Tuesday, November 10, 2020

RVing in the time of COVID 5: Goings on down at the border

Another state, another state lifer bird, which is just something to do in these COVID days, but even a pine sisken (yellow) can keep me amused for a little while, trying to get a photo of the local "rarity," it even got me to put out my feeder. 

Our RV keeps moving, and we leave no stone un-turned or so to speak, to keep ourselves entertained and figuring the safest place is out in the desert, we just spent the last week in the California chaparral in the mountains of San Diego County near Jacumba Hot Springs.  It was a week of updates and catching up.  I have been up here almost every year since coming in November of 2012.

The owners of just about everything in the town for the last 20 years have largely sold out, selling their Jacumba Hot Springs Spa last month and announcing the sale of the RV park we stayed at a few days before we showed up, but I guess the trails in the state park adjoining are still there but as the two places shared a cook, the place we stayed at did not have food, this was despite COVID, no one to make it.  The bar, well, it never looked open to me.  So the future? It may be different as I guess if I had wanted kit to stay the same, I should have bought it, but I did not want it.  We went looking for a reported KOA an exit west, scouting, but it led us down the road that then announced "sets" longer than 40 feet would not be allowed, too dangerous, too curvy....which is quite short for RVs, not a good place to have a KOA....and then the KOA sign pointed right, and then a mile later we saw a sign pointing back where we came, we never found the KOA after driving in circles, so a back up spot might not exist here, if this RV spot closes.  What would some young guys want with a quirky 480 acre RV park in the desert?  Then again what did the wealthy Hamann family want with a dude ranch west of here (more on that in a moment).

Our home for the week, Temple Mountain center

 Strange Goings on along McCain Road

We were out mindlessly exploring for new campsites sites, when we spotted a sign showing a campsite up McCain Valley Road near Boulevard seven miles west of Jacumba off on Old Hwy 80.  I drove up and saw a flock of blackbirds, mostly tricolored which then flew away as I was trying to roll down my car window, so we kept going.  It was hunting season up on the high country, and people were out driving anywhere, even here.  

First we stumbled upon a rather inconsequential sign, so inconsequential I never took a picture. McCain Valley Conservation Corps, which is not some YMCA camp for the outside.  But then I noticed the property was marked with Department of Corrections signage.  I laughed saying they misspelled McCain Valley Concentration Camp, not realizing how close I was to the truth.  It turns out this is a nice way to describe a huge prison which is just over the hill and out of view.  2500 inmates, stashed out here, in the desert.

So we drove down the road, saw something called the Rough Acres Ranch, surrounded by rather new fence that looked more to keep people in, than the prisoners out.  I sort of struck us as a front for some nefarious or secret activity.  Either a front for criminal activity, a place to extract information from CIA type spies captured covertly, or maybe a high end brothel for sex slaves.  I looked up the ranch.  The place  has a little history, back in 1963, after a really bad season, the coach of the San Diego Chargers brought the team up to the ranch to toughen them up for training camp for the season, they lifted weights were injected steroids three times a day, and then went back to San Diego and had the best season in the history of the franchise, winning the AFL Championship, the only Championship in franchise history, but that was the past.

In 2020?  Since 2014 The Hamann companies, a big family owned San Diego Construction company now owns the ranch has been trying to make the place a men's retreat and conference center.  A men's retreat....?  Hum.....I still am suspicious.  Up the road they have built a wind farm operation, that also has quite a bit of CIA looking buildings, and these guys seem to have not made any friends locally, so the Hamanns have tried to become the kings of Boulevard by just building things, maybe like the railroad that goes nowhere (we'll get to that) getting friendly government money to do so.....I guess by the couple in Jacumba, being the local king up here isn't everything.  But I learned a good football story, 57 years ago.   Now I'm scared to go up a road for fear I'll be detained by the CIA or something.

The Border wall

11/2020 construction

2018 border, same area

There is more to this wall than meets the eye, besides the obvious question of who and why there is this half a mile hole right here just east of Jacumba.  This wall here was just sort of approved without any hearings and huge water and cement trucks began scaring a Wilderness protected by a 1994 Wilderness Protection Act....but being "national security" it wasn't reviewed.

I like wilderness, you all probably like wilderness, and wilderness aside, there is more to this story.  First, there are federally protected Peninsular bighorn sheep a species that has dwindled in recent years that need to migrate on both sides of the border, this wall might eliminate this species in years with very sporadic water (which might be every year).

Hate Trump, okay, blame him too, fine, BUT, don't have your hate for him blind you of any common sense, because here, in this issue we are all at fault.  We haven't pushed either party to solve this, either, a wing of one party apparently wants "open" borders (because all we ever here from is hard left or hard right on any issue as that makes ratings) with I suppose full benefits and access to jobs without restrictions, Medicaid, idk, If you are thinking that is bunk, I could give you citations, companies like Tyson Foods, almost all agricultural interests, smaller farmers, bigger farmers, Sanderson Foods, etc which are probably on the other side of the spectrum can pay less for employees or even get employees, and they aren't employees either, just subcontracted companies that contract labor, down the food chain of companies, cash gets handed to these people.....because here in America we want cheap food, low quality goods.  Now I fully understand, cheap food allows many to live off of poverty.  So the poor do get something back.  The average Romans benefitted from slave labor as did the South.  Well I guess underpaid Guatemalans and El Salvadorans are not slaves in the sense, they came willingly,  just people who are taken advantage from the Coyotes and the gangs that convince them to go and overcharge them for the one-way trip.   They get paid well.....  

How many wealthy people have illegal gardeners and housekeepers, and they might not even know because they hire a "service."  Rich political donors with good reasons for the status quo, be it cheaper landscaping, construction, or any trade, undocumented people who get paid cash are rampant....but it is easier to look the other way.  These people hire a service, pay the "service" a fee, those running the service, pay cash, sneak by in the shadows.

a huge environmental disaster project, the Border Wall 2020

I don't know the answer, doing nothing doesn't seem like that is working, letting in everyone isn't either, but I don't need a job, and I am as cheap as the next guy, so anything that keeps prices down....good?  No one wants to be a plumber, electrician, or a landscaper so might as well pay cash for a Honduran to get the job done....?  Who does odd jobs on your houses?

I'd just like to know how many migrants perish en route it is a harsh desert and legal immigration is harsh and long.....you know, It is terrible in El Salvador, but it is also terrible in Compton and Watts, should we not try to fix that first?  Should we grant refugee status for residents of these bad Los Angeles districts?  I'm sure thousands feel threatened.  Oh well, no political party had straightening out Compton in their platforms, because how would you even start?  The Red party didn't even have a platform.  I see TV commercials about donating to helping elderly elderly Russian Jews, winter is coming, it is the same woman's voice about saving abused animals.....I guess this is all well and good but can't we have the same woman try to convince us to help Compton?  It would beat seeing the wet half dead dogs or the old Russians with three fingers and no teeth.....I guess no one really cares about our own people enough to solve anything. 

Pacific Imperial Railroad

Nature never intended for man to build a railroad through the Carriso Gorge, but yet in the early 19th Century, they did.  The 146 mile railroad was built from San Diego into Tijuana and on to Telcate, Campo, Jacumba, and dozen to Ocotillo and El Centro.  This route has some of the coolest trestles, drops off the tracks of 900 feet, and 20 tunnels.  Old fallen box cars sit where they fell.   Now, the railroad is owned by the state and has been continually "operated" so that nothing has actually operated.  Railcars, engines, equipment sit abandoned all over the line, which would have value at least for scrap.  The whole deal in 2020 (which looks like the first time I was here (in 2012)  three leasees later, a couple of frauds, and at least two bankruptcies as well, (the line is owned by San Diego MTS) not a car has gone down it and all looks the same except the weeds are growing up around the tracks and despite the railroad telling the government they fixed a tunnel collapse a jack rabbit would have difficulty getting through the supposedly fixed tunnel.  So in 15 years of all of this, not a single railcar has moved past here.  But despite a lot of governmental waste, the line is very photogenic.

"The Impossible Route" Leaves Jacumba and circles Round Mountain, the magma center of an extinct volcano, before turning into the Carriso Gorge.

There is still abandoned railcars passenger and freight all over this rail line, chairs and windows thrown out, and just a junky place

Here is the same cars in November 2012, free of graffiti, the cars looked almost usable cars three and four have disconnected in 8 years....

The railroad in the Gorge is pretty scenic, a scary looking route even just looking at it

this tunnel wasn't that scary to walk through in 2012, now it is, and I couldn't even get down to there

We hiked around everyday, this is the local scenery...

The Birds
I didn't take a lot of photos, looking at it, but here are a couple...
Brewer's sparrow

California Thrasher

I had a goal of seeing and photographing Mountain quail but all I got a lens on were California quail, which became easier to photograph when the storm came in

The Rain
Don't let that pretty rainbow fool you, on the weekend, it began to rain here for the first time in over half a year, the wind blew, the temperature dropped, the RV shuttered, everyone holed up, and well, we watched football...."you should be here when it gets windy."  Someone told us.

Monday is a new day and we left and are heading towards Tucson
Now we turn east, Florida by the end of the month.....

Wearing our masks, avoiding restaurants, gatherings, and setting a good example...like everyone should

So another year, another visit to California and like every year I leave scratching my head


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