Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Date Palms in the Middle of Nowhere

It's been months since I have updated this blog...I apologize to those of you that may have been worried about us but there were some good reasons for holding off on posting for as long as I did.

Since my last entry we managed to fix the van (it was the power steering pump) and she has been running like a dream ever since.  While in Phoenix we responded to an advertisement for work in a tiny little town called Dateland, AZ...we would receive housing and bi-weekly paychecks for working full-time at the travel center there.  Dateland is halfway between Phoenix and Yuma in the middle of nowhere...the population is about 300 (no, that is not a typo...I really said 300) and aside from the travel center/rv park there is a post office, small mexican grocery, K-8 school, and a hole-in-the-wall bar...that's it.  So, of course, we agreed to take the job when it was offered to us...because we're crazy like that!

Above are two pictures of Dateland, the top one shows the housing we stayed in and the bottom shows the other side of the street...railroad tracks and then miles upon miles of open desert and mountains.  We had no internet access out there so it was practically impossible for me to do any writing on here...plus we were busy with work and hiking around the area or heading to Yuma for supplies when we had time off.

Dateland was so-named many years ago because of the date palms raised there (you can see some in the top photo).  There are tons of varieties of dates, the travel center we worked at offered Medjool, Honey, Thoory, Halawi, Khadrawy, Black, and "Dateland" (unknown variety) dates.

 I managed the gift shop and handled all online orders...Mike managed at the Texaco.  When we accepted the jobs it was understood that we would be working the same or very similar shifts - that did not end up happening.  I ended up working 8am-4pm and Mike typically worked 2pm-10pm...with only one day off per week together.  Work there was strained and stressful, as was the fact that we were hardly seeing each other.  As much as we tried not to let it interfere in our relationship it did affect things for awhile.  We lasted a whole 4 months before giving notice and finally leaving.

Mexico is approximately 30 miles south of Dateland (if you feel like trekking across the desert and over mountains to get there) so needless to say we had to brush up a little bit on our basic Spanish-speaking skills and couple those with hand-gestures to try to communicate with some of the locals.  Most of the younger generation were bilingual, however, so that helped quite a bit at work and when needing an interpreter.

In addition to the Mexican locals there was a solar plant going up about 10 miles away so we had a lot of the solar plant workers staying at the rv park and coming to the travel center for supplies.  We also have a steady flow of border patrol agents that came through and kept us informed on the goings on in the area (border jumpers, drug busts, etc)...we personally saw a couple of arrests and a few more "runners" during our time in Dateland.

Since we were in Dateland over the winter most of our customers were what are called snow birds, older people from the northern states and Canada who migrate to the southern states and Mexico for the winter months.  They weren't all as pleasant as I would have hoped but we did meet some really interesting people, too...usually the ones that were on foot or bike and traveling cross-country. We met 3 young guys riding "tall bikes" cross-country, an older Italian gentleman who has traveled 10s of thousands of miles by bike all over the world, and countless others who have for one reason or another decided to leave their material possessions behind in exchange for a different kind of life.

One of the things I particularly loved about being in Dateland was my ability to go to Yuma every couple of weeks to visit with my Aunt Sally and Uncle Richard, who have been living there for about 20 years.  I didn't get to see them very much while growing up so it has been wonderful to finally be able to get to know them.  To make things even better my Grandma travels from Connecticut each year to stay with them for the winter so I got to see her quite a bit, as well. We also took day trips to Quartzite, AZ (they have a really cool gem/craft show with vendors from all over the country that lasts a couple of months there each winter) and San Diego (which I absolutely hated...too many people and too little natural beauty).

I'm sure I left a ton out but my brain is fried for the time being...my next blog entry will be about our travels after leaving Dateland and where we are currently...but for now I will leave you with a photo taken at our going away party at the hole-in-the-wall bar the day before we left Dateland.

From left to right (co-workers) Leslie, Larissa, Star, and me!

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