Day 4: January 29, 2011
To the Tower
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Today Fletcher the younger and I are driving to Desert View Tower near the town of Jacumba. Fletcher the elder is on duty while Noah and mom enjoy a day at home. The expert consensus was that Noah would enjoy certain five minute segments of our trip but would spend the bulk of the time being bored and restless.

We headed east on CA-94 and it didn't take long for me to recall why I enjoyed this road so much on my only previous drive in 2003. The road itself is a joy to drive and wonderful scenery abounds. It's quite easy to understand why motorcyclists love the road; Less so the other sort of cyclists.

To continue with the two wheeled theme, here's a motorcycle we found in the parking lot of the railroad museum in Campo. I'd noticed the fairly normal Harley Davidson beside it and, when Fletcher said "That's the weirdest motorcycle I've ever seen", I figured he just hadn't seen many bikes. But, when I got a look at the black Victory, I had to agree. Swoopy, man, swoopy.

An excursion train runs from the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum on Saturdays. It was just about to leave when we pulled in and the conductor checked to see if we wanted to board. We decided to use the hour in other ways and headed on to the museum itself. There is an engine and quite a few cars inside the display building and quite a few more outside. Protecting artifacts of this size is expensive let alone restoring them. So, like many rail car collections I've seen, most of the displayed rolling stock looked a bit decrepit. But they're still cool to look at.

My favorite was a mail car. In excellent condition, it includes a ready-to-be-picked primed mail bag and is equipped with overhead fans unlike any I'd ever seen. The fans are tilted and rotate to distribute a pretty strong breeze throughout the car. I especially like the mail bag display because watching the local mail exchange was one of my childhood pleasures. I've joked that we would drive the three miles into town to see it but that isn't quite true. However, if we were in town -- usually for groceries -- at the right time, we'd be sure to head to the depot. It was a six year old's drive in theater. From our car, we could watch the man walk from the depot and hang the bag of outgoing mail on the trackside bracket. Shortly thereafter, the train would speed by with a metal arm extended that would snatch the bag from the bracket. Tightly synchronized with this was the tossing of a bag of incoming mail onto the ground. I recall this being a bit of a dilemma since you had to decide whether to watch the hook or the toss. You couldn't really do both. Once the train was completely past, that same fellow would walk from the depot and retrieve the newly arrived mail. The show was over.

The last picture is of a panel displaying hobo codes. Perhaps an indicator of its importance is the fact that there are two symbols for "Get out fast".

The Motor Transport Museum is the sort of place you might drive by thinking it is just another junkyard. We did and we were looking for it. And that impression doesn't immediately go away once you're inside. But eventually you realize that these vehicles aren't just a couple of decades old. They are many decades old and they are mostly trucks and busses. The vehicles I've pictured individually are a 1924 Ford Model TT, a 1920s era Mack, and a 1926 Austin. The Model TT (The second 'T' means "truck") has a paddy wagon body and earned its nickname of "Bear Wagon" by carrying a bear in parades in Cave Creek, Arizona. I have no particulars on the Mack. The museum has more than a few Macks of similar vintage. The Austin is not from the British firm but is a street sweeper built by the H.W. Austin Company in Harvey, Illinois.

The MTM might still look like a junkyard but wait, there's more. It has "many books, magazines and periodicals pertaining to the history, maintenance and development of trucks and the trucking industry" available to researchers and it is involved in restoration. An ongoing project is the 1924 Cadillac Stage whose engine is in the last picture. The engine runs like a top and the body is ready to go so only the interior remains to be done.

Please note that all photographs in this and the next panel are used "By Permission of the Motor Transport Museum, Campo, California".

One purpose of this panel is to show that the Motor Transport Museum does have a few cars. A second is to show a friend who owns a Triumph that he could have a duplicate with a little work. It comes with the spare tire/tyre and a heavy duty cup holder.

This is our destination, Desert View Tower. The tower dates from the 1920s. It is currently owned by a delightful fellow named Ben who I met when I was here in 2003. He had purchased the tower just months before. Ben knows the tower from his childhood and is working to preserve it and maybe even make a few improvements. The third photo was taken from the roof of the tower atop stairs that he has added. Says he, "I've wanted to stick my head through the roof of this tower since I was four years old and now I can."

Of course, a big attraction here is the adjacent Boulder Park. I stuck with the easily accessible artwork while Fletcher climbed over rocks and into all sorts of nooks and crannies. A trail now leads up to springs and Fletcher made it all the way while I stopped at the first spring. The last picture was taken from there. I slipped on the way back down and scraped my arm but a full recovery is predicted and I did avoid smashing the camera into the rocks which has not always been the case with me.

Our return route was on Old US 80 which runs rather close to the Mexican border. A fence, which was not here in 2003, now runs along much of it. In the first picture, the border is about 500 yards south of the road. In the second, taken west of Jacumba, it's probably about 150 yards between road and border. A little farther on we spotted several helmet wearing mannequins along the north edge of the road. All were facing Mexico so we assumed they are intended as some sort of (probably imagined) deterrent or maybe just a statement. It would appear that helmets are mandatory but all else is optional.

Old US 80 is a very pleasant road and we even got to watch a little parasailing along the way. We ate at the Frosty Burger in Pine Valley and, just as I suspected, the 'burgers aren't frosty at all.

We followed one more bit of old road at Wildwood Glen Lane but a barricade now prevents driving to the point I reached in 2003. It's walkable but we were ready to get home. We did stop briefly for a shot of the 94 year old Los Terrenitos bridge.

I had caught a spot of red as we passed thi spot last night and had the impression it resembled lips. Today I got a better look and learned that it's called the "Kissing Rock". Fletcher's home is about a mile away.

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