Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Center of it All, California

We wouldn’t call El Centro a vacation destination by any means.  There’s nothing touristy to see or do and yet we have managed to spend over a week here and enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. 

Twelve miles from the Mexican border is just close enough to wonder sometimes if you are still in the states or crossed over in your sleep.  On the GPS we now have an option for Border Crossings under the ‘community’ section.  Most everything is either translated to Spanish or written in Spanish only and you hear Spanish spoken more than English.  We read the Spanish print newspaper the other day at the Laundromat and have enjoyed practicing the language.

Nicole is excited because the military flies maneuvers in high tech looking helicopters and cool planes like the Albatross all day and most of the night too.  Here’s a not so great shot of the Albatross.  Apparently, once we get to our next destination, the Slabs, we’ll see plenty more of this and even feel the quakes from bombing practice. 


We are pretty sure that car alarms here in El Centro are sold here as car locators.  You hear them going off regularly as people push the panic button to search for their cars in the parking lot.  Local parks are nothing to point your camera at but they’ve got a bunch of them and we’ve enjoyed the ones we have visited.  There seems to be a unique attitude about littering.  We’ve interpreted this as ‘It is acceptable because there is someone who comes around to clean it up.’  It’s true though.  In the morning, the mess is all cleaned up. 

We went to a grocery that Darlene called a Mexican Whole Foods.  There were fruits and vegetables there that we have never seen before and two entire rows of chili pepper varieties.  Darlene is now addicted to a dry form of Pico de Gallo that we dipped our fruit in. 

The temperatures are quite nice.  We’ve both acquired tans while we’ve been here.  The people are very cheerful, friendly and helpful.  And despite the fair size of the city we discovered everything that we needed within about a four block radius from our ‘camp’ at Wal-Mart which made errands quite easy.  


It was our intent to stay only two or three days in El Centro to get some quick work done on the van interior but Wal-Mart had security, was very quiet and we found an area of the parking lot where the lights were broken and didn’t shine in at night.  With the added bonus that the Lowes was conveniently located right across the street from the Wal-Mart we sort of fell into a daily groove.  Next thing we know, ten days have gone by!  

Here’s a bit of a peek at what we’ve been doing inside the van. 

The Sink Area

IMG_0170Soon water shall flow here.  Hopefully, only through the pipes!

The Bench / Clothing Storage Area IMG_0175
Soon clothes shall hide and butts shall reside here.

Staining it up.

All but the top and the trim.

The Kitchen
Yummy meals will be prepared here.

All of this hard work was not without incident.  Although we were very excited to discover that we could run our jig saw off of our two house batteries for longer cuts we did all of our smaller framing using a good old fashioned handsaw.  It appears that Darlene’s father was right.  Those darn handsaws are quite delicate and you have to be careful with them.  As Nicole found out, if you don’t treat them just right they turn around and bite you!

IMG_0174Nothing a little toilet paper and scotch tape couldn’t cure!

While working on the interior one day we got to talking about the complaining and grumbling that Annie’s front end has been giving us on dirt roads and bumps of all sorts.  As most BLM land that we camp on is located at the end of an unpaved road we got to thinking that maybe we should have her front end looked at.  So we took her for an evaluation at Pro Auto.  Guillermo jacked her up, gave her a few shakes, some shimmies, a lot of discussion and contemplation in Spanish (mostly to himself) and eventually gave us a list of what he suggested we do for her.  Having already consulted another guy previous who barely even touched the van and wanted to replace everything we opted for Guillermo’s more conservative yet hands on approach.

We got a kick out of this sign he had posted in his shop.


When we arrived on Monday, Aaron was put on the job.  When we asked if we could watch or at least see what he was doing so that we could learn more about the van he put out a bench seat for us right next to where he was working.  Aaron then spent the next six hours walking us through the whole process including putting the bad parts in our hands so that we could see and feel what was wrong.  He also answered the barrage of questions that we had about other things on the van and told us the best ways to repair several things that we wanted to do ourselves.  We were thrilled!

IMG_0188The old, worn out, ball joints

Annie’s double “hip” replacement on the Right side.

New (the black, non-rusted items) Idler Arm and Tie Rod Ends.

We’ll take care of the shocks and some other smaller items ourselves but essentially Annie’s front end is now tight and strong and we are all anxious to ramble on down the road.  Tomorrow we are finally on our way to The Slabs… thirty miles away… with a quick detour to the hot springs first to boil away the dirt.