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Friday, March 16, 2012

run for the border and back: part four


leaving nevada used to mean: leaving casinos behind.

not anymore.

our breakfast this morning and the previous two were at the golden acorn casino on the campo indian reservation. it had the look and feel of a reno casino, but they need better smoke eaters as it had the smell of a gardnerville (sharky’s) casino. the café, however, was smoke-free and the food was acceptable.

after breakfast we were back on interstate 8 and heading toward san diego through rocky terrain, mountains, cacti and yucca until we got closer to the coast when trees were suddenly green and the coastal fog kept us from seeing the pacific ocean.

we braved our way through the labyrinth of san diego’s freeways to palomar airport road, where i used to get off the freeway to go to carlsbad raceway.

nothing looked familiar!

eventually, we made a left on melrose and drove across a ravine that looked slightly familiar. soon after, we passed a sign that read, “carlsbad raceway business park”. i’m pretty sure melrose crosses the ravine where the dragstrip shutdown area would have been. i could also make out what may have been sections of the once famous motocross track.

cue queen: “another one bi…” never mind: i hate that song.

we stopped by the gated community where we would spend the next two night to get our gate pass, dropped off our luggage and drove to the hospital so fred could check in on his sister.

after we left the hospital, we stopped off at ralph’s (haven’t been in a ralph’s in… forever, it seems) to buy some groceries as fred’s nieces and nephew would soon be arriving to join us.

these embracing birds of paradise were next to the walkway leading the the front door of the hospital

when we returned to the truck, fred made a couple of calls while standing in the lot and i took a few minutes to find the elusive classical music station we had not been able to find since we were close enough to bring-in a los angeles or san diego radio station. while scanning, i heard a voice that i knew would either be a classical announcer or npr elitist. just as i determined it was the latter, i pushed the scan button as i heard the announcer say “… classic albums ‘don’t crush that dwarf, hand me the pliers’ and ‘i think we’re…’”. i quickly pushed the back button to listen to the announcer talk about an interview she did with peter bergman and then played the interview. it wasn’t until the end of the feature that i realized that peter had died, on friday, march 9, due to complication of leukemia.

more sadness filled the truck that emitted from both our hearts for different reasons and into the surrounding area.

earlier, as i was driving the truck through the maze of san diego freeway interchanges, my old friend, gary peterson, called me on my cell. yes, i was using my phone in the car. no, i was not hands-free. gary and i arranged to get together over the next day or two, so i gave him a call when we got back to the gated community house and we would go to dinner while fred and his nieces and nephew, who had recently arrived, went to the hospital.

gary met me at the gate where he schmoozed the gatekeeper/guard enough that he was allowed to park inside the property. the following day, fred and i tried to enter that same gate with our gate pass and were forbidden entry.

gary drove us to a place called the elephant bar where we grabbed a table with very heavy chairs that, literally, had to weigh well over 50 pounds; i could barely move mine.

after placing our order with the charming and quite beautiful waitress, i stepped outside into the night air that the locals were calling cold and i was calling comfortable to call fred to let him know where i had hidden the house key. it was during this call that fred told me his sister, susan, had passed through the veil.

over the next 3 hours, gary and i ate and talked and caught up on times, but my heart was broken for fred and his family.

when we returned to the gated community, the same gatekeeper/guard was still on duty and permitted gary to drive me all the way to the house to drop me off. i guess he looked more trustworthy than fred or i, or maybe his mercedes was more impressive than fred’s gmc truck.


i tried to call jim lattin to see if he or rick would be around the museum so we could come by and take a walkthrough, but it appears i have the wrong number. so, we drove to the museum in the early afternoon to see if we could get lucky. we did not: the gate was locked and i could not raise anyone on the intercom. i had arranged to meet with both gary and alasdar to take them through the museum to check out jim’s collection of antique race cars, but: timing is everything.

upon returning to the gated community after a very unsatisfactory vietnamese lunch (fred had phở and i had grilled pork with cold noodles), i made reservations to fly back to reno on the following day.


on the way to the airport, i noticed a bell/boeing v-22 osprey in-flight heading out toward the ocean. in the minute or two that we watched, the pilot kept the rotors in a partial- (mostly-) horizontal position and never did rotate them vertically for forward flight even though it was being flown forward. not that i know much of anything about the flight characteristics of the v-22, but it was my first sighting of the vtol aircraft.

since i had left carson city not expecting to be flying back, i was not very well prepared for air travel. in fact, fred will be bringing my backpack back with him when he and his daughter return after susan’s memorial. i did check my primary luggage, but had to bring my carry-on bag and laptop case on-board with me.

i really used to love air travel.

not anymore!

between security, being treated like cattle and so many seats installed into the fuselage, i’m well over it being fun. i did, however, keep my sense of humor as security sent me through the body scanner and swabbed my arm brace and hands for explosives; i think because the swabber seemed like a nice guy and kept me at a place where i could keep an eye on my laptop.

my only regret in choosing the seat i did on the flight from san diego to phoenix was that i picked the left side of the plane and not the right because we flew right over jacumba and the little airport where just a few days earlier i was taking my first flights in a glider. i easily picked out the golden acorn casino and the long row of inefficient yet heartwarming (at least to liberals that don’t mind spending tax dollars on boondoggles) windmills that topped the ridge to the east of the casino, but the interstate made a turn toward the south and it was out of sight until we passed jacumba.

one of the cool things about sitting on the left side of the plane was passing near an automaker’s proving grounds. i’ve done a little research and found that gm used to have one in mesa, arizona, but a developer has bought it and it looks like what used to be the big circle track is now no longer there. ford and volkswagen also have proving grounds in the general area, but i’ve not yet found pics that look exactly like what i saw.

what i saw was a huge – perhaps 10 mile – circle track that appeared to be banked, another huge – perhaps 10 mile – banked oval track with what looked like 5 mile straightaways, and a very narrow oval track with what looked like over 5 miles of straightaways and very tight turns at both ends. there were also several other smaller test tracks within the area of the big 3 tracks. we also flew over phoenix international raceway, which was quite diminutive compared to the test facility tracks.

i’m sure you’ve now figured out that since i was flying into phoenix that i must have been on u.s. airways. i swore i would never fly that airline ever again, but this was a special circumstance. besides having the worst on-time record, they use the name “u.s.” and fly european-made airbuses, of which they are proud to own more than any other airline, so stated in their tucked-into-the-seatback-in-front-of-you magazine.

we actually arrived in phoenix on-time and even the flight crew and attendants seemed surprised about that. getting to phoenix on-time was of great concern to me, as my layover there was only 45 minutes. if i’d been flying a real airline, i would have been quite comfortable with ¾ of an hour between flights, but the last time i flew into phoenix on u.s. airworst, i had to spend the night there.

when we were descending to reno and it was apparent that we would also arrive there on time, and with the lack of turbulence usually associated with reno-landings, especially with the weather up here right now, i thought we were coming into the wrong place.

it was, indeed, reno and jeanne arrived in the cell phone lot about the time my bag was entering the baggage terminal.

from the airport, we drove over to sparks for pizza at grimaldi’s, which was the perfect ending to a trip of very mixed emotions.

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