by Bob Sparrow
I was recently just leaving Arizona, where I had just learned that it is legal to carry a concealed or unconcealed weapon into a bar in that state – an experiment, I suppose, to see what happens when you mix fire arms and fire water. That can’t have a good ending, but I digress. Like many who have traveled Interstate 10 from Arizona to California, I have seen signs posted along the freeway for the General George S. Patton Museum, but never stopped. Everyone I talked with who had driven that route said the same thing, saw the signs, never stopped. So this time I decided to stop, but not before discovering some of the ‘treasures’ of the Mojave Desert along the way.
Those who have driven Interstate 10 through this unpainted desert know that there is a lot of sand out there and not much else, but I discovered that if you’re really observant, you will see things that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. For example, I noticed a sign along the freeway that read: ‘Prison Near By – Do Not Pick Up Hitch Hikers’. To me it really said: ‘Hey, we can’t be expected to keep our eyes on these crooks every second, so if one or two happen to escape and are looking for a ride out of here, don’t pick them up’. Another amusing sign along the freeway asked me to turn off my air conditioning for the next ten miles to keep my car from overheating. Are they kidding?! It’s 108 degrees out there, what’s going to keep me from overheating? Why don’t they just ask me to take off my dark glasses and stare into the sun? Or maybe suggest that I stand out in the sun on the shoulder and help direct Armadillo across the freeway?
The sights along the way, while they may be few and far between, are usually interesting and sometimes bazaar. Pictured above, for example, is something you don’t see every day – a trunk hauling a ’54 Merc and . . . an airplane without any wings. Where could they possibly be going?
As I approached the ‘Agricultural Check Point’ coming into California – it’s where they check to make sure no fruits or nuts get into the state . . . Oops, I realized that I was eating grapes that I had purchased in Arizona and was now about to transport them illegally over state lines – a federal offense! I couldn’t throw them out the window, that’s also illegal. I approached to check point nervously. When asked if I was carrying any agricultural items, I shifted the grapes to the side of my mouth and lied,”No sir”. He waved me through. I felt guilty, but I blame it on that hot desert sun – they say it makes you do crazy things, I believe them now.
As I quickly drove away, constantly checking my rearview mirror, I saw a sign for the city of Desert Center, and thought I’d stop there, get gas, have something cold to drink, and get rid of the evidence.
I pulled into the gas station (pictured at right), but found it a little short on gas, and everything else for that matter. I started to go next door to the ‘Desert Center Cafe’ to get something to eat or drink, but found it closed – since 1987! I drove over to one of the only other building ‘in town’ – it was an old school with an old tractor parked in the ‘Principal’s Parking Place’ (Below).
It soon became abundantly clear to me that the best place to be in Desert Center was the center, because no matter which way you dove, you were leaving.
Thursday: The General Patton Museum – Tanks, But No Tanks (Part II) I finally get there.