Day 3 ‘Road to MA’ (20 June 2010) Bakersfield>Needles, CA

We’ve spent the last three days in Bakersfield, me and the van. I have been resting, planning the route and enjoying time with friends. I’ve also been with JC, my wonderful VW mechanic, watching as he gives my VW a thoroughly good tune up before we set off on the approximately 3200 miles from here to Massachusetts. I need to arrive a few days ahead of my court hearing date of 8 July and I’ve already made plans to spend 4 July with a good friend in New York state. Today I’m going across to Barstow and then on I-40 towards Needles and Kingman, Arizona.

When I packed up the van, JCs little dog, Bijou, got in with me. I would have happily carried this little stowaway all the way from CA to MA but I couldn’t do that to dear friends, now could I!

Reluctantly I set off from Bakersfield and only a few miles along the road I stop to drop off something at my friends on the other side of town. As I leave them I see a huge Camping World. It’s a quiet Sunday and I am trying to think up excuses as to why I’ve stopped. Maybe I can find those rubber catches that hold down the Westy pop up top, after one of them recently broke. I quickly tour the store then go out back to look at a couple of the smaller RVs, though they are huge compared to a VW camper. As I leave the store I notice the message etched on their window glass and I smile and get on my way …

There are 3,679,192 square miles to see in America. Hurry!

As soon as I get to the edge of Bakersfield, I am reminded how California amazes the eye with its stunning landscape and varied terrain. I am on a different road to the one that I came in on and before I start to climb out of the central valley, I see acres of vines bearing the kinds of grapes that we eat, not those I’ve seen before for wine making.

I stop briefly in Tehachapi for a coffee and ice cream. I love the old railway and trains that are parked at the edge of town with their vintage signs.

And I wonder what they are doing here, just sitting and waiting ….

Leaving Tehachapi, on the hills ahead of me, I see wind powered turbines, lots of them.

Each one is huge but they look small in this landscape like candles on a cake.

Seeing them my heart is hopeful that we can change our ways of consuming resources and I am reminded of how six months ago I’d started my trip with the intention of writing about sustainable projects.

Later in the afternoon in Barstow, I stop to cool down and take a nap outside a church; it is Sunday, after all. I lay on the grass and wonder how it’s so lush. Then I discover the answer; as the timer clicks on and the sprinkler system starts I find that I am laying on one of the jets!!!! I think I can be heard laughing a mile away! Thankfully there is no-one here at the church to see me dripping with water.

Okay, I think, this is another prompt to get me going again. I take the highway east. It’s late afternoon now and I notice day trippers coming home as I am preparing to set off. Not far out of town, a conversation from a couple of months ago suddenly pops into my head. “If you’re near Barstow and going east, you must visit the Bagdad Cafe.” Even though I am using a GPS device, I have a map on the passenger seat and I reach for it as I recall having made a note on it at the time of that conversation in LA. Yes, there it is – it says Daggett.

When I take that exit off I-40 all I find is a very deserted looking little town. It looks like it’s from a Hollywood set for old western, except for the store that I find on the left side of the road bearing the name Desert Market. I walk in behind a young couple and ask the store owner if I’m near the Bagdad Cafe. Just keep on going along this road and you can’t miss it, I’m told. As I start the engine, a train passes by to my right just alongside this small country road. I do love these trains in the desert.

About 20 minutes along the road as the sun is starting to set, I see a sign to my left. It’s the Bagdad Cafe and outside there’s one of those kind of official looking signs about the place, which tells its story. It also tells me that I am on the famous Route 66. I quickly take a few photos before the sun goes down and then go inside.

Maybe I’ll have a nice refreshing light beer, I think. No such luck; the hot day means they are all sold out of draft beer. I take a quick look around this place. Like my friend had said, it’s a little gem. People have come here from all over the world and left examples of their national currency stuck to the wall. There are rows of T-shirts featuring route 66. I wish I could buy one but I need all my money for gas so I take a photograph as a reminder instead. The Cafe is closing for the day and the barman, Will, says I can park outside for the night and tempts me with the delicious sounding breakfast. But I would like to get a few more miles completed today, so I chat briefly with Will and have my photo taken with him and a route 66 sign.

After bidding farewell, I continue on 66 for a little while until I see a sign to I-40 which is running parallel  less than half a mile away. As I head further east I’m happy that I stopped to see the Bagdad Cafe and try to recall the movie, but my memory fails me. What  I’ve also forgotten is to get fuel, but in my excitement to find the Cafe I do not realize this error until much later. I’m heading out into the California desert in the cool of the night air without realizing how low on fuel I am.

Many miles further east, when I look down and see the gas gauge almost on E, I tell myself I’m sure to find a gas station soon. As the miles tick by I repeat this as my eyes go from the road to the gas dial every few minutes. Then the road becomes more devoid of anything resembling buildings, and I pray I’ll get to a rest area before I run out of gas.

Finally I see one at the edge of the highway. I reckon I’ll decide what to do in the morning. I park at the rest area, wash in the bathroom, hang out my damp clothes on my wing mirrors and fall asleep west of Needles after the petrol gauge has been on empty for the past 40 miles !!!

Miles today = 249


Many more photos on our Facebook Page in album ‘Day 3 trip to MA’

Note on the BAGDAD CAFE:
According to Wikipedia …. Bagdad, California is the original setting (Bagdad, Arizona is an unrelated town). There was an actual Bagdad Cafe that existed in the ’60s when U.S. Route 66 ran through the town; it (and the town) have since vanished. The site is marked by a railroad siding and a single tree.

The movie was shot at what was then the Sidewinder Cafe in Newberry Springs, California, 50 miles west of the original site of Bagdad on old U.S. 66. Since then, the café has become something of a tourist destination, and has changed its name to the Bagdad Café. A small notice board on the café wall features snapshots of the film’s cast and crew.


2 Responses

  1. I’m not sure why, but this is my favorite post so far with all of the pics helping to tell your story. I love this!

  2. Thank you Leslie, I’m so pleased you enjoyed this post.
    It took me a couple of hours to write it, edit the photos and then put this post together. That was after I’d written the shorter version for Facebook. My idea was that I would simply repeat the Facebook Notes for each day of the cross country drive here on my blog with the only difference being the selection of photos. But when I started writing this I realized so much more happened than in my short version on Facebook.
    A longer version that this one on the blog will be available in my book, so it’s really great to receive your feedback. Thank you.

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