Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Blythe Intake

The Blythe Intake
These markers I’m learning come in several varieties; state, local, missing, and none. They aren’t always where the book says, and often easy to miss when they are. This ‘going to every landmark’ thing is going to be a challenge. We cruise highway 95 and I begin looking for the Blythe Intake marker. With a 2 year old in diapers, it would be nice to see restrooms somewhere but aye, she’s a good traveler none the less.

“NO. 948 SITE OF BLYTHE INTAKE - On July 17, 1877, Thomas Blythe, a San Francisco financier, filed the first legal claim for Colorado River water rights. Oliver Callaway planned a diversion dam and canal which opened in 1877 to irrigate the Palo Verde Valley. This made possible the settlement and development of the valley.” Location: Intake Service, on US. Hwy 95, 4.5 mi N of Blythe at entrance to Palo Verde Diversion Dam

There ain’t a song in every landmark, but in this case in 2004 I did write about something similar in the ‘All American Canal’ in that it’s about water diversion from the Colorado River for desert irrigation.

Water, precious water, across the sand it flows
From the mighty Colorado, to Cahuilla Lake it goes
The path they carved, to this desert locale
The Coachella branch, of the All American Canal

From Imperial dam it winds, over 100 miles
Bringing life to the valley, along it’s concrete aisle
The path they carved, to this desert locale
The Coachella branch, of the All American Canal

A 24-hour journey, since 1949
Nourishes the valley, with water so fine
The path they carved, to this desert locale
The Coachella branch, of the All American Canal

Water, precious water

Holy cow, from this photo I’ve certainly aged, and so have those Ray-Bans that I still use. Fortunately, they’re stuck in a glove compartment that won’t let me in. This is what I envision ‘landmarking’ to be; an easy drive on a highway, not too far from an interstate, with a free standing marker to stand next to. It’s not always the case.

Along the way on 95 there were some well kept older houses that showed landscaping of what I’d call Phoenix swamp coolers….’cause that’s where I first saw it. Essentially it’s big shade trees and a sunken lawn in front that you keep soaked on 110 degree days, while a big fan draws the cooled air through one side of the house while another blows air out the back. Then came air conditioning.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What's 'Landmark Adventures'?

It’s 1992 and I’m on a gig in the northwest’s rainy downtime reading from a compilation of Ernie Pyle’s 1930’s travel dispatches called ‘Ernie’s America’. It’s like Mark Twain meets the Lincoln highway with a Ford V8…a great obscure Americana read. I come across a story of the earthy and humorous copy written for Montana’s landmarks and it gets me to thinkin’: “You’ve been going up and down the state of California for years passing those ‘landmark ahead’ signs for years and saying to yourself you’re gonna stop next time.” Right then I decide I’m going to see how many state landmarks there are go to all of them, no matter how long it takes. I figure it can’t be that hard, plus I’ll see California’s story first hand, take photos, and maybe get a song or two out of it someday. Who else would take such an eclectic task? (more about that later).  

With ‘California Historical Landmarks,’ a book from the state park system and a load of AAA maps, I start plotting trips in the those pre-GPS days and set forth from our La Quinta home base with my two year old daughter and head east on interstate 10 toward the Arizona border in search of five state landmarks. As of today, seventeen years later, I’ve been to 911 of the roughly 1100 California state landmarks that exist. This blog will be the stories of back roads and highways and trails of low degree, and the serendipitous collage of side trips that have sometimes led to what I think are some cool songs about California’s past.