Finally having arrived in Phoenix, I have procured a camping spot only EIGHT miles from Junior Griffey. How lucky am I?
Well, I am camped out at the North Phoenix RV thingy-ma-bob and was given the nicest spot in the camp, so I am told. I am under a big Euc, with my very own picnic table. See the picture below to see how lucky I am. Is it the Irish... or the karma of the good Buddhist? We will never know, but I am loving it here.
How do I love the desert? To the north are majestic red mountains covered with a variety of cacti. To the south is the now-sprawling city of Phoenix. What is Phoenix up to? Well, I can say this: when I was here last in 2001, it was a small city surrounded by glorious desert and abandoned roads that led to nowhere. It was along these roads that Steve West and I took our killer telescopes and found a plot of land and watched the skies all night. At 1:00am it was 70º and I sat in a tee-shirt watching the stars glow overhead.
Yesterday as I pulled into town, at that same road, there were unseen miles of tract home developments. The vacant scrub we scurried through in our 4x4 was now shopping malls and SUVs. This is 30 miles out of town mind you. This was no-man's land 8 years ago. Now, it is Wal*Mart and chain restaurants. It brought a feeling of shame and hopelessness over me. No longer are the skies to be bright and clear, the Phoenix Nebula a glow on the Eastern horizon. Now the light of man encroaches into the places where people once knew what the Milky Way was and some generations ago marveled at its perfection.
The dark skies of the American Southwest will soon be a dream of astronomer's past, like myself. The delicate shrub and majestic cactus standing for so many generations have been plowed over in the quest for a good profit margin. The roadrunner and quail will find new feeding grounds or extinction. And so it goes.
I travel on the road in a very lame outfit of hiking boots, cargo shorts, and an earth-toned sun hat. Today as I rode my bike along Deer Valley Rd, some very nice young men drove alongside me and the passenger chortled out, "Stay true to the safari, Nigga!" I raised my thumb to give acceptance, but was still slightly puzzled by his insinuation. Am I on safari? Well, I posit that perhaps I am.
I made a left on 27th and headed down toward the 101, where not too far away I would find the Junior Griffey. I ended up in a mess of road construction which was NOT good for one on a bicycle. So, I came back to camp. Along the way, I recognized an intersection as the one that Steve West and I had an unfortunate accident in 2001 on an astronomy trip. We were in the wrong lane, bound to turn to the left, when we wanted to go straight. Steve West put the Jeep into reverse so as to move into the abutting lane to go forward. As the ill luck would have it, there was a very SMALL car behind us and we destroyed it. It would not move again.
We got out and apologized for the accident and helped the woman push her car into the corner AM/PM whereby the police were called and brought to the scene. While we were waiting, I think we went in to ask the young (17 year old) woman at the counter for some help with something. During the interrogation from THE MAN about the accident, THE MAN brought up the fact that the young girl in the AM/PM mentioned smelling alcohol on Steve West's breath. I looked at THE MAN and said, "You mean the 17-year-old?" (Cause I asked how old she was earlier). He nodded and then sort of forgot the issue. What would a 17-year-old be knowing about the smell of the booze? Steve West got a ticket for unsafe backing and we went on our way. The bonus is that Steve West and myself were pretty fucking loaded and prolly should not have been driving. We finished a Mariners' spring training game and went and got drunk with the team... then went out and got... drunk. Then tried to find our motel. Then crash. Thank you, 17-year-old girl!
This is the good life, I have to say. Every RV around me in this park has the blessing of Jesus Christ upon it. I feel the heathen! The Texans are particularly proud of their Lord and Savior, and their license plates say so. Even though I do not take JC as MY Lord and Savior, I feel I am protected from random flash floods and tornadoes by association. The sun is out, the wind is warm and gentle, how blessed more can I be?
Upon returning from my ride to nowhere, I ended up at the Times Square Italian Restaurant, which has a full bar and REALLY good food. I met AJ, the daytime bartender and talked about his collection of sports memorabilia. Thanks, AJ. It rocked steady. What a delicious salad and Trumer Pils! And the CC/7-up. After my buzz was upon me, I biked to Althea and locked my ship up tight. The only 'net connection in the park is in the laundry room which closes at 9pm, so I must get this entry done and posted by then with accompanying images. Super bouns: the ari-eh-ZONE does not deal with that daylight savings bullshit, so I am in the same timezone I left in the Pac NW.
So, I lit out from Seattletown some time last week and cruised to the wonderful little mountain town of Ashland, Oregon. (remember, we pronounce it ore-eh-GOHN) That was a blast, as usual. I hung out at Alex's restaurant for the evening. The very same place I have been going since at least 1991 on any road trip down the 5. The place was the same as always, but the principals were older. In the big chairs next to the roaring fire were the college kids talking about theatre and Shakespeare and the upcoming festival. To mutilate Matt's line from "Dazed and Confused", I keep getting older, but those college kids stay the same age. It is really a great place, I recommend it. And as I am walking through downtown, there are deer munching on lawns of houses. I remember when deer used to exist in West Seattle when I moved there in 1990. They have since lost their habitat, so goodbye deer.
My next stop was in Coalinga, CA. Well, maybe NOT Coalinga proper, but the little stop off the 5 that has a road TO Coalinga. It was a very interesting little park. I swear I saw all sorts of weird apparitions running around that night, even one going under my RV. As I tried to sleep all I could hear was the croaking of frogs from the water treatment plant next door along with some odd machinery sound that made me think of Dr. Moreau.
While outside Coalinga, I decide to take the girl into the city to get food. Man, what a mistake. I think I spent 25 bucks in gas just getting into and out of town, much less getting lost IN town and LEAVING town. I hadda get this Messican food to go, cause there was nothing open except some really YAHOO bar with guys beating themselves with pool sticks. Not each other, mind you, but themselves. Go figger. Small town I-5. The next morning I was on my way to SoCal.
I was concerned about Althea getting up the Grapevine, but let me tell you this: out of Ashland to the south, you hit the Siskiyou Pass, which is the highest elevation on I-5, at 4300 feet. It was a fucking blizzard up there. In March, I say! The 5 was down to ONE lane, going very slow and no visibility. It reminded me of when I moved to Seattle in 1990 and there were three of us in my old beaten VW bus with all we owned, off to the Pac NW to start new lives. We could not see 30 feet in front of us, we had bad tires, a battery that had frozen open and no longer worked, no snow chains, and a lot of weed. I think that saved us. In my induced state of mind, I let go of the wheel and let the deep ruts from the 18-wheelers guide us down the mountain, avoiding the drop-to-fucking-doom cliff at the edge of the freeway. This was little different though, in that I had a 6-ton vehicle bearing down the OTHER side of the pass in slick conditions. Hey man! It is just another freaking day baby!
So, you take I-5 south from Ashland and it is pass after pass after pass... UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN until probably past Shasta. But once you get over the border to Cali, you get to stop at the inspection station. Oh!!!! The officer asks if I have any vegetation on board and says he must come inside. So, I welcome him aboard with those exact words and tell him, "Hey, forget that tiny booth in the snow, let's go to Mexico and get mai-tai's on the beach of Cabo! He laughs and says he can't leave his post. Wink-wink.
Here are some pics of Cali in the sun.
Finally, I got through the Grapvine (see video below) and into the Los Angeles area. I hung out with the folks and family for a few days, celebrating a few birthdays along the way, though I did not get to celebrate Julie's birthday cause I passed out I think. Sorry, Jules. For my sister's b-day, we had the Inn of the Seventh Ray brunch buffet... BUT it is smaller than it used to be. A lot of the good cheeses are gone and the desserts. I ended up with the foods below. Drool at your own risk, farghins!
Me trying to get through the fucking grapevine!
Hanging with the Edgars.
This is a pic of the fam at the infamous Top of the World, off of Stunt Rd. I can't tell you in good faith how many trips were taken here by me and my friends. Trips, I say!
Food from Inn of the Seventh Ray. This place USED to be THE hippie hangout, all veggie goodness, with herbs grown locally around the restaurant. Nowadays, Britney Spears shows up without panties to make us all ill.
And a flower for your time.
After L.A. I zipped to Oceanside and drank too much. But that city never stops drinking, I think. I read reviews of bars there and talked to peeps there and it was like, "Yeah... drinking and the surfing, man!" Here are some pics.
Crazy beach houses in Oceanside.
Some evil denizens.
The lifeguard stations on the beach there.
O'side kicked me out (twice actually) and I headed to the San Diego place where there was my ex-agent Ted to have lunch with and discuss AIDS, New York, Publishing, Fish Tacos, and what is next for the Chargers. Just kidding. Pics and vids below.
Me and Ted after eating FISH! Ha ha, Ted. That was a hetero joke, sorry ;) I love Ted and he knows it.
One of those odd birds looking for love in all the wrong places.
This guy was too cool for words. Honestly. He was a son of a bitch!
Finally I hadda bail and get to PHX for the spring training of the Mariners. Now, I am eight miles away and prepared to get it on! The heat is the best. I miss NOT the snow of the Seattle! or the rain of the Pac NW! FEH ON IT!
But let me tell you oh my brothers (and twin sisters), that if you think the 5 coming out of Ashland to Redding is a mess, holy FUCK OF ALL UNCLEFUCKERS... I-8 from San Diego to Yuma is like the Roller Coaster of Big Brother. As one maneuvers the passes from 2000ft to 4000ft back to 3000ft up to 4000ft, down to 2000ft, up to 3000ft, down to 1000ft, up to 4000ft, one gets the sense that it will never stop. You will be going up and down for at least until you get to Louisiana. But somewhere around Yuma it stops, NOT however before you get stopped by the Dept. of Homeland Security at least twice and grilled about your intentions in your OWN FUCKING COUNTRY! Well, Mr. Man, I am from Washington, a state within our union, on my way to another state within our union. Are there any drugs, bombs, or homies in my RV? Your fucking dog should know that... he is sniffing up my asshole. Do I have illegal terrorisms in my RV? No... oh, by all means, come in and look around. Yes, that is my weapon I am legally allowed to have... yes it is loaded as this is my residence. Yes, that is a camera bag, with a camera inside it. There are no illegal terrorisms in the fridge, but please have a look, cause you NEVER KNOW how small they can be. Such a shakedown I have never encountered. The good thing is... they never found the dope I DID have. I told the nice freckled woman I was not into those terrorisms, but she hadda smell my bung for good measure.
I have never seen more Border Patrol in my life. They were hidden up in the mountains in Jeeps, Humvees, all sorts of shit. Not so well hidden from the highway, but if you were coming across the border, your ass is grass. Some of them were waking around in the hills with very large rifles. I made a video of it (but I missed the Holmes with the rifle) you can see.
Here are some fun videos I made that you can gag on.
The Border Patrol Video!
My musings on the Messican border fence thingy.
A windfarm in Cali. WooOoOooOoO!
Me entering the air-eh-ZONE!
I was driving past the Imperial Dunes and there were these huge banks of floodlights that were shining across the desert. WHY, I thought? Then I saw, a stones throw away, the BORDER... a huge black fence that took off into the dunes to the east like some kind of badly set cornrow. It was not grated so that you could climb it, but enough that we could see someone on the other side and blast them with our superior firepower! AMERICA!... fuck yeeeaahhh!
Wait... I forgot the all important... SkittlesMobile!
People think I am weird cause I name my RV and talk about it like it is a person. Well, let's see here. I have friends who have kids, James, James, Beth, Angela... I have friends who have animals, Michelle, Beth, ChriSharon... and I have neither... so, give me a break. I have an RV. She is my protector, my traveling companion, my muse even. You don't like it? What do YOU have? A stuffed teddy?
Let us not forget the secret combination lock trick. Be forewarned, this takes about... 2.5 years to pull off.
Here are some pics of me hanging around PHX.
And the salad I called, Never Getting Laid Salad... with an extra helping of onions. Holy shit, my friends!