Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Days Two & Three: Red Rock Canyon State Park & Mojave National Preserve

That's a crazy idea.
It doesn't make sense.
You'll do it?
Of course
I replied.
- magnet my friend Trudy gave me that now lives on the van dashboard

Five weeks+ on the road. My friend's 14-year-old looked me sternly in the eye. “Where will you shower?”

I had the urge to mess with her a little, say something outrageous that would confirm every fear and image of horror blown up in her imagination. Kind of like when a woman I will decline to identify, a mother of four, native of Massachusetts who has never traveled outside its tiny borders, asked me with genuine solemnity on a holiday visit there once, “Do they have Christmas trees in California?”

“No,” I wanted to whisper, teary-eyed and trembly-lipped after a pregnant pause. “Nn-Nn-No.”

“They make us decorate surf boards and sing Bob Seger songs. I-I would give anything for a blue spruce. A simple potted pine. ANYTHING!”

Red Rock Canyon State Park was beautiful. Loads of wacky-o hills and caves to explore. We saw some bunnies, some tracks that looked suspiciously road runner-like, and one gorgeous brown and gold snake while still driving around to pick a site which I consequently didn't get a picture of because I was too busy trying to alert Mike from running it over. 

We also had our first fellow-Westy encounter (as in Westfalia, as in, the VW camper, as in the van). Mike and the other Westy owner had a predictable conversation that went (I'm paraphrasing, but believe me, I'm not far off), “Nice ride.” “Yeah, yours too.” “They're great machines. “Yeah.” And so, with the male bonding out of the way, we settled in for the night. It was wonderfully quiet and starry.

We didn't go see the petroglyphs nearby and we didn't find the owl pellets on the cliffs. In short, we didn't do any of the magnificent things people recommended to us to do in the area. But we survived, and we were on our way on this crazy trip at last. My final argument with my landlord was over, and, though unsatisfying, calling his sorry ass wouldn't have to show up on my to-do list again. We had a little bouquet Isaac had picked drying on the dash, a healthy supply of water; Isaac had lots of impossibly long trains to watch; the cat hadn't yet thrown up or run away. Life was pretty good.

We headed out toward “Hole in the Wall” campground in Mojave National Preserve for day three. We were on 58E bearing down on Barstow and its hot, empty, why-would-anyone-live-here grandeur. “Flower Street” a sign said. I didn't see any hints of a clear street much less any flowers, but I could smell horse dung, which felt oddly familiar and reassuring after miles of flat red dirt and construction vehicles. The cat and the boy were asleep and I was looking forward to peeing in only another 10 miles or so. Maybe this scene was the “big adventure” everyone kept envying us over?

I'm reminded of when I lived in Hungary teaching English and traveling in Europe on my breaks and as my meager salary allowed. Friends from home marveled at my “adventurous spirit,” my “exotic” journey into international waters. I would often think of their words as I washed my exotic Hungarian dishes, or when I'd get on the wrong train, again, and find myself standing in a weedy lot somewhere in the Slovenian countryside, little boys begging me for gum. 

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