It Could Have Been a Father Knows Best Episode
Story and photos by Howie Zechner
Let’s do a road trip my buddy Paul said. We can grab Billy and do a Quartzsite run. It’ll be fun. We haven't done anything together for a long time.
He was right. Between Billy Grays quad by-pass operation, Paul Vlahos new SightDeck product launch and me doing whatever I do the time had slipped away. Still, who goes to the desert in the middle of the summer. It’s hotter than blazes out there.
“No worries” Paul assured me. My A/C unit is huge and even at 110 it will bring the house down to 70. I knew he was right. B.G and I have done this trip before. Two attached mobile homes, it’s big and comfortable with lots of bedrooms, a modern kitchen, and most of all it has a shed full of motorcycles and a big Polaris off road machine.
Two phone calls later the deal was done. Billy would go and was looking forward to getting out. His operation was tough and recovery slow. Other than some local visits Bud had been home recuperating.
Wednesday was launch day. A 1pm L.A. leave in Paul’s Honda Pilot, a Starbucks break in Palm Springs, it was 4pm when we pulled off interstate 10 in Blythe. Paved roads were soon replaced by dirt as we searched for our favorite store. Make a right, we need to go in this direction B.G. yelled. No I think its this way P.V. would reply. Me? I said nothing. I’m a GPS kind of guy.
Now why would anyone come all the way out here when you can buy anything you need in town? What does this place have that makes it so special? Well it’s not what they have but what they don’t have that sets it apart. No cash register.
Run on the honor system by nearby farmers it’s a well supplied general stores. The best vegetables, nuts and honey. Bread, drinks, even junk stuff. Take what you want, go to the counter, use the adding machine to get a total and put the money in a drop box on the wall. It’s a trip through time that has to be experienced. With no one there to see you pay for what you took they'll be out of business by the time we come through again I always say. It’s been years and I’m so happy to be wrong.
Back on the road I think of how many times, how many states, how many miles P.V. and I have covered. We would always get lost so I surprised Paul with a navigation system one year. Try it, you'll like it I coaxed him. Punch in the address and the machine gets you there. You will never get lost again. “What’s wrong with you Howie” he replied. “Being on a road trip is all about getting lost. It’s the journey not how fast you get there”. I guess that’s what I like about them both. Billy is as mellow as any living person can be as is Paul.
Dark clouds were on the horizon as we crossed the state line. Arizona’s speed limit is 75 so Quartzsite was only about 25 minutes away. A short cut off the interstate, down a dozen or so semi paved roads and Rainbow Acres greats us. A retirement community it’s filled with snow birds in the winter and it’s a ghost town in the summer. 106 degrees at 7pm. I could understand why the place was deserted.
Paul’s Honda was filled to the brim. Suitcases, food, liquor. You would think we were homesteading. Unpack, turn the A/C and water on. We couldn't help but comment on how well everything was going.
Dinner at our favorite Mexican place was next on the agenda but we forgot that the sidewalks in Quartzsite are rolled up at 8pm so unless you want C.J. (Carl’s Jr) or Mc D. (McDonald's) your out of luck.
Bud’s a Popeyes Chicken freak and there is one in Blythe so we were off and running. Skies had turned dark and lightning flashes made the ride an adventure. Taking the food with us and eating at the house was the decision so a quick NASCAR style turn around was accomplished. Now we are driving into the storm. Oh yea, this should be interesting.
About half way back the rain started. Big drops that make a thud when they hit the windshield. Heavy rain in the middle of the desert. It got our attention. The freeway and off ramp was fine but those semi paved roads were not so good. Lots of standing water covering the roadway. So far so good. Our journey stopped as we approached a river crossing the road. Carrying big rocks and desert crap it was deep and moving. No one was crossing here till mother nature had her fill of screwing with us.
So what do you do when there's a flash flood in front of you? Simple. You back up out of the water. You keep the engine running and the A/C at 72 and then you eat Popeyes Chicken. Glad I got a large red beans and rice because it was over 2 hours before we could cross that bad boy.
It’s awfully dark here I heard Paul say. Who could tell. Black skies with no stars or moon and no street lights, the only time one could see was when the lightning flashed. Dam, P.V. was right. The house was dark, the street was dark, the town was dark.
Most people don’t know I’m a Harbor Freight junkie. A regular at the Pasadena store they always give me free things including these 9 bulb led flashlights. Owning a bunch I took some with me. Three new and unopened I was suddenly the hero as I gave Billy and Paul one. A decision to buy bagged ice while in Blythe also proved smart as our margaritas would have been terrible without it. Sitting outside and watching the show. The lightning was still a force when we called it a night around 2am.
The heat was terrible and sleep did not come easily. Billy was first up around 8am and it was already 90+. Electricity still down we decided to drive into town to get some news and breakfast.
The roads showed signs of water running over them. Most big rocks had been removed but there was deep dirt in places. The lot that sells old cars had damage and across the freeway several power poles were snapped in half. Dam, I did not think the storm had that much power.
After eating at our favorite Mexican place we decided to get some answers. The people at the restaurant were clueless because they had electricity and the Arizona State Troopers we asked did not know or care. Electric workers replacing those downed poles bore the bad news. No idea when Rainbow Acres would get juice. One thing for sure. It could take days.
The decision was made. No electricity, no air. We are so out of here.
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