Tag Archives: california

Joshua Tree

JT-11Vacation 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:

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 9.07.59 PM

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.

JT-6 JT-8 JT-9 JT-12

A Room With a View

Holiday Inn — Visalia, CA

The pretty girl at the front desk made a big deal over how I’d been bumped up into some kind of special “Executive” room. Clearly she saw me coming from a distance, because nothing screams “executive” like a large, sweaty man in a t-shirt born on the factory floor of the Draplin Design Company staggering across the lobby burdened with battered, ill-rolling Target-brand luggage.

Ah, the elusive perks of the frequent business traveler. Besides the bump, I got a “gift bag” since I am a priority member or something of their travel club. This gift bag is a small paper sack with two packages of Planter’s brand trail mix and a mysterious bottle that I guessed to be water, but looked more like shampoo or lube. It was kind of disturbing, and in the dim afternoon light the type and design were so poorly conceived that I couldn’t read it. It wasn’t until just now, under the glare of the lamp on the nightstand, that I was able to determine that it is in fact “artesian water from Norway.”


Nuts and lube, now there’s a startling combination

Which brings us to the first flaw of this much balleyhooed executive chamber. Neither nightstand has an outlet anywhere near it. That’s unconscionable. I haven’t used a clock in a hotel room for its alarm in probably three years. I use my phone. Hell, I use that for everything. Which means while it is on the nightstand it needs the option to be charged. Lots of places have lamps with outlets in the base, and that is preferred. This room does not, so it is not. After much cursing and shoving around of furniture, I discovered the closest outlet, the one which both lamps and the clock are plugged into, is exactly mid-bed, behind the headboard. I.e. inaccessible.

Finally, I need to discuss the bathroom. I’ve regularly employed urinals taller than the counter in there. Which is weird, and something I’ve never encountered before. Sure, some are taller than others, but this one sets a new, low bar. I’m not exaggerating either. A man of my modest height — six feet — or taller could easily stagger into that room in the night, nude, and just kind of roll his hips to get a slight swinging action and have his business hanging over the edge into the sink, just like that. A minute or two of relaxation and he could be back in bed without having risked soiling his hands. It’s borderline scandalous is what it is.

Oh well. At least on the fifth floor, the top floor, I’ll have the luxury of the best view this hotel has to offer.


Then again, maybe not



Thanksgiving and Jack London

Thanksgiving morning in Missoula and we have a fresh little skiff of snow on the ground. It won’t last; it’s supposed to be up in the mid-30s today. I can remember actually going snowmobiling on Thanksgiving Day as a kid, right from the front yard. We had a couple of those boxy old machines with a top speed of maybe 30 mph. An old Evinrude and an Arctic Cat or two. We’d tear around out in the field, my dad with two or three kids falling off the back. Those days are long gone, though. Still, it remains possibly my favorite holiday. Not for any of the traditional reasons, certainly, so I’m not entirely sure why. I think it’s because this tends to be my favorite time of year, and I associate it with snacking all day, mom producing delicious food smells in the kitchen, stuff like that. Today will be low key for us, mostly a chance to relax. I think we are going to venture up Rock Creek with our fly rods. Don’t expect to catch a damn thing, but it will be beautiful to be out. If all goes as planned, I’ll get to watch my favorite movie this evening, which I also associate with the season: The Last of the Mohicans. I hope everyone has a peaceful day.

Jack London country near Glen Ellen, CA, from my visit last August

Today also happens to mark the 96th anniversary of the death of one of my writing heroes, Jack London. I was fortunate to visit his grave site at Jack London State Historic Park back in August. I would have liked to spend more time there, but it was actually about to close when I arrived. I snuck in anyway so I could visit the grave, but didn’t explore at all beyond that. I ended up locked in the parking lot with my car on the wrong side of the gate. Luckily a guy who lives on premises had a key and let me out. When I apologized for the trouble, he said, “Well, it’s Jack’s land, and he wouldn’t mind.”

Jack is under that big rock

The Call of the Wild was a book I loved as a kid, and still love. I have been working my way through a collection of his short stories this year and intend to complete it this weekend. He lived an active life that fueled his writing, something I am striving to achieve as well before it’s too late. Visiting where he lived in California, the lands where The Call of the Wild begins, only makes the images that much clearer. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to see these places.

So Jack will be part of my holiday this weekend as well. Who knows, maybe I’ll watch White Fang or something. I’ll definitely be looking over his photography.