At a meeting tonight, a nurse shared a story about being a “lapper” to babies flown to Los Angeles after the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chí Minh City), Vietnam.
She said she sat in a converted airplane hangar with a constant rotation of hungry Vietnamese orphans on her lap, feeding them diluted rice porridge and flat Coca-Cola. Protein-rich normal baby food would have shocked their systems and killed them apparently.
I researched it back at home. Termed “Operation Babylift,” about 3,000 infants and children were flown over on freight planes to be nursed to health then adopted. They loaded babies into cardboard boxes that they strapped down, and older children sat on benches with seat belts.
I don’t know how I had never heard of this piece of history, but I am looking for a way to rent this movie: “Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam.” It’s not on Netflix.
Here are some more links for the interested:
What a strange and interesting world.
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Leaving Blythe, CA I soon hit Ehrenberg, AZ which, as my trusty navigator (Mr. Holden) pointed out, had some pretty admirable street names.
On the corner of Juneau Ave and Hoonah Drive, I spied some intriguing fruit trees. One grew lemons, and I was delighted to find the other heavy with ripe pomegranates! The nice lady in whose yard they resided was out watering things and let me pick one which I plan to eat for breakfast today.
This was the most exciting thing to happen for some miles. On the road to Lake Havasu City, the towns shared some characteristics: dusty, sun-bleached and lonesome looking.
And then there’s Havasu. Founded in the ’50s or maybe ’60s, everything is very nice and new. It reminded me of stucco/red roof tile versions of the model home from Arrested Development, though a few uniquely architected home stood out as well. One had a wide, stone walkway that spiraled around from the ground floor to the roof, forming much of the exterior walls of the home.
When not Spring Break bumper boats, there is one other tiny detail that gives Havasu an odd look. It has the full-on (old) London Bridge in the middle of everything. Apparently they renovated the bridge in London and replaced the exterior pieces. They marked each one, shipped it off to the highest bidder and reerected it in Lake Havasu City (wiki info here).
A tasty salad, sammich and brew sampler at the Barley Brothers Brewery, and I was back on the road.
The mighty Colorado River divides Arizona and Nevada between Bullhead City (AZ) and Laughlin (NV). Laughlin shimmers up out of the desert, decked in flashy neon like a little baby Las Vegas. Being a slow vacation time and Laughlin being full to the brim with empty rooms, it is an inexpensive place to rent a room.
Views from $40 room at Harrah’s in Laughlin
With the $60-70 you can pay for a dump/near-dump in recent towns visited, the wood furniture and granite countertops are a nice change.
And now, having gambled away my $20 budget, drunk my complimentary booze and watched the sun rise over the jagged mountaintops (from bed), it is time to explore some more Arizona.
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I’m sitting at the Courtesy Coffee Shop in Blythe, CA enjoying coffee, sunshine and eavesdropping. So far both conversations between the waitress and other patrons are about illness and lethargy – no one feels well enough to start decorating for Christmas.
Day before yesterday I left Alaska for the first time since May. Clear skies followed me from Sitka to Seattle and San Diego, giving me a geologist’s-eye view of the west coast.
Walking out of the San Diego airport felt fucking great – 70 degrees, palm trees and agave. With a sporty, red sedan from the rental company (NOT HERTZ!!!!!), I was on the road headed East. Fueled up on cherries and turkey jerky from a roadside stand, I left the freeway and snaked through the hills and deserts of Route 79.
There were strange RV parks in the middle of flat nothing, with white campers circled like conestogas, but it got infinitely more strange. The Salton Sea is a large land-locked salty body of water. According to Wikipedia, it was once a thriving tourist destination with resorts and all. The GPS directed me along unmarked roads to the beach front.
It had a distinct Mad Max feel. Through the haze, the water blended into the hills with a light fogginess blurring it all. Cranes, pelicans and gulls stood around, screaming but not moving much. Walking down a derelict boat ramp, I had to a swing left to avoid a full-grown scrub tree. The stale air stank. The water had receded probably 20 feet from the original bank, and the middle ground was littered with barnacles, bones and small dead fish.
Picturing dead fish
Reducing water levels caused higher salinity, and fertilizer runoff led to algae blooms which depleted the oxygen level of the water, killing off most of the introduced fish.
After a beautifully bizarre sunset, I drove past a palm tree, date and grape farm and through some holey rocks to Blythe, welcomed on the outskirts by its gleaming prison complex. And now my coffee and biscuit are done, and it’s time to hit the road again. North to Arizona!