“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.” – Ella Maillart
OUR 90 DAY ADVENTURE BEGINS
MARCH 1, 2018
I have pictures (and some writing) saved up from trips to Africa (3 months)/Cuba (2 months)/Other Trips/Travel Stories that I’ve not posted but hope to share in the future.
Now Carol and I are on the road for a few months in our camper/truck, which we named Paz. Carol and I have another traveling companion…an old buddy of mine named John…Steinbeck that is. Like some friends, you don’t know how much they mean to you until you’ve missed them for a long time…or have lost them forever. This has happened with many people I’ve grown close to quickly, especially while traveling; and with others I’ve known for years but now communicate with seldom. Steinbeck is one of those friends with whom I’ve lost contact in the last couple decades.
Carol and I have developed a habit of reading to each other at night before we sleep, and our first reading adventure on this trip is with Steinbeck and Charley (Travels With Charley) across the U.S. in his truck with a cabin on the back.
Desert Adventures / Desert Beauty
March 3, 2018 Some people don’t “get” the desert – flat, barren, dry, monotonous. The desert takes time to warm up to, for the colors (many, many colors) to sort themselves out, to separate and step forward as the eyes adjust. Yesterday was our first full day on the road and it didn’t turn out as planned. But then, we didn’t really have a plan.
We left on Thursday, March 1, about six hours beyond our “early morning departure”, only to run errands in Oakland for about an hour before circling back home for something we had forgotten, just as our tenants were moving in. By then it was after 4 pm and we drove until we were tired, staying the night in a rest stop, not really that far out of the Bay Area.
Yesterday we spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best route to Death Valley, considering snow in the Sierras and our eventual plan to go South to Joshua Tree. We ended up going South anyway, to avoid closed roads, almost to Bakersfield before cutting East and North towards Death Valley. And there our desert adventure really began – Just past Ridgecrest, we turned down a graded dirt road to enter Trona Pinnacles, a hauntingly beautiful, stark wonderland surrounded by distant mountains, and cobalt blue cloud-filled skies. Here, we were warned not to approach a desert tortoise, who may be able to drink water only once in 15 years (and lives to 80, undisturbed). If he is frightened into releasing his bladder, he will die, as that is where he stores the little bits of water he gets from dry desert plants. And here also, in the middle of bare, dry desert, we found someone had built us a labyrinth for our morning meditation. Turns out this is the place they filmed parts of “Holes”, “Planet of the Apes”, “Star Wars” and others. Part of our “adventure” was not so spectacular – our propane wouldn’t work, so no heat in the windy cold and no cooking the hot soup we had planned, but just take a look at the attached pictures and you will know the day was just perfect.
So today was a repair day – Allan, my hero, worked all day getting the propane fixed back in Ridgecrest, while I sat in MacDonald’s (out of the cold wind – did I mention wind? It’s blowing like crazy as I write this), but then we did drive a few miles to the Panamint Valley, surrounded by “purple mountains majesty” and other colors as well. Down another dirt road to spend the night, this time complete with hot soup and a heater to crawl into pajamas by. Good night!
The Missionary Couple.
Prior to entering Death Valley, Carol settled into her temporary office at McDonald’s (WiFi and no hassles—what else can you ask for?) for a few hours while I struggled to repair our propane system (runs heat, refer, etc.). She was befuddled when the cleaning lady struck up a conversation with her in Spanish, and asked if we were missionaries. An interesting question, considering I once toyed with the idea of becoming a Rabbi, after my Rabbi strongly insisted I do after my Bar Mitzvah. (I told him perhaps I should…but was destined to replace Maury Wills on the Dodgers, instead–seems I‘ve always had big dreams, eh?).
Turns out, we surmise, the cleaning lady came by her impression logically. When she was cleaning the Men’s room, I approached with a likely look of great disappointment. She asked if I’d like to use it and I responded, “Only if it’s not a bother, Sister.” I’ve taken to addressing most folks as “Brother” or “Sister” since it captures my attitude towards most others best, especially when in my “travel mode”. When I saw her waiting patiently to complete her cleaning routine, I walked up, smiled and said “Thank you my Sister!” Later when she saw me searching for the salt, she came across the entire restaurant to ask if she could help, and got me some from behind the counter. Most service people are used to being treated poorly or ignored (and being expected to speak English!), so we guess it made an impression. I like “Sister” and “Brother” increasingly, as I feel the spirit more, and remember names less!
Additional info about Ridgecrest from Carol: as we passed through Ridgecrest, we noted, and dismissed as kind of weird, a sign to the “Wild Donkey Retirement Ranch” (or something like that). Not having time to check it out, we moved on. Later in Death Valley, we learned that there is indeed a home for old wild donkeys in Ridgecrest: prospectors and others brought donkeys into Death Valley as pack animals, but apparently the donkeys had other ideas and started to build families and settle down, becoming wild. In fact they began to take over the valley and eat up all the food needed by native species, causing serious ecosystem decay. So, they were “retired” to Ridgecrest.
“Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.” – Eudora Welty