Winds of Change

As you may know by now, I’m stationed at Fort Irwin, CA. I know that to the untrained, some of you may not know where Fort Irwin is. To steal and tweek a line from my favorite movie trilogy (soon to be a sixilogy?) Star Wars: If there’s a bright center of the universe, Fort Irwin is the place that’s furthest from it. It’s in the middle of the Mojave Desert, outside of a po-dunk town called Barstow. There is only ONE road between Fort Irwin and anywhere (unfortunately, it leads to Barstow).

Now, let me explain about Barstow. It lies halfway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. In the old days it used to a waypoint for two trails and Route 66 runs right through it. Trust me, there are no kicks to get on that stretch of Route 66. I-40 ends at Barstow where it merges into the north-south I-15. It’s a sort of crossroads. Apparantly, a lot of trading took place there as there is also a huge train station. The station hosts about 15 tracks that take stuff to all points around the US. Barstow started as a small trading post and has grown a little. Barstow’s other claim to fame is the restaurant Del Taco. The first one was built there and still stands to this day.

There are two reasons that Barstow exists today in my opinion, and only two. The first is that it lies smack dab between Vegas and LA. If you’re on I-15 northbound on Friday, the traffic is insufferable as all the weirdos in LA are trying to meet up with all the weirdos in Vegas. On Sundays, you have the exact same problem going southbound. Here’s where my first reason comes into play. At some point, people drove up to Vegas to gamble, see the shows, get ripped off, or otherwise squander their hard-earned money. While there, they didn’t think about the return trip home and only realized about halfway home that they no longer had enough money to make it back home. Stuck in the middle of nowhere their only choice was to create a town. They named it Barstow.

The second reason (again my opinion) is the military presence. Barstow is host to three military installations: Fort Irwin, Marine Corps Logistics Base, and the Yermo Supply Depot. The military is the largest producer of jobs in San Bernardino County. It accounts the majority of employment in Barstow. The rest of the people work either for the Police force (whose main purpose in life is to raise revenue through traffic enforcement, sometimes unethically), the fuel industry, or McDonald’s….or they don’t work at all.

Now, since I’m so longwinded when I describe stuff, I completely forgot the point of this post.

Okay, now I remember. I just had to look at the title.

When it rains in the desert, the ground is so dry that the rain just sits on top of it, instead of soaking into the ground. When it rains, that one road onto post becomes flooded, resembling one of those ramps you may use to launch a boat into a river. There is no going around it. You either attempt going through it or you go back home. Those that choose the former usually end up in the middle of a river crying for help. The rest just go home and cry.

I’m sure many of you have heard of the flooding that has stricken most of southern California. I sympathize with them and my heart and prayers go out to them. So, I can’t make fun of that. But, I can make fun of our predicament!

My kids love it when it rains there because I love driving through puddles. The more water I can get to fly over the top of the van, the better. Of course, to make that happen I have to be driving through some pretty deep water. The streets at Fort Irwin become mini rivers themselves, carrying mud, rocks, and dirt onto the roadways. Most of the time I ride a motorcycle (which I promise I’ll write more about one day) and the flooding forces me to get into a four-wheeled vehicle….or have my wife drive me to work.

I personally love the rain. Being in the desert makes you appreciate those rainy days. The other great thing about the rain is the lakes. There in the desert we have lakes. They aren’t like lakes most of you are used to: they’re dry. I remember the last time I was stationed at Fort Irwin before I went to Iraq that we took our motorcycles out on the lakebed for a ride. It was in the middle of nowhere and I felt a strange feeling of freedom. Without giving away too many details, I’ll just say that it’s a mostly wonderful feeling driving across a dry lakebed in your birthday suit. It’s when you hit the bumps that you begin to appreciate the invention of clothing, especially blue jeans.

Anyway, we actually have lakes now. All the rain has filled the lakes with water, reinvigerating the brine shrimp that patiently await their rebirth. We have a few of them in our house since it’s the only animal we can manage to keep alive. I’m not allowed to have a dog or cat and we can’t seem to keep normal fish alive, so we settled with brine shrimp, commonly called seamonkeys.

Well, that’s it for now. Talk more later. Until then…..

4 Comments on “Winds of Change

  1. Yup, Fort Irwin and NTC are synonymous. The post has grown considerably since 1990. Actually, it’s grown a LOT since 2001, when I left the first time. And it’ll be a LOT better at the end of this year. They are building a lot of new housing as well as improving the PX and Burger King. And, thanks for the comments. I’d like to thank you as well. You paved the way for guys like me.

    As far as which lake it was I was riding in my skivvies, it wasn’t Bicycle Lake. That’s the one on post that is used for aircraft landings. The lake I was enjoying was Coyote Lake, which is located off 10 mile stretch between Irwin and Barstow.

    Yeah, I neglected the “World’s Largest Thermometer.” We did take our motorcyle out Barstow Road, to East Range Road, out to Highway 127 and on to Baker. It was a fun, off-road ride. I lost my extra fuel can about halfway there and thought I would not have enough gas to make it all the way to Baker. Luckily we did. When we got to Baker, we had the world famous Strawberry Shake at the Mad Greek. I strongly recommend anyone passing by Baker stop for one of those. They cost about $6, but well worth the money.


  2. I used to be in both the 82nd and the Rangers. I went to NTC with the 82nd back in 90, I think, I was an 11 BravoPapa (cross trianed as a 13 BravoPapa, as well). We were training against a mock enemy called the “Krasnovians” or something like that. Ft.Irwin is where NTC is, correct? (I apologize if you mentioned that in one of your posts, and I failed to see it.)

    I recall that Barstow was a real hell hole, as much as the post itself was.

    But, if there were any place to give America an enema, it’d be in Ft.Benning.

    I appreciate your service (I did my time during Desert Storm and Somalia).
    Best regards

  3. LOL you surly cannot forget that lovely desert oasis called Baker! I think it’s one and only true claim to fame is the big Thermometer 🙂

    Used to be, in long days gone by, you could take Camp Irwin RD down to Coyte Lake Rd and then eventually hook up on to Powerline Rd and take the powerline up the back way in to Baker. Yeah, it was the long way, but it could be fun 🙂

    Have you ever ran the Baker To Vegas Challenge Cup race? Or, I guess the question would be, are you even a runner. If you are and have not, try and hook up with one of the teams! It’s a blast. It’s a 120 mile relay that started out as Law Enforcement, but has expanded to include EMS and Military teams as well.

    It begins in Baker, and the route takes the runners through the heart of the desert to Shoshone, CA, then north to Pahrump, NV. Then it’s a climb up to the Spring Mtn Pass at 5600 feet. They usually end the race at the Rio in Vegas or at the new Outlet Center stores.

    The last year that I worked the race, I was manning the aid station at the top of the Spring Mtn Pass and there was this INSANE team of Marines running the race in full gear and boots, the nuts!

    Applications close 1/31 and the race is 4/23-24. It’s a blast if you ever to do one or even just go out and watch and hollar.

    The leg in to and out of Shoshone is usually one of the worse, we’ve flown dozen of runners out of there in the past.

    Of course, I have not gotten to work the race since I relocated to this Soggy, green hell known as SC! Man, I MISS the desert!

    Keep up the good work, the blog is shaping up great!


    Oh, PS…and that dry lake would’nt have been Bicycle Lake by any chance? LOL Owl Lake and Lost Lake were always fun as well 🙂