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At the foot of the grade we encountered the sandy wash leading down into the valley. For several miles we fairly wallowed through heavy sand, the car pitching and rolling like a boat on a rough sea. Had the sand been an inch deeper-so it seemed-we should have been hopelessly stalled-a fate which often overtakes a car departing from the beaten track. We scrambled along with steaming engine and growling gears and were glad indeed when a forlorn little ranch-house hove in sight. A windmill tower indicated water and we took occasion to replenish our supply.

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Coyote Wells shows on the map as a post office, but our conception of a village was dashed as we approached the spot by the tiny clapboard shack which greeted our sand-bleared vision. A rudely painted sign, "General Store, Gasoline and Oil," apprised us of the chief excuse for the existence of Coyote Wells. The wells are there, too; eleven feet under the burning sands is an unlimited supply of water. We paused a few minutes and looked around us-which we had scarcely done before, the plunging car and the clouds of sand driven by a forty-mile wind being quite enough to distract our attention. In every direction stretched the yellow sands, dotted with sage brush and cacti. Some of the latter were in bloom, their delicate blossoms, yellow, carmine, and pink, lending a pleasing bit of color to the drab monotone of the landscape. And yet we were told that this sandy waste needs only water to metamorphose it into green fields such as we should see a little later.

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A few miles beyond Coyote Wells the road had been oiled, but it had broken into chuck-holes and become unmercifully rough. It was not until we entered the confines of the cultivated lands a short distance from Dixieland that we found a fine boulevard, which continued for several miles. Dixieland is the western outpost of the Valley, situated in the edge of the present irrigation district. It is a substantially built village, most of the business houses being of brick and cement. The coming of the new railroad, already within a few miles, will probably bring a great boom for Dixieland.

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A paragraph may be fitly introduced here concerning the present status (1921) of the roads we traversed on our tour to the Imperial some six years earlier. The most trying sections have been improved; the heavy sand where we wallowed about so helplessly and the broken, oiled road between Dixieland and Coyote Wells-in fact, the whole stretch between the foot of the mountain grade and El Centro-is a first-class boulevard now. There is also pavement from Campo to the summit of the range, and the descent, while not paved, is in good condition. Only a fraction of the two routes we pursued in San Diego County-the northern, via Descanso, and the southern over the Potrero grade-has been paved, but the funds for this work have been provided and it is to proceed as rapidly as possible. Taken altogether, the roads to-day average good and the run between San Diego and El Centro may be easily made by the shorter of the routes (122 miles) in five or six hours.

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While bowling along just beyond Dixieland one of our party cried, "Look at the sunset!" and we brought the car to a sudden stop. I have seen gorgeous sunsets in many parts of the world, but nothing that could remotely approach the splendor of the scene that greeted our admiring vision. The sky was partly clouded-rather unusual, we learned-and this accounted for much of the glorious spectacle. The whole dome of the heavens showed a marvelous display of light and color-lucent silver slowly changing through many variations to deep orange-gold, and fading slowly to burnished copper as the sun declined. The clouds lent endless variety to the color tones. Their fantastic shapes glowed with burning crimson or were edged with silvery light. The sky eastward was of a deep indigo-blue; westward, above the sun, it burned with ethereal fire. The summits of the dimly defined mountains in the distance were touched with a fringe of golden light and their feet were shrouded in a pale lavender haze-the effect of the sun on the drifting sand. The weird and ghostly appearance of the Superstition Range, a dozen miles to the north, seemed suggestive of the name. Surely the desert gnomes and demons might find a haunt in the rocky caverns of these giant hills set down in the wide arid plain surrounding them on every side. The more distant mountains faded to dim and unsubstantial shadows and were finally obscured by the falling twilight.

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When we were able to take our gaze from the heavens we became conscious of the marvelous greenness of the grain and alfalfa fields about us, then accentuated by the weird light of the sunset, and we learned later the scientific cause of the gorgeous Imperial sunsets. Evaporation from the irrigation system and Salton Sea, together with the fine dust constantly in suspension in the dry desert air, are the elements responsible for spectacular effects such as I have tried to describe.

 
 
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