Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Moment to Feel like Royalty

(The following is an installation of Ben's Pocketmail Diary, I've tried to match it up with some of the many pictures they have sent)
Well. Here I sit on the futon of Rick Strasser (more about who he is in a minute). It is the last day of May and we have June and the Sierra Nevada mountains upon us. This week has been awesome, we have hit a stretch of hostels that took us in for free over and over again. About a week ago we stayed a couple of nights at the Saufleys and got shiny new shoes at a L.A. REI (after our shoes had exploded from 450 miles and my toes were sticking out of a gaping hole in the front). Then we hit the Andersons 24 miles later and then Hikertown in the teeny town of Lancaster, CA) 40 miles after that. So there has been no lack of hospitality in the desert. That means we have seen many of our friends staying at the same places we have been staying. But, after so much love, we are definitely ready to be out a few nights in our tent and out of civilization/rest land. The hostels were all run by fantastic hiker friendly people and were all very fun. Although all our compatriots agreed, Hikertown was a bit weird. Hikertown is run by a man who used to produce movies and has been involved in some biggies like "Gone in Sixty Seconds" and a few other select titles which I didn't recognize, but any Baby Boomer might well know. Anyway, I tell you this because he has converted his entire yard into a mini faux-prop set like you'd see in an old western (you know the kind where you see the gun fight scene in the street lined with the fronts of saloons and rickety houses). So that is interesting enough, but that mini little town is where he allows hikers to stay. These aren't just storefronts - they are actual buildings (actually just sheds designed to look like saloons, or depots, or groceries) and the hikers can set up camp inside these movie-worthy structures for night or two to escape the bitter heat of the Mojave desert. All of this would seem very quaint and fun at first sight. "How very novel," thinks the hiker as he or she walks into the gate after crossing a barren road and some cattle fields in the desert. But then you take a closer look at the back. Suddenly the quaint Hollywoodish appeal turns into a backyard littered with old broken down cars, scrap metal, and the makings of an old abandoned junk yard. Among the scrap and over grown grass sit old trailers once used as makeup trailers where actors would stay and get ready for their camera appearances. Somewhere in his movie career, the owner of Hikertown acquired these old rusty trailers and stripped them down to corrugated metal on blocks and lets hikers stay there in those in addition to the "mini wild west town". Now Hikertown is an oasis of sorts. It is the only place where one can stop and refill up water in a 30 or 40-mile stretch of the desert. After that you walk along the Los Angeles aqueduct for a flat 20 mile stretch in the wasteland that is the hottest part of the Pacifc Crest Trail - normally at some 110 blazing degrees. Of course, as we walked through this part, God was most gracious to us and gave us an unusual cold front that placed it at a much more comfortable 70 degrees. Nonetheless, most hikers have to at least stop here just to get water before walking on the gigantic steel pipes of the aqueduct for 20 miles where you can hear and feel water - but can't access it because it is buried under ground (Which puts a bitterly ironic spin on the phrase, "So close, but so far away".) Needless to say, Rosie and I were delighted to come in to refuel up after a long day and before we walked over the aqueduct. So we walked into the property and went into Richard's house (that is where the owner lived). At his house he made us some burritos and then, upon hearing we were honeymooners, insisted that he take some pictures in his 1954 Rolls Royce. That seemed like a rare opportunity, so we latched onto it and said we'd love to have some pics with such a rare car. So we all went outside to Richard's garage, and while they worked on cleaning the old dusty car up so it was picture worthy, we got the scoop on the car. Apparently, this was a million dollar car (unlike its rusty cousins in the back yard:). One of four ever made. This was a maroon 1954 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost that was made for Princess Margaret of England to sleep and tour around in a half-century ago in her heyday. Not only did Princess Margaret sleep in this car, but apparently Elton John had made an appearance or two in it. So for a moment, while Rich and two of his helpers vacuumed and buffed the sleepy celebrity car, we felt like we were part of history. We just wanted one quick picture with these unusual car- 30 seconds tops. But these guys had dropped everything and had spent a half-hour pulling out the bed in the back, shining the chrome, and dusting of the headlights just for us. We really felt like royalty just like Princess Margaret! This car had once made an appearance in movies, and they spared no trouble to make it look so good for us, too! So we got in the carefully cleaned car to take some pictures in Princess Margaret's traveling bed. No sooner were we lying on the plush velvet bed in the back of the Rolls Royce, and then Richard got the maroon velvet sheets the Princess had used, a bouquet of flowers, and some Champagne glasses and we were transported from the blustery desert to this very lap of luxury. Admittedly it was quite cozy and fun to "play queen for a day" (even if we had been wearing the same clothes for months ;) So, I thanked him for the photos, and had him show us to where we could sleep. It turned out that we ended up in the backside prop closet of one of the actor's trailers out in the grungy back yard. (He had offered for us to sleep in the Rolls, but we didn't want to steal any of Princess Margaret's thunder.) Continued...

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