Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ode to a Work Horse

Original Toyota Land Cruiser

Toyota has always built a strong and reliable vehicle but until J and L purchased the newly updated version of the old Land Cruiser did this writer know how tough and reliable they truly were. We were the first to take delivery of the 2007 Toyota FJ back in 2006 in the city of Victorville and loved the Cruiser the moment the ignition key lit the beast up and we drove out of the dealership.

'New' Retro Toyota FJ
The auto maker knew a good thing when they came up with the retro Land Cruiser from the sixties and seventies introducing one of the best off road vehicles in the world according to most industry reports. We did not realize how accurate those publications were until we took a short one thousand mile road trip within the first six months of owning the vehicle down south through Baja California to Cabo San Lucas along some of the worst roads Mexico has to offer.

Just before dusk on a lovely Tuesday evening J and L were racing down a rutted gravel path falsely listed as a road on a torn map listening to Phil Collins on the CD player belting out 'Something in the Air Tonight'. At that moment I did not realize Mr. Collins was alluding to us.

Laureen calmly looked over at me from the co-pilot seat and smiled sweetly. "Honey, there's no road in front of us."

I unconsciously shut my ears to Phil and widened my eyes to witness the front of the FJ grab air and suddenly we were the 'something in the air' that the crooner had been mentioning.

A line from Zachary Marshall, the antagonist from my novel Hunted, came into mind as he plunged a stolen Cadillac Escalade off a roadway and nose dived it onto a busy highway below. "This is going to hurt."

When the FJ finally landed, luckily on all four wheels sixty feet north and eight feet down into a dried river bed it didn't hurt. It didn't hurt at all.

The FJ was amazing.

click the link below for the Ode to A Work Horse Slide Show

After that trip through the wide open deserts of Lower California the Toyota has been on countless road trips exploring and researching all over the United States and never failed once.  Heavy snow drifts, torrential rain on muddy roads or nearby tornadoes weren't enough to even slow the six cylinders down but in fact seemed to the give the FJ more power and strength.

In fact, in all the time we've owned the Cruiser not once have we ever had to put snow chains on while visiting our weekend home in Big Bear but simply slipped the transmission into four wheel drive and off we went. The wheels gripping firmly and securely while all the rest of the travelers had chains or cables wrapped snugly about their tires.

Though it has dents, scratches and overall looks like it's been through hell, much like the main driver, it is still a beautiful machine.

One well worth a mention now and then for all its given us on the many adventures from the past and we pray well into the future.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Last Word in Health

The last word in health according to Curtis Howe Springer, a radio evangelist from the 1940's out of Los Angeles, was Zzyzx. Springer was a fanatic in ensuring he was the last stop in any directory when it came to health. He believed the regular usage of mineral baths, a dry climate, bright sunny days, and plenty of fruits and vegetables would make for a long lasting and enjoyable life. He had a dream and his dream included having the perfect place to practice what he preached - it should be noted that he was neither an ordained minister nor a medical doctor but that did not stop this visionary. He set out from Los Angeles with those dreams and made them a reality.

He sure chose the right spot - in the middle of a blast furnace we call the Mojave Desert!
About four miles southwest from Interstate 15, eight miles southwest of Baker and sixty miles east of Barstow lies an oasis on the shore of Soda Dry Lake. At an elevation of 938 feet above sea level and on the western edge of the Mohave National Preserve is the remains of Springer's dream health resort. Low slung buildings and bungalows decked with a multitude of swamp coolers (the best for cooling in a low humidity and hot spot) and shady front porches border a large oblong pond which gives the illusion of cool. It works to a point as we walked about the place enjoying the early morning sun, hovering in the low nineties, and knowing the day would easily reach 100 degrees and it wasn't even May yet.

Shade was offered by tall and thick palm trees which could be found individually or in clumps which made the shade much easier to utilize. Of course, to me it appeared as if the palms were wearing long dresses out of a sense of modesty with my buddy Paul and I wandering the grounds.

The past is as interesting as the present day use of these 1,200 acres on the edge of a large but dry lakebed with the Soda Mountains as a back drop.

In 1944 C. H Springer settled on the old remains of Hancock's Redoubts, an army fort built in the 1860's to assist travelers from marauding Indians, lack of provisions, lack of brains and constructed his Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. The location hosted many of the well-healed and Hollywood famous up until 1974 when Springer was arrested for violations of food and drug laws and unauthorized use of federal land. Of course, one could beg the question that how this man could use a portion of federal land for thirty years while broadcasting a daily fundamentalist down-home radio program from the radio station he had built there without being caught earlier. Makes one wonder but then again isn't federal land owned by the people? It's just another question which ops into the mind of this writer.

Rumor had it that he named the place Zzyzx because it sounded like someone sleeping. But J of J and L still believes it had to do with the unashamed self-promoter inside of Springer making his place the last word in health.

The entire resort was turned into the Desert Studies Center in 1976 as a research facility for the California State University system,. With the backing of the Bureau of Land Management the out-of-way center has seven university partners sharing the research center: Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge, Pomona and San Bernardino (nice to be included since it sits in San Bernardino County).

In 1994 the center was placed into the Mojave National Preserve due to the passage of the California Desert Protection Act.

So, what does a scientist study during the summer where temperatures can easily hover around 110 degrees Fahrenheit in July? It's simple, see the below listing taken directly off the website for the facility.

Recent and ongoing research projects are not limited to the following examples:

* Factors affecting sexual expression in desert holly (are they smiling or frowning I'm assuming)
* Social behavior in desert kangaroo rats (do they shake hands when meeting perhaps)
* Performance of a 10,000 watt solar panel array powering everything out there (a rather bright idea)
* and many other worthwhile and exciting scientific studies but the best one is the study of those pre-historic appearing creepy crawly things called scorpions. At night the student/scientists will go out into the desert armed with black lights trying to find these not so friendly looking tail wriggling creatures hoping to light them up with the chemical they carry within their exoskeleton (the scorpions and not the scientists).

I believe tall leather boots would be order before tramping across the sand in search of scorpions who can leave a painful if not fatal sting.

Overall, it is an awesome place to visit and if any adventurer is driving toward or away from Las Vegas it is worth the time to explore and discover the wonderful history and present of this place.

And if you have the time - enjoy a game of horseshoes but make sure the shoes have not been laying in the sun.