Day 22, November 1, 1997: Leucadia, CA to Yuma, AZ

Today was a turning point. Literally. I got to the southwestern-most corner of the contiguous USA and made a left turn. Those of you have known me for a while and have thought that I was "around the bend" may rest assured that it is now certifiably true.

I got to what appeared to be the proper point without too much difficulty this morning. I snuck through San Diego without too much trouble by starting early. Traffic was tolerable, especially when compared to that I faced yesterday (this was early on a Saturday morning, after all). Finding Border Field State Park proved to be fairly easy but as parks go, it is not a place I'd want to go for a picnic. It is a desolate, dusty backwater stuck into land at the corner of the Mexico/USA border and the Pacific. Officially it is on the Tijuana Estuary, the body or bog or whatever that appeared to be a great breeding place for biting flies which harassed me constantly. In any case, my stay was short.

That bit of work done, I pressed on along the computer-determined course. There was a bit of a foul-up with an unmarked highway but that was straightened out and into the desert I went. There was a pretty much steady climb at first in the 80+ then 90+ degree heat. This revealed that my car has a dislike for severe work in high temperatures and the temperature gauge crept slowly toward the overheat point. The car never actually malfunctioned in any way but it was worrying. I suspect that the re-engineering I did on the front license plate mounting (moving it downward) may be blocking the airflow and causing this problem. If so, it will be easy to correct if it happens again.

Not so easily ignored was the heat inside the car. I guess that I have become a real wimp, but the temperature was really getting to me. Driving along in the high desert, looking out at the dusty scrubby landscape a couple of miles north of the border I kept thinking "out of the frying pan into el fuego". Without a doubt, one of the first things I do when I get to Tennessee will be to find the AC parts from a wrecked Miata and have them transferred to mine. Enough is enough.

The heat was bothersome enough that I cut my drive short a bit early. In fact when I saw a roadside sign for Motel 8 (my favorite low-price chain) in Yuma touting their pool, etc my mind was made up. In Yuma it proved to be only 84 degrees but it was certainly sufficient to take some pool time. Despite the chance of offending the local sensibilities with my pale bod, I was in the pool soon after checking in and it was wonderful.

Throughout my drive today I noted one fact that should have been predictable. The biggest governmental presence in this area is, by far, the Border Patrol. Their vehicles are everywhere and I drove past three separate large complexes of theirs just today. In my short stay at the park this morning I was checked out twice by agents. Not doubt if I didn't have my Swedish/Irish coloration their observations might have been even closer. Another interesting item which I tried and failed to photograph was the "running alien" signs along the major highways. These show the profiles of a running man and woman with a small child in tow. It seems that many illegals were being killed while trying to run across the interstates at night. They have signs for deer, so this is probably a reasonable precaution (but it does still seem odd). I only made one "lookie" stop today and that was disappointing. I had found mention of the San Diego Railroad Museum stuck in a backwater desert town to the east of the city and had high hopes for it since the city does its zoos so well. Unfortunately it was a real bust since they wouldn't let me browse even the limited rollingstock and their rides were short and done on rather modern equipment. If you want to see a really good RR museum, I'd suggest you try the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City or the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum in Strasburg. Either of these is excellent.

Today was almost a total bust as far as pictures are concerned. The montage shows an area of huge dunes near the California / Arizona border where thousands of people come over the weekend to ride their off-road vehicles as well as the sole picture I snapped at the railroad museum. The other picture is the same old mission from yesterday.

Tomorrow I will deviate (Lehua, permission to snicker is granted) from the "edge" route and head north to locate the longest remaining section of old Route 66, just for old times sake. This side trip will take two or three days but I will get back to the Mexican border right after that and continue eastward as we continue our 12,000-mile tour of the edge of the USA.


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