Leaving Las Vegas entering Joshua Tree

October 28, 2010

I rode out of Las Vegas then headed south via the 95.

the road ahead

the road behind

It’s another beautiful day, the storm clouds that threatened in the morning were pushed away. I cross a gigantic brown valley shouldered by mountains on each side. I am not going fast, actually every single car appearing in the rear view mirror soon zooms by and passes me, but it’s a double lane Highway so it’s OK, I am not hindering anyone. I gulp in the space, the view, through my eyes, through my whole being. It is drenching.

I need drenching.

“I am a lone knight on a lone quest. A quest for understanding, purpose. The grail is an elusive sense of completeness within myself in this world I live in.

I’m trying to find the intersection where we can all be,
where to be all, all at once.

I have not found it yet.

My right hand on the throttle, feet on the back pegs, face shield down, the left hand on the tank. I experience once again this strange relationship with the bike. The hum, the energy, the force it shares with me.

Me, the flesh. It, the force. Me depending on it. It depending on me. We, existing together, coursing the world. On a road that has not dictated and ending yet.

I call on the Gods, I ask for serenity. In Vegas I was hoping to see a friend. It did not take place. In this age of communications the potential for mis-communications is amazing. His cell phone was at the office for the week-end, my email did not get through, the words not clear enough via the email… plus my eternal fear to annoy and be an unwanted weight or create disturbances. So instead of seeing a known face I walked through the heart of Sin City.

I roll down the road sorry to have missed him.

I pass through some micro towns, that you’d notice pretty much only because of the speed limit changes 55 MPH, 45 MPH, 35 MPH…. …45 MPH, 55 MPH 65 MPH in the blink of two eyes. Highway 95. More desert. I get to the bottom of it and have to roll on Interstate 40 for a while. Then off to Needles where the 95 resumes.

no matter what, follow the arrows

In Needles I filled up, ate bad food and continued down 95 South. Still desert but colors are shifting, it does indeed look like California now, gold everywhere, the golden state. The scenery is beautiful. More types of vegetation I have never seen before. Something that looks like like a rose bush with giant thorns, long green skinny arms reaching up from the ground up is one of them.

desert

The few traces of humanity speak of abandoned goals and dreams. In the desert abandoned things look like they’ve been hurriedly left behind in a “lets get the hell out of here quick” way.

There is a burned down gas station that I just had to stop and look at. It had this iconic look, a la Tarantino. It stood there, by the railroad tracks, it was a destination at some point. The abandonment the train, the vastness and despair, reminded me also of the Grapes of Wrath. Other times, another economic depression and broken dreams as the desert goes on.

The sunset was unbelievable. Every second of it heart breakingly beautiful . I stop again, try to take photos but my little camera cannot capture the scope of it.

Oh the luck of me. To witness. To be right in the middle of this wonder, alone here to see it…

another photo that just does not pay justice to the scene being played

As the sun falls behind the mountains I hit Highway 62. It starts with a long, long, long ribbon of road that climbs a hill. Everything is purplish pink. Whoa.. more wonder.

I see a guy with a flat tire… I wonder… should I stop… but I heard stories of ill intentioned set-ups like this, so I pass him, he looks at me. I feel incredibly guilty. Two cars head down the other direction. I hope one of them stops…

At the top of the hill I turned to look on my left… I whimpered… Hmmmfff…! So, so, so magnificient. The colors… I’m speechless. but that’s OK. The bike does not mind my silence.

I stoppped. Had to. I looked. And looked. And looked more. How can this be so beautiful. The sands, rocks are reflecting all the colors, all the shades and variations… it’s just piles of rock and sand but right now it’s heaven in its splendor. Oh the luck of me…

I continue on. Darkness falls. My goal : Joshua tree National park. I got one gripe : California has to create signs for their parks that can be seen in the dark… I missed the first entrance. With all my oos and ahs I forgot to look at the gas gauge… I’m almost out of gas, damn… Yikes. I may have twenty, twenty five miles in there… I turn on the GPS. The battery is almost dead on that too… 14 miles to the next gas station. I should make it.

The cold is descending fast now that the sun is gone. It’s dark. But those desert roads are gentle. Some dips, some light curves, no big game to jump in front of you. So I bear down. I get to Joshua Tree… a bit of a dismal town. I get gas, motor oil. Some tea and wi-fi. It’s 7:30 or so.

I finally made it to Joshua Tree National park road. Almost missed it, the signs were almost invisible in the night. The moon is out. It looks stretched. It’s 3 days out of it’s fullness. It’s gorgeous. Brilliant. Defiant. At the gate of the park a big sign says : CAMPGROUND FULL. Nooooooooo! I stand there, engine idling in the darkness and increasing cold of the night. Nooooo! What do I do? Find a motel? Nope. Camp somewhere else? But where and really… I want to be here… Maybe they just put up this sign so to avoid dealing with people?… I decided to keep going. Take my chances. See what will happen. What is the worst thing that could happen? I’d be likely turned around… back to this exact place. Lets go. Lets go see….

As I ride on the road, the moon rises from behind the hills. The curtain just rose, the show is about to start… the scenery turns into a moon lit magical land of a multitude of Joshua trees, a whole population of them, arms extended, dancing under the moon and the jagged edge of hills cutting the horizon in two. It’s breathtaking. And I’m cold. Got the goggles on and the visor up. My hands are getting seriously frozen. But I would not want to be anywhere else. I lean down put my left hand on the engine to warm it up. I’ve come to realize that my throttle hand never gets as cold as the left hand… is it because I can warm up the left, function determines behavior or behavior determines function? Regardless… I roll through absolute wonder. I’m in another universe. Once more. I feel utterly blessed, once more, to be here and experience this.

I come to a sign for the campground. Take a chance.

The campground is set in the midst of gigantic boulders expelled from the heart of the earth then eroded to perfection. Each site possesses character and is organized artfully between the rocks. I can see that even in the night by the glow of my headlight. I roll through the first loop… full. I think that maybe I could ask someone if I can set up for the night, just a sleeping bag… but I get shy. I continue, second loop : full. Damn… Third loop I see a site with no car… could it be… I stop the engine and inspect a little further. There is a ticket on the post at the site entry, October 24th… that is today… does it end today or start today? I peer through the dark trying to see if there is anything there… a few more steps… Oh no… dang! cooking stove and stuff on the pic nic table. Someone’s here.

The sites are large… I walk to the edge, and there is a tree and some boulders that would hide me from the main site. I’m cold. I’m tired. The park rangers should not show up tonight… if I sleep now and pack up early I might be able to go under the radar…

I’m feeling incredibly daring and guilty. I never do stuff like this… But I could head out to the next campground…. and find it full too…. later, colder and then what?

So in the dark there by the side of the path I pulled out my mat and my sleeping bag. Quickly aired the mat, set the sleeping bag on there and slid into it. I use my armored jacket as my pillow, kept my leather pants on to stay warm as it’s getting pretty cold. The sleeping bag gets cozy hot in a hurry. The magic of down feathers at work.

As I relax, I think about a conversation I had months ago, some fellow travellers telling me how they used to dodge rangers and camp without paying by way of getting up super early and decamping in a hurry. I thought about how these thoughts come to be acceptable by way of necessity… I doze off…

Sound of a car…. hmm… Hopefully they’ll just drive by… the truck slows down… No… no, no… stops right in front of me… Damn.

I pull the edge of the sleeping bag slightly down, to look… a white pick up truck. The guy inside is looking for something. I’m hoping to make myself invisible. Maybe he’ll just go on… He gets out of the truck. I am immobile, trying not to breathe and at the same time starting to see the futility of playing dead. The guy puts on a head lamp. But stays by the truck… All right, all right I thought. Might as well face up, confront, get up and see if I’m going to get so busted, charged a gigantic fine, yelled at and thrown out…

“I’m here… I’m here” I said.

No answer.

I get up out of the warm sleeping bag… walk up to the man. His head lamp is on so I can’t see his face, I’m pretty sheepish.

“Hi, uh, I’m, well I pulled over… was tired… cold… yeah really tired.” I am fumbling miserably trying to soften the blow of whatever is coming my way.

“Hi, my name is Luke”. He extends his hand…

“Uh.. Hi, I’m Danielle.”

I zig zag some more lame explanations…

“I’m going to make a fire, you’re welcome to share it”

Uh? I thought… Oh… He’s not a ranger. He is the camper at this campsite…. and he’s not giving me hell or a ticket or throwing me out…

“Oh, uh, for sure, I’ll go get my jacket, it’s pretty cold.”

I am the worst liar or criminal, I could not fib to save my life… I usually stick to the rules, and this “Jay-camping” is just so out of character…

he gets the fire going after a few attempts. We talk. He’s an interesting being. Comes to the desert to get space, calm. He works for the food bank. I can imagine the demands on the food bank in these hard economic times. I can see the need to get away.

“You should bring your bike next to the truck” The bike was parked on the side of the path… Now it is going to be “legitimately” parked on the site.

I share some of my story. I laugh at what just took place. He says he was quite surprised at finding a woman… “not to be sexist but…” I heard that phrase many times on my trip. A woman, by herself, on a motorcycle, traveling the country, sleeping on the ground under the moon.

We get into a deep conversation about our roles and place in this world, about the necessity to open up to the world. To receive the world, to sacrifice, to commune with others on a real level.

Then he said things that I needed to hear. I have been out of sorts for a while. I have been needing to talk to a kindred spirit… and here it came to me. Through this convoluted ride up to Joshua Tree and this “illegal camping” and this unexpected meeting, my heart lifted. Some weight came off of my soul and answers were given. I thanked him for the hospitality and the talk. He thanked me back.

“if you get up early, I make good oatmeal…” he offered.

I walked back to my bag which was frigid at this point. Took my boots off , took the jacket off and folded it so to become my pillow again. I pulled out an extra shirt out of my bag and disappearing inside the blue, feathery sleeping bag, thankful, grateful for the answers that came to me.

the edge of the blue sleeping bag... what I saw when I woke up

Life is a wonder….

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2 Responses to “Leaving Las Vegas entering Joshua Tree”

  1. David Walker Says:

    Your big ‘rose bush’ like plant was Ocoteo. My spelling is probably wrong. It only puts out little tiny green leaves in the spring for a little while. It bears beautiful red flowers at the ends of each stalk. It is kind of majestic.

  2. linda kingston Says:

    just remember….in the winter far beneath the bitter snow…lies a seed that with the suns love in the spring becomes the ROSE. You are that rose danielle, you are the rose………..

    love ya
    linda


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