Setting the dial to ‘adventure’
Once again I set my alarm early yet awoke long after dawn broke and too early for breakfast at the hotel It was nice walking into the summer like weather as I prepared the car for my last trek before officially rebounding to Colorado later in the day. I had a pretty daunting schedule ahead of me for the day, but if all went well success was in the cards. A quick stop at Carl’s Jr. and a little go juice before heading to the Mojave and I was on the road again.
The first lesson of the day is understanding the scale of the West; those big states on the map. What looks like a half hour trip away is more like two hours. Even though I planned this trip so well, two hours seemed like a lot for a stop I wasn’t even all that crazy about visiting. It just kinda fell into place once I cancelled the ocean version of the trip. At one point once I finally entered California (making it my 25th state!) I nearly abandoned my plan to hit the Mojave Preserve and exit off early to go straight to Vegas.
It would have been a good plan, but then I wouldn’t have this story to tell you.
The Mojave National Preserve was my plan B option of not going to Joshua Tree National Park. Seemed pretty harmless to make drive through it to hit I-15 to Vegas. I entered in some of the finer points of the map into my photographic memory bank the night before and in I went. Immediately the mountains before and after I got there were stunning, and the plants and animals were cool too.
There wasn’t many times along the way that I was in such awe that I’d actually stop the car to get a better shot, but this place was full of those times. The mountains, the clouds, the air, the wildlife. Awe!
As I neared the mountains though my expectations turned towards the unexpected. The pavement ended. Ok. I figure my trusty Camry could handle some dirt roads through the desert. But as the roads got narrower, sandier, rockier, and less predictable overall I was a bit unnerved. I was nearly taken out by a jeep taking a turn a little too wide to give you an idea of what I was up against. I should have been in a dune buggy instead of a Camry.
Upon hitting a crossroads and I didn’t know which way to turn, with ZERO cell service mind you, I really felt umm, concerned. I went which way my instincts told me, but I hit this clearing with loads of photographic opportunities. I figured it was a good time to gather myself and get some good cactus scratches on my leg too.
Still a little panicked I remembered that the night before I had looked at the map on my laptop before going to sleep and the page was still open. So lo and behold a ‘portion’ of the map where I was still open, but though I remember I needed to favor going NW, the map showed me the sure-fire way of getting out was going east. I flipped the car around and opted to go east against my instincts.
This preserve didn’t look all that big on the map, but has I went east to find the next road going north to the interstate was not a position I wanted to be in for what was probably for an hour through deep sand and a never-ending horizon into the middle of nowhere. At one time I bottomed out the car so bad my head hit the roof, and I once got out of the car swearing up and down that I had blown a tire only to find out I miraculously had not. Again this road going north still had not appeared and I was on the verge of tears when it finally did appear with a sign saying another 23 miles to I-15. Fortunately, remember I bought plenty of Kroger water in case I got lost in the desert, and I had an ample supply of beef jerky and gas. Still, the enormity of this preserve not only humbled me, but it put a huge dent in my time budget.
I did see two jackrabbits, three cows, and most importantly a roadrunner on my big excursion through the desert.
As I neared the northern part of the preserve I began to see something called civilization, er paved roads, and the interstate leading to Nevada wasn’t far away. I had never been so relieved.
I was still on Pacific time and it was already late morning. I was losing a grip on this day and it was barely underway. My wish list for the rebound trip was quickly being erased. Time and luck was not on my side and Vegas wasn’t even in the picture yet. But at least I was out of the desert alive and without a broken down car. I won this round, desert!