Elmer Long doesn’t think people smile enough. That’s part of the plan behind his Bottle Tree Ranch on National Trails Road, a stretch of old Route 66 outside Helendale, CA. He says as soon as he put up the first tree someone stopped to take a picture, so he put up another...and another, and now there’s well over a hundred sprouting up from the desert sand in his front yard. No admission fee either, although he keeps the gate shut so his dogs won’t get out.
If he sees you’ve stopped to take a look, he’ll usually come out for a chat, and maybe point out the significance of all the salvaged materials that adorn his treetops. Everything from traffic signals to firearms and parking meters! Most of them have a story that corresponds, and Elmer loves to reveal why they’re there. As for the beard, well, that’s been a part of him for more than 40 of his 60 years.
We took a souvenir rock with Elmer’s blessing, and even though we’d heard it was closed, made the ten mile drive out to Exotic World, the Strippers Hall of Fame on the other side of Helendale. The ornate gate at the head of the long drive was badly bent and solidly padlocked. Clearly, no famous G-strings were going to be ogled today. So we headed back to Victorville, Roy Rogers’ old stomping grounds for some tasty felafels and hummous, and a quick glimpse of a plaque in the park. Not honoring Trigger, but Brownie the Railroad Dog, who loved greeting trains there til one day he greeted one too closely, and the love affair was over. It’s in Victorville’s Forrest Park, and I’ll just say that Roadside America’s warning about unsavory characters in the vicinity is right on track (no pun intended.)
More desert driving ensued, though doing 70 in the 55 was nowhere near fast enough for the 90 plus crowd that roared around us. We wrapped the day and this particular show with some catch outside the Integratron, a futuristic dome that Venusians supposedly told George van Tessel how to build back in the 50s. We brought guest gloves in case any extra-terrestrials wanted to play, but alas, today it was just us throwing the ball and witty banter back and forth across the rocky road.
Music in the van--Amos Lee, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, “Magical Mystery Tour”, Gram Parsons “GP and Grievous Angel”
Don’s found-money count --$1.01 (Starbuck’s lounge chairs very profitable it seems)