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Puerto Penasco Day 8 Print E-mail
Written by Kevin   
Sunday, 19 June 2005

We started off the morning around 6:30 am and got up and dressed. I'd say that we took some time to finish packing, but Julie had already taken care of that yesterday. We fed the kids a quick breakfast and called down to have the front desk send up a bellhop to pick up our bags. Within minutes the bellhop arrived, so we quickly said our goodbyes and headed out to the car. The packing of the car went fairly quick, and we tipped the bellhop with the last of our pesos and we were off on our drive home. While driving back through Mexico I began to worry about driving in the U.S. again. For some reason I think that "Yes, I know there was a stop sign... but come on, it was just a stop sign" wouldn't fly in the U.S.. I had actually become used to the idea of suggestive speed limits and ALTO signs. Everyone drives erratic, and you have to be on the constant lookout for someone who thinks the ALTO sign is not for them, but it seems to work the majority of the time. Yes, driving in Mexico is always an adventure, but eventually you can get used to it.

Before long we were back to the border town of Sonoyta, getting ready to be back in the U.S.. From what I've seen of Mexico I can understand why so many people want to come to the United States. From outward appearances it looks as though the worst conditions I've seen in the U.S. are about even with the average conditions I see in Mexico. I see how it would only make sense to want to go to America where there is much more opportunity and better living conditions. But then again, what do I know... I've only been here a week, and as I said, all I see is the outward appearance of things. Overall however, I do look forward to being back in the U.S. again. Sometimes you need to see the other side of things to realize just how good you have it.

An open pit copper mine in Ajo, AZ

The border crossing was as quick as can be. Even though we had our birth certificates with us, we didn't even have to show our drivers license. Once over the border, we were back in the Oregon Pipe Cactus National Monument. This time I was determined to take some pictures of the trip back so I shot a few from the road while we were driving, then pulled over to take a couple of "good" shots of the cactus. At the exit of the National Monument was another border checkpoint, once again we were just asked if everyone was an American citizen and we were on our way. We passed back through the mining town of Ajo, and this time I decided to do a little driving around the small town and do some sightseeing. The town of Ajo has been a mining town since the early 1900's when copper was discovered in the area. The mine is now run by the Phelps Dodge Corporation which is one of the leading producers of copper in the world (there a very good possibility that the data that you're reading now has been transmitted across some of their copper). We followed the signs to the mine overlook and it was a sight to see... Open pit strip mining, while very ugly in one way, is also an amazing sight to see in person. I took a couple of pictures and then we drove through town and took pictures of a couple other sights, like the Curley School (built in 1919).

The Curley School, in Ajo, AZ.

We then headed north to arrive at Gila Bend around 10:30, where we stopped for an early lunch. We still had about a half a tank of gas in the car, so we drove on to Yuma on the Arizona / California Border. We stopped here to get the kids each a chocolate shake as a treat and also to let them get out of the car and run around for a while. The sign on the Burger King there said it had the largest indoor playland in Arizona, so we headed over there and let the kids play in the tubes for a bit. A note about traveling to Yuma, number one it is very hot and dry, number two if you drive any less aggressively than a New Yorker be prepared to get run over. It is a major crossways for travelers, and that was apparent when I tried to make a left turn on a major four lane road. I ended up having to forget about it and go the long way around. A little bit strange going from laissez-faire driving in Mexico,? to run your butt over driving here in the U.S. (and people wonder why I drive like I do normally). We got back on the road (after gunning it), and headed over the border into California. Once over the Colorado River we then passed over the All American Canal which supplies water to the Imperial Valley. This canal (actually the canal's predecessor) is also responsible for The Salton Sea (which we were soon going to see on this trip), and also for (possibly) making Death Valley the lowest spot in America.

Built in 1900 and completed in 1901, a canal dug from the Colorado River just below Yuma (across the Mexican Border) to the Imperial Valley, opened the area up to agriculture. Without any major dams on the river however, the canal was overrun in 1905 by the Colorado's spring runoff, and began to fill the Salton Sink. The Salton Sink, which had been surveyed to be as deep as 287 feet below sea level, was now being filled by the Colorado River and officially made Badwater in Death Valley the lowest point in America at 282 feet below sea level. The Salton Sink, now the Salton Sea continued to fill for over a year, until the canal could be closed off in late 1906. Eventually the All American Canal was built in the 1930's as part of the Boulder Dam Project, and opened in 1940 to once again supply the Imperial Valley with water. Enough on my history lesson and back to the trip, but if you want to read more about the Salton Sea or the All-American Canal click on the links provided, or for a good book on the subject, check out The Water Seekers by Remi Nadeaualt, which also discusses the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Colorado River Aqueduct.

The Imperal Sand Dunes

We continued on Interstate 8 through California, through the Imperial Sand Dunes (which I later came to find out, is where the Great Pit of Carkoon scene from Return of the Jedi was filmed), and along the California/Mexico Border until we headed north on Highway 111 to the Salton Sea. We took the western route along the Salton Sea on Highway 86, passing through the town of Brawley along the way. It was a little strange passing through Brawley, which almost could have been used to film Back to the Future as it almost felt as if you were transported back to the 1950's while driving through town. Eventually we make it to the Salton Sea, and I have to say that overall there was not much to see there. Maybe the next time I come this way I'll drive along the eastern shore, along Highway 111 which gets much closer to the sea itself.? Along the way I was telling Julie that California (along with some other states) basically robbed the Colorado to create this vast farming community we now have, and it is interesting that the soil of the desert here is so rich and wonderful for farming. Before you get to the Palm Springs area there are lots of date palms, so roadside signs beckon you to try date shakes. Don't listen to them, we've had date shakes. They are a sugary almond-like paste with some ice cream in them, not something I'd willingly buy again unless I was out of adhesive or something.

Shopping in Downtown Palm Springs.

Once Highway 86 met back up with Highway 111 north of the Salton Sea, we got back onto Highway 111 and headed toward the Palm Springs area. As many times as I've driven along Interstate 10, I've never actually been to Palm Springs so I decided that a quick drive through the area would be good. I have to say that this area looks like the vacation spot for me. It's all here... the resorts, the pool, the spas, etc., and all the convenience of still being in the U.S., and upscale U.S. at that! The Indian Wells and the Rancho Mirage areas were my favorite along the drive, and the most expensive areas I think. Julie pointed out they had a Jaguar, Bentley, and a Land Rover dealership all next to each other, so I'd say my assumption might be correct about the upscale part. Eventually we got to Palm Springs, and drove up Indian Canyon Drive through the downtown area. I think I'm going to have to come back here some day and spend a little more time sightseeing, and maybe do a little shopping as well. Maybe I can stay in one of those new age hotels where my bed will come out of the wall and then neatly fold into a cuisinart. Nah, I'd be like the older parents in that one travel commercial trying to flush the toilet and ending up turning on the shower on poor Julie.

Once out of Palm Springs we got back on Interstate 10 for the final drive back to Simi Valley. It was now about 4:30 pm and Julie and I decided it was about time to start thinking about what we would do for dinner. Back at home, the refrigerator was pretty much empty, so we knew that we'd have to eat out. After throwing around a few different ideas, Julie said that we should try Hometown Buffet. (Mostly because the kids wanted different things to eat, and there's one about one block away from my house). Those of you who know me well also know that I am not a fan of buffets... of any kind. So, after quietly throwing up in my mouth, I swallowed, and said "OK, but let's find out the cost first". We called my mother who happened to be out looking at vacation ideas for herself at the time, and she did not know what the cost at the Hometown Buffet in Simi was. We then called my father who, being a fan of buffets in general, we knew had to have gone to the Hometown Buffet at least once. Luckily he convinced Julie that the food there wasn't that good, and most of the people there were even worse, so she decided that it was no longer a good idea. He gave us the picture of people much like cattle mooing and grumbling at tables shoved too close together while others argued over who gets the end piece on the roast. Deliverance, all wrapped up at mealtime with Ma and Pa... thanks but I'll pass. My bowels did a little dance of joy, and I suggested that we go to the Coral Cafe, a little diner at the end of the street where my dad lives.

We met up with my dad at his house and headed down to the Coral for dinner. Overall, I have to say going to any restaurant at this point was a bad idea. The kids, who at this point had been locked up in the car for almost 10 hours, were to the point of complete and utter anarchy. Kyle talked non stop until food arrived, and then refused to eat anything. Blake ran around the booth we were in from end to end, eating and drinking everything he could put his hands on. Kyle insisted on having some Bacon with his Spaghetti (don't ask me), which strangely reminded me of Mexico. Everywhere we went, especially at the resort, everything was bacon wrapped. Bacon wrapped hamburgers, bacon wrapped steak, bacon wrapped hot dogs even! I never did order bacon in Mexico but if I had, I'm pretty sure it would have come bacon wrapped! Anyways, once we had completely annoyed everyone in the restaurant and I was to the point of strangling both of the children, we finished our dinner and headed back to my dad's house. We stayed only for a few minutes before we said our goodbyes and headed back home to Simi.

The Boys, finally home!

Our grand adventure finally came to a close as we got home just after 8 pm. Strange to think that just 12 hours ago we were in another country, in a resort on the beach. We let our dog Kipper in, and watched her run around whimpering, as happy as a dog could possibly be to see her family. In memory of our trip to Mexico our neighbor was lighting off fireworks in his backyard... wait...? no, that wasn't in honor of our trip to Mexico, that was just because he is a hick who is easily amused by fireworks. The kids, who were still stir crazy from the car ride all day, did not get to bed until 9 pm (actually 10 pm for Blake). We finished unpacking as the kids fell asleep and then, rather quickly, fell asleep ourselves.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about our vacation as much as I did writing it. For those of you on my mailing list (which is currently everyone who has access to the site), I'd like to thank you for dealing with all the emails, and I promise to keep them down to 1 or 2 a month at most.... at least until the next vacation.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin, Julie, Kyle, & Blake Reelfs

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