Essex, California is nothing more than a wide spot in the road. Population 89, down from 111. It is right off Interstate 40 and has two buildings consisting of a cafe, post office, towing company, tire shop and gas station. There may have been more to the ‘soon to be ghost town’, but, I didn’t see it. I say ‘soon to be ghost town’, because it is one of the many small towns scattered along Route 66, that are being displaced by the creation of Interstate 40. According to Google, Essex is remote and behind the times; television service did not arrive there until 1977. I will remember none of those things about Essex and when the ‘town’ officially dries up, I will be in line to dance on its grave; because the thing I will remember about Essex is the proprietor of the gas station–and all adjoining buildings and his $5.49 gas.
I had gotten up and left Laughlin early, in an attempt to beat some of the desert heat. The toughest day of driving had been the prior day, as the Arizona and Nevada desert are no joke. The mercury had sat at 115 degrees the entire trip and and the Red Wind Warnings, kept a continual 35 mph furnace blasting in my face. My lips had split, cracked and bled and I was motivated to get to a cooler climate.
Bubba the Bus gets 10 miles to the gallon; which is not great—it’s not even good. I made it a practice to stop every 150 miles to gas him up. After 70 miles, I approached a sign that said; ‘next services 100 miles,’ followed by more signs reiterating that there would be NO gas for 100 miles. Essex was the last exit for gas. Basic math dictated that I stop for gas; hence my jaunt off the I-40 into Essex.
When I pulled into the bay and saw the price per gallon of gas, I decided to go ask the proprietor if I was reading it right; afterall, I had been in the desert and was perhaps hallucinating. He confirmed that the price was correct. We stared at each other unblinkingly over the counter. I finally laughed out loud, and asked him how he slept at night. “Very well,” he told me, then turned back to his transistor radio and turned up Joe Rogan. I returned back to Bubba and did some math, deciding that 4 gallons should get me to the 100 mile mark. $22.00 and four gallons later, I was once again, on my way; a little cash poor and a lot pissed off.
A rather startling discovery for me, at the beginning of this journey, was that although Bubba has a great soundsystem, the radio antennaes are missing, so–he only plays CD’s. There happened to be a CD in the player, and since Bubba is from Nashville, my expectation was high. I pushed play, and soon my ears were nearly bleeding. Upon further inspection, the CD was a mix for Hannah’s 7th Birthday and consisted of such treasures as The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber. I frantically asked Google for the nearest Wal-Mart. I have never been so happy to see a Wal-Mart in my life. I was able to purchase four CD’s: George Strait, Brookes & Dunn, Summer Splash Hits and Guardians of the Galaxy; Cosmic Mix. All great choices, but, after nearly 3000 miles–even the best choices wear thin; although, I still LOVE Three Dog Night, Joy to The World…a gem found on the Cosmic Mix.
When I arrived in Bakersfield, after listening to Joy to the World approximately 5000 times, I hopped off the interstate to find a cheap hotel. The first thing I saw was a tree, and decided to park in the shade, so I could ask Google for cheap motels. I underestimated how tall Bubba was, or how short the tree was; either way, the tree caught on the top of the bus and came up–roots and all–right out of the guys yard. I tried to dislodge it by going forward and backwards very fast; but was unsuccessful. Next I drove around the corner, got out of the bus and tried to heave it off; but, it was a literal tree and wouldn’t budge. Finally, I decided to just roll with it, which I did on the Interstate, roots banging on the concrete as the road went by.
Soon, a CHP–(California Highway Patrol) Officer pulled me over; when asked if I knew why he had stopped me, I answered truthfully; clearly I hadn’t been speeding and I was in the slow lane, so I assumed it had something to do with the tree on the side of my bus. It did; apparently, you can’t drive down the freeway with a tree stuck to your bus. He looked at me increduously, before he began to chuckle. He helped me get the tree off, which was great and he didn’t give me a ticket, which was better. It all worked out–and now Bakersfield has one less tree to contend with—you’re welcome.
I found, yet another 2 star motel, which turned out to be perfectly fine, with a mini-fridge, bed, microwave and a weirdly short shower–that I had to crouch down to get under—but still worth the $39.00 asking price.
I feel bittersweet, as tomorrow I head home. This journey has been epic for me and I have LOVED it.