Life on the road…
Welcome to “HELL”…..today’s forecast…..a balmy 108 degrees and not a cloud to be seen for the last 5 days….yuk! After spending several pleasant weeks in the mountains and higher altitudes, I am at 500 feet elevation at Fort Mojave near the Mojave desert and it is HOT…HOT…HOT! I’ve always heard that desert/dry heat is different from Florida/humid heat, I now have an opinion on that. In the desert you don’t sweat much so there is really no cooling effect. In Florida you sweat a lot but it helps cool your body. I have to say, I don’t care for either one. I want to pack up and go back to the mountains where the air is cool and there are big GREEN trees…but it is getting cold up there so I shall persevere and stay the course.
After leaving Williams and the Grand Canyon behind, I settled in Golden Valley for 3 days and spent my time riding my bike through desert washes in search of anything that wasn’t brown. Brown desert, brown mountains, brown bushes, brown birds…..everything is a shade of brown. They don’t even grow grass here….just dirt lawns. The most exciting part of my stay was the roadrunner who visited me each morning just outside my “window to the world”. He seemed to be inquiring about a coyote named Wile E. But since I don’t speak roadrunner…all I could offer was a lame “ Beep Beep”. After all the activity in Williams, it was nice to just relax and avoid human contact for a few days. Solitude is not just a word.
Fort Mojave doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of attractions. I drove through the Mojave Indian Reservation and crossed the Colorado River into Nevada for a day but that’s about it. Plenty of casinos…if you’re into that sort of thing. The fun didn’t begin until I discovered Oatman…
Oatman is an old mining town about 20 miles up into the mountains from Fort Mojave. It started as a tent town in 1915 after 2 prospectors struck a $10 million gold find. (Today’s equivalent…about $800 million!) It’s 10 degrees cooler and about as rustic as anything I have seen so far. They have wild burros roaming the streets. Not just 1 or 2 but at least a couple dozen….and the baby burros have stickers on their forehead warning the tourists not to feed them because they are still nursing…..I wonder where their moms got the stickers….. The burros were brought here as pack mules for the mining expeditions and when the mine shut down they just wandered off. They stroll into town around 9:00AM every morning, spend their day eating hay cubes that everyone sells to the tourists (and pooping everywhere), get their picture taken about a million times and then wander back into the hills at night. It’s pretty cool.
The mine was ordered closed by the US Government during WWII because the war effort required other minerals. All the miners were sent to other mines and the town all but died. But, historic route 66 goes right through the center of town, so it eventually became a tourist attraction and now sees over a half a million visitors a year. With a population of somewhere around 80 souls and no police force, it is truly a place right out of the history books. They even have gunfights daily at “High Noon” on Main Street. With the price of gold at all-time highs, some of the mines in the area are reopening and the town is seeing new life.
On my first visit to Oatman I met a woman who sells handmade jewelry from a vender spot along Main Street. During the course of our conversation she mentioned that the spot directly across the street from her has RV hookups and is available for rent. Well, considering that I am looking for a place to winter and the price to rent the space is comparable to most RV parks, it certainly piqued my interest. I could set up my canopy and table, print and frame some of my 1000’s of nature photos and become an entrepreneur/hawker. And with Mojave County being the second largest gold producing county in Arizona, I could also explore my interest in gold prospecting. Old abandoned gold mines are everywhere. I could even incorporate that into my new endeavor by setting up a gold sluice and selling bags of dirt to the tourists, giving them the opportunity to do some actual panning. Of course I would need to create a character to go along with my new enterprise. So that means no shaving and no haircuts for a while….and buying a cowboy hat….have to have a cowboy hat…and suspenders…and cowboy boots…and a gun and holster…and… Check out the photos and don’t hesitate to tell me how crazy this idea sounds.
Today I made my shortest move to date, traveling only about 6 miles to a spot closer to Oatman and with way better Wi Fi. I am going to stay in the area for another week while I try to decide what to do next. I am either going to stay here for the winter and head for the northern states in the spring or head up through California now and winter in northern California or Oregon. I have put out feelers for camp workers at some of the RV parks here in Arizona but all they offer is a free spot for doing about 15 hours of grunt work a week. It works out to about $9 an hour. I have also been offered a position as a leasing agent for an upscale resort near Phoenix that would pay a pretty good salary plus commission but I’m not sure I want to get back into that rat race just yet…and the voice in my head keeps repeating the same phrase…”Go Hang With The Burros In Oatman”.
The Adventure Continues…..