Care Center, fire and wine, French bicyclist, Mexican border, Sherlock, good friends – add them all together to make a different and unforgettable Christmas.
My friend Jackie drove up from Quartzsite, Arizona to spend Christmas with me at the Desert View Tower. Although it was kind of crowded with two of us in the RV, we managed just fine. And it was wonderful to have her here. We drove down to see my mom at the care center in La Mesa on Christmas Eve day, pick up her mail, and make sure her house was okay. Hopefully she’ll be able to return home soon. No fun spending her Christmas and Thanksgiving away from home.
On the way back to the Tower, Jackie and I did some geocaching along Old Highway 80. Because I’d already found all of them, my job was chief chauffeur and coach.
That night Ben invited many friends for a bonfire and wine fest at the Tower. We had lots of fun meeting everyone, enjoying the huge fire in the sheltered fire pit in the rocks, and drinking good wine and hard cider.
After dark, we were joined by a young man from France who had ridden his bike up the grade from El Centro and needed a spot to stay for the night before continuing his trip to Tecate, Mexico. Apparently several people with us had seen him riding up the hill earlier. He spent the night inside the Tower and told me it was one of the best highlights of his trip so far.
Antoine started his journey in Manitoba, Canada, continuing across the U.S. to Washington state, through Utah, and down here to the Tower. Because his U.S. visa was only good for three months, he needed to get to the Mexican border by Christmas night. He planned on riding his bike the 45 miles. However, last night turned very, very windy and cold and Jackie and I couldn’t imagine him riding into the wind for that distance and making it before dark. So, we offered him a ride today and he gratefully accepted. And, did we ever have fun!
Highway 94 towards Tecate is very winding, hilly, and narrow in spots but quite a beautiful drive. The wind continued to blow and we even experienced some rain. Not exactly great bicycling weather. We all got acquainted and Jackie and I introduced him to geocaching. I think we made a convert.
One of his memorable experiences was spending six days in an uninhabited area of Utah when the rim of one of his wheels broke. He has been camping along the way so was prepared with food and shelter. He melted snow for water and attempted to fix the rim as best he could in order to get somewhere to get it fixed. He finally made it to a bicycle repair place in Moab, Utah and was able to continue on to California.
When we reached the border town of Tecate, California, we watched as Antoine readied his bike for traveling, putting on all his saddlebags and other packs, along with a small stuffed dragon he’d found alongside the road somewhere. He named it Balthazar, and it rides in a spot of honor on the back of his bike. He’s planning to write a children’s story about the creature. We asked how much longer he’ll be riding and he told us probably another 1 ½ years. He’s hoping to make it to Patagonia in South America. For right now, he’s going to spend time riding in Mexico.
He told me he’d been a gardener in France and had created a beautiful butterfly garden where butterflies could fly free and uncaged. He misses that job but said he had been getting bored in France. He loves his journey now but at the same time is also looking forward to returning to France and seeing the country with new eyes. He would like to write a book about his travels.
After we said goodbye to Antoine at the border and wishing him a safe journey, Jackie and I hit the road again and did more geocaching on the way back to the Tower. She had to leave for Quartzsite about 2:30, so we said goodbye and off she went for several more hours of driving. What a wonderful and fun friend!
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading and watching another episode of what has become one of my favorite shows, “Sherlock,” a modern version of Sherlock Holmes. Tonight was “The Hound of Baskerville.” Good old Netflix. I heated up some Margarita pizza we’d bought at Trader Joe's yesterday and ate a bunch of their Triple Ginger Cookies for dessert.
Quite a different Christmas from other years but memorable. It felt a little like welcoming the traveling stranger to the inn and giving him a home for the night, making him a friend. And isn’t that a bit of what Christmas should be?