Day 4: Oct. 13, 2003
Filling in the Gaps



Once I decided not to head north to I-10, stopping at a few places I missed on the way out made sense. The Imperial Sand Dunes were on the way to one of those. When I had passed by here on Saturday, there were a couple of villages worth of tents, campers, and motor homes. The population was down considerably on a Monday but there were still plenty of campers with dune buggies, ATVs, and dirt bikes. I've read that these dunes are being blown south east at approximately a foot a year which means the sand I walked on today could be in Mexico in 50 centuries or so.

This is what I really wanted to see and I can now understand why I missed it westbound. I had assumed that something as historic as the last remnants of the plank road that first crossed the dunes would be prominently advertised. Not only isn't it prominent, it's almost hidden. Without Eric Finley's book plus some persistence, I would have driven by it again. The 1500 foot section, assembled from pieces of the original collected in the 1970s, is on the original path of the road surrounded by a rail to discourage its use as a dune buggy ramp. The two pictures with the printed signs in them are recent reconstructions. The first shows the twin track prototype that proved the concept but had lots of problems. The biggest being that it was fairly easy to fall off and not at all easy to get back on. It was constructed in 1915 and lasted just one year. The next version saw service from 1916 through 1926 when the pavement that became US-80, shown in the last picture, was put in place.

This is Felicity, just a dozen miles west of the California line and a stop that would certainly have been a fitting introduction to the state had I stopped on the way west. It was "founded" by Jacques-Andre and Felicia Lee Istel who somehow got a few organizations, including the government of France, to officially recognize it as "The Official Center of the World". The exact spot is marked by the pyramid. Long stone walls contain some rather fancy engravings of such things as major aviation events and all graduating classes of The Stony Brook School since 1923. Behind the "Flower Checkers", a section of steps from the Eiffel Tower lead... up. A sign says that stores are open and tours offered between Thanksgiving and Easter and that apartments are available. Apparently, Felicity's roots are in a children's book, Coe: The Good Dragon at the Center of the World, which I haven't read but now intend to.

Another spot Eric Finley led me to. These adobe walls were once part of a stagecoach station (some say Butterfield, some say not) from the 1850s. There are no official markings or any sort of protection for the ruins standing along the road a bit less than four miles west of Winterhaven, AZ. I was quite impressed that an unprotected, eight foot high, free-standing mud slab could exist in the desert for a century and a half.

A second visit to the Desert Rose gave me a chance to correct my earlier omissions. The arena mentioned on the sign is real. What the Rose's patrons called a "roping arena" presently stands behind the bar & grill but won't for long. Used infrequently, (maybe once a year was one guess), the arena is scheduled to be replaced by an RV park. It's kind of hard for me to believe that the area needs another RV park but I guess the need for roping arenas is even less. The last picture is the Petrified Sasquatch Dropping that I failed to photograph on Saturday.

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