I took a quick run around the Joshua Tree one last time and still didn’t find what I was looking for or Cap rock, which was perfectly fine with me. The real highlight of the morning was a second chance to ride that wonderful, desolate desert road Rt. 62 out of Twentynine Palms going east this time.
As you’re leaving the little desert town there’s a traffic sign that is both ominous and informational—“Next Service 100 Miles.” And, that was no bullshit. A hundred miles of desert nothingness, where the steam rose up from the ground and the air was like the breath of Hades. It's really true—I saw it all from the comfort of my air-conditioned cab, listening to Lucinda Williams with a cup of coffee. Also, like every couple of miles along the side of the road there were emergency call boxes if you got into trouble. So scary without being all that scary or inconvenient.
As I moved along at about 75mph I thought about the people who laid this road through the desert—the working conditions, how they ended up with the job and what they might have thought about while forging this road through this desert wasteland. Construction began in the 1930’s when asphalt was laid on the dirt road that stretched from Palm Springs to the Yucca Valley and finally to the Marine base in Twentynine Palms in the early 60’s. In 1970 asphalt was laid on the hundred mile stretch of dirt road I was travelling on out of Twentynine Palms and extended to the state line at the Colorado River. Though an aging hipster from New York like me found this arid sweep of land breathtaking I can imagine the thirsty work crews sweating their days away seeing this as a little more than some kind of boondoggle and saying things like . . . “it’s a paycheck” . . . “it’ ain’t my money”. . . “more bullshit government waste.”
Well, thank you for your
service various road crews over the years, you got me in and out of California
in high style and this is the way I’m always going to come and leave in the
The road became a touch
greener and then redder through Arizona as I went through Wickenburg, around
Phoenix and up Rt. 17 toward Flagstaff. My next stop was the BLM FR 525 (Forest
Road) just south of Sedona. The on-line reviews of the ten-mile dirt road that
fingered off into four different camp sites were: the road is really rocky and
it sucks, the road is moderately rocky and is okay and road is a breeze and
leads to excellent campsites.
Still a little gun shy
and worried I was doing some long-term damage to the van going over these
choppy red dirt roads I almost pulled off at the first site that was pretty
close to 17. It was actually too close. A half-mile further down the road on I
turned off onto what was an entrance to a well-groomed rodeo pit—giddy up. From
there I went past another site that was pretty full. Becoming discouraged I
gave myself a cut off at the five-mile mark—if I didn’t find anything by then I
would go back and make do with the site near Rt.17. But just shy of that
five-mile marker I landed at the almost empty Cockscomb site which had a stunning
view of a two-toned stone mesa in the distance. It was an oval shaped area
that didn’t have any designated spots or services and could probably fit a
dozen campers comfortably. It was perfect.
The only other camper at Cockscomb at that point was a guy named Terry—I seemed to be running into a lot of Terry’s lately—and he came out of his trailer and asked if I had a dog because there was a very active pack of coyotes in the area that nearly got his dog the previous day.
After I unpacked a bit I
went for a walk on a trail leading away from the camp site. Though I didn’t
have my dog, I became a little irrational about said coyotes. I knew the
likelihood of getting attacked was very low, but I still worried about it, not
because I was afraid of getting hurt so much, but because it would be just my
luck to be the one person to be mauled by the crafty little vermin and that
would be so embarrassing. Irrational too since there was zero evidence
to support this idea of being lucky or unlucky—in most things fate was
determined by my good or bad decisions not luck.
Nevertheless, I did the
smart thing. I turned around went back to the van, turned on some music, poured myself a drink and looked up at the sky and the amazing landscape. It
was coming up on dinner time and a couple of other campers pulled into
Cockscomb and I became I became “Mr. Helper,” telling them what Terry had told
me about the coyotes. I felt like a silly gossip, but I was a little buzzed and
it felt like good information to pass along. But as it turned out I only heard a
single coyote howling for the briefest time unlike most of the other places I
had been on this trip.
But it hardly mattered
as the stars started to twinkle in the dusky sky and I settled into my peaceful
buzz with some old school NRBQ spinning on the music box. In that state I
decided there were worse things to be than a silly gossip.
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