It was originally outside the Lindsay Company’s plant in town, but when the plant unfortunately closed, it was moved outside what was, at the time, fittingly, the Olive Tree Inn…The Olive Tree Inn, however, is now a Super 8 Motel. It is not too far from the junctions of Highways 137 and 65. It is located in the motel parking lot, sitting proudly on a pedestal. It is made of concrete..
California is the only state in the nation producing a commercially significant crop of olives. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the ripe olives consumed in the United States come from California…The top olive-producing counties in California are Tulare, Tehama and Glenn counties.
A-ha! Guess what! Lindsay, CA is in Tulare County. It makes sense that Tulare County would be the home of the world’s largest olive.
Have you ever wondered if an olive is a fruit or a vegetable? An article by Caroline Picard for Good Housekeeping answers that questions. Olives are
… technically fruits.
The stones inside [olives] act as the seeds for the Olea europaea tree. In any botanist’s book that means they’re technically classified as fruits — specifically a kind called drupes, a.k.a. stone fruits. This category also includes sweeter produce like mango, dates, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums..
You may also be wondering if olives are a healthy food choice. According to the article “Olives 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits” by Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) on the Healthline website,
Olives are a good source of vitamin E, iron, copper, and calcium…Olives are particularly rich in antioxidants, including oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, oleanolic acid, and quercetin…that may contribute to a variety of benefits, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
While olives do seem to be good for most people, you probably don’t want to eat them right off the tree. According to the Olive FAQ on the DeLallo website
While olives are edible straight from the tree, they are intensely bitter. Olives contain oleuropein and phenolic compounds, which must be removed or, at least, reduced to make the olive palatable…There are a number of ways that an olive can be “cured,” though it is more like a fermentation process…[Olives are] cured in one of four different ways: natural brine, lye, salt or air curing.
One type of olive I would not celebrate National Olive Day with are these Pearls Olives to Go! taco flavored ones. They were given to me by an acquaintance who’d gotten then at a food bank. He wouldn’t even try them. The Man wouldn’t try them either. I’ll try most any food once, so I opened the package and popped one of these olives into my mouth. How bad could they be?
The package contained some of the nastiest food stuff I have ever consumed. I ate one. It was so bad I ate another a little while later to make sure it really was as bad as I remembered. It was. I threw them away. I don’t throw away unspoiled food, but I couldn’t figure out how to disguise the unpleasantness of an olive saturated with fake taco flavor.
I hope you find some delicious olives to enjoy while you celebrate National Olive Day 2020!
I was lying face down in the middle of the trail, crying and whining.
I was not having fun. I did not want to go on.
The Man stood a few feet ahead of me on the trail and looked at me incredulously.
Do you want to quit? he asked, not unkindly. Do you want to go back to camp?
I know he would have accepted it if I had said yes to either or both questions.
I was miserable, but I was also determined or at least stubborn. I hauled myself to my feet and wiped the tears and snot from my face with the sleeve of my tie-dyed button-down shirt.
Let’s keep going, I said.
The whole ordeal started with a camper.
The Man was the camp host a the tiny campground where we stayed that summer. I worked down the road at the store near the trailhead of a popular trail where visitors could get up close and personal with giant sequoias.
One day The Man was talking to one of his campers. The camper told him about the great hike he’d been on. The hike wasn’t very long, only a couple of miles, and the view at the end was amazing. The camper encouraged The Man to go on the hike.
The Man told me about the conversation wit the camper. He asked if I wanted to go on the hike with him on our next day off. I said sure.
I would not call myself a hiker. I like to see natural beauty, and sometimes I have to walk around to do that. I’m not big on elevation changes; I’d rather walk along a flat path. I’m not big on long distances either. Give me a mile loop to conquer, and I’m perfectly happy. A hike consisting of a mile in and mile back is in my comfort zone.
Somehow, I didn’t give much thought to a hike of a couple of miles probably being a four mile round trip. Certainly the camper was a better hiker than I was. Probably a four mile round trip hike was easy for him. It was not easy for me.
Sherman Peak, elevation 9,909 feet, is on the eastern side of Sequoia National Forest on the edge of the Kern Plateau. It affords tremendous 360 degree views of the Great Western Divide, the Sierra Crest including Mt. Whitney, Langley, and Olancha, and a bird’s eye view of the Kern River Canyon and Little Kern River drainage.
I wasn’t in a good mood when we left the campground.
The Man and I were having relationship issues. I wasn’t sure if we would both be able to get our needs met. I felt like I was doing more than my share of the emotional work. I didn’t know how to solve our problems.
I would have preferred staying at our campsite and taking it easy that day. I would have enjoyed working on some blog posts, reading a book, taking a nap. However, The Man seemed to want to go on the hike, and I was pleased that he’d suggested an activity for us to do together, so I said yes.
We got a late start.
When I have an activity planned, I like to get started early. I prefer to start my summer hikes in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. I like to complete my physical activity early so I can spend the afternoon relaxing before cooking and eating dinner.
It was mid-morning before we boarded the minivan and embarked on our journey. The Man drove for a long time before we arrived. As one of the reviewers of the hike on All Trails said, this trail “is a long way from anywhere….”
The Man parked the minivan in the paved parking area at the Sherman Pass Vista. The camper had told The Man this was the best place to leave the vehicle when going on the hike. After making use of the pit toilet in the parking area, we crossed the road and found the sign marking the beginning of the trail.
The hike started our easy. The trail was relatively flat, and we were making good time without overexerting ourselves. Jerico the dog was having a great time.
We soon found that no one had been maintaining the trail. In some places we had difficulty determining where the trail actually was. There were no markers, no cairns. I was afraid we were going to wander off the path, into the forest, and to our eventual deaths. The Man continued to boldly go. I continued to follow.
The trail got worse.
In several places, trees had fallen across the path. A couple of times I had to climb over fallen trees. The Man’s long legs allowed him to step right over the downed trees, but I had to climb on top of each lot, sit in the middle, then swing one leg and then the other over.
In one spot, I had to crawl under a dead tree lying across the path. I’d never before encountered such an obstacle in my limited hiking experience.
Somehow we ended up picking our way through a patch of large rocks. The Man had lost the trail and accidentally brought us through the rocky area. The rocks were all in a jumble, so there wasn’t really space to walk between them. We basically had to walk on top of the rocks or put our feet in the crevices between them. The rocks were jagged, so walking on top of them was not an easy option. I was worried I would slip from the top of a rock and twist an ankle or bust a knee.
When we finally made it out of the rock field and found the trail again, our uphill battle became steeper. We were definitely gaining in elevation now.
It was some time after this that I lay down in the middle of the trail and felt sorry for myself.
Another problem I was having on the hike was that The Man walks a lot faster than I do. He has longer legs. He used to be a runner , so his body has muscle memory of going fast. Also, he’s impatient. He crunches his cough drops before they can dissolve in his mouth, and he surges ahead whenever we’re on a hike together.
Even though he was carrying his guitar so he could play when we reached the summit, he kept leaving me in the dust that day. Before we began the hike, I’d imagined going on an easy walk together. Instead I was looking at the back of my partner’s head in the distance.
Granted, my mood had moved from bad to foul, and I wasn’t pleasant to be around. Hell, I didn’t even want to be with me, but I was stuck. I could understand why The Man wanted to walk ahead and be alone, but feeling abandoned only made my outlook worse.
More than once The Man stopped and waited for me to catch up. Several times he asked if I wanted to turn around and go back to the minivan and head back to the campground. Each time I wanted to quit, I ultimately decided to keep going. I was fully entrenched in the sunk cost fallacy which occurs, according to Behavioral Economics website, when people
continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) (Arkes & Blumer, 1985).
We’ve come so far, I thought. Surely we’re not far from the top.
The trail took us higher and higher. The Man disappeared around a bend. I sat down again and cried some more.
I stood up and continued up the trail.
The camper had said the view from the peak was excellent. I hoped it would be worth all our struggles.
I came to a point where the trail forked. I could go left or right. The Man was nowhere in sight. Which way should I go?
I picked left more or less at random. I made the right decision. Next thing I knew, the trail had ended. I’d made it to the top! There was The Man and Jerico the dog.
I looked around. We were on the top of an enormous chunk of rock. There was little grass, a few evergreen trees, and some low bushes. One tree with branches low to the ground provided a bit of shade we utilized to get out of the sun.
I looked off into the distance. The view was nice…if a person had never been to Utah and seen the magnificent red rock formations.
To be fair, the view was nice in a California Sierra Nevada way. If I’d never seen that view, I might have been awestruck, but I’d seen what amounted to the same view several times in the prior three years. I’d seen basically that view from Dome Rock half a dozen times. I’d seen that view from Beetle Rock and Moro Rock in the Sequoia National Park. I couldn’t believe I’d just done a treacherous hike and the payoff was something that felt totally familiar.
I’d thrown a few granola bars in my pack before we’d left camp. The Man and I sat in the little shade provided by the evergreen tree with low branches and each scarfed down a couple of granola bars and gulped from our water bottles. The Man took out the guitar he’d carried hundreds of feet up and played a bit, but he didn’t have much energy for jamming. We were both tired, hungry, thirsty, and we still had to walk back to the minivan.
After we’d rested a bit, we looked around. There was a wooden shed up there as well as another little building and what I learned later was a radio transmitter. (I don’t know what it was transmitting or to whom.) The were a couple of large propane tanks up there too, but I don’t know if they were full or what the propane might be used for.
Once we were done poking around at the peak, we began our descent. At least our tired legs didn’t have to climb, although other little used muscles complained about going down. We managed to miss the rock patch this time. The worst was behind us.
Back on the road, we discussed going out of our way to the town with the gas station. We decided it would make more sense to go now while we were halfway there rather than having to go all the way there from our campground later in the week. We knew the fuel in the minivan wouldn’t last another week until we got our next days off and went into town.
If we go into town, I ventured, we could get a pizza.
The Man said he wouldn’t want to wait for dinner once we got back up the mountain. A pizza sounded really good, he said.
He waited in the minivan with Jerico while the air condition kept them cool. I went inside the pizza restaurant to place and pick up our order. The restaurant offered a vegetarian pizza with mushrooms and onions and green peppers and olives and broccoli. That sounded good to me.
I put ice from the soda dispenser in my water bottle and utilized the restroom (complete with a flush toilet and hot running water in the sink) while our pizza was prepared. When it was done, I triumphantly carried it out to the minivan. We devoured the whole thing while the minivan ran and pumped out cool, sweet air conditioned air. It was the best part of the day.
If I haven’t scared you off completely and you would like to hike the Sherman Pass Trail to Sherman Peak, you can find driving directions and lots of other information on the Summit Post webpage mentioned above.
What’s the worst hike you’re ever undertaken? Tell me about it in the comments section below.
The Man and I are doing fine these days, thanks for asking. In fact, we are doing better than ever.
I took the photos in this post. All were taken during the Sherman Peak hike, except for the one of the giant sequoia.
I like to visit places other than the usual crowded tourist destinations. Yes, sometimes it’s fun to see what the huddled masses are looking at in the conservatory at Bellagio or in the depths of Carlsbad Caverns, but I prefer to stay off the beaten path. One such unusual discovery was Zzyzx, California.
According to Wikipedia, Zzyzx is an unincorporated community in San Bernardino County. It was formerly known as Soda Springs.
I know I saw the exit sign on I-15 when I passed that way in mid-October of 2015, but I didn’t stop. I probably wondered about the name, but I was in a hurry to get to my friends in Las Vegas, so I kept driving. During some period of research, (probably of the giant thermometer or the Alien Fresh Jerky shop, both in Baker, CA), I saw a link about Zzyzx on the Roadside America website.
On the edge of a dry lake bed, you’ll find a bizarre pseudo-town: “Zzyzx” (pronounced “Zye – Zex,” rhyming with Isaac’s). Travelers between Las Vegas and Los Angeles sometimes stop in the Mojave Desert along I-15 to pose next to the novel highway sign for Zzyzx Road. But few realize that heading several miles down a narrow, mostly paved route will deliver them to an oasis with an oddball history…
LA radio evangelist Curtis H. Springer, self-proclaimed minister (and quack doctor), decided the [oasis was] the ideal location for a health resort. He and his wife filed a mining claim on a 12,800 acre parcel of what were public lands. He named it “Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort,” touted as “the last word in health” and the last word in the English language — a gimmick so it would be the last listing in any directory…
Most of the concrete buildings still stand. You’ll find a mix of well-maintained structures…and then complete derelict buildings along the shore…There are a couple of low concrete buildings, doors and windows gone… one with a mysterious row of unattached toilets.
Well that sounded interesting, so I added Zzyzx to my mental
list of places I wanted to visit someday.
In December 2016, I was once again on I-15, making my way to Vegas. This time I planned to make a side trip to Zzyzx.
I found the grounds of the former Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa had been taken over by the Desert Studies Center, a field station of California State University. The good folks of the Desert Studies Center apparently cleaned up the grounds; gone were the mysterious toilets mentioned by Roadside America. In fact, a casual tourist might not realize the place was once a health spa run by a man many would call a charlatan if not for the informational signs in the parking lot. Of course, there are probably few casual tourists in Zzyzx. Perhaps a few curious souls are pulled off the interstate by the strange word on the exit sign, but most people who make the 4.5 mile drive from the exit to the Desert Studies Center campus have either heard about the center or the colorful past of the mineral springs and spa.
I left Barstow around sunrise so I could visit Zzyzx early
in the day, and I was glad I did. Although my visit happened in early December,
the desert sun was already hot by mid-morning. I wore my sunhat and wandered
around the grounds.
Conferences are held at the Desert Studies Center with attendees housed in the rooms where folks who came to take the waters (a scam, the aforementioned Roadside America article explains: “The ‘natural’ hot springs feeding..mineral baths were completely artificial, heated by a hidden boiler”) and otherwise get healthy once stayed. On the morning of my visit, young adults (high school seniors? college freshmen?) were clearing out of the guest rooms and packing their luggage into the vans that had brought them to this desert spot. I thought someday I wanted to attend a conference there so I could sleep in one of the cute little rooms.
Other buildings left over from the health spa days are also
used by the Desert Studies Center. The Main Building seemed to house
administrative offices, but there was also an area open to visitors with
several informational exhibits which, quite frankly, looked like they began
their existence as 1990s era high school social studies fair projects. The most
interesting exhibit featured early settler artifacts found in the area. Other
exhibits were about local plants and animals and the history of the twenty-mule
teams that ferried borax out of Death Valley in the 1880s.
Lake Tuendae is on the property too, making the area a literal oasis in the desert. The aforementioned Wikipedia article says the lake is really an artificial pond and is now a “refuge habitat of the endangered Mohave Tui chub.”
I probably spent about two hours walking around the old site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. I enjoyed learning about its place in the history of U.S. health scams, and I enjoyed looking at Lake Tuendae and the educational exhibits in the visitor area of the Main Building. Mostly, I enjoyed knowing I could now say I’d visited a place whose name most folks will never be able to pronounce and even fewer will ever visit.
You can find directions to Zzyzx on the Roadside America website. That site also has a lot of information on the history of the place.
It was a good run. I worked four seasons on that mountain, a total of 18 months. My first two seasons I was a camp host and a parking lot attendant. (See my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods for a collection of humorous essays I wrote about my experiences during that time.) The second two seasons I worked at a campground store.
The short answer to why I’m not going back up the mountain comes down to ice. I got tired of making 25 mile round trips to buy overpriced ice. There were two general stores on the mountain that sold ice. One sold eight pound sacks for $3.69, and the other one sold seven pound sacks for $4. Halfway down the mountain a general store sold 10 pounds sacks of ice for $3. In civilization I could get a seven pound sack for 99 cents.
I understand why I had to pay more for ice I bought on top of the mountain. That ice had to be trucked up there. The stores had to pay for the ice, pay to have it transported, and still make a profit. The stores also had to pay for electricity to keep the ice frozen. Believe me, I get it. I think I could have stomached the high prices on ice if I hadn’t had to drive so dang far to get it. Twenty-five miles for a bag of ice is just too far! After I paid for gas and wear and tear on my van and wasted so much of my time (driving 25 mountain miles took about 45 minutes), I shudder to think how much those sacks of ice were really costing me.
You might suggest I do without ice. Sometimes I did, but I love drinking very cold water. If my water’s not cold, I don’t drink enough. Also, ice in a cooler was my only form of refrigeration. When all the ice in the cooler melted, my food (eggs, cheese, produce) was at risk of spoiling; that would have been another waste of money.
Being so far from civilization was a bigger part of the picture of why I’m not going back. I was 60 miles (again, mountain miles) from the nearest Target, Wal-Mart, or supermarket. My third and fourth seasons up there I could access the internet at the store where I worked, so technically I could shop online, but the post office where I picked up my mail was a 25-mile (you guess it, mountain miles) round trip from the campground where I stayed.
Having internet access at the Mercantile did help me stay in touch with friends and family. However, it didn’t help me much when it came to keeping up with my blog. I could only work inside the Mercantile when it was closed. If I wanted to work on my blog on my day off during the eight hours the store was open, I either had to sit on the deck in front of the store in full sun or in my van. Almost every time I tried to work in my van or on the deck, one or more of my coworkers came over to talk to me, usually to complain. What’s a writer to do? The only thing I could think to do was go down to the valley where nobody knew me.
There was a coin laundry on the mountain. It was 25 (mountain) miles away and consisted of one washer and one dryer. I could have gone there to do my laundry. Considering that each week I typically had a load of work clothes and a load of other clothes, it would have taken me a minimum of 1 and 1/2 hours to wash and dry my clothes, plus about 1 and 1/2 hours making the round-trip drive. If I had been doing The Man’s laundry too or if the two of us had been doing our laundry at the same place on the same day, it would have taken five hours, including driving time.
Shall I go on? (Feel free to stop reading here if you’ve had enough of my whining.)
My first season working in the Mercantile I decided I liked working there more than I liked working as a camp host and parking lot attendant. The next season I wished I wasn’t working in the store. More of the questions I got in the store seemed substantially dumber than the ones I fielded in the parking lot and campground. People let their children run amuck in the Mercantile and expected me and the other clerks to babysit them. The temperature in the Mercantile rose to over 90 degrees if we weren’t able to use the swamp cooler. Last summer we had a lot of problems with the solar panels and batteries and the generator that powered the store; on many days we had no power to run the swamp cooler. I was overheated a lot last summer and would often stand outside and pour water over my head and neck to try to cool off. If I were working a retail job in civilization, at least I’d be in an air conditioned environment.
The prices of everything in California are freakin’ high. The prices of everything–gas, food, propane, water, (legal) recreational marijuana, auto repairs, tires, other consumer goods, and the taxes on everything–are higher than in Arizona or New Mexico. Yes, minimum wage is high in California, but companies raised their prices to cover the increased expenses when they had to start paying their employees more. (You didn’t think the shareholders were going to take a hit when companies were required to raise wages?)
In the end, I barely broke even while working in California. I managed to save a little money, but not nearly as much as I hoped.
I figure if I’m going to work retail, I can get a job as a cashier in a supermarket or even a Dollar General and at least spend my work shifts in air conditioned comfort. I figure I can go to a tourist town in some state where prices are less than they are in California and not have to spend so much of my wages on survival. I figure I can find a way to live in my van or find a long-term house sitting gig in a town where I can walk or take public transit to the library or a coffee shop when I need to work on my blog.
Four years was a good run, but I think it’s time to try something new.
Her nametag read “Karen,” and she was our cashier at a Wal-Mart in a medium-sized city in central California.
The Man and I had popped into Wal-Mart to get a few supplies before we headed back up the mountain. The Man had a 12-pack of socks and a comb, and I had a bottle of hand sanitizer, a roll of paper towels, and a bottle of bleach. We usually go through the self-check line, but that morning I wanted my cash back partially in ones so I could feed the water dispensing machine. I knew the self-checkout machines would only spit out twenties, so I needed to deal with a human to get the bills I wanted.
Karen had completely white hair styled in a way that seemed old-fashiond even for a woman I presumed to be about 70 years old. She asked me if we needed to buy a bag, and I said no, we’d just carry our purchases out in our arms.
We’re not from California, I told her, so we forget to bring in our own bags.
(In much of California, stores no longer provide flimsy plastic bags for free. Shoppers can bring in their own bags or purchase paper bags or slightly more sturdy plastic bags at the register.)
You’re lucky you’re not from California! Karen exclaimed.
I told her we worked in the National Forest, and I must have told her we traveled too, because she asked me What’s your favorite place? I told her I’d just been to Moab (she looked confused, so I added Utah) and I’d liked it very much, and I said I really like Taos, NM too.
What’s your favorite place? I asked her.
She’d never been out of California, she told me.
Well, what’s your favorite place in California? I asked.
Home, she replied with a laugh.
Where would you like to go? I persisted.
I’m 82 years old, she said, much to my surprise. I thought she was a dozen years younger. I’m scared to go anywhere, she told me.
I’m always shocked when I meet people who’ve never ventured even into a neighboring state. I suppose California is big enough to satisfy a lifetime of wanderlust, but I wonder if Karen traveled even the state of her birth. I just hope she was content to stay at home instead of being held there by fear.
Late in 2016 I started getting calls for Mr. Sanchez.
My phone says the calls come from California, and the person calling often greets me in Spanish. The telemarketers usually speak about home improvements and local contractors or ask if I am the homeowner.
Although my phone number has a California area code, and I have worked in the state, I’ve never had a permanent address there. I’ve never been a homeowner in California either, and my ability to speak Spanish is infantile at best. The telemarketing calls are obviously not intended for me.
I’ve had the same phone number since the summer of 2012. I doubt Mr. Sanchez had the number before me and telemarketers are finally getting around to calling him 5+ years later. I think Mr. Sanchez gave my number to some business somewhere and it ended up being sold to other companies. My phone number is now on a list, but I’ll never know if Mr. Sanchez gave the wrong number—which turned out to be mine—accidentally or on purpose.
When I answer the phone and I’m greeted in Spanish, I say, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.
When I’m asked for Mr. Sanchez, I say, I’m sorry, there’s no one here by that name. You must have the wrong number.
Sometimes when the caller realizes from my hello that I’m a woman, I’m assumed to be Mrs. Sanchez. When that happens, I give them my wrong number response.
None of these responses seem to deter the telemarketers. They jump right in telling me about local contractors or asking if I’m the homeowner. They don’t care about Mr. or Mrs. Sanchez; they only care about meeting their quotas.
One day the telemarketer who’d called asked me if I was the homeowner.
No, I said. I don’t own a home. I live in a van.
The telemarketer was not expecting this answer and became embarrassed and flustered. Oh, I’m sorry, he muttered before ending the call.
Bingo! I thought. Now I know how to get rid of them.
The next time I got a telemarketing call, I was ready.
No Mr. Sanchez here. Wrong number. Nope, not the homeowner. I live in a van.
The response I got was not what I expected. My confession about my living arrangement was not met with pity. The man on the other end of the line did not become flustered and end the call. Instead, he proclaimed, You are so luck-eeeeeee!
I agreed that I am lucky and the telemarketer asked, Where are you right now?
I told him I was in New Mexico, and he said geography was kind of his thing, Do you mind telling me where in New Mexico you are? he asked.
I told him I was in Truth or Consequences, which was almost true, as it was the closest town to the BLM land where my van and I were sitting at the moment.
That’s near El Paso, right? the telemarketer asked me.
While I was glad he appreciated my van-dwelling ways, I needed to drive and didn’t want to speak to this stranger any longer.
That’s right, I said. It’s not far from El Paso.
I hear it’s dangerous in El Paso, he said.
Well, I’m not going there, I told him.
Before I could say good-bye, he wanted to know, What’s the weather like down there?
The conversation was getting ridiculous. I thought saying I lived in my van would end the call, but instead it opened up a can of 50 Questions.
I gave him a quick weather report, rapidly followed by I gotta go!
Once I hung up, I told The Man (who’d been sitting next to me the whole time and heard my side of the exchange), I thought I’d never get off the phone with that guy.
At least the geography guy was nice. I got another telemarketing call a few weeks later and it was all kinds of wrong.
My phone started ringing and showed an 888 area code, so I knew it was a telemarketing call. I answered so I could ask the caller to remove me from the company’s list. I could hear a lot of noise in the background, maybe a television, maybe kids playing, maybe both. As usual, the telemarketer didn’t even want to talk to me; he wanted to talk to Mrs. Sanchez. I told him there was no one by that name at my number and asked the guy to please take my number off his list. He answered, You’re full of shit! I’m not taking you off nothing!
I said, Excuse me? but he had already hung up. For his sake, I hope the call was not being recorded for quality assurance.
I googled the number and it seems to be some kind of scam telemarketing operation. Someone wrote of the operation, They are using Magic Jack on VoIP which allows them to spoof and robodial. I don’t know what that means, but I blocked the number as soon as the call was over.
The last time I drove I-15 to Vegas, I stopped at Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker, CA. I was looking for a penny press. As I said in my post Squashing Pennies, I have a friend who likes pressed pennies, so I try to get one for her whenever I see a penny squishing machine. I stopped in Baker in December 2016 because a reader of Roadside America said Alien Fresh Jerky had a penny press. Alas, Roadside America reader was wrong.
This photo shows the Mad Greek Cafe in Baker, CA. The Country Store–and its penny press–are right across the street.
When I told The Poet and The Activist of my fruitless search for a penny press in Baker, The Poet told me where I could find one in the town: The Country Store. She told me it was across the street from the Mad Greek Cafe on the main drag, and she was exactly right!
When I pulled up to the Country Store, I saw the penny press machine right outside the front door. I love the convenience of not having to go into a store to use a penny press, but is the press left outside all night? Is no one trying to steal these things? Maybe they are too heavy for easy theft.
In any case, my first order of business at the Country Store was a visit to the restroom, which I found to be adequately clean and comfortable. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the store, but when I passed
This photo shows the front of the Country Store. I managed to cut out the “C” in “Country” and include an innocent bystander.
through, I saw a lot of prepackaged dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, and other snacks. The store also had souvenir items for sale, especially items pertaining to Route 66. In fact, the store’s inventory reminded me of what I’d seen the year before at Alien Fresh Jerky. In any case, I wasn’t interested in snacks or schlock aimed at tourists. All I cared about was that penny press.
When I exited the store, I had to dig around in my van to find two quarters and a penny to use in the press. I found a penny in one of the cups on the console between the two front seats, then grabbed a couple quarters from my laundry stash. I was ready to go.
The penny press at the Country Store gave me four choices of designs to press into my penny. I could have an image of the Country Store itself (boring!); one of a desert tortoise; a cluster of desert images, including a cow skull and the proclamation “Gateway to the Mojave;” or an image of the World’s Largest Thermometer. The tortoise, was nice, but since I’ve never seen one in real life, I didn’t think I should press one into my friend’s souvenir penny. “Gateway to the Mojave” was nice too, and I have driven through the Mojave, but since I haven’t seen a cow skull or much else while passing through, I didn’t think that design was the right one. I had, however, seen the World’s Largest Thermometer before, and in fact could look to my right and see the thermometer in real time, so that’s the design I picked.
This photo shows the penny press in front of the Country Store in Baker, CA. The press does seem to be secured to the wall, which probably discourages thieves.
Even though the machine was the manual kind and I had to turn a crank to press the penny, it didn’t take long to make a souvenir for my friend. I was back in my van and on my way to Vegas in just a few minutes.
Trigger warning: This post is about an abusive relationship I was in and an abusive incident I witnessed. It does NOT contain graphic violence, but may be upsetting to some readers.
I was still in the parking lot of the Denny’s in Escondido. I’d already seen a presumably homeless man treated unkindly in the restaurant,and now I was hearing a man yelling at a woman in the parking lot. Suffering seems so much harder to escape in the Babylon. I think it’s because when there are so many people living packed together, there’s a better chance of seeing some of them having a difficult time in public.
I heard the yelling when I rushed out of the van on my way into Denny’s to deal with a restroom emergency.
The car was parked several spaces closer to the building than I was, but still on the outskirts of the lot. A man and a woman were standing outside the car. The guy was yelling words like fucking bitch and fucking liar, while the woman stood silently.
I tried to pass them without gawking. For one thing, I needed to make it to the restroom immediately. Also, I try not to be a Nosey Nelly even in low-drama situations; people don’t need me staring at them while they try to live their lives. During verbal altercations, there’s probably little I can do to make things better, so I just kept walking.
From my own experience, I think it’s better not to get involved in the abusive relationships of strangers. Very seldom did a stranger try to intervene when my abusive boyfriend was clearly treating me badly. The times someone did try to get involved, watch out! My ex wanted to fight the person who wanted to help, sometimes leading to that person calling the cops. A stranger trying to help might break the immediate cycle of violence, but I’d pay for the intervention later.
I’m not saying don’t intervene if you witness abuse happening. Each of us has to decide on an individual basis what to do in such a situation, but be advised, your intervention could be dangerous for you and/or the person being abused. Also, the abused person is probably not going to allow her/himself to be rescued. S/he’s probably not going to allow you to whisk her (him) away. The person being abused may not be ready to leave the abuser for a whole list of reasons.
When I came out of Denny’s the guy was still yelling at the woman. He was also pulling things (her things, I assumed) out of the car and dumping them on the asphalt. The theme of his tirade seemed to be lying bitch.
The Man was using the internet on his phone when I got back in the van. I don’t think he’d even noticed the screaming. He knows how to focus on the task at hand.
It’s weird how this isn’t even triggering me, I’d thought as I walked across the parking lot. I hadn’t realized that being triggered doesn’t necessarily lead to being huddled in a ball, sobbing, unable to function.
I certainly felt upset. Granted, I hadn’t gotten much sleep, it was early in the morning, and I was jacked up on coffee. But what was going on outside my van hit a little too close to what my life had once been. I had been the woman listening to someone who claimed to love me call me a liar and a bad person while he threw my belongings out of the window of our moving vehicle or destroyed my things in front of me.
While I sat in the van feeling upset, the yelling guy got in the car and sped out of the parking lot. I saw the woman climb over the low spot in the fence separating the parking area from the scrubby vacant lot next to it.
I felt like I had to do something, say something to help the woman. I didn’t really have a plan, but I grabbed a few bucks and walked over to the woman. I figured if she’d been dumped with no money, she might need bus fare or a cup of coffee or a hamburger. Giving her a few bucks seemed like the least I could do.
Her back was to me when I walked up. Are you ok? I asked from a distance. I didn’t want to startle her.
She turned around. She was young, probably no more than 25. Her hair was bleached platinum and her heavy eyeliner had run with her tears.
I”m ok, she said, then stooped to retrieve something from the ground. He threw my things over the fence, she said apologetically.
That wasn’t kind, I said. Then, I used to have a boyfriend who threw my stuff out of the windows of the van.
I couldn’t tell if she heard me or was too distracted to register what I said. I didn’t really want to talk about me, but I wanted her to know she wasn’t the only person this sort of thing had happened to.
About that time, a guy on a bicycle rode through the parking lot, and the woman was concerned about her backpack sitting next to the parking space her dude had vacated. I don’t want that guy to steal my stuff, she said, then hopped over the fence and strode purposefully over to her backpack. The fellow on the bike didn’t seem to be paying attention to her or her things.
I want you to have this, I said, handing her the cash. I thought maybe you could use it.
Really? she said. Thank you so much! She said it like I’d just handed her one of those giant checks Publishers Clearinghouse gives to their sweepstakes winners.
You really deserve someone who is kind to you, I said awkwardly while she stuffed things she’d retrieved from the vacant lot into her bag. I feared I wasn’t doing a very good job counseling her. I hoped my pep talk sounded better to her than it did to me.
I wish I could do something to really help you, I told her. I don’t live in this town…I’m only here because I drove my guy out here to buy a car… I knew I was talking too much, but that’s what I do when I can’t do anything actually helpful.
She started talking about where she was born. I guess we’d both realized talking about what was actually happening was too awkward.
About that time her guy roared his car back into the parking lot,and the woman gathered her things quickly. I said bye or good luck or something equally useless and high-tailed it out of there. The last thing I wanted was to interact with her recently screaming guy.
By the time I got in the van, the woman had gotten into the car, and it was squealing out of the parking lot. I guess this wasn’t going to be the day she left the guy.
The Man was still on his phone. He’d missed the whole thing.
I need to talk about what just happened, I said to The Man, and bless him, he listened. He listened to me talk about how hearing that guy yelling at that woman not only brought up memories of my ex doing the same to me but also triggered the feelings I had when he did it.
The Man didn’t try to tell me what I should do or how I should feel. He simply listened to what I had to say and witnessed me, just like I’d witnessed the woman left in the parking lot. The Man couldn’t change my past, and I couldn’t change the woman’s present, but he could be my witness like I had been hers. Sometimes showing someone they’re not invisible is the best we can do.
The slogan on the sign welcoming folks to Inyokern, California is one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.
In fact, it was so good, I turned around after making it three-quarters of the way through town so I could take a photo of a sign. I hate backtracking, so it says a lot that I turned around and went back for a photo opportunity.
Yeah, that’s right, 100 miles from everywhere! Ha!
Inyokern’s real claim to fame is apparently sunshine.
Inyokern has the highest insolation of any locale on the North American continent, having over 355 days of sunshine each year. 
The landscape around Inyokern is stunning, in a high desert way. This is what I saw when I stood in front of the welcom sign:
Wikipedia says the population of Inyokern increased between 2000 and 2010.
The population was 1,099 at the 2010 census, up from 984 at the 2000 census.
There wasn’t much happening on the town’s main drag. There’s a hotel, a couple of restaurants, a couple gas stations, and several antique stores which seemed closed on a Saturday morning. I think the town must earn most of its revenue from people passing through. I didn’t see anything that made me want to stop other than the funny welcome sign that turns out to be a lie.
It doesn’t matter why we were in Fresno, CA at 9am on a Friday morning.
I was jacked up on coffee, it is true, and I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before, but the sun was shining and the temperature had dropped on that first day of autumn.
I’d exited Highway 99 to get breakfast at Taco Bell and use the internet. When it was time to get back on the 99, we could see the highway, but due to the one-way street we were on, we couldn’t get directly to it. The Man was working with Google Maps to get us to our destination, and I found myself driving through an industrial part of the city that looked sketchy to my no-longer-accustomed-to-an-urban-environment eyes.
Make a left, The Man told me.
Here? I screeched. I could see railroad tracks, but no street.
Here, The Man confirmed, and I turned. There was a street there, narrow and running next to the tracks.
It wasn’t a place where I’d expect to see people walking around, so I noticed the woman near what appeared to be a warehouse. There was rubbish piled all over, and while the woman was standing, she seemed somehow hesitant, as if she’d stumble if she took a step. I didn’t get the impression she was drunk, but imagined she’d recently awaken and emerged from a nest in the trash. Maybe she wasn’t fully awake and still unsteady on her feet.
I glanced at her and made assumptions about her in a second or two while I was driving, then put my eyes back on the road. When I looked at her again, I realized something else.
She was an African-American woman, thin, wearing a red ball cap and a long red shirt, but I’m pretty sure she wan’t wearing pants. I didn’t see any private parts or underpants, and maybe she was wearing short shorts under he long red shirt, but I don’t think she had on pants or a skirt or any sort of bottoms.
Some people would make a joke here about a woman who forgot to put her pants on, but I didn’t see anything funny, only felt profound sadness.
After telling her about the woman, Nolagirl said in a text, She probably has some mental illness which makes it hard to remember you need pants. That’s probably true.
It shouldn’t happen to anyone—mentally ill, living on the streets, sleeping in a pile of trash, no pants or the recollection that pants are a necessity—but it’s not a way of life we associate with the developing world, not here in the good ol’ US of A.
I know people are homeless, I’ve seen them, and I’ve been one of them, but even I can be shocked when confronted. No wonder so many folks who’ve never lived on the streets can pretend it’s not happening in their country and can believe those homeless people are different, a foreign other.
In seconds, we had passed the woman. The Man never even saw her. Out of my sight isn’t out of my mind, though. The woman haunts me. I wish I could have done something for her, but what?
What could one stranger passing through, a stranger in her on edge-living situation really do to help? I suppose I could have given her a couple of bucks or a pair of pants, but would either of those things have really helped her? My tiny offerings would not have changed her life. Still, I feel as if I should have done something.