Fruit, Windmills, and Campers

Sunday, February 24, 2008 -- Pomona, CA
For the FMCA International Convention

Yesterday, Saturday, we got a good early start and were heading west out of Quartzsite on I-10 a little before 9am Mountain Time. Just a few miles down the road, where the Colorado River forms the border of Arizona and California, we drove into the Pacific Time Zone and it was suddenly only 8am. You gotta' love driving west.

I think we were both a little sad to be leaving the solitude and openness of the desert. Much of our time since leaving Rockport TX in January has been in sparsely populated and very open western desert areas. There's an attraction to all that wide-open space that I really grew to like. The contrast will be dramatic as we wheel into the Los Angeles Metroplex. We'd been hanging around in some of the least populated areas of this great country -- where the population density is 2 or 3 people per square mile. The Greater Los Angeles area has a population density of almost 8,000 per square mile. This is going to take some adjustment.

Readers will know from a previous posting that for the past few days we've been cleaning out the fridge -- making sure all the apples, oranges, and other produce is eaten prior to our passage into California, where they don't take kindly to foreign fruit. They have these checkpoints as you enter that land where everyone has to stop and be grilled about your cooler, your crisper drawer, your eating habits, and your political leanings. Once, on a trip from Oregon to California, we didn't know about this procedure and had to surrender a big bag of just-bought Granny Smith Apples. The kids were scarred from that experience and we didn't want to cause any commotion this time. So the fridge was clean of all illegal substances, or so I thought. Less than a mile before the inspection station, as Dar's slowing down, she tells me that we do still have one lemon and an aging lime. "WHAT? Now you remember this? Well, one of us is going to prison and it's not going to be ME!"

It was too late. We were committed now. I was tempted to have Dar hit the gas and blow on through the road block, but better judgment prevailed. I could see the headline in the paper: "Middle Aged Man Runs From Border Patrol -- Will Do Time for Having a Lime".

The officer in our inspection lane, a stern looking woman with a large revolver and a few hand grenades hanging off her ammunition belt, waited impatiently as Dar slowly maneuvered the bus into the narrow inspection lane. Then, the first question from the officer's mouth: "Where are you coming from?" Dar looked at me, I looked at Dar. I shrugged and thought "Is this a test of some kind?" Remember, we're westbound on I-10 less than a mile from Arizona. After an uncomfortably long pause Dar replied, without missing a beat, "Arizona?"

The officer looked away and said, "Thank you, have a nice trip."

What? That's it? That's the only question? I couldn't believe it. I guess we passed the test. It took a few more miles before either of us could relax again.

There are a number of mountain ranges that ring the LA area. Coming in from the east on I-10, after passing Palm Springs, you cut through a gap in the mountains that leads to the LA basin where all the people live. In that gap are more wind powered electric generators than I have seen in all my 57 years. There are thousands of them and I don't think I'm exaggerating. There's no way to know for sure since it's got to be impossible to count them all. I wonder if the people who own them know how many they have. They literally cover the valley floor and the sides of the hills -- in some areas as far as I could see. It was the unexpected highlight of the drive.

Getting closer to LA the road widens from 4 lanes to 6. A little further and it becomes 8 and then 10 lanes. It takes a little time, even for a boy who handled Chicago traffic for many years, to get used to how they drive around here. First, it's not necessary to use turn signals. In fact, almost no one ever does. I did for a while but stopped when I noticed people pointing and laughing -- "check out that rube from Montana -- his tail-lights are blinking on one side".

Next, there are a lot of people who play some kind of driving game -- where two or more cars race one another other at very high speed, weaving in and out of lanes, past and around other slower moving traffic, apparently trying to get someplace before the other person. I couldn't get the bus to go fast enough to join in.

Finally, out here stop signs must only be advisory... a suggestion. I haven't seen anyone actually stop at one since we've been here. It'll take a little time for my driving habits to adjust to all these new things.

A little after noon, we pulled into the Fairplex in Pomona. Motorhomes were lined up everywhere, more campers than I've ever seen at one time. Everything proceeded smoothly and before long we had our parking spot for the week. The convention doesn't really get underway until Monday afternoon so we had some time to settle in.

Here's something I'm looking forward to: It's taking them two full days, Saturday and Sunday, to get all these motorhomes parked for the convention. On Friday, they want us all gone by noon. I think I'll put my lawn chair on the roof, get a big cup of coffee, and watch the entertainment.

The next few days will be very interesting.



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