneath the hanging towel on the left. I also posted this image to my LiveJournal last night, so you can drop a comment if you wish.

the great Austin-Healey adventure of 2001

My brother-in-law Jim (K.) purchased a 1967 Austin Healey Sprite for my sister, from a nice man out in Arizona. About a week ago, my Dad and Jim were talking about how they were planning to retrieve the car, and I asked if I could tag along. Of course, my family being the nicest people in the world (don't believe me? Ask around the Revolution, they love my family and wonder how a person like me could be the progeny of such nice folks), they enthusiastically agreed and invited me along.

The Plan

The original plan was this: I would drive out to Kathy (my sister) and Jim's place in Valencia on Friday evening and join them for dinner and go to sleep. Whereas the U-Haul place in Kingman, Arizona was scheduled to close Saturday at noon, we resolved to leave fair Valencia for the long trek across the desert at 3:30am Saturday. We expected to arrive in Kingman in time to retrieve the trailer from the U-Haul and place the new purchase atop it in Golden Valley Saturday afternoon. Following that, we were to stay in Kingman at a local TraveLodge and return to SoCal Sunday. Here's what actually happened.

Friday Night

I took another 3-day weekend from the Revolution, and spent much of Friday, of course, online. That is, until about 3pm, when I packed and coordinated everything to go to Kathy's in Valencia. I arrived there at about 5:30pm to find my 3-year-old niece Maggie in the back yard with Dad and Jim, passing out stickers. The one I got on my shirt said "Toxins Tick off Turtles", with an irate little line-art turtle fuming angrily. 3 years old and she's got Environmentalism. Works for me.

For dinner, we ate turkey burgers, and afterward, we watched the Weakest Link. I, not watching much prime-time television in recent years, haven't seen a full episode of the show, but found it interesting. However the little "confessionals" when each person gets booted by the others look staged. As though there's someone sitting there doing what they can to get the person worked up and angry just to be more interesting. Hm. Well, after this, I rediscovered the wonder of the music video.

On MTV that night, they were actually broadcasting 24 hours of MTV2. Now, for those of you who, like me, loathe the very fiber of MTV's being (it's certainly not Music Television anymore), this time spent actually watching music videos was almost a religious experience. I felt like a person who'd never actually seen a music video before, even to the point of tolerating several mediocre hip-hop/R&B videos (and one very well made hip-hop video by Babyface) just for the sake of the novelty of actually watching the videos.

I had a brief conversation with Spot (Kathy and Jim's cat) in which she sat there shouting at me for having the audacity to be laying there in the middle of her floor, and sometime after that I fell asleep. But not for very long.

Saturday Morning: Valencia to the Ass-End of Barstow

I was awakened, most unceremoniously, by the sound of a great deal of ice being dropped into the cooler. It was 3:30am, and by my calculations, I'd had just about 3 hours of sleep. I made it fully awake and plodded into the car. We left Valencia headed north on the CA-14, through Lancaster (and past the infamous "Internet Service" sign from the Tehachapi trip) in the dark, and through Mojave in the dark. Reassuringly, Mojave was windy, and apparently was feeling much better since the anemic winds on my last trip through the town. Turning right onto the CA-58 highway, we proceeded past, in the bare light gathering in the east, the jet boneyard, their tails and fuselages dark shadows against the pink sky behind. I was too tired to take a picture, and from the moving car, was unlikely to have one that didn't blur.


Just outside of the reaches of Mojave, there was a sign for an offramp to California City, but apparently, California City was closed ("Sorry, folks!"). About halfway between Mojave and Barstow (I just realized that phrase probably sounds much like "halfway between the booneys and the sticks"), lies the small town of Boron. Boron is named, as you may have guessed, after the element Boron. I wondered aloud (and probably not much to Dad or Jim's amusement) why Boron is such a low-popularity element. I mean, everything else between Hydrogen and Neon are very well known. Helium, Lithium, Beryllium (alright, probably not Beryllium), Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Fluorine are all far better known. Anyway, Boron is the home of the Borax mines, Borax being used in many soaps and detergents (the brand name Boraxo ring a bell from those high-school soap dispensers that dropped a small hill of what looked like white dirt into your hands? Remember thinking how the hell are my hands going to get clean with this? Well, I do). I took a picture of the Borax mine from a distance, and in the dark, the digital camera made it blurry. In the middle, you can see all the lights in that pre-dawn twilight. In Boron, you can see the "Twenty Mule Team Museum" and the "Boron Visitors Center", but we didn't. We were on our way to the ass-end of Barstow.

Well, that's what I called it, "The Ass-End of Barstow". The reason for this was, we diverted from the CA-58 to the Old CA-58 and around the north end to avoid the bulk of the city. Some would say here that Barstow is the ass-end of California, but I'm sure there's a worse city around here somewhere. Not that I've seen it. We pulled into the IHOP in Barstow at around 6:15am to eat breakfast.


We ate breakfast, and Jim told us about the pilots who are hired to take JPL workers out to Goldstone twice a week. Goldstone is one of three sites in the Deep Space Network where they recieve data from the various robotic spacecraft hurtling through space at ungodly speeds. Of course, so that no data would be lost, these radio stations must never lose line-of-sight with the spacecraft, and lo and behold, the Earth turns. So there are 3 of these, spaced about evenly around the world. One in Canberra, Australia, one in Madrid, Spain, and the third in Goldstone, California. NASA hires pilots to ferry out workers from SoCal out to Goldstone twice a week from Burbank to Goldstone. The passengers are greeted inside the hangar by security personnel who check their badges and make sure they're on the list and supposed to be there. The pilots then hang out from about 8am to 3:30 pm when they make the hour-long trip back. For 2 hours flight time and 8 hours of sitting around watching TV or something, they get paid for the whole day.

I think the photo above is a subtle commentary on the state of Barstow.

Saturday Morning: The Ass-End of Barstow to Golden Valley

After breakfast, we departed from the IHOP and were accosted by a panhandler which Jim believes is the nicest dressed panhandler he'd ever seen. Along the road, we were somewhat restless (and I nodded off a bit in the front seat), and decided to listen to one of the books-on-tape which Jim had brought along to while away the hours. It was The Hammer of God by Arthur C. Clarke. Ostensibly, this book is about an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, but mostly it just seemed to be Arthur proselytizing on various types of morality and a long biographical sketch of one Captain Robert Singh, from childhood right up to the last 20 minutes of the tape (which we heard on our way home), when we actually heard about what they were all planning to do about the asteroid which was headed to Earth. Mainly, I think they were kicking themselves for spending all that time in which the asteroid was advancing thinking about hybrid religions and Robert Singh, the most boring Ship Captain to sail the high seas of interplanetary space. The whole time, I couldn't get out of my head how pulpy everything sounded, and if you've ever seen the movie The Cement Garden, you know what I was listening to, and what I mean by how it makes Sci-Fi sound.

We neared the Arizona border, and took a turn, heading up toward Nevada and Laughlin to approach Kingman from the north. We passed into Laughlin, and, maybe it was my state of mind, maybe it was the pulpy-sounding Sci-Fi narrative we were listening to, and maybe it was just the vague haze which hung over the valley, but I noticed as we went through Laughlin that, to our right, there were the tall casino hotels, but to the left there was what appeared to be a post-apocalyptic, steaming, smoking, hazy land of dark, jagged rocks. I half expected to see a small mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion over the landscape in the distance. At length, we passed into Arizona, and came over a pass into Golden Valley. I think they used the term "Golden" to be another meaning for "Brown" because that's all we saw. Brown jagged hills. Brown dirt. Brown, dead plants. I couldn't imagine why someone would live there voluntarily. Except Bill.

Saturday Noontime: Golden Valley and Kingman

Bill is the man that Jim bought the Sprite from, and he looks, simply, like he belongs in a small desert town. Not to sound disparaging in any way, but he wore a baseball cap, has a David Crosby moustache, and drives a large pickup truck. Bill is a very nice guy, and if you ever pass through Golden Valley, feel free to drop him a line. He lives on the 6th dirt road on the right, down near the end.

As we arrived at Bill's place, we looked at the car. It looked to be in very good shape, and we stood around as Bill showed us some of the modifications he'd made to the car, and what Jim may wish to undertake next. Jim called into Kingman (bet you had no idea Kingman was big enough to have, in effect, a suburb) and confirmed that we had a proper reservation for the trailer upon which we would put the Healey. Of course, we didn't feel comfortable placing it on a dolly, so we hitched the trailer to Jim's Crown Victoria. Once the confirmation was made to everyone's satisfaction, we headed into Kingman, and got lost for the first time of the day.

the kingman train depot

We exited the highway and took the I-40 Business Loop into Kingman. We went down main street, looking for Northern Avenue. Then we went down Andy Devine Blvd. looking for Northern Avenue. No dice. At some point, we realized that we should've stayed on the I-40 main highway a couple more exits. As we were going along the main road on the other side of town, we came across a good deal of road construction, which Bill warned us about. We knew then that we were back on the right track. For about 5 minutes.

We were instructed to turn right onto Northern Avenue. Northern Avenue, naturally, is the one and only street along the construction zone that was not labelled. We found we hadn't taken the proper turn a bout a mile further on. So far the score was Kingman: 2, Us: 0.


Once we made the proper turn down Northern Avenue, and proceeded to look for the "Classy Chassis" car wash, a small wash-it-yourself coin-op stall car wash, which also doubled as a UPS/FedEX stop (as advertised on the massive stretch-wagon Pontiac above), which also tripled as the local U-Haul franchise. After hooking up the trailer to the back of the Crown Vic (U-Haul Guy: Left signal! Dad turns on signal. Me: Left Signal works! And so on.), we headed back toward Bill's place. We got on the I-40, conscientiously avoiding the business loop. The score was now Kingman: 3, Us: 0.

You see, we were supposed to get back on the business loop, as it would have taken us to the highway out to Golden Valley. We proceeded down the 40 for 3 more miles and found on our maps a promising way back into Golden Valley, the back way (I didn't know there was a front way). So we exited, and went down this small 2-lane highway until it turned to a dirt road (of course). We were looking for Prescription Rd. Mapquest sucks. We discover a few minutes later that the road we wanted was not Prescription, but Aztec. And it was the last paved road before our little highway turned to dirt. We turned back, and eventually found our way back to Bill's place to put the little car onto the trailer.

The Austin-Healey Sprite. Obey Your Thirst.

Jim handed over the check, Bill handed over the Title, and we watched Jim pull the car up onto the trailer. You see, Austin Healey Sprites aren't very large cars. Various online sources warned Jim that the U-Haul trailer wheel beds were barely close enough together to fit that narrow little car onto. Luckily, when we needed to, the four of us lifted the front end and settled the tires into a more comfortable place on the trailer. Did I mention that it's not only little, but light, too?

We ate lunch at the local Sonic Burger. We saw more Sonics than any other fast-food chain out there in Golden Valley, etc. My personal theory is that the Sonic Burger chain is uniquely adapted to the hostile desert environment, where they can flourish. Just like cacti. Or Bill.

Saturday Afternoon: Golden Valley to the Ass-End of Barstow

With the light Healey on the trailer, this put the Crown Vic low to the ground. We also realized that it was not yet 1pm on Saturday. We saw all the wonderful things that Kingman had to offer by way of entertainment (I saw on the road a building which had a sign which simply said "The Movies". Apparently in Kingman, when someone says "Let's go to the movies", everyone knows exactly where to go), and decided collectively that it was early enough in the day, and we wanted to Get the Truck out of Dodge, as it were. So, there went our plan to stay the night.

We also discovered that our last detour would take us back to the 40 to Barstow without taking us through the hills again. This would make it easier on the car. The score then, Kingman: 3, Us 1. We saved some face, and got on the road.

Healey in tow, we crossed the desert back into California, and made our way into Needles, home of Snoopy's brother Spike. When we stopped to get gas in Needles, the thermometer said it was a balmy 111° F. Dad and I were nonplussed. We had been in Needles one afternoon many years back when it was 127° F. The day we'd been there at that temperature, we stayed the night in a local Best Western. On the television, there was a local-info channel which had a chyron marching right to left on the screen which said merely "Pray for snow".

The trip back to Barstow was relatively uneventful, but we always kept our ears open for the sound of a dragging chain. Hours later, as we approached Barstow, we missed the exit to the Old CA-58. "Rather than seeing the ass-end of Barstow," I said, "we get to see the ass-end of Barstow instead." There were laughs all around. Guess you had to be there. The score so far: Kingman, 3. Barstow, 1. Us, 1.

Barstow has 23,000 people living there. And 30,000 cars, trucks, skip-loaders, Caterpillar dump trucks, etc. It's like vehicles find Barstow's desert environment ideal for breeding. In Kingman, it's Sonic Burgers. Barstow, cars. Go figure.

Saturday Afternoon to Evening: The Ass-End of Barstow to Valencia

On most of the trip back home, I could not, for the life of me, get Depeche Mode's version of "Route 66" out of my head... especially the part which goes "... St. Looey / down through Missouri / Oklahoma City looks oh so pretty / you'll see Amarillo / Gallup, New Mexico / Flagstaff, Arizona / don't forget Winona / Kingman / Barstow / San Bernardino ..."

We took the CA-58 back to Mojave, and past the airplane graveyard. I took some pictures, but none of them turned out well. Anyway, not much can be said about the desert from here back to Kathy's house which hasn't been said before on the way out to Kingman. Finally, we did make it home to Kathy and Jim's place, unloaded the car into the garage (looks like a matchbox car in there, it's so small), and I made it home roughly 24 hours earlier than I expected to.

musings of señor prod.

The Revolution keeps, um, revolving.

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©2001 Timothy A. Clark -|-