Article By: Scooter Tramp Scotty
Originally Published In The March 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I hadn’t been to my home state of California in three years and I probably wouldn’t be heading back there if it were not for a very special reason. My father’s heart was failing, and I was going home to spend time with him. His health had improved in recent months and the outlook was good. Our time together was well worth the trip. Eventually, the mild fall weather was replaced by some cold winter months. My fathers house was in the high desert and as it grew bitterly cold so I was forced to move into the lower desert area. I said my goodbyes. A month later, at age 82, my father would die in his sleep. Six miles from the low desert town of Holtville, a little hot spring sits beside Interstate-10. The place has two concrete tubs. One apparatus that shoots water into the air acts as an eternal hot shower. Best yet, there was no entrance fee. Because this vast desert provides either cheap or free camping, depending where one parks, many northern snowbirds visit and secure their RVs during the worst of the winter’s frigid months. This is where I decided to stop. On the day I arrived I was soaked from riding. It was late morning when I set up my camp in the deset. I decided to visit the spring along with the folks who arrive daily to socialize while basking in the volcanically heated water. Afterward, I’d be riding to Palm Springs for a doctor’s appointment and basic physical, which I’d not done in many years.
While walking through the hot spring’s low chain-link gate, I noted the handful of retirees gathered in the pools. After hanging my towel on the fence, I turned to face the two pools. The larger pool had always been too hot for my taste. The smaller pool was occupied by three women. I guessed they were probably well into their 60s, two were the usual snowbird types, while the third was a younger model, thin of build with blue eyes and longish dark hair heavily streaked with gray. All were friendly and introductions were made before they resumed their conversation. To my surprise, the youngest soon turned to address me. “I’m Alisa. Where you from? And what’s your game?” she asked brazenly.
Now staring into the radiant eyes of an undeniably attractive woman, I told her and then asked the same. “I’m from Ontario, Canada,” She continued, “Down for the winter like everyone else.” No surprise there. But as conversation continued, I learned that Alisa had lived full time in her truck for the last three years. This was common ground and I eventually asked to see her place. “You wanna see my rig? Okay. I’ll show you,” and Alisa lifted her bikini-clad figure from the tub to grab a robe. I followed her through the gate. Once at the parking lot, she grinned and pointed to an older full-sized pickup with large silver camper attached. “I’ve got to warn you that the inside is ‘chock-ablock.” “Chock-a-block?” I inquired, figuring it must be a Canadian term. “Yeah, chock-a-block,” she answered, “I hated the original setup and finally gutted the inside but haven’t put it back together yet. It’s a big mess.” Once at the truck, Alisa opened the back door, and I saw what she meant. Even the mattress had been leaned up sideways to accommodate all the crap stuffed in there. “How do she sleep at night?” I asked, and she told me… Somewhat of hermit and a bit antisocial, Alisa liked to stay alone in the desert for months at a time. When at home in a free camp on the nearby BLM land, Alisa simply moves her stuff outside to make room for the mattress on the floor. She’d only loaded a few things up to come in for the hot spring. We talked for a good while. Eventually, however, I gave her a hug and walked back to my motorcycle. After all, I had a date with a doc in Palm Springs the next day.
The checkup went well and tests determined nothing physically wrong with me. By day’s end, I got a call from Alisa. She wanted me to come back and made promises. I appreciated her straightforwardness over the funky games that often accompany the dance of “romance”. It was a long ride back, but of course, I would go. The following afternoon I was again on the road to Holtville. Directly in my path, the large dead lake known as The Salton Sea offers two roads that traverse either of its shores. The western highway is larger with considerable traffic, so I chose the far more desolate eastern route. For many miles, there were no houses and I seldom saw a passing car. Nothing materialized that would interrupt my solitary ride. Only the vast desert sky and occasional glimpses of lake kept me company. Ahead lay the tiny town of Niland. Directly behind me, sat an isolated plot of land known as Slab City. Originally a military base, all that remains are the large slabs of concrete on which buildings once stood. Years ago, misfits began moving there and Slab City now holds a population of 3,000…so I’m told. As I rode I saw a small city of old RVs, some newer ones, camps, and great piles of trash. I guess there are many cool folks who live there. However, this community is completely lawless and a fair percentage of its residents are either on the run or people who can’t make it.
It sat just before the town’s north end. Turning around, I passed back through Niland in search of the place. Unable to see more than a few feet from the road and with my building set some distance in, visual contact was impossible. After parking at the roadside where I guessed the place might be, I walked through desert land completely encompassed by a palpable dome of thick fog. Eventually, and like some haunting specter, the vision of my huge building began to materialize. The bike was retrieved before I pulled up the ramp to erect a solitary camp inside the dry structure. Although a rather rough setting, the inside of my tent always remains the same cozy place I’d come to call home regardless of its surroundings.
By morning, I gazed through the door of my concrete sanctuary to see that, although winter’s chill had left the air crisp, the fog was gone. Returning to the warmth of my bed, it seemed best to simply drink coffee for an hour until the sun had warmed the land to a more enjoyable riding temperature. By early afternoon I was again at the hot spring. From there, Alisa’s directions took me along a small dirt road leading into the open desert. Eventually, a sign read, free camping area, and I hung a left. Alisa’s truck sat almost immediately on the right. Surrounding its rear entrance was a makeshift counter with Colman stove, five-gallon water bottles, cooler, ladder, fire pit, miscellaneous stuff, and one lawn chair with a rather slim woman seated on it with a coffee mug in hand. She turned to smile at the motorcycle, and seemed genuinely happy to see me. After parking behind her truck, reintroductions were made before I grabbed my own camp chair and took a seat. Alisa offered coffee, which I accepted. After a sip, I looked into her bright blue eyes and asked, “What made you decide to coax me all the way back out here?”
“Ah,” and she paused to light a smoke, “It was that last hug before you left. Kind of got me going, you know? Would you like some eggs?” As Alisa cooked, she talked of how wonderful it was to be so far from civilization. She said she could spend many wonderful weeks/months without ever seeing another soul and be completely happy. This hermit thing seemed kind of strange to me. But one thing was certain: I was not cut out for that kind of isolation. Directly after breakfast, the romance exploded as she sat upon the truck’s tailgate to face me. Our chemistry together was immediately off the chart. From there, the most wonderful of times began. For days we lay in bed talking and reading books; took long walks through the desert; went to the hot spring; frequented a Mexican restaurant in town; and spent time hanging with the other RV dwelling desert rats who were our neighbors. Cooking was of great importance to Alisa and we had many good meals at home.
Two weeks passed. “You know,” I told her while lying in bed one morning, “I’m not staying out here, Alisa. I’ll be heading into Baja Mexico as the coldest months catch up to us. You wanna go?” After a long pause, she answered, “Yes.” “Well, this truck’s no good for that kind of travel because we have to move a ton of crap outside every night. That won’t work while in route. I have a carpenter friend in Redondo Beach who’s got a big place he never comes home too. If we go there, I can build the camper’s inside into something functional, comfortable, and extra special for you.” After contemplating a journey into the big city of Los Angles traffic, I knew that Alisa would balk. And she did. But Baja held appeal; there was the truck’s interior to consider, and of course, her overactive libido… It was a relatively warm southern California winter’s morning as one Canadian girl piloted her truck with all her worldly possessions behind the old Harley. Our first night’s camp was set on a concrete slab that rested beside a small abandoned house. This was a familiar spot because I’d used it previously while visiting the doctor. Again, it was a wonderful time for us, which seemed a good omen. But the real test would be how the hermit girl reacted to the afternoon’s ride into the insane Los Angeles traffic…