Tuesday, March 31, 2020

OVERLANDERS . Chapter 1.

“It’s as easy as walking round, picking up $100 bills.”

“Never had much luck with get-rich-quick schemes,” replied Kevin, “what kind of a dinosaur is a megalodon anyway?”

“Big dead shark, teeth the size of your hand, biggest fish the World has ever seen.”

    Kevin should have felt safe; Arizona had no coastline. They were camped in the Sonoran desert but Rufus was a little bit sketchy and his proposition was bordering on illegal. The big problem was that funds were running low, they had under estimated the cost of touring the World in an ex-British Army 4x4 truck; they needed an income more than their online t-shirt shop and their Youtube channel could provide.

    Gabby and Kevin were nearly six months into the adventure of a lifetime. That’s if you don’t count the two years building their overland expedition truck from a 1993 Leyland Daf T244 four tonner. The chassis cab had been cheap enough but building the living area and equipping the vehicle had eaten into their savings. The cost of shipping it to North America was reasonable but driving from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Fairbanks, Alaska, and then South to the Mexican border had made a huge dent in the running money.

    The vast distances and expensive diesel fuel of Canada had been underestimated. The permanent four-wheel drive of the Leyland Daf gave horrific fuel mileage. Wild camping where ever they could had helped. They tried to avoid tourist traps and admission fees; paying out for just fuel and food but now the trip was stalled in the desert. They were at the crossroads of the trip. Central America and then South America lay ahead but the money was running out.

    The BLM [Bureau of Land Management] land around the town of Quartzsite has been a magnet for recreational vehicles for a long time. Snowbirds from Canada, nomads from all over the States flock to Quartzsite in their thousands. For little or no charge the desert becomes the winter base for motor homes, travel trailers, 5th wheelers even tents. A community practicing economical living, that suited Gabby and Kevin just fine. They may have had the only UK registered Leyland Daf in the county but they had a lot in common with their neighbours.

    Missy and Rufus had also built their own RV. A thirty year old re-purposed fire rescue truck; lime green and white with chrome. Not a 4x4 overland expedition vehicle but one big and tough truck all the same. They were from Idaho, just wintering in the South-West, their second year of working just the summer. Missy would go back to waiting tables at her family’s restaurant; Rufus would try get back to dry-walling with his brother. Rufus didn’t relish the return to hard manual labour. Selling megalodon teeth on E-bay for a hundred bucks each was something he awaited with pleasure.

    As the four travelers sat around a ring of stones, a small pallet wood fire flickered enough light to see the passing joint. Conversation was about the finer details of tooth extraction from Mexico.

    “Technically it is illegal. Yes. But they turn a blind eye; they’re more interested in whole dinosaur skeletons and ancient man-made artifacts than old shark teeth that once were on the Pacific Ocean floor.”

    “But how did these teeth end up in the Baja?”

    “San Andreas fault, earthquakes and the clash of continents. What was seabed millions of years ago is now high and dry.”

    “Who buys the damn things? Where’s the market?”

   “Kids worldwide. Awesome thing to have when you are ten years old. A sixty million year old shark tooth that is massive.”

    Gabby was reluctant to commit to the scheme but Kevin persuaded her with a few more relevant points.

    “ We have to get out of the US soon. Our B2 visas only give us six months. I know Baja California is not really on the way to Belize but I think it would be good to get some spending money together while we have the chance. We can sell on E-bay. We got Pay-pal. A little bit of poking around in the desert can’t do much harm?”

  Next morning, the four cycled into town and wandered around the endless gem and mineral stalls that are an ever present feature of Quartzsite. They found a vendor with shark teeth for sale; they bought a small megalodon chomper so they would know what they were searching for down in Mexico.

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