Friday, July 29, 2022

September 23

The morning worked out perfectly. Just as I had hoped there was a good deal of shade from the awning and a cool nip in the air. For a short time I had on my skull cap and jacket while I sat outside sipping coffee. There were a few vehicles in the area that weren’t there when I went to bed the previous night.

This was a trend I was noticing at these sites—the late camper that would pull in after dark and leave early the next morning. These were mostly young people who I suppose pushed themselves to the limit trying to wring as much out of the day as possible . . . and smartly didn’t saddle themselves with writing a blog about their experiences. Now that I’m thinking about it I don’t think I really saw any people my age at these BLM sites besides Steve, the birder/ The Environmental Toxocologist with VW Eurovan at Sage Creek outside of the Badlands. The older people were at the RV parks with their  fancy toilets, satellite dishes and reruns of the Golden Girls.

As the day warmed up I knew one thing I was going to have to make peace with, at least outside of the van, was the flies. In the van—it was full Dorsey—outside a more Zen like approach was required. I was going have to be like those cows you see in nature shows where a swarm the flies buzz around their heads and they just sit there placidly with that—you can’t break me—look on their faces. It worked out fine at first, while I had my jacket on and I couldn’t feel them on my upper body. Also, in the cool weather there was less of them. Next time I come here I’m going to be equipped with thin pants and long sleeve shirts.

But after a breakfast of egg white burritos with peppers and onions, as the day warmed up, I was severely tested. I never got used to the touchpad on my laptop and still used a wireless mouse. It took all of me not to lose my shit every time I went to move that mouse and a half-dozen flies would explode away like an umbrella opening or when three or four of the little winged bastards inched up and down my bare calves as I sat there under the Moonshade. But I did it. Ommmm.

About mid-day when the sun was high and the air was hot I decided go for a little walk to get some exercise. Ideally, a walk like this should be done in the morning, when the sun was low and it was cooler, but that’s when I worked on my writing and I wasn’t going to sacrifice that for a little exercise. So I stuffed a couple bottles of water in a backpack, dosed up on the sunscreen and brought a hand towel to cover my neck and headed out as the great Neil Young once said—"to where the pavement turned to sand.” Technically there was neither pavement nor sand, but you know what I mean.

I also did a very un-Zen thing as I made sure my phone would count my steps. I’ve highlighted my struggles throughout this whole trip be in the moment and experience what was right in front of my nose, but there I was in the desert like the robot I’ve been programmed to be counting my fucking steps. 

Fun fact for walkers. Did you know that the ten-thousand step threshold that is often cited as a daily goal for good health is not based on any real science? The Japanese inventors of the pedometer noted that the symbol in their language for ten-thousand sort of looked like a person in motion, so they pushed that as the standard. That ten-thousand steps you struggle to make every day, in other words, was just a marketing gimmick. Shocking, I know.

At any rate, I headed out toward the base of the surrounding hills toward a small rock formation jutting up from the ground. It seemed also that there was an interesting bluish splash in the formation. Of course, being a novice desert walker, I was concerned about getting lost and this little formation was more or less a straight shot across this flat wide-open space from the van—so I had some markers to follow.

Going along I was noticing how beautifully blue the sky was, and thought it was like the colors of the L.A. Chargers home jerseys. From there I started to think about what a tough out the Chargers would be for the Bills and what an absolute badass QB Justin Herbert was. But I caught myself and refocused, trying to empty my head. I wanted to be a man in space out here moving across the flat water starved land drained of all thought. I wanted to observe but not think. And there were things to observe as I walked along—remnants of old fire rings, birds flitting about, cigarette butts and tire tracks on the ground among other things.  Again, Ommmm.

When I got to the rock with the interesting blue splash it turned out to be spray paint. I walked up and around it and because of the spray paint I decided this was a place where teenagers came to drink—sorry, fairly or unfairly we make assumptions, just like if I saw bingo cards and markers I would assume it would be a place where old people congregated—I imagined this being the worst place to be an underage drinker because there was no way to escape when the cops came. I mean, you couldn’t just hop a few fences and be four blocks away in a few minutes like in my neighborhood. You were trapped here because you needed a vehicle and you weren’t going to scatter out into the desert to escape and just leave your car.  Woe to the Joshua Tree underage party life.

I was feeling pretty good and looking out from that little formation and couldn’t really see my van. I checked my phone and I had taken a shade under 4K steps and thought to myself as I took my first sips of water, this desert walking wasn’t such a big deal. Then, I started back and before long I’m sweating profusely, and my mouth and lips were parched. I started to check my step to gauge how far I was from the van. At about 6K steps the white vehicle in the distance seemed awfully far away. I turned back to use the rock formation as my guidepost, I noticed was a little off-line. I thought maybe I had just misjudged it when I started out and continued on, but as I got closer, I realized I wasn’t walking toward a van different from mine. I looked all around and maybe a quarter mile to the west there was my Big White Asshole.

I laughed at what a dumbass I was and made my way over to BWA at just over 9K steps—sweating profusely. It was from that point on for the next thirty-six hours I would deluged with sweat. Maybe I had infuriated the desert gods when I got to the formation with the blue spray paint and thought there wasn’t much to this desert walking. Even as I sat out under the stars that night it remained oppressively hot. As usual the night sky was magnificent, but it was hot. 

How we got here...
An Ode to Fire and Donna
Chronological Posts From The Road 
Going Mobile: What We Learned
Our Rig: A Pictorial Essay

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