Vacation started at 4:30 AM on Wednesday morning. We blearily got to the business of gathering up our stuff (we’d packed the night before) and heading out the door. A few hours, a couple flights, and we were feet-on-the-ground at LAX about 10:30 AM. An hour waiting through a beleaguered check-in at Hertz and we were on the road, headed south and east to Joshua Tree National Park. We stopped at a Trader Joe’s on the way and stocked up on fruit and sandwich fixings.
A few observations we made right away:
- The street signs over the freeways in LA, normally a bright green, are gross with traffic grime to the point of being beige. “Greige” was the color Julia assigned to them. That amused us.
- Southern California is terribly dry with drought.
- The Prius we had ended up in looked small on the outside, but was surprisingly roomy on the inside.
- There are a shitload of windmills out on I-10, more than I remembered.
- Driving through the town of Yucca Valley, the last town before the town of Joshua Tree, was a disappointment that tried to diminish my otherwise good cheer. It was overrun with the typical Starbucks, Wal Mart, and fast food franchises one sees everywhere. That worked against my vision of what I was hoping to experience during this part of the trip.
- Joshua Tree the town quickly reestablished my vision of what I’d hoped to see in a grimy, run-down desert town.
- We enjoyed speculating on the people who come to desert towns to live, with their bizarre arts and willingness to sacrifice comfort to make lives in them. We both admire and are fascinated by these people.
It was 99° and 3:30 PM or so when we arrived at the Safari Inn, our home for the night. A perfect little roadside dump of the type we prefer when we travel (“I like my motels like I like my women,” I quipped shortly after squeezing into our room, “Roadside and cheap!”), but charming, with a nifty little courtyard out back.
We made our sandwiches, talked about Gram Parsons and his death at the Joshua Tree Inn, relaxed a little, then I went out to explore. Bought a hat and a sunglasses case. Verbally jousted with the creepy proprietor at the Circle K. Even found the World Famous Crochet Museum, pictured below in a swipe from Dita Von Teese’s Instagram account:
Dita, unfortunately, wasn’t there waiting for me. Next time. . . .
That evening we drove up into the Joshua Tree park to be in position to watch the sunset. The landscape is indescribable, and photos do it little justice. We listened to Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds. We stopped at a couple spots on the way up to Keys View and just wandered around. I saw a speedy little lizard. The forests of Joshua Trees were gorgeous. At the top, we were joined by a number of other tourists there for the same reason. I was stared at relentlessly by a young German kid. The smog over the Coachella Valley was thick. It clouded every direction. The sun set. We descended to our motel room, ate another peanut butter sandwich, then retired. We’ll be back.