Pondering the past and appreciating the present.

As I drove into Barstow this morning, I got off the freeway on an earlier exit than normal to take the back roads to the office. Immediately after leaving the on ramp, I found myself behind a crew of tree trimmers in two trucks that looked like they were barely holding together. They were moving well below the posted speed limit on a double lined road so I didn’t pass them. Instead, I was behind them for most of the way to my office. I then began to remember how 23 years ago, I was in a truck just like these guys. I trimmed trees in Barstow until it got warm enough to cut lawns. It was cold hard work and many times we were up before dawn and working until sundown. All these years later, I sit in an air-conditioned/heated building with a state-of-the-art computer designing websites. I no longer ride in a clunker truck, but a 2005 Dakota. Thanks Lord for reminding me to be grateful for just how far I have come and how you took a tree trimmer and opened opportunity before him.

As if Barstow wasn’t isolated enough already….

Yesterday, our internet, phones and even my cell phone went down at work. I am getting a new appreciation for all kinds of things lately…electricity, internet, phones. Read the full story below.

Cut cable downs communications systems in Barstow

February 19, 2008 – 2:52PM

BARSTOW — One small cable running along Route 66 carries a bulk of the telephone calls and electronic data out of Barstow to the rest of the world. On Tuesday morning, that cable, no thicker than a pen, was cut, downing phone calls, Internet connections, credit card transfers and 911 emergency services in Barstow and across the High Desert.

“It’s the main line between Barstow and Victorville,” said Peter Lindberg, a Verizon employee working to fix the cable Tuesday afternoon. “It calls out to the world.”

The Barstow Police Department, Barstow Fire Protection District and Barstow’s sheriff’s and California Highway Patrol stations set up alternate lines to handle emergency calls during the outage. 911 service returned to area agencies around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Sal Corrao, the division chief of the fire protection district, said law enforcement and the fire district began coordinating as soon as the outage happened and there was only a brief time Barstow residences were without a usable emergency line.

Much of the 911 traffic was rerouted on alternate cables by 1 p.m. During that time, the police department received four to six emergency calls . The fire department received no emergency calls during the outage. CHP officer Taj Johnson did not know how many calls were received by the Barstow station during the outage but said that during an average eight-hour shift, an individual officer may responded to 10 to 20 calls.

At about 10:30 Tuesday morning, a public works crew from the city of Barstow sliced a fiber optic cable buried along National Trails Highway near Barstow County Club. The crew was fixing damage to a storm drain sustained during the last storm in the area, said John Rader, spokesman for the city.

“Apparently a backhoe got a little too close to the cable and snagged it,” Rader said. “And that’s what caused the chaos.”

The chaos affected 12,000 customers from the Needles area to Barstow to the Victor Valley area, said Jon Davies, a Verizon spokesman. In Barstow, many residents and businesses were unable to make non-local calls, use cell phones or access the Internet. Customers at local restaurants, stores and gas stations could only pay with cash, as debit and credit card transactions also travel along the cable that was cut. Davies said cell phones, although wireless, eventually rely on cables buried underground to make connections. ATMs and credit card readers also have to make a phone call to make customers pay.

“When you punch in your pin number, the ATM machine dials up the central servers at the bank,” Davies said.

To fix the cable, Verizon employees spliced together a new section of cable. It involved rejoining 24 individual pieces of hair-thin fibers, said Jeff Woodward, a Verizon employee. Once employees isolated the site of the cut, crews responded and worked to fix it. The Barstow public works crew stayed in the area to assist with the repairs, Rader said. Full service was restored to the area at 3:24 p.m.


Another “Only in the High Desert” Story

This is one of those stories that seem to only happen in and around the high desert. Makes you wonder if it’s the heat or too many years on meth that causes these nutty things to happen.

Men tell strange tale of kidnapping, near hanging

February 8, 2008 – 5:30PM

NEWBERRY SPRINGS — When deputies Jacob Gault and Fidencio Davalos first heard what happened to three Newberry Springs men a few nights ago, they did not know if they should believe it.

“It was like something from a movie,” Davalos said of the three men’s story of kidnapping, handcuffs, nooses and eerie interrogation.

However, less than 24 hours later, the Barstow sheriff’s station had one man in custody and plenty of evidence to corroborate the three’s tale.

Gault and Davalos arrested Dan Garcia, 44, of Newberry Springs, for suspicion of kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon early Friday morning after a raid on a Condor Road property by deputies from the Barstow station, the sheriff department’s crime impact team, officers from the county’s gang unit and the department’s helicopter.

On Thursday morning, Gault and Davalos went to Newberry Springs to meet with three men, between the ages of 18 and 23. Davalos said the three launched into a bizarre account of what happened to them after Garcia allegedly kidnapped them when they stopped their truck in Garcia’s driveway to turn around. Here is what happened, according to Davalos:

Before stopping in Garcia’s driveway, the three men finished checking on an elderly person they care for in Newberry Springs. When the incident began at 11 p.m. Wednesday, Garcia appeared out of some bushes wielding a gun at the truck. Garcia fired one round at the truck and then ran toward the truck. With his gun pressed to the side of the driver’s face, Garcia ordered the men out of the truck and placed two of them in handcuffs, leaving the driver free.

Garcia then led the three to an area where nooses hung and instructed the driver to place the others’ heads in nooses. The driver was then told to use Garcia’s tractor to dig a hole “big enough for a person,” according to Davalos.

At some point, Garcia told the driver to stop digging the hole and restrained him using zip ties. The three were then led back to their truck, which Garcia had moved, and were interrogated about whether they used drugs, believed in God or were in gangs. The cuffs and zip ties were removed and Garcia asked the men to provide him with their personal information, addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers.

Then Garcia let them go. The three men suffered only minor scratches. The whole ordeal lasted about three hours. The three went to their respective homes. Garcia, however, continued to call and threatened the three. They called the sheriff’s department.

“They were still just in shock,” Gault said.

The sheriff’s department obtained a search warrant and orchestrated a raid on Garcia late Thursday night. Gault said after Garcia realized he was surrounded by about 20 sheriff’s officers, he surrendered and was taken into custody.

Sgt. Manny Mendoza said despite the presence of nooses, the kidnapping and assault does not appear to be race-related. Garcia is Hispanic and the three victims are white. He said the department does not know what drove Garcia to his suspected actions. During questioning, Garcia did mention that he was sick of people stealing his property, Mendoza said.

The sheriff’s department is still investigating. Anyone with information about Garcia can call the Barstow sheriff’s station at 256-4121. People with information that wish to remain anonymous can call WeTip at 1-800-78-CRIME or leave information on the WeTip Web site at www.wetip.com.

Tweakers, Methheads and Thieves…Oh My!

How desperate is a person for a fix when they will steal copper from an active water line and waste thousands of gallons of water for just a few dollars. Last week, several fittings were stolen from the building where I work leaving it without water until noon. What a crazy world this is.

Copper thieves close down DMV

December 18, 2007 – 1:50PM

VICTORVILLE — A stolen 2-foot piece of copper pipe worth about $5 brought the Victorville DMV to a screeching halt Tuesday morning.

DMV spokesman Mike Marando said that a security guard making routine rounds discovered the theft at about 7:30 A.M. He suspects that sometime during the night a saw was used to cut off the pipe that is the main water line into the DMV.

“Without any water the DMV had to close for health and safety issues”, Marando said.

People that came to DMV were told they would have to go to Barstow or come back later after the pipe had been replaced. A contractor was called to install a new pipe and the DMV was opened by 2:30 in the afternoon.

The owner of a local recycling company estimated the value of the stolen pipe at four to five dollars based on Tuesday’s price of copper.

The pipe is above ground about 30 yards from the DMV building near the street. The two foot long two inch diameter copper pipe was cut off on one end where it connects to the city water supply side and the other end connecting to the DMV side.

Dirt Head Fred rides again

When we moved to California, we spent 3 months living in a one bedroom converted refrigerator box car in Barstow. During that time, we didn’t have much to do in the way of entertainment. I bought a remote control ATV with a rider we nicknamed “Dirt Head Fred” because when you crashed, he went head first into the dirt. Right before we moved, the steering went out and you could only drive it forward and backward. This weekend, after cleaning out Jesse’s closet, I took Fred apart to find out why the steering was broke. A few hours later after disassembling and reassembling, Dirt Head Fred rose from the dead. One of the screws that controlled the steering had come loose from all the abuse we put Fred through. Now he is back and functional and spared from the trash.

Barstow in Sports Illustrated?

I ran across this link on a Barstow High Alumni group. It’s a very good article about the town I grew up in and in particular the cross-country team that just won the state championship. I remember when I was in high school, we had some great runners and now the team is getting national recognition.


Another one down, Another one down, another one bites the dust!

I have always enjoyed going to Big Box stores, but their spread has had an undeniable effect on small town businesses. When WalMart comes to town, many mom & pop stores end up closing their doors. This week it was announced that one such store in my home town of Barstow has met its demise. Growing up in a small town meant that store’s weren’t known by what they sold, but by the proprieters. We didn’t go to the bike shop, we went to Jay’s. We didn’t go to the Hardware store, we went to H & E. Well, Home Depot came to town and now H & E is closing their doors after 55 years. I remember many a trip with my dad to get something for a home repair project and shouting, “We are going to H & E” as we closed the door and headed for the truck.

Read the article on its closing from the local newspaper.