Mojave Daze

February 1, 2020

I woke up at 2am in an Airstream camper in the middle of the desert, remembering that my car was stuck in a sandpit, and if I had to flee, I'd be doomed.

I lay in bed, listening to scratching sounds made on the other side of the camper wall. Whatever it is, at least it sounds small, I told myself. My dog had passed a few weeks earlier, and a solo escape to the desert sounded like a good idea at the time. I missed my partner. I missed my dog. I wanted to drive home but kept remembering that I couldn't.

The Amboy Salt Flats in Twentynine Palms, CA

Earlier that year, I had taken a trip to the Mojave with a girlfriend and fellow designer, right where I had chosen my solo weekend. We stayed in a small house, rummaged through thrift stores and browsed local folk art. We walked between yellow bush poppies sprinkled around the Amboy Crater.

The Glass Outhouse & Art Gallery

About six miles north-east of the crater sits Roy's Motel and Cafe. A photo-op pit stop known for its classic googie sign (an Americana aesthetic I'm a sucker for) and abandoned motel rooms. The gas was $4.97. So this is what they called highway robbery, I thought. Roy's station is in the middle of the Mojave desert, miles away from any visible home. A business dependent on the fundamental and impulsive needs of Route 66 dreamers, it is clear that the cranky old gentleman selling me a kitschy keychain and expensive gasoline is doing me a favor, not the other way around. We drove to the Mitchell Caverns only to learn that the tour was full. It was a weekend spent smelling fragrant chaparral, exploring the glass outhouse, hanging around Pappy & Harriet's, eating BBQ, and visiting Desert X sites. It was great.

Roy's Motel & Cafe in Amboy, CA

Back in my camper, I told myself to stop and reconsider the next time I desire to abandon my life to live in a romanticized vision I have of the desert. It was 53 degrees that morning. I stepped outside, hoping that somehow my car had miraculously come out of the sandpit, and I could feel free again.

The classic Route 66 shot just outside of Roy's

I sat on the deck of the camper, warmed up by direct sunlight. I remembered the coffee maker. Coffee makes any place feel like home. I left the door open as the coffee brewed and quickly forgot about the sandpit, the eight-hour drive the night before (that should have been three if it hadn't been Halloween), and the scratching critter I was bunking with.

Moments of zen in Joshua Tree, CA

The sun feels kinder on a desert morning. I was there to run a half-marathon I signed up for months before that would take place the following evening. The panic I felt in the months leading up to this event now gone, irrelevant in this moment of serenity and warmth. I looked forward to running, knowing that this feeling of inner peace would continue so long as I stayed immersed in the unconventional beauty of this wilderness.

With some help from a kind Airbnb host, I was out of the pits. I was off to eat breakfast. I drank more coffee and read short stories from my much beloved (and missed) Sci-fi, Fantasy, and Horror Lit class while scarfing down chorizo and eggs. Soon after, I was tracking down the race route, scanning the terrain, and mentally preparing myself to spend a few hours in deep thought, running under a starry desert sky.

Please remind me to abandon my life and live in a romantic desert.

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