I arrived at the cafe less than an hour later, entered and sat at the counter. It was just the waitress a cook and me; very reminiscent of the opening scene to a “Twilight Zone” or “Outer Limits” episode. I don’t know when the cafe was built but there was an advertising calendar on the wall dated 1934 and from the pictures on the calendar I don’t think much had changed.
The smiling waitress asked me how I was doing and I replied “Not so good right now”. When I explained my predicament she told me the nearest place to buy transmission fluid was about two miles away. After telling her I was on foot and had just walked 3 miles she said “No problem. When my boys get here one of them will take you to the store and then back to your RV”. I just love small towns! It was 7:30 a.m. and she told me the store didn’t open until 9:00 a.m. so I ordered breakfast (which was excellent) and passed the time in conversation with Cheryl. In a very short time I felt like I had known her for years and I learned the sad story of the demise of Desert Center.
Like so many small towns in the middle of nowhere, Desert Center started as a supply town for local industry. Kaiser Steel had an ore mine a few miles away and the town right on the highway was a perfect location to service the employees and also draw in some highway travelers. At one time the town included two cafes (strangely next door to each other), a gas station, a 24 hour truck stop, a market, a post office, a hospital and a really good hamburger stand. The hospital was called the “General Patton Hospital” and was actually the first hospital in the Kaiser Permanente system.
Now, the café and the post office are the only remaining businesses in town and the post office is on shaky ground as it serves less than 200 people who live in and around the town. Most of the residents work at a nearby prison with the balance commuting to Indio or Blythe which are about 50 miles on either side of Desert Center. I sure hope what’s left of the town survives!
Once the coffee was consumed and paid for four of us got into Clyde’s car and headed up the road to McGoos Market where I purchased the tranny fluid and then back to Dod. With the help of one of the guys I quickly added 6 quarts of fluid to Dod’s transmission and after about 5 minutes of building up pressure, Dod was as good as new. I thanked the guys but did not offer any money as I felt it might be an insult. Instead, I went back to the cafe and gave Cheryl $20. and told her to take $5. out for an additional tip and treat her boys to coffee for as long as the remainder lasted.
I hit the road immediately as I had a date to meet Christen at Bartlett Lake which is about 50 miles north of Phoenix. I had only about 6 hours to complete the 260 mile trip before darkness.
Tomorrow, Lake Bartlett campground.