with Steve McCarthy
Got a Sense o’Yuma?
Well, we’re still Darting about, getting acquainted with the new beastie and I have to say, we’re both pretty pleased. We took our first Big Drive in it t’other day, and after 540miles in a day, neither of us were anywhere near as tired as in the Mustang. So where’d we go?
How about Yuma? For lunch. And of course breakfast and dinner along the way there and back. We didn’t do the usual O’Dark-Thirty start, but still managed to get to the Wheel Inn in Cabazon for a good breakfast. This is the place with the huge dinosaurs, just off the I-10. Great Place! Waitress called us “Hon” and the pancakes were good. Decor dates to the 60s and the wood grain on the formica tables is worn away from decades of plates. We naturally took some touristy photos of the BRONTOSAURUS (don’t give me that crap about renaming it. Just like don’t give me crap about Pluto not being a planet!) and of the T-Rex and headed out, south on the 111 past the Salton Sea, then east on the I-8.
Odd towns in the Imperial Valley! You have the dying resort of Salton Sea, the thriving cities of Brawley and El Centro and the twin border towns, Calexico and Mexicali. In between are odd little nubbins of towns like Calpatria. Who knows why or on what they exist, eking out a hard scrabble existence. What’s fantastic is what a little water will do. Year round agriculture keeps things humming and the less than documented employed.
One of the things we wanted to see along the way was the Old Plank Highway. Or the remains thereof. This was a marvel of improvised engineering to build a road over the trackless wastes of the Imperial Dunes. Shifting sands have befuddled road builders for millennia. At one time, there were even CAMEL caravans through our own mini-Sahara. Along about 1913, it was decided to lay down boards, 12’x8” planks and nail ‘em together. This was OK, but around 1916, they built sections that were connected by iron straps and pieced them together. This allowed the road to “float” on the sand. Pretty Smart!
Now, about this time you should be thinking, “HEY, that road is 12” wide. Even a Model T is too wide to pass another car on this. Was it one way? Did they lay two lanes?” They did not. Every mile or so, they put in a wide spot for passing. If you met in the middle, you flipped a coin or argued it out as to who should back up to the wide spot. Apparently, this was done without Road Rage. Yep, we’re SO much more civilized 100 years later.
To find this gem, head east on the I-8 almost to Yuma. There is a turn off for Gray’s Well. There is a rest stop in the middle of the highway (?) and an off road park set in the dunes. You don’t have to pay the park fee if all you do is go see the Plank Road. Just stay on the pavement. The Road is back to the west. Way back. When the pavement ends, turn around and drive back a bit. There’s a couple of clumps of trees and it’s easier to see the Plank Road off to the south as you head back east. Park, get out, and marvel at the ingenuity.
Back on the highway, we headed for Yuma, not really knowing what we’d find. In the Old Town (which doesn’t look all that old, it’s been over-spruced up) there was a slightly sad “Art and Craft Show”. Marianne didn’t even find any worthwhile turquoise to by! We had a decent lunch at a bar that had about a hundred kinds of beers, then set off to see what else was there. Aside from the remains of the old Territorial Prison, there wasn’t much. Yuma seems to be a nice enough place to stop on the way to somewhere else.
We left a bit after 3:00pm, and sure enough, a train was pulling through. At 3:10. I’m NOT kidding! Heading back west on I-8, we decided that what the hell, let’s get PIE in Julian. This gave Marianne a chance to exercise the Dart and learn about the manual mode on the gearbox and we went up S-2 to the 78 and to Julian. This is SUCH a neat road. It’s a shame that Wanker, Pillock, and Prat, those Top Gear guys missed it on their recent trip through the area. See? They shoulda called me!
In Julian we of course hit Moms for a pie to bring home, then headed back north on the 79. It was getting dark and dinner was calling. Hmm, where to eat. Not much out there. And of course, St. Serendipity came out of the night and revealed to us the County Line Cafe.
What a find! Place looks like a one time Biker Bar (and probably was) but for the last three years by a couple and WOW have they got it right! Jacque (I think) is the chef and he’s come up with wild game brats that are to die for! I had the wild boar and Marianne had the bison. Each comes with a specific sauce that they developed and as a result (get this!) KETCHUP AND MAYO ARE NOT AVAILABLE! WOW! The lady at the table next to ours GRUMPED about this the whole meal! Silly Philistine! We split a side of potato salad that turned out to be more like roasted spuds and dinner cost us under $30. FOR THE TWO OF US! This place makes a trip down that way well worth it!
From there, we just used the GPS to guide us to the 1-15 and home. Not bad, 540 miles and averaged 32mpg and that included some fairly brisk mountain twisty road driving. Yeah, we LIKE this little car!