In “Field of Dreams” the players keep asking Ray (Kevin Costner), “Is this Heaven?” Ray always said “No. It’s Iowa.” One might be tempted to ask if this is hell… no… it’s Needles.
The temperatures here in Needles are soaring! The past few days the temperature has been hotter than 110 degrees. In fact, just checking my computer and it reports the temperature is 111 degrees at 7:46 p.m. The next several days will be hovering around 120 degrees. Insane. Who lives in such extreme climates? Oh… that would be me.
I remember sitting in my living room in Salida, Colo., and job hunting. I was in need of a new job and I came across a listing on journalismjobs.com for a reporting position at a small weekly newspaper in Needles, Calif. I read the job description and figured it was well suited for me. I first thought that Needles was in the north part of the state, but I couldn’t be more wrong. I decided that while the odds of getting a job out of state weren’t in my favor, I would try and see what happens.
Upon second review, I realized it was in the desert and very close to Arizona and Nevada. I talked to my dad on the phone and told him about my applying for the job and he asked me if I knew where it was and what I may be getting myself into and at the time I said ‘yes.’ I didn’t realize just how hot it got until after getting a call from the editor, Robin and we did a phone interview. It came as a surprise because as I said, I didn’t think I had much chance at it and it took two or three weeks before I heard anything about it. Robin asked me how I would deal with the heat and I answered as honestly as I could by saying adjustments are made for the heat as one does for the cold – drink more water, stay out of the worst of the heat, etc. All of that’s true but I left out that I’m not really all that fond of extreme heat but it really is like anything else, you cope with it.
So we would speak a couple of times by phone and finally Robin asked if I wanted to take a trip out to check Needles out and coincidently at the time I was already planning to come to California to see someone. I made it so I planned to take a little time out of my trip to visit Needles and get a lay of the land. The Wagon Wheel was on the agenda along with visiting Mystic Maze Honey, a local business. It’s this little business in a trailer and honey is sold from it. The owner operates it on the honor system – a wooden box is left inside and the prices for the different sized honey jars and gifts are labeled and visitors are expected to leave the money in the box. It seems to work and I remember thinking that was awesome – part of the appeal of Needles to have something like that in town. I felt it showed some of the character of town.
There is plenty to this little town, much more than the heat. Though the heat is fairly famous. As it turns out Needles currently is owner of a dubious honor of having the hottest rain. For those who don’t know, it doesn’t usually rain after hitting 100 degrees – the ground temperature evaporates the water before it can really hit the ground. Well, apparently it rained here, very briefly mind you, at 115 degrees last summer. We beat out Morocco and Saudi Arabia… what’s that say? I don’t know… I suppose we should be proud. I know the heat can drive people away and I’m not always a fan but hey, every place and every person has their quirks so you may as well own it and be proud.
Needles has several other “quirks” also, including being on the very famous Mother Road, also known as Route 66. People love the old Route 66, Europeans especially. It’s kind of amazing really but I think it’s great. Many will remember Route 66, at least in recent times, from Disney Pixar’s “Cars.” Lightning McQueen was stranded in a small town along the famous roadway called “Radiator Springs.” Needles is kind of like that… small but full of character. It’s a lovable place this Needles, once you get past the heat.
Gen. George Patton spent some time out here during WWII. There is a story I heard that he had a nine-hole golf course at one point. I can’t confirm or deny that one, it’s just what I heard. What I do know is that Charles Schulz, “Peanuts” creator, did live in Needles for a short time as a boy. In fact, “Spike,” who is “Snoopy’s” brother is from Needles. If you come across any of the comic strips with Spike, you’ll see Needles. There’s a strong love of Spike in these parts.
I would like to make a quick note also that the Colorado River runs right by us. This is a huge benefit during the summer months like now when it’s crazy hot. It’s the one way for people to cool off. I remember thinking how odd it is to have motorized boats on a river – speed boats, people tubing, on jet skies, etc. It’s a sight to see that’s for sure. People love it and love to come around so it’s a big deal for the city. It is a bit nicer to be down there – the air is a bit cooler as it’s coming off the water and the water is so nice and refreshing. So I may complain about the heat but there’s definitely more to this place than heat. Be sure to take a second look!