There's no place like Brokaw-land By Bob Karolevitz Borrego Springs, CA: This is the last planned stop of our month-long meandering in the southwest U.S.A.
If you want to get away from it all, this is the place! It's a near-oasis in the middle of sand and cactus, more or less surrounded by the barren and formidable Santa Rosa Mountains.
You get here by driving some 20 miles west of the unique Salton Sea on a two-laner which makes many South Dakota county roads look good. In the off-season some 2,500 hardly souls live in Borrego, but our friends from Seattle days love it here during the chilly, rainy months in the Pacific Northwest.
By the time we get home, we'll have driven more than 4,000 miles on gas which sometimes cost more than $2 a gallon. Phyllis wanted me to wear a baseball cap backwards so the drive-by shooters in California wouldn't know how old I was � but I declined and took my chances.
Along the way we visited Phyllis's brothers in Scottsdale and Yuma, AZ, and my sister wintering in Palm Desert, CA. They and their spouses live in snow-free luxury among the palm trees, and it was good seeing them again � but we are dyed-in-the-wool-sweater South Dakotans who still like it best in Brokaw-land.
Oh, we took a sentimental spin through the Lawrence Welk village at Escondido, but we didn't even stop to take pictures this time. After wandering around Old Town for a while, we enjoyed a trolley tour of San Diego. Except I got egg on my face when I called our driver "she" when he really was a "he." I dug an even bigger hole when I tried to apologize.
Friends from Corona del Mar took us to Santa Monica to see the indescribable J. Paul Getty Museum there. It is another one of those spectacles � like the Grand Canyon and the House on the Rock in Wisconsin � that you have to see to understand and appreciate.
At Carlsbad we and several other Big Band fans were guests at a luncheon in the condo of Paul Tanner, trombonist with the pre-World War II Glenn Miller band. We've heard Paul give lectures on cruises and at the annual Glenn Miller festival in Clarinda, IA, so it was good to see him in his natural habitat.
We knew we were at the right place because his car was parked in front. His license plate reads "PS 6-5000." (He couldn't get the PA for Pennsylvania, so he had to be satisfied with the PS.)
During our odyssey we saw thousands upon thousands of cattle in huge feedlots, and lush fields of alfalfa where they get 10 cuttings a year while South Dakotans are lucky to get three. In Arizona and California we viewed examples of great wealth, as well as the poorest of poverty on a 120-mile side trip to Golfo de Santa Clara in Mexico.
On the latter journey we twice had to go through military checkpoints where soldiers with automatic weapons allowed us to pass. Phyllis says: "Never again! They could have shot us, and our bodies would never be found." She over-dramatized it, of course, but she may have been right.
As usual I gained about 10 pounds because I had to try all kinds of food. I had a date shake, fried squid, monkfish and the delicacies of a small French bakery in Escondido. In Glendale AZ, a town full of antique shops � I ate an ethnic entree in a German restaurant with the un-German name of Murphy's. (Phyllis ordered an Oriental chicken salad, and we're teasing her about it yet.) We picked oranges, lemons and grapefruit (legally) which we'll try to get home before they spoil.
Incidentally, in Scottsdale we experienced what Arizonans call a three-inch rain. Large drops fell on the asphalt, and they measured the three inches between them.
Yes, it was good seeing friends and relatives, but we're ready to head for the barn. I think I'll appreciate brome grass and plain old cottonwood trees again.
© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz