High Desert crazy times on Sunday!

1.52pm, Monday 26th March, Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA

I’m going to keep going with the catching up…..so here’s my story from Sunday! The moral of the story is…..always check the weather report first!

It all started with a trip out to the outlet stores folks……because the time has come. Big Blue my suitcase is now carrying too many damaging injuries, and there’s only so much gaff tape you can keep layering on before you have to say ‘enough’. He’s making one more trip home, and then getting retired to the cottage to store the winter blankets. It turns out that Samsonite had a sale on, so I have a new style hard shell that will be making it’s first run to Australia this Wednesday night via Kuala Lumpur – an impressive debut.

PS Remember the little American Tourister Classic that I picked up in New Jersey? I’ve kept a log of what we’ve done together, as I’ve always been curious how many actual mile we and our luggage actually do each year. So far, it’s done – quick addition – 11,978 miles or 19,236 km! Wow, no wonder I feel weary!

Any rate – here’s the new road trip offsider – I’m going to call it the Grey Crab. Why? Because it’s got a hard shell and all the goodies inside. Let’s hope he travels well.


So with the shopping done, I thought I’d go for a drive up through the Cajon Pass and follow Route 66 out to Barstow – check the museum out – and find the filming site for The Bagdad Cafe, which was a few miles beyond Newberry Springs, itself just north of Barstow. That was the plan. It was overcast but t shirt weather in Los Angeles, but I did notice the rapid drop in temperature when I refueled at The Summit – 4400 odd feet at the top of The Pass. And it did start to rain heavily. But then up in the high desert from Victorville to Barstow it was hot, dry and dusty. Back to a t shirt and never gave the pass a second thought. Here’s the run out to Barstow.






You can see what I mean – no hint of bad weather. Then I went on to find The Bagdad Cafe – not the original cafe, which was on another old alignment of Route 66 further into the Mojave Desert – but the filming location. It was built on Route 66 back in the 1940s to look after folks making the long cross country trek west, and was actually called The Sidewinder Cafe when they made the movie. But it got renamed when the 1988 movie started to get this cult status thing happening and took on the movie character’s Bagdad Cafe tag for real. It’s now owned and run by Andrea Pruett, who was good enough to have a long chat with me after a couple of big tour buses left. If you haven’t seen the flick, check it out. It has a unique theme song called “Calling You” and Andrea pushed 144 on the old juke box by the door, and out floated the warbling Jevetta Steele tones, rolling around the empty room like a coin bouncing around in a bottle. Talk about a song feeling lonely! Did i mention that the needle crackled through the very worn grooves of the old 45 record spinning on the turntable? Yep…..vinyl…..original! But have a look at the place…..and the wind was literally whistling around the buildings and the odd scraggly pine…..


It’s an oasis, and they’re definitely survivors….here’s the neighbours…..



I asked Andrea how she ended up out here, and wouldn’t you know it – there’s a man involved! She and her husband came out to the high desert to farm ostriches and they bought the cafe after the film was made when the ostrich enterprise didn’t really work out. Andrea showed me a picture of her husband Harold – who has passed away – and I can see why she’d want to follow him wherever he was headed – he’s the spitting image of an older Errol Flynn! Any rate, she’s done a sterling job to keep it open – 7am till 7 pm every day – for the European film buffs and the Route 66 Roadtrippers. But it’s pretty desolate folks, and Andrea did say it gets really hot come summer. They have a ‘swamp cooler’ – no refrigerated aircon out here – and it does it’s best! But I’d give a week’s pay to be there when a group comes in for an evening and they crank up the jukebox, and they dance in the aisles and out in the street. It wouldn’t be lonely times then. So I finished my coffee, thanked Andrea for her hospitality and wished her all the best with the screenplay that she’s written outlining the ongoing trials and tribulations at The Bagdad Cafe – she’s hoping to finance another movie – and turned back west, expecting to be in Los Angeles for dinner.

I got to Victorville, and that’s where the interstate freeway I15 ground to a 5 lane crawl. Thinking it was just a massive amount of traffic coming back from a Las Vegas weekend, I took the GPS “least use of freeways”, got off the interstate and headed for LA via another route. Now you know what happened last time I did that – yep – I ended up crossing the Ohio River on a barge!!

I have to get set for the job tonight, so I’ll leave it there and tell you what happened when I get back. That’s where the adventure comes in!

OK patient readers – I will finish the story of the high desert follow the GPS adventure. So I’m trekking along and all of a sudden I notice snowcaps to the left of the road up behind the Joshua Trees. I didn’t see ANY of that on the way up, so pulled over and reset the GPS to go to Los Angeles via the most direct route – which would take me back to the freeway I’d left back near Victorville. It was about now that I got just a shade nervous – having been caught out by snow up in the high desert once before about 4 years ago – around Clines Corner, which is east of Alburquerque in New Mexico. I’d got lucky that time, as the rental company had upgraded me to a proper 4 wheel drive, and I followed a cowboy towing a rodeo trailer down off the interstate into the ditch alongside and up a steep incline out and around the completely snowdrifts stopped 5 lanes headed east, and went to Santa Fe back through a non snow closed route!!

So as this new GPS plan unfolded, it was taking me on highway 138 – Antelope Way – directly toward the snowcap. I had a 4 wheel drive Jeep, but no chains, so I stopped in at the snow covered service station at the little town of Palmdale and asked about the pass – yep the one i came up earlier and it was just wind and rain – and decided to give it a crack. It was the longest 12 miles ever, and it was pretty alpine I’ll have you know. But I rejoined the interstate just below the Summit and made it into the city late….but safe. Whoever that guardian angel is that rides along with me……they were working overtime that night!

But at one point, the sky opened just on dusk, and this is what the Joshua trees looked like in the weirdest light – and that’s a rainbow bottom left. See what you think


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