Thursday, August 4, 2022

September 15

Caroline and I were up early and on the road by 8am for Joshua Tree. We were looking at almost five hours to get to the park. Both Google and Garmin wanted us to go north back to Rt. 40, but I didn’t want to maneuver the switchbacks and the higher elevations of Flagstaff. Instead, we continued south toward Sedona which was downhill by way of Rts. 89 and 17 and it was the best driving decision I made the whole trip.

We encountered truly stunning terrain with the rising sun kissing the face of the craggy red buttes as we descended toward Sedona. Though we only stopped for gas and a greasy microwave sausage and egg sandwich on a croissant it was obvious why everyone comes here. The little town was incredibly bright and sunny, lined with endless shops, restaurants and cacti. Of course, as we slowly made our way through the turn-abouts that cut through the center of town I thought about the water source and how many teacups Donna would find here. (Ground water is the primary source).

But Donna wasn’t here, and we wouldn’t be stopping to check out the shops. We kept moving and listening to “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling.” Goddamn Pope Julius II was busy in the early 1500’s. In addition to ministering to the church, commissioning art projects such as Michelangelo’s, Sistine Chapel he was also leading a Vatican Army against the French. Once out of Sedona we finished up the book—despite the many obstacles presented mostly by Julius, Michelangelo finished the Sistine Chapel along with many other projects and passed away in 1564 at the age eighty-nine.

From there we skirted around Phoenix onto Rt. 60 toward Wickenburg—and it was on. More desert driving on a dusty two-lane 65mph road with almost no traffic. We again hit the shuffle on the June 25, 2020 Playlist and sailed along passing the few cars we encountered in total jam mode. We listened to this playlist again because it was rather large, clocking in at some ninety songs and because Caroline had an affinity for the Outlaw genre. I exposed my kids to a lot of music growing up and they latched onto and expanded on most of it. My son Patrick for instance, recently told me his top five bands are:

1.The Roots
2. Dead Kennedys
3. New Order
4. Wu Tang Klan
5. Gorillaz

I can’t take credit for The Roots or the Wu Tang Klan, but the other three—yes, I led him in that direction. And yes, the explanation for these choices can be described as—good goddamn parenting. And though Caroline heard her share of Neil Young, Wilco and Drive By Truckers growing up she too expanded on what she was exposed to. She’s a big fan of Dolly Parton and others like “Hurray for the Riff Raff” and Sarah Jarosz.

So, we rolled along and crossed over the depleted Colorado River into California, hitting the gas along Rt. 10. Last year from the moment when we entered California on Rt.40 we hit a  ton of traffic and I was expecting that again, but out here in the desert— nothing. I can’t begin to tell you the joy I was feeling as we flew along, especially when we came upon things like the burned-out .gas station where people disposed of their old shoes. Neither Caroline had a pair to leave . . . but next time.

We enjoyed the rest of the ride into Joshua and once we entered the park went immediately to the enormous Split and Skull rock formations. Like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison these formations were the result giant underground magma collisions about two-billion years ago. These magnificent creations have been characterized by geologists as “magmatic intrusions.”

Throughout this whole trip encountering the enormity of these rocky “intrusions” on the surface of the earth its often seemed to me as we drove along like we were travelling on the face of some kid and these rocks were acne. Here in Joshua, they were most pronounced and all the tetracycline in the world wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. Time would be the only thing that changed anything here.

After checking out those rocks we were going go hike the one-mile Hidden Valley loop. We had lost cell service in the park and I asked Caroline which way we needed to go since she had the map. She got a little short with me saying we could do it tomorrow because she received an email from the prospective animation studio that she signed the NDA for and had a Zoom call with them at 5pm which was like in two hours.

We quickly changed gears and instead of going to a dispersed BLM campsite twenty minutes to the north, outside of Yucca, we found a spot at Belle, inside the park for $15. We then drove to the Starbucks in Twentynine Palms, the little desert town along Rt 10 from where we entered the park.

We had some time to spare and I asked Caroline if she didn’t need to spruce herself up a bit and maybe put on a clean top for this Zoom meeting, but she looked at me like a guy who thought you still found a job through the want-ads of your local newspaper. She told me it would be fine.

The interview was with the art director of a new show being produced by Shadow Machine called “Praise Petey”—a rom-com with an occult angle. We sat at opposite ends of a table across from each other. It was very weird to watch her do this meeting. I was like . . . smile more . . . sustain eye contact . . .tell them you were travelling all day . . . your greatest weakness is you’re constantly doing practice backgrounds and don’t take time for yourself . . . in five-years you see yourself as a valued member of the Shadow Machine family—just like a guy who looks for a job in the want-ads of a local newspaper.

But she totally ignored me and the advice I was trying to send her telepathically. With an oh well, kind of shrug she said it went fine and they said they would be sending paperwork in the next day or two, which got me all excited. But a couple fifteen times before Caroline had heard—we’ll be sending the paperwork in a day or two, so she was optimistic but cautious.

We went by the Joshua Tree Inn and Caroline informed me that’s where Gram Parsons died. She also told me his manager unsuccessfully tried to burn his body at Cap rock in the park. We decided to look for it the next day and listen to Parson’s music tonight looking at the stars. Unfortunately, I had yet to download any of Parson’s stuff and we didn’t have cell service. So, after our dinner of beyond burgers and store-bought potato salad we listened to my very chill “Save Me,” mix. We also checked out the Milky Way and the incredibly surreal stars.

We had a great, fun day of travel and saw a lot of cool things. But this job thing not only was hanging over Caroline, but it was also hanging over me. Beyond some secondary support it was very frustrating  not to be able to help her in a more tangible way. After not speaking to each other for a while as we took in the cool night sky, the contemplative intro to “Untitled” came into the rotation and I asked Caroline if she knew who this was. After a moment she said, “The Cure.” Her answer prompted me to respond in an over-the-top voice, “That’s why I’m father of the year!”

But given my feelings of helplessness, I didn’t really believe it and neither did Caroline probably.

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




  1. The Dead Kennedys are a difficult band to like. I tried, a few times. Viva Las Vegas is a good cover. Holiday in Cambodia has some very nice guitar work. Jello sounds like Pee Wee Herman x Gym Rat. Too strange. The Roots are a different story. Illadelphia Halflife is a great CD. Love the CD cover too.