I think the perfect roadside kitsch is a combination of authentically old remnants of past structures and cultures combined with an almost sideshow like willingness to exploit these remnants. Parking is always available and if you’re a city dweller there is something especially great about getting to talk to people who work and live in these areas.
I think part of why Wall Drug was fun to stop at but not as memorable was the lack of opportunity to really talk to anyone local. What made a small jewelry stand in Quartzsite, AZ so interesting and a stop at an old bar counter in Goodsprings, NV and Randsburg, CA so satisfying was the chance to talk to locals about where they come from and what they do.
On the Quartzsite trip me and my road trip buddies also stopped in Blythe, California at Courtesy Coffee Shop and at Shields Date Farm in Indio, California. We didn’t spend too long at either place, but they were both worthwhile stops.
Courtesy was worth the stop for the ambiance. We totally didn’t realize that there’s a nighttime mood lighting dinner menu side and a bright, cheery, family friendly diner on the other side of the building – we ended up eating diner breakfast in romantic mood lighting, whoops. What rebels.
Shields blew away my conception of dates. Thanks to a (generous, enthusiastic, date promoting) researcher at work I’d already had a chance to sample a couple different kinds of dates, but going to ground zero of datedom is an experience that further altered my feelings toward the fruit. There are so many kinds of dates that I’m starting to believe there’s one for everyone (I liked the honey ones best, and the date bread was also pretty killer.).
Now, where to next? I’ve got a full tank of gas and a case of the go-sies.
Courtesy Coffee Shop, Blythe, California
Inside Courtesy in Blythe, California
Hotel and Courtesy Coffee Shop in Blythe, California
Posted in Travel
Tagged Blythe, California, dates, desert, Goodsprings, Indio, Quartzsite, roadside, roadside attractions, Shields Date Garden, Wall Drug
In the 19th century the U.S. Army decided to test out using camels in the deserts of the American southwest. If it worked in the deserts of the Middle East, why not in America? Well, the experiment didn’t quite play out the way the Army hoped and the U.S. Camel Corp shuttered. Lead camel driver Hadji Ali (who came to be known as Hi Jolly) was brought in to work with the camels while the project was running, but decided to stick around after the experiment tanked. He became a pretty beloved local and after his death a pyramid topped with a metal camel was erected in his honor in Quartzsite, AZ.
While driving between Los Angeles and Phoenix last week the Tomb of Hi Jolly was a must-visit. It’s located in a small cemetery off the 10. We hit the town just as the last sunlight was dipping over the horizon, so it took us awhile to figure out where the cemetery was located. If you get off the 10 and follow internet directions to go west, it’s likely you won’t see the sign pointing in the direction of the cemetery. As far as we could tell in the dark there is only a sign facing the road when you’re headed east down Main St. (just a tip if you venture out that way to pay your respects).
Flashlight in hand, we headed into the cemetery. I was a little bummed to not get to see much of the rest of the place, but there is a bit of a spooky bonus for wandering around a strange cemetery at dusk. The Tomb was pretty much as expected, but it was still satisfying to visit. Thanks Hadji Ali for your services – what a strange, strange life it must’ve been to be a Middle Easterner living out in this place in the 19th century.
As a bonus we stopped to pee at a gas station where one of my companions pointed out a little jewelry stand across Main St. It was the only store that looked open at that hour and we decided what the heck, let’s go check it out. My two friends picked up some jewelry souvenirs and a bonus story from the shopkeeper. He’d come out to Quartzsite decades ago, on his way to Oregon from Pennsylvania. A woman in a bar captured his interest and he stuck around, living a very different life than the one he probably would’ve had in Oregon, but no less worthwhile. Neat guy.