Last week I stood at the Center of the World. Yep, you heard me right, I stood at the Center of the World.
A good friend of mine from Alaska came south for a visit. It seems, I have an attraction that is pulling my friends in. It is known as a B Class RV. I seem to be getting more visitors now and everyone wants to go camping in my Roadtrek.
Whenever I have driven east on Interstate Highway 8, approximately 10 miles west of Yuma, Ariz., is the town of Felicity. What attracts a driver’s or passenger’s eye first is a small church that sits on a rather high man made hill. It looks very out of place there. I mean, there is nothing around there. When I met up with Kat (remember her-biking across the U.S. with her dogs?) in late October, Felicity was the pick-up spot. As far as I could see all that was in this town was a Shell station and the church. For years I have wanted to see what that church was about.
Leslie (friend from AK) and I decided to do the three-hour drive to check it out. We combined it with a camping trip, which I will continue with in another post.
There is a bit more than meets the eye in this small town, really small. Maybe nine people live here part-time. Jacques-Andre Istel founded this unincorporated town in 1986. It was named after his wife, Felicia. Jacques is also the mayor of the town. It is his land, after all.
Jacques-Andre saw this barren desert while serving as a Marine in the Korean War. He fell in love with it, and, with money made from a successful business, bought thousands of acres stretching from I-8 northward to the Chocolate Mountains in California.
First, Jacques-Andre wrote a children’s book which helped convince Imperial County, California, to legally recognize a spot on his property as the official Center of the World it is also recognized as such by the Institut Geographique National of France.
Since the Center of the World was in the desert, a pyramid was built. In the center of this 21-foot pyramid is a bronze disk. You stand on the bronze marker, make a wish, and then receive a certificate that you can proudly show your friends and disbelivers that you stood at the Center of the World.
There are several landmarks in this town including a metal 25-foot spiral staircase that was once part of the Eiffel Tower. A sculpture of God’s arm, from Michaelangelo’s Dawn of Creation painting, points to the pyramid and the chapel, serving as a sundial.
The church is another interesting landmark. More than 150,000 tons of earth were moved and piled into a hill (earthquake-proof). On top of it he had built what he calls The Church on the Hill at Felicity. It was dedicated by Protestant and Catholic clergy in 2008. Weddings and services are held in this non-denominational church. The interior of the church looks very Mediterranean in design.
Between the pyramid and the church is the World Commemorative Center of Felicity. This consists of a series of granite walls that are long two-sided wedges. The mayor is inscribing everything that he thinks is worthy of note. The history of all things, according to Jacques.
Phase one consists of 100 monuments stretching over one-third of a mile. The master plan shows that the walls eventually will form a fish-shaped outline that encloses the church and extends beyond, with its tail at the pyramid and its nose way, way out toward the distant hills.
Phase one still seeks completion. The center wall recounts the history of California on one side and Arizona on the other side. Other walls tell the History of the Cosmos, the History of Humanity and the History of the World. There’s a United States Marine Corps Korean War Memorial monument on another wall. Another wall is dedicated to the history of the French Foreign Legion.
Now I know that this is not about my Roadtrek, yet I thought the Center of the World was worth noting. We spent more than two hours at the site. If we had read everything, we could have spent days.
The Center of the World is open for tours between Thanksgiving and Easter. The weather is nice at this time of the year. Much later than Easter and you would be broiling in a very hot, dry desert.
All you snowbirds heading to the Southern California or Arizona deserts take a moment, get off the beaten track and stand at the Center of the World. I did and it was fun. Here’s a link to the official Website.