Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joshua Tree

ALL CAMPGROUNDS FULL. Of course they were. It was Friday afternoon at 4:00, but we’d been driving across the nothingness of the central valley, through towns that were literally named “Boron,” * for hours and had our hearts set on staying on the park.

* Quiet down, science geeks. The fact that the town is named after the 5th element in the Periodic Table does nothing to make it less boring.







“Are you planning to camp in the park?” the stiff brimmed rangerette asked.

“Well, to be honest, we’d planned to but I fully understand from the signs that that’s not going to be possible,” I lied, already scheming on how we could weasel our way into a spot. “Maybe we’ll just drive around and take in the sunset for a while before heading to town to grab a hotel room.”

By the way, stopping like five feet out from the window of the ranger kiosk so she had to lean way out to give us our park brochure was all part of my plan. An off-balance adversary is more easily vanquished.






We drove the curvy road into the park, rationalizing that it wouldn’t hurt just to take a look at a few of the campgrounds, just in case there was an unannounced gathering of members of Expedition Portal or Adventure Rider or California Bluegrass Association or hell, we’d even pretend to fit in with the Southern California Bedwetters Society if it meant we could camp in the park. After not seeing a single SCBS bumper sticker on any of the cars, we went to plan B: dirtbags like ourselves who’ve been where we are now and may feel karmically obligated.

On the first try, we met Eric, Sarah (sorry if that’s spelled wrong) and Derek, a husband, wife and friend, up from Ventura County for a climbing weekend. After regrettably revealing that the brochure for our roof top tent showed a bikini clad adventuress popping the top and the trio subsequently insisting that if I did the same we could share their campsite, I had a feeling we all just might get along. 

Turns out, they had several friends in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco where we live and generally enjoyed the same type of humor - you know, the kind where your significant other needs to repeatedly tell you to “dial it back a notch” (sorry if I was too insistent, Ann) – and we had a nice night, them warming their Southern California blood playing dominos in the back of Derek’s Honda Element and us in our chairs continuing a game of travel Scrabble we started at the Overland Rally in October.









At one point, Sarah commented that it was good that we played actual Scrabble together rather than playing online. She said they have some friends who would actually lie in bed next to each other playing Scrabble on their phones with other people. That is SOOOO not us we countered. While we each have 5 or 6 online games going at one time, I recently decided to stop playing in bed because my dreams were always about trying to move parts of my life around to get triple word scores.

Since we’ve started to play more Scrabble lately, we’ve been forced to learn some of useful words like “qua” that we’d previously scorned our geeky friends for playing. We decided that we would have to use a word in a sentence before we could play it to prove we knew it’s meaning. You know, like “qua” means “as.” Jeez, qua if I would play it without knowing how to use it correctly!

Before we left for the trip, when anyone would ask what we were doing with our house while we were gone, I’d say “You’re going to rent it.” I figured eventually it would be true or at least they might have a friend interested. In the end, that’s exactly how we found our renters. So when Eric asked what we were going to do with the truck when we get to South America, I of course, replied, “You’re going to buy it and drive it back up.” Having met Eric and Sarah two weeks before the sale of their house is final and they plan to relocate to Lake Tahoe, we found out the next morning that my comment inspired some interesting pillow talk that night. Now, if you’ll all just go buy Sarah’s very interesting sounding books on Amazon, we can close this deal…

The next day I did a little climbing on their ropes before they headed home and we settled in for another beautiful but chilly night. Within 2 minutes of them leaving, a car stopped and asked if they could share our site. Apparently we’d cultivated our “dirtbag” look enough in the past couple days to look like easy targets.







These people were doing some kind of topless photoshoot and didn’t seem to like us following then around every rock outcropping for a better view.


The next day, we headed toward Tucson, our last stop before the border. The Cholla Garden in the southern part of the park was particularly beautiful and interesting.








I feel that these two pictures conclusively prove that the Cholla cactus a) is a robot and b) can take the form of the gopher from Caddyshack. Care to refute?