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Bubba was a journeyman construction foreman in West Virginia. He was a hardworking, honest man, and a veteran of two army tours overseas. He relied on his wife Daisy to keep track of all things financial, like paying the monthly bills, balancing the check book, and following up on funny little charges that might crop up from time to time on their bank statement. The kids were growing up way too fast, so about a year ago they had decided it was time to take a family vacation. But they had unwittingly bought into a timeshare plan following a sales pitch given during their stay in an Orlando area resort.
Their developer had recently converted their deeded interest to ‘points’. Daisy wondered how they could do this without her consent. Now that they were on the ‘points’ system, the family had to either use ’em or lose ’em. So Daisy called to book one of the resort destinations in their network. In spite of paying almost $400 per month, she was told that she couldn’t return to the same resort. In fact, she couldn’t stay at any of the resorts shown in the glossy photos that she still had from the sales pitch. Finally, after consulting with Bubba, she settled on the Wayfarer, mainly because it was located somewhere on the sea in California. Daisy had always wanted to go to California and see the Pacific Coast. She had viewed many movies and TV shows about it. Watching them, she could just smell the sweet and salty aroma of the ocean and see the shimmering water next to a sugar sand beach, set against the majestic backdrop of mountains in the distance.
They arrived at the airport in San Diego, and rented a car. Daisy made sure it had G.P.S, for they surely weren’t back home anymore, and the last thing they needed was to lose their way. Bubba took the wheel, struggling to adjust to all the new technology. Teddy, 16, kept giving his pop unsolicited advice on how to use the device, but Bubba couldn’t seem to pick up on it. Even Dixie piped up: “just type the address in Daddy.” Finally, Daisy figured out how to set it. A robotic female voice began to advise them. “Take a legal u-turn as soon as possible…now take a slight right turn…” and so on. Onto the busy freeway, they drove within sight of the Pacific ocean. Dixie begged them to stop, but Bubba was afraid of having to reset the G.P.S. again, and so they turned inland, as directed, and drover for many miles.
As they drove eastward, the beautiful coastal mountain landscape became drier and drier, until cactus plants hung low over the highway like so many hitch hikers. They were in the desert now. The G.P.S. told them to exit, and to exit again, and once again, until the freeway became a dusty back road.
Finally, and suddenly, as they wound through the desert landscape, through the valleys and over the hills, they were startled to behold massive body of water, looking so out-of-place that Bubba did a double-take. “What the devil?”
Perhaps they would be staying at a sea-side resort after all. The kids got excited. “Maybe they’ll be chicks in bikinis” Teddy said. “And smoking hot surfer dudes!” said Dixie as well. Daisy frowned, though. There was something wrong with this picture.
Bubba noticed a sign off in the distance. He slowed down as they wound around a curve down onto the alluvial plain just off the massive lake. In the fading light of dusk, it came slowly into focus: “The Salton Sea.”
Daisy burst into tears. She had seen t.v. documentaries about this infamous place, artificially created by diverting the Colorado River into the middle of the Mojave desert, and then abandoned when it became so salty and toxic that even the fish fled, their dry skeletons littering the beaches. Bubba tried to console her: “What’s wrong Honey?… We’re almost there. You said you wanted a seaside resort…”
But the rest, as they say, is history. The Wayfarer Hotel turned out to be a 1950s vintage fleebag motel that had recently been reopened and then ‘renovated’, to 1960s standards. Alas, there was nothing to do there, and for the most part the family whiled away their vacation time driving aimlessly through the desert like feckless wanderers in search of some illusive oasis.
One morning, though, Bubba decided to drive to Laughlin, just across the Nevada border, to try his hand at blackjack. Daisy would join him, and the kids would hang out a the local water park. On the way, Daisy noticed a rattling from the engine of their rental Malibu. But Bubba’s hearing had long since failed from the rattling of a machine gun.
“Don’t you hear that, Bub?”
“Hear what, Hon?”
“That rattlin’ sound.”
That very second, a sound of some profound mechanical distress resounded from the engine, like the howling of woman in labor. Even Bubba heard it.
They all jerked forward in their seats, straining the seatbelts, as the car slowed to a dead silent halt, save for the hissing of the boiling radiator. The Chevy had thrown a rod. They were in dessert now, as they had been for several days, but now its stark reality was beginning to sink in. And it did. 108 degrees in the shade, if you could find some.
The rest of this account might have been tragic if it hadn’t been for a happy coincidence involving the elopement of a stock-boy from Winslow, AZ, with his debutante-wife, on their way to the Burning Man Event. And the fact is, that they just happened to be on that little back road, at that particular time.
On occasion, Bubba and Daisy still talk about it. By now, as scary as it was at the time, they can even look back and laugh. Their conversations generally go something like this:
“Robert”, (Bubba’s given name), how could you?”
“Easy babe, you wanted it…”
“Wanted what, to break down in the dessert?”
“No, to see the sea”.
“I wanted to see a real sea, not the Salton Sea.”
“Well, you got your wish, see Honey?
“What the Heh..?”
“You saw the Pacific. You saw the Salton. Now you’ve seen almost every sea there is to see.”
“Forget it, Bub…”
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