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Homeless Day 9, Part 3: Barstow and Beyond

I am determined to get caught up today.  My final sidetrip of last Saturday was off highway 15. Highway 58 intersects with highway 15 at Barstow. I took the obligatory pic of Barstow Station when I pulled off looking for a cool drink:

On a previous trip I went into that McDonald's, into the railroad car. It's different, anyway. Food's much the same. This time I went to Starbucks and went through the drive-through. Just seemed easier than parking and leaving the car with the engine running and air conditioning on. Add one more to my list of reasons for drive-throughs. Good reasons, that is:
- for disabled people
- for families with small chidren asleep in the back
- for families with pets
I am not a drive-through fan otherwise. I am aware that there isn't much difference between the pollution caused by cars in a drive-through line and that of cars stopped and started again in a parking lot. It still bothers me to move my car through a drive-through line, stopping and starting, but less so with my hybrid. What I don't like especially is that I have trouble understanding the person who takes my order through the speaker and I have little confidence that the person will get my order right. I also feel rushed, knowing there is someone waiting impatiently behind me.

Saturday, though, it was the right thing to do. I ordered an orange creme frappuccino, light, plus a low-fat orange creme coffee cake. I am sure that this food was really healthy. It doesn't matter. Travel food is just different.

I have been through Barstow often, and my daughter Mary has actually spent the night there more than once. I quizzed her on what she found, what treasures, and she said none. I am not inclined to believe that there is absolutely nothing of interest there but I simply have not found it yet. Maybe the next trip.

I swung out on 15 with my frap and it wasn't long before I saw the sign I was looking for: The Early Man Site. I have wondered for years: did this mean that bones of an early man were found here? Some skeleton, an indicator type? It was early afternoon and I was going to find out.

Another gravelly road. It looked passable but I gotta admit I really like asphalt. The sign said "two miles" this time. Couldn't be too bad. At the entrance a warning:

I continued on, into a gravelly area containing a couple of small buildings. I pulled into a parking area and went into the visitors' center. The man inside asked what brought me there. As usual, I said I had passed that sign for years and this time I wanted to find out what it was. He was delighted to tell me. The site is the largest - I think - and the oldest active archaeological dig in this country. It all started in the 1940s when someone found an arrowhead fashioned of stone and brought it to the historical society nearby. The head of the society knew her stuff and immediately recognized it as evidence of very early man, much older than the commonly-assumed 12,000 years most archaeologists agreed was how long man had been on this continent. She tried to get a dig going but ran into walls because of this belief.

She went to London for some business and discovered that Richard Leakey was there at the time, so she made a five-minute appointment with him. When he saw what she had brought with her he gave her several hours. He also pulled strings to get a dig going and later visited the site and pointed out the area that should be investigated. Archaeologists have been digging ever since, often using tiny tools so they don't miss anything. Oh, and now it is commonly accepted that this area was occupied by early man over 40,000 years ago, and that at that time the climate was very different, rich with vegetation, water, animals.

All of this information is documented there in the center and in various handouts. I may scour them later and fill in a couple of details. I found it fascinating and when I saw a sign on the desk in that building that said "Don't talk to the crazy man" I knew who they meant. When my guide referred to various people finding this or that or doing this or that on the site back in the 40s and 50s he always said "we". "We found X" and "We went to Y".  I have known a number of archaeologists over the years in my career (fading fast) as a planner, and one thing I have determined: they are all crazy. Some more than others.

Of course Bullet was in the car, the air conditioning was on, and it was hot. I took a quick walk up the hill to see a little of the dig.

From the trail. The visitor center is the brown building on the left. There are self-guided tours through the dig area, and there are guided tours during some times of the year. In the spring I think this would make a great place to visit, a nice little hike with some cool knowledge to be gained.

Bullet and I bumped our way back to highway 15 and I couldn't help but think, "40,000 years and two miles between these two places".

We stopped in Baker, again looking for something to drink. I turned around next to the Mad Greek Cafe but did not go in. Instead I looked at this trailer park, which looks a little unlived-in right now:

I was thinking of my own new home and "There but for the grace of G** go I".  [I wasn't sure what to do with the God reference because I really wasn't referring to him.]

I took off without stopping anywhere in Baker after all. Primm, Nevada was the next stop. The welcome center. I used the bathroom. I was now in very familiar territory but my next stop needed to be the Petsmart in Henderson and I wasn't sure of the best route there. Although I had been there many times I looked it up on a map and found a good easy way to get there.

Which I did. The next thing I knew, I was inside the PetsHotel, talking to a really nice woman. When I told her Bullet was on meds for thyroid overactivity she told me about her thyroid cat, who had died at age 23. When I mentioned that Bullet is FIV-positive she said "That's very common". We made arrangements for food and meds and she found the fax from the vet. I gave Bullet his second pill for the day so they could start fresh the following morning, and said goodby to my baby. The woman said I could call any time and ask to speak to him but she couldn't guarantee he'd come to the phone. I think I said this already, in a previous past, but it's worth repeating. They even hang onto the carriers, which was a relief to me. One less thing to worry about hauling around. I left the hotel lighter and a little sad. The first thing I thought about, though, when I went through the door, was that Bullet was air-conditioned! And at that moment I sure wasn't.

To Mary's house next. I made a mistake when trying to transfer from 215 west to St. Rose highway, ending up still on 215 and well beyond my destination. I got turned around and was searching for St. Rose west when I got a call from my friend Richard, who was in Alaska. It is an odd thing but I get these calls, unexpected ones, frequently when I am lost on Las Vegas freeways. I should not pick up the phone. It was okay, though. I didn't miss the exit, and I found Mary's place easily.

That night we had pizza.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC)
Came across this entry thanks to a Google blog search for Barstow. I'm an ex-Barstuvian and keep up on what goes on in my strange little former hometown. Noting that you may be looking for some things to see around there I can point you to: Barstow Information and click on the Museum or Historical Attraction links. The Mojave River Valley Museum is an interesting little visit right off the Barstow Road exit and there is the Route 66 Museum. Just out of town is Calico Ghost Town that was restored by Walter Knott (of the berry farm) and donated to the county, neat little town if you haven't been there.
Happy traveling!
Jun. 20th, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC)
I was kinda hoping someone from Barstow would see this and say yes! There is something there! I have seen the signs to the museums and expect I will check them out on a future visit. My daughter went to the ghost town and said it was okay, nothing special, but I may still want to check it out some time.

What else? Anything wild? Parks, wild space, conservation areas?
Jun. 20th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
I haven't been to Barstow in about 7 years but I'm sure some of the places are still the same. Rainbow Basin is an interesting drive through for geologic stuff, there's also Sawtooth Canyon which I can't find a great deal on-line about but it's about 15 miles out of Barstow heading towards Victorville/Apple Valley on 247. A couple 50's B movies were filmed there (Tarantula - with John Agar and at least one other I can't remember). Afton Canyon on the way to Vegas is one of the rare spots where the Mojave River runs above ground, another is near Victorville, the Mojave Narrows Park.
A unique but outdated site for some Barstow info is Virtual Barstow, it mentions a lot of the quirky little spots that may or may not still be around. Wish I could provide more spots for you but it has been a while, I hope to get to the area later this year to visit a brother in Apple Valley.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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