Sunday, January 9, 2011
Day 157: Enter Rest Pray
Sorefinger Road to Vicksburg Junction. 20.6 miles/3021.6 total
Sunday, January 9, 2011
9:22 a.m. I begin walking on Salome Road just west of Sorefinger Road, heading into Salome where I’ll pick up U.S. 60 and go a couple of miles past Vicksburg Junction near the Timbuktu Garage, a total of 20.6 miles.
It’s chilly this morning, probably in the high 40s, expected to get into the low 60s. No clouds at the moment.
Today I want to say happy birthday to my grandson, Christian Alan Pierce, who lives in Naples, Florida. He’s eight years old. Hope he has a fun time at his party.
I’m beginning to enter what might be called the Land of a Thousand RV Parks. Lots of Canadians and others from northern states who spend the winter months in the comparative warmth of western Arizona, but who can't afford a place in the Phoenix area or just enjoy the whole great outdoors camper thing. The capital of all this RV madness is Quartzsite, a town I’ll be visiting in a day or two.
It’s becoming evident to me that around here it doesn’t much matter where I park my motor home overnight. On the side of the road well off the shoulder in a flat spot is never a problem. I do like to be out in the country a bit, except when I’m at Walmart of course. Perhaps it never mattered where I parked, but it feels more comfortable to randomly camp in New Mexico and Arizona. The utter lack of zoning and the vast expanses of desert are conducive to stopping just about anywhere. Last night I parked alongside a metal fence surrounding a towing and storage yard. It was dark, and there were no lights around, so I just stopped. Tonight I’ll find another spot along U.S. 60, down on the dirt track that runs parallel to the highway. I’m pretty sure that the Walmart in Buckeye was the last one of those I’ll see until the Palm Springs, California area.
The big news this morning in Arizona is the attempted assassination yesterday of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords down in Tucson, which also involved the killing of six other people and the wounding of about a dozen more. I will not comment on the shooting except to say that I am impressed by the utter inanity of the radio news coverage of the event so far. Last evening while driving back to pick up the car and again this morning I listened to two different stations--one of them an NPR affiliate--for well over an hour and never did I get the straight facts of the story. I had to infer practically everything from the pious gabble of people who knew nothing, who were being interviewed by the dimwits who pass for news reporters these days. Eventually after wading through just about as much bullshit on the internet I got the story. It is unimportant, as a matter of news, what anyone but the victims or the perpetrator thinks about such an event, and the public should not be bothered with the opinions of pundits and politicians and phony experts reeled in off the street. As Sergeant Friday used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
One essential fact of the story has been established. The assassin's middle name is Lee, and he's being referred to by all three of his names. I don’t know about you, but I take a certain comfort from that, since I believe every assassin should have either Lee or Wayne as one of his names, and that he should always be called by all three of his names. In fact, John Lee Wayne would be a perfect name for an assassin in this country. That’s what bothered me the most about Sirhan Sirhan. Shit, that’s not even two names, much less three.
A friend of mine has suggested, quite correctly I think, that our habit of referring to assassins by all three of their names is like a collective national version of the way your mother used to talk to you when you'd done something wrong—you knew when you heard her call you by your first, middle, and last names that you were in big trouble.
At 3.5 miles I reach Hayden Brown Road, for those of you who might be following on some kind of e-map. The flatness of yesterday has given way to some slight hilliness as I get close to the edge of the Harquahala Mountains, passing random small breastlike peaks. Little ranch houses dot the way now every quarter of a mile or so—rancheritos, I guess you’d call them—some of the nicer ones landscaped in the desert style with agaves and cacti and other desert plants growing out of gravel. That looks normal to me now, but there was a time when I would have looked at such yards and thought, “It looks like a vacant lot,” which indeed it would if it were in Indiana or Illinois.
As I approach downtown Salome the morning chill has worn off a bit. Homes range from trailers to prefab and manufactured to adobe style to gabled pink monstrosities. Anything goes, pretty much. They're having no beauty contests around here as far as houses are concerned.
At 4.6 miles I come to a tiny chapel. Rarely am I in the right place at the right time on this journey. Museums are often closed as I walk by them, for instance. But here I am in front of a Christian chapel on a Sunday morning. I walk up to it, a hundred feet north of the road. It’s white with a blue door. Inside I'm alone. There’s a single pew on one side and four chairs on the other and a small pulpit in front. Seating capacity about ten. Little stained glass windows about a foot by three feet. The whole thing is maybe six by ten feet. The sign on the front says “Enter Rest Pray.” I take full advantage of the offer. In the comment section of the guest book, however, I feel compelled to write the immortal words of Jim Morrison: “You cannot petition the Lord with prayer.” Most of the comments are of a more predictably gushy and religious nature. But hey, I may not pass this way again.
As I continue to approach the center of Salome I pass Salome High School, a small place painted white and several shades of green. It’s the home of the Frogs, and there’s a “Frog Crossing” sign out front. The student of the month is Destiny Anderson. Where do parents get the ideas for these names?
I pass Salome Auto Parts and Welding Supplies and at 6.8 miles I turn left onto U.S. 60, at the post office. Salome’s population was around 1,700 in 2000. Doesn’t look as if it’s been growing much. It’s all about RV parks here, so they may well have a large transient population. I stop at the RZ Mini Mart for some refreshment, then begin my march down U.S. 60 for the last two-thirds of the walk.
On the way out of town I come to a historical marker telling a bit about Salome, whose town motto, or whatever, is “Where She Danced,” a reference to the biblical Salome. It says, “This desert town was made famous by the humor of Dick Wick Hall, healthseeker and operator of the Laughing Gas Station. Hall’s publication The Salome Sun was filled with extravagant tales of the desert adaptation of species. He told of his frog that was seven years old and never learned to swim.” So perhaps that’s the origin of the high school team’s name.
Salome, where she danced, quickly disappears in my figurative rear view mirror and I’m on my way to the next little place, Harcuvar. Between the towns is a succession of vacant lots and uninhabited and slummy-looking shacks, together with some inhabited and equally slummy-looking places. The smell of urine suddenly fills the air, and I’m not so sure it’s from cattle. This is obviously a place where, with practically no money, one can come with a vehicle or structure that barely qualifies as a dwelling, plop it down on a lot, and live permanently with a minimum of observation by the government or other powers that be. Dead cars, dead campers, dead buildings, and probably dead bodies. Rusted tanks, things you can see through that you shouldn’t be able to. Piles of trash in the sandy flatness. Dusty barking dogs. This really puts the crappiest parts of the east to shame, but seems more benign somehow in the midst of the vastness of the desert. One simply doesn’t expect to see nice places around here.
Harcuvar doesn’t herald itself from this direction, but I know I’m here because I pass a little collection of commercial buildings. I go into one, called the Welcome In Market, and spend quite a long time talking to the proprietor, a retired guy named Richard Gossen, from Minneapolis, formerly in the construction business up there, now in the business of selling knives and his wife’s hand made silver jewelry. He doesn’t have any used knives. However, he has some brass knuckles, which he sells as paperweights or belt buckles. I am delighted, since I once had a set I bought in Germany, but lost them. I buy some genuine brass ones, with nice weight to them, and leave delighted with my purchase. Brass knuckles, yes indeed.
I chatted with Richard about many things—lawyers, insurance, assassinations, retirement. He has a good natured way about him, and doesn’t project the out-and-out redneck sensibilities of so many white people in the southwest. Obviously this has everything to do with the fact that he’s not from here, but from Minnesota, a land of even tempered and fairly intelligent people.
I walk down past the Harcuvar Plaza and the Pottery and Gift Shop. West of Harcuvar the highway starts going uphill through some mountains, and I see some of the same type of rocks I saw in the mountains on the other side of Phoenix, between Globe and Superior, these brown rounded formations. Amid it all of course are saguaros and palo verde trees and mesquites and many types of bushes. I get off the highway and onto an older asphalt road running parallel, alligatored and worn but still serviceable and probably used by people going up into the mountains with offroad vehicles. I’m starting to see quite a few long-needled teddy bear cholla cacti. I’m also seeing some ocotillos, which I haven’t seen many of since New Mexico. The ocotillo is a plant consisting of a bunch of long straight spiny sticks about an inch in diameter growing in a bunch, rather like a sparse besom broom rising from the ground. They grow to about ten feet high and are pretty dry and gray most of the time, but apparently when it rains they grow little oval green leaves. They are sometimes mistaken for cacti, but they’re not.
At 13.4 miles I enter Hope. This is another place catering to RVs. Hope lies at the intersection of 60 and Arizona Route 72, and at the opening of a wide flat expanse called the Ranegras Plain. I pass the Little Church of Hope at the intersection. Across from that is the Victory Lane Café. On the way out of town the reverse side of the welcome sign says “Your Now Beyond Hope.” The unfortunate misuse of the word “your” says more about the town and its inhabitants than I ever could.
At 17.5 miles I reach a roundabout under construction at Vicksburg Junction, where Vicksburg Road crosses U.S. 60. The Kofa Café sits a little north of the intersection. Nothing else is going on here, except the Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant and Cantina.
Yellow wildflowers bloom beside the road here in early January. Caught at their bases are tufts of cotton from fields about a mile to the south.
At 19 miles I arrive at the Parker Towing and Storage yard with its metal fence, in front of which I spent last night. Then about a mile down I pass the intriguingly named Timbuktu Garage, specializing in autos and light trucks. Wonder what's behind that?
About half a mile later I come to the motor home, sitting beside the one-lane dirt path that runs along the shoulder.