We set out about a half an hour later than we'd meant to, owed in part to Theo sleeping in and me not being prepared at all and still recovering from the surreal experience of my High School Reunion the night before. In Santa Monica the air was thick with fog, damp and cold and atmospheric. As we made our way east on the 10, the mist thickened into rain here and there, and the dense fog took out buildings and made the sky ominous.
When we got far enough east we broke free of the gloom and the sun hit us. We stared at the wind farms, entranced by the spinning blades, and missed our exit to get onto the 62.
Realizing this about 10 minutes later we turned around and stopped at a nearby In-N-Out for the traditional road-trip lunch. We got back on the road, admired the wind farm again, and got onto the 62. A few little towns lined the road, and I wasn't entirely certain whether we were seeing towns trying to be quaint, or actual quaintness. I suspected the latter. Theo and I also discussed living in the desert -- something he could imagine doing and I had little interest in.
Nervous and over-eager after his failure to get us onto the 62, Theo attempted to take us to the Joshua Tree Memorial Lawn, thinking it was the entrance to the actual park. Not interested in viewing the cemetery, I stopped him before we could actually turn in and we made the correct turn a few minutes later.
Per our discussion earlier, I dreaded getting out of the car and into the hot sun a little. But when we stepped outside I got a pleasant surprise -- cloud cover. The sky was a beautiful shade of dark blue that photographs fantastically, and thin sheets of clouds kept the sun from searing our skin. We stopped a few times at different pull offs before making the commitment to hike at Hidden Valley, an easy 1 mile hike with little grade. I admired the colors of the foliage and the blue of the sky. The rocks and rock-climbers were kind of interesting too -- but I've never been a big rock person.
As we came back towards the beginning a large, dark form broke free from some bushes to our left.
Theo was both interested and terrified, and once I pointed it out to nearby travelers the tarantula had a whole group of admirers taking it's photo. Satisfied with a few photos taken at a distance, Theo and I moved on. We paused, and were confused by, the Wonderland of Rocks. Which looked a lot like the other rocks we had seen. So we continued on to Barker Dam. Signposts along the way were a little less than helpful, but we made it to the mostly-dry dam anyway.
I took a few scenic shots. Further on we found the petroglyphs, and a pair of hikers who were sitting in them and ruining most photo-ops.
We got back to the car and hit the road again. After a brief, exciting section of unpaved road we were at the exit and back out on the 62. And we hit the most desolate road in CA.
We put on the Penny-Arcade D&D podcasts, I pulled out my knitting, and for a long time we drove through empty desert. We saw a lot more people heading in the other direction -- maybe going home after a weekend in Vegas? And the sun set over the brittle, desert mountains, turning them pink. After a few hours we were in Needles, and at our hotel. The man who checked me directed me to the two dinner options in the area -- Mexican or Dominoes.
After leaving our stuff in the spacious but nondescript room we went out to the Mexican place. In a previous life it might have belonged to a fast-food chain. Guessing that the ambiance inside wouldn't be much, we hit the drive through and both got cheese enchiladas and orange drinks. Theo explained to me how during his traveling days he drank mostly water to be cheap, but treated himself to orange fanta on occasion. To this day Orange fanta is his travel drink.
At our hotel we dug into cheap, saucy Mexican food and enjoyed it. We lay across our beds, watched some Better Off Ted, and went to sleep around 9:30pm with some sheepishness, the roar of the AC loud even to my hearing-impaired ears.