where the writers are
Ghosts, Fleas, Highways, Freeways, Deserts
Route 71, Arizona

It's noisy here next to Interstate 10 in room 207 of the Banning, California Travelodge. On top of the freeway noise, we hear the sound of the trains whooooing and chugging. The air-conditioner rattles and blows, and the resident downstairs in room 107 thumps and slams things.

I'm so tired I don't care.

Last night we stayed in Jerome, Arizona, a mile-high ghost city built on a mountain. Jerome was next to one of the largest copper mines in the country. After reaching a height of 15,000 people, it was almost completely deserted for half a century. Then the hippies and artists moved in, about 30 years ago. Now it's populated by an active population of 350 people, all of whom seem to work in the tourist industry. The town is filled with lore, plaques, gift shops, B and Bs -- but they haven't ruined it yet, it's fascinating, it's still got a rough edge. It's especially known for its violent mining past -- lots of drinking, whoring, and murdering -- and for the many reports of ghost sightings. Especially at the Grand Hotel, highest building in Jerome, looking down over the large valley and out to a far, tall mountain range.

If you visit on a Tuesday or a Thursday you can pay for a ghost tour of the Grand Hotel. They give you a camera, they give you a "ghost meter," and you walk around photographing things. They develop your film for you overnight. The next day... Voila! You might see some ectoplasm in your pictures! (Good gimmick, huh?)

We stayed at the hotel.

We didn't see any ghosts, though the 1920s caged elevator, site of a 1935 murder and said by many psychics to be haunted, creeped Annie out when we rode up to our room. And this (cue the creepy music) was before she knew about the haunting!

You can see a few of our photos here. These were taken with our own cameras, so no obvious "ectoplasm," but perhaps you can spot the presence of the restless souls.

Other than that, we remained unmolested by the spirits. No ghosts, but fleas. I woke up covered in itchy red bumps all over my body. Annie has one or two. (I'm always the ones the bugs like!)

Then I drove us 391 miles through fierce desert heat. We stopped in Prescott, where we ate omelettes and pancakes. We stopped in Yarnell, over the mountain, at an antique shop where I scored a battered 1920's LC Smith typewriter -- doesn't work, but a fine specimen otherwise. We spent an hour and a half in Quartzsite, where we shopped for rocks in 109 degree heat and came away with a chunk of petrified wood and a polished geode with amethyst crystals. We stopped to take pictures of cacti. But mostly we drove.

The desert turns ugly in California near Desert Center and on past Indio. We ate at an In 'n' Out Burger in Thousand Palms, then staggered a little furthur to Banning where we pulled off the road at the first accessible motel. Hey, a motel room's a motel room! Our needs are simple: a comfortable set of clean beds, a cheap bill, and wi-fi.

See our Haunted Hotel pictures here.
See our desert cacti pictures here.