I only rarely go to McDonaldʼs; maybe three or four times a year. So I was surprised and delighted to find itʼs McRib season!
The McRib is the finest fast food sandwich there is. Better than a double Fisch Mac. Better than Starbuckʼs Thanksgiving panini. Yes, better than Chick-fil-a.
Itʼs never McRib season in Las Vegas, so for the seven years I lived there, I had to make my own — Driving three hours across the Mojave Desert to the nearest McDonaldʼs that had them, in Barstow, California. I never did find out why the McDonaldʼs franchises in Vegas donʼt carry McRibs.
Here, in Houston, McRib does exist, so I grabbed a loaf of that sweet, smokey, salty, crunchy, sesame seeded goodness.
Pro tip: Serve the sandwich on top of a pile of fries so that the sauce drips onto the fries, and you donʼt waste any of it on the plate.
Today, Darcie and I went to Saint Therese Mission, near Tecopa, out on the border of Nevada and California.
Its exact location is a little weird. Itʼs in one of those slices of the desert that was platted out for homesteading years ago, but ended up only being sparsely populated with a couple of trailer houses.
Itʼs my understanding that this church is popular with the Vietnamese community in Las Vegas. But itʼs a long way to drive for Sunday services.
I like it here. Itʼs quiet. It pays homage to some of Darcieʼs favorite saints. And it has top-notch bathrooms.
We went to China Ranch today. Itʼs one of those places that makes me feel calm. If I had no debts, no obligations, and no cares in the world, Iʼd try my hand at being one of the China Ranch farm workers, picking dates in the desert, living in a rusty trailer, and generally staying off of civilizationʼs radar.
Since I do have debt, obligations, and cares in the world, I relish seeing the creatures of the wilderness. The score this trip:
Two kinds of lizards, including a cool one with a blue beard
The crayfish donʼt belong here. Like the bullfrogs that pollute the few water sources in the desert, they were planted by settlers who though they might be useful for food. Unfortunately, theyʼre the reason the entire Pahrump pupfish population has to live in a concrete fish prison out in Corn Creek.
Unlike the Amargosa dace and Devilʼs Hole fish, they didnʼt evolve in a hot spring, so in the winter they just kind of get sluggish and stop moving. Itʼs like aquatic hibernation. And since they canʼt flee, they are easy snacks for the big crayfish that were brought in from Louisiana a hundred years ago.
Darcie and I spent a peaceful day at China Ranch. Lots of wildlife running around, getting ready for the Summer ahead.
China Ranch is a place where an earthquake opened up a big crack in the desert letting the usually underground Amargosa River see the light of day for about a half mile. In the 1930ʼs someone established a date farm there, and you can get fresh date bread and date shakes at the little farm stand, and go for long walks hours away from anyone else. Itʼs just a nice place to get out of our heads for a while.
The crayfish donʼt belong here. Like bullfrogs, they were planted by settlers who though they might be useful for food. Unfortunately, theyʼre the reason the entire Pahrump pupfish population has to live in a concrete fish prison out in Corn Creek. Unlike the Amargosa dace and Devilʼs Hole pupfish, they didnʼt evolve in a hot spring, so in the winter they just kind of get sluggish and stop moving. Itʼs like aquatic hibernation. Since they canʼt flee, they are easy snacks for the big crayfish that were brought in from Louisiana a hundred years ago.
People ruin things. But I live in a place where several types of creatures have learned that not only are chihuahuas tasty, theyʼre slow, stupid, and frequently found behind doggie doors. Doggie doors are very common here. Sometimes nature gets even, and it makes the newspaper.
I left the house today. Just a short trip down the road to Walgreens for medicine and M&Ms. Itʼs the first time Iʼve driven my car since Saint Patrickʼs Day.
It started OK, but it wouldnʼt go. When I tried to move it, it just sat there and the dashboard showed “Transmission error. Place car in N, turn off car. Turn on car. Place car in R or D1.”
Iʼve had a lot of odd problems with this carʼs transmission over the years. Once while driving off-road across the desert in deep sand the screen showed a red message with some gears icon and the message “Transmission overheat.”
A couple of years ago, I had to replace the transmission computer entirely for $400, plus labor. Iʼve also had to replace every single light bulb on the car at least twice.
The engine and transmission were made in Italy. The rest in Serbia. I guess thatʼs why they say FIAT stands for “Fix It Again, Tony.”
If you listen to the chattering masses on the internet, you can be made to believe that the internet is everywhere, data is virtually free, and if youʼre not connected to everyone everywhere all day every day, you must be at room temperature.
As is often the case, reality and the internet are very different from one another.
The reality is that there are millions of people in America with no internet service. Not because of choice, or poverty, or lack of education; but because they are simply beyond the reach of the infrastructure.
People I know in the Silicon Valley bubble cannot fathom that there are places in America without broadband, let alone cell phone service. Yet right now, there are hundreds of thousands in Las Vegas who have no internet service. Even in New York City, there are over a million people who do not have internet access, and have no cellular service in their homes.
Itʼs especially hard for people from Europe to understand. They live in small countries where people are packed close together, so itʼs easy to provide cell phone service. They donʼt grasp how vast places like the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere are and that cell service is not universal around the entire globe.
I ran into a British couple in Monument Valley once who were complaining that their cell phone didnʼt work. They kept saying, “But we bought it in San Francisco!” as if repeating the phrase often enough would cause a cell tower and power lines to sprout from the cracked earth. They couldnʼt be made to understand that they shouldnʼt expect a phone to work in the desert a thousand miles from the Bay Area.
The photograph above is a great example of how many places in America lack basic communications infrastructure (let alone running water and electricity). Itʼs a special pay phone in the town of Shoshone, California. The same California that gave us so much of the high-tech world in which we live also cannot connect all of its towns and cities.
There is no cell service in Shoshone. There is only dialup internet service in Shoshone. There are only a couple of radio signals that reach Shoshone. So the way many people communicate with the outside world is via this payphone.
Itʼs an ordinary payphone that also has special numbers people can dial to connect to essential, and some seemingly sponsored, services for free.
*10: Chase Bank
*12: Prayer line
*13: Payday loans
*14: Job search help
*15: Credit cards
*17: Wells Fargo Bank
*19: Social Security
Local calls are currently 50¢, and anywhere else on the planet is $1.00 for two minutes. Which seems pretty reasonable to me, since I remember when calling my high school friends could cost an inflation-adjusted $3.50 for two minutes, and they were only a few miles away.
Sam: Now that the borax mine is tapped out, nobody needs our railroad anymore.
What should we do?
Joe: Letʼs build a four-diamond hotel at the end of the line to lure rich people from Los Angeles into the middle of nowhere, then start a big media campaign to convince Congress to make the land around it a national park so people wonʼt be scared to come to a place named Death Valley.