We wandered up the California coast and discovered that many beaches cost $8 to visit. Everything in California was more expensive than Arizona. We looked for hidden trails down to the water that didn't cost anything. One of the best was Moonstone Beach near Arcata. It's the perfect place to take children. A sandbar keeps the waves away and the water next to shore is only two or three feet deep. It's like a giant swimming pool. Kids and dogs were going nuts.
On the way home we visited one of my favorite places, Mono Lake. It looks like something from another planet, weird rock formations, odd colors, a lake so salty that no fish live in it, but it is loaded with brine shrimp. These are fed on by Cuchabee Flies, also known as Alkali Flies. The rim of the lake (a recent volcanic cone) is lined with mats of these creatures. They fly up in a swarm when you get near. When I was a child there were many more flies and I remember running around the lake with friends, screaming and whooping through the clouds of flies. Okay, that might not be most people's idea of a good time, but I found them magical. Even better were the hordes of seagulls. They ran through the swarms with their mouths open, swallowing for all they were worth. Our camera battery had run down and we lost the recharger, so I had to depend on the internet for pictures.
I'm doing research for a new novel called Far Enough based partly on my childhood. One of the characters is a Cocopah Indian. They live along the Colorado River and almost nothing is written about them. I found only one good book printed in 1940. It is so rare I had to borrow a copy from an archive and scan the pages. And this neglect is a pity because the Cocopahs were a very interesting culture. There is one place in Arizona where you might find a rare, out-of-print book. It's a gamble. The owner of the bookstore sells whatever he can find from estates or old houses. We decided to visit him. He is known as the Naked Bookseller and he lives in Quartzite, Arizona. He's a nudist, except that he sensibly wears dark glasses and a hat to protect himself from the sun. The day we visited the temperature was 105 degrees in the shade. The bookstore was dark, almost like a cave, and there was no air conditioning, not even a fan. I practically fainted in there, but the Naked Bookseller (also known as Paul Winer) was perfectly comfortable. He was, not surprisingly, tanned a deep brown and in amazing shape for a 70-year-old. I suspect no one had been in all day because he really wanted to talk. I found an old book on the Quechan tribes of the Colorado River, including the Cocopah, and bought it. I found pictures of Paul on the internet, but no way can I get away with putting one up here.