We left Gila Bend this morning and crossed the Sonoran Desert, one of the hottest and driest places on earth, on I-8. West of Yuma, AZ I-8 crosses the Colorado River into California. California always welcomes you with a Department of Food and Agriculture road block to see if you are bringing any fruits or vegetables into the state that are infested with invasive species. The usual questions is "Do you have any fruits or vegetables?". They rarely inspect passenger cars or RV's unless you answer the question wrong. I did get inspected a couple for years ago for bark beetles or something similar when entering from the north.
After you get your clean bill of health, you enter the Imperial Valley. Near Felicity, CA we passed so called "The Official Center of the World". It's a creation of Jacques-Andre Istel, the self-proclaimed mayor of Felicity. He's a former Marine who served in the Korean War and when he got out fell in love with the desert and decided to buy thousands of acres with the hope of attracting people to the area. Jacques-Andre wrote a children's book, COE the Good Dragon at the Center of the World, which helped convince Imperial County, California, to legally recognize a spot on his property as the official Center of the World. It's is also recognized by the Institut Geographique National of France. Next, he had the town of Felicity incorporated, naming it after his wife, Felicia Lee. The Official Center of the World is a dot on a bronze plaque within a pyramid in Felicity. We didn't stop, but we could see several of the attractions from I-8 including the Hill of Prayer with a church on top, and the 25 ft. high section number 12 of the original stairway of the Eiffel Tower. We could badly see the pyramid, but could't get a picture. This looks like a place to stop on a return trip.
I-8 passes through the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area. The dunes are the largest mass of sand dunes in California. The dune system extends for more than 40 miles along the eastern edge of the Imperial Valley agricultural region averaging five miles in width. They rise to heights of over 300 feet above the desert floor. The dunes are a well-known landmark and have featured in TV commercials and movies, including Star Wars. The dunes are bounded on the south by the border with Mexico and a tall fence.
On the western side of the Imperial Valley in El Centro, I-8 begins to make a long climb from below sea level up to Crestwood Summit some 4,180 ft elevation. Winnie struggled to make the climb slowing to 29-30 mph at times and engine coolant reaching 247 C. With all of the trouble we've had on this trip, I had visions of blowing up the engine from terminal overheating on the climb, but she seemed to make it none the worse for the wear. On the climb into the mountains, I-8 passes through bolder strew hillsides that are some of the strangest geologic formations that we've seen. I'm not sure why they are there, but I'm sure it's related to the volcanic and earthquake related events of the past. The east and west bound lanes of I-8 separate going through the canyons at the Mountain Springs/In Ko Pah grade. This area is know for strong winds which sometimes cause the interstate to be closed, but fortunately they were not in evidence today. In 1966, the California Highway Patrol estimated that winds blew at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. Because of the winds, a number of wind farms have been developed on the eastern slopes of the mountain. Near the top is Desert View Tower. It's a stone tower built from 1922 to 1928 as a roadside attraction by a real estate developer who owned the town of Jacumba. It's a three story tower that houses a museum and has an observation deck on its upper level and a gift shop at the base of the tower.
On the way down to San Diego, we passed through a Customs & Border Protection check point. This one seemed more temporary than some of the others along the interstates near the border. Apparently this area is a know smuggler's route from Mexico and CBP is very busy on and off the road. They waved us through without stopping. The unfortunate part about it was that it's located at the bottom of another hill that we had to climb from a dead stop. Fortunately after this climb it was mostly downhill into San Diego. Since it was Saturday, there wasn't much traffic and the drive into Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado, CA was uneventful. We arrived in Site #221 at about 4:30 PM ending the westward leg of this trip on time. We'll be here for a week enjoying the beach, doing a little sight seeing, and visiting with friends Don and Maggie. I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to post this week since the campground doesn't have wifi and I have to use my phone as a hot spot. It's a little slow but it works. Stay tuned.