As we drove back to the campsite after visiting Tombstone, we watched the clouds roll around the mountains and made comments about their appearance.
It really looked like there was rain, but surely not. It was the desert after all. It was rain and when we got back the skies opened and the tent got drenched. We feared a wet strike but, despite the puddles all around, the tent was fully dry by the time we took it down.
We drove on down the interstate 10 and found a KOA campground at a tiny little place called Salome (motto; where she danced’)(They didn’t say who!). It didn’t seem to have a store, my iPad couldn’t get a signal there, the wifi was extremely poor but it did have a nice bar next to it that served fantastic steaks. I loved the iron sculptures that were being sold nearby, but I thought they might be a bit large to fit inside Camel.
We were once again in desert country and there are signs up warning us about poisonous snakes being around. Apparently you should wear boots, carry a stick and stay three feet away from any shrubs. Oh yes, and you should listen very carefully for the rattling sound. I must confess that I felt very tempted to just stay in the tent, but I bravely let Tim go first, stamping very hard.. We met Gretchen, a very independent woman, who was currently cycling about sixty or more miles a day to explore the States all on her own. She said the wind had been so in her favour that particular day that she managed over a hundred miles with very little effort. She had previously been over to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. She packed her tent up and was on her way the next morning. She really was an impressive woman.
The KOA in Salome has a lot of long term residents, who come for the winter and then head off before the temperatures get stupidly high. They were all very friendly and were very keen to get us involved in the numerous activities that were being organised. One highlight seemed to be the meatloaf that was being served the following day and we were asked several times if we would be joining them.
We spent one day driving around the local desert roads, with the view to driving up to the local solar observatory.
It turned out that the track was pretty rough and only suitable for four wheel drive vehicles. We were tempted but, as it was a twenty mile round trip and we were on our own, not to mention that while Camel’s tyres are still legal they are looking a tad worn, we though we shouldn’t risk getting stuck in the desert.
We saw this dust devil work its way right across a field
and it looked a little worrying, but we ended up driving right through it as it hit the road and it just disappeared.
With minor regrets we headed back to the campsite and a pitcher of beer with delicious steak sandwiches at the bar. I went for a wander with my camera and one of the regulars pointed me to an RV where they hang out a humming bird feeder. The owners were more than happy to lend me a chair so I could wait to capture them in comfort. It was a really magical moment for me.
The campsite is mostly extremely bare,
apart from where they put the tents. We were right next to an orange tree and scent of the blossom was exquisite.
We got chatting to a couple from London, who initially had bought an RV, with a view to shipping it back to the UK. After various travels with it around the states, they now leave it in Salome and come and spend three months there every year. They have a quad bike and they go for rides in the desert, as do most people in the site. Apparently the cacti are starting to bloom and they think the place is really beautiful. They also thought that our plan to just drive a little way into the Baja peninsula was not the safest, as, although most of the peninsula was pretty safe, the boarder are was not good for individuals in foreign cars. The latest scam is for someone to drive into your car deliberately and then demand money. I had also looked at the requirements for car insurance and getting a tourist card, so it was all sounding a tad daunting just to say we had been to Mexico. They suggested that we should head down to Yuma, where you could just walk across the boarder into Los Algodones and it was all very safe. Everyone else we talked to said that they went there for their dentistry and medication, as it was so cheap.
The next morning we drove to Yuma and got there in time for lunch, especially as we had crossed over the state line into California and so we had entered the Pacific time zone, an hour behind Arizona. There was a large, secure car park, operated by the local Native American tribe where you can park all day for six dollars. Well worth it, considering the great long trek in the stifling heat that we saw many people making from the free parking up the road. Getting into Mexico is dead easy; nobody even checks your passport. As soon as you get through customs all you can see are masses of dental surgeries, opticians and pharmacies. Outside each one is a friendly local touting their services. I explained that I was British, that all British teeth looked like ours and that we had the National Health Service that paid for everything (OK, I exaggerated there, but it made them give up!)
The town had been described to us as lovely and full of great things to buy. I was not in the least tempted by the plastic tortoises and horse sculptures that were for sale, although looking at the people carrying them around, they were a big hit with the Americans. I loved the metal sculptures, but they were way too big to consider so we bought nothing. The town was a cross between the souk in Tunisia and the ugly shopping area in Gibraltar.
We did find a nice bar for lunch, where I asked to try some genuine Mexican food. They gave us nachos with two types of salsa (one gringo style, made with tomatoes and one Mexican, made with tomatillos) together with burritos and stuffed green peppers. It was very pleasant and reasonable at only $28 including a tip and two beers each.
I was amused to see the waiter’s name on the bill. Tim got talking to this friendly Canadian couple about the Revolutionary War/ War of Independence and it was interesting to get a different perspective.
There was live music, although the songs were not exactly Mexican, nor was the singer particularly in tune.
We tried walking along one or two of the streets, but it wasn’t really worth going too far, as the whole town seemed to be about shopping. I had to snigger at this advert,
well I did when I realised what it was advertising….
We headed back to the boarder and then waited in line in the sweltering heat for about forty tedious minutes to be allowed back into the USA (although, as Tim pointed out, it was the quickest we have ever got into the USA).
There were all kinds of vendors selling water and plastic tortoises and horses. It intrigued me to listen to relatively wealthy Americans haggling with hard up locals over a dollar difference in price.
We watched the Mexican border guards searching the cars going through and were highly relieved that we hadn’t taken Camel with us. They were extremely thorough and it would have taken ages to go through our gear.
It was still early so we headed off towards San Diego, passing some amazing sand dunes
as well as wind farms
and then going up into the Coyote mountains. The drive up from the plain was long and steep and there were a lot of these on the way up.
As we neared the top we came across this delightful tower
which had been partially constructed from the timber that made up the old wooden desert road and for a small fee you could enjoy the wacky selection of exhibits inside and a fabulous view across the mountains.
We also were allowed to clamber over the pile of massive boulders that were next door, from which some architect had produced a range of mythical beasts (not Tim, he is neither mythical nor a beast)
although I preferred the real beastie we met
We asked the guy selling us the tickets about his neighbour who seemed to have an awful lot of weird stuff
and were warned that if we talked to him, he would never let us go, as he so wanted some attention. We took some sneaky photos and headed on west. It was refreshing to see how green it was becoming and the wild flowers were delightful
and found a nice little Hotel in a tiny town called Pine Valley, up in the mountains, jus fifty minutes from the coast. It was much cooler there than down in the city and it is unsurprising that the area is a popular summer retreat. After so many dry towns, it was treat to find a friendly sports bar with good beer and tasty food.