____ South from Quartzsite on Highway 95 to the Big Guns of the Yuma Proving Grounds, home to the US Army and their base for testing all things military. It was here that they refined the floating pontoon bridges on the Colorado River that were used in World War Two and we head to the same place; crossing the river into California and camping at the Imperial Dam. Another BLM area and for $180 you can stay up to seven months with amenities to make life comfortable. Potable water, a waste water dump, pit toilets and trash bins are all on-site; hot showers for a dollar are one mile along the road.
____ It is a vast tract of desert scrubland; mainly flat with a rocky surface and crossed by dirt tracks, all with names. We settle in at Gravel Pit West, a sheltered spot within an easy walk to the pit-toilets and with two Quebecois neighbours. Maybe 300 RVs on the site but it is difficult to count as they spread themselves out; some seem to need solitude, some seem to like to be in a community. I like to have neighbours but not too close, just close enough to keep an eye on your stuff when you are away from the motor home and it seems a lot of people sit outside all day watching the World go by, so Imperial Dam does give you a sense of safety.
____ We decided to stay long-term at Imperial Dam, mainly to cut costs. Less fuel for the truck and cheap rent; the only difficult bit being the lack of a neighbourhood grocery store. We stocked up in Yuma and lasted eight days before needing to make the 40 mile round-trip into town again. Oranges and grapefruit were available at road-side vendors; $2.00 a net and the nearby Imperial Date Gardens had a whole host of edible goodies. It was a six-teen mile bicycle ride to fetch a variety of date related trail mixes or a date and nut cake with the date-shake being the high-light of the day. Cycling out in various directions became our daily exercise; riding up to 40 miles to the rhythm of America’s Horse With No Name, it felt good to out of the rain.
____ Life at Imperial Dam settled into a slow-paced routine; the morning coffee followed by breakfast, a trip to the dump and the ensuing socializing at the taps, drains and bins. A little bit of light maintenance on the truck or odd-jobs in the living quarters before a light lunch. The afternoon bike ride and recuperation in the zero-gravity chairs with a nice cup of tea. The sun was getting warmer every day and stayed up longer but evening came soon enough and after dinner we became star-gazers. Snuggled-up in a sleeping bag, lying back in the zero-gravities, rum and coke in hand, watching the satellites in orbit and picking out the constellations as airplanes headed to and from San Diego.
____ There were occasional glimpses of the wild donkeys that live in the desert. Next door neighbor caught a rattlesnake just outside his fifth-wheel and relocated it further into the wilderness. But the only event of note came one Sunday evening just as it was getting dark. There was a bang on the outside of the truck; it sounded like someone had hit it. I went out to find Gilles, the Quebecker to our right, lying on the ground beside the Mack. My first thought was that he had fell and dislocated his shoulder as I tried to get him to his feet; but his whole left side had gone limp; it was a stroke. Cheryl raced to tell the other Quebeckers and we managed to get Gilles into a chair as Cheryl called 911. His speech was slurred and the left corner of Gilles’ mouth drooped in the way it always does with stroke victims.
____ The emergency volunteers of the BLM came out and set-up a guided route for the paramedics to reach our campsite. First the Imperial Valley Fire Rescue and then the Winterhaven Emergency Ambulance. It was an hour later that the Medivac helicopter flew in and took Gilles to hospital; first Yuma and then onto Phoenix, Arizona. The Mack got a thorough sand-blasting as the chopper came down within 30 feet of our campsite. The other Quebeckers went to Phoenix to check on Gilles but the news was not good and he was air-lifted back to Montreal for, hopefully, a full recovery. A very sobering occurrence; for the man is only 61 years old and one of the youngest of the whole Imperial Dam community.
|The view of Squaw Lake from the top of Imperial Dam.|
|Wild desert donkeys seem very healthy.|
|The hummingbird feeder hangs from the crane at the rear of the truck and the little birds are a joy to watch.|
|Seven desert donkeys on a field of rocks.|
|The very smart Peterbilt motorhome belongs to Les from Ontario and we had some great chats about his career as a recovery truck driver on the 401 in Toronto.|