The freedom of leaving the camper behind and exploring really overtook us for a minute there. Slowed our roll over the weekend. What a novelty to not be the two-bodied wandering snail.
On Saturday the campground filled with people. For comparison the campgrounds in Texas were limiting capacity for social distancing in already spread out campsites down meandering roads. Joshua Tree National Park campsites are set up for efficient space use, not privacy.
It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to the sounds of people. I listed the noises. Acoustic guitar. Radio. Laughter. Stories. Campfire. Child talk. Child barking. The family calls the child chipmunk. Car doors shutting. Generators. I was pleasantly shocked to find it soothing. I’ve been so isolated for so long.
A nap. Those are always wonderful. One of life’s great joys.
Felt like picking up the paint brush. First time since the kitten tragedy.
On Monday we went in search of a cracked road. Found The Hammertown event in the middle of the desert. Superb. Just what I always wanted to find. It was over (thankfully) so we drove part of the course (maybe I shouldn’t of been so thankful, that was rough) looking for the cracked road. Passed a guy picking up vehicle particles. Turned out the fault line lied just out of reach on military property.
Tuesday. Another drive to the Salton Sea, to the south end. Looking for mud volcanoes, which had to be on private property. Other sites: apocalyptic seascape, obsidian outcrops, Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge, geothermal power plants.
Sunset at Keys Lookout. The sky, mountains and Salton Sea in the distance all shades of pink.
Wednesday travel day. Time to mosey on out of Joshua Tree.
These are long days. These are long days. These are long days.
We let go of our idea of how life was supposed to be as our best layed plans fell apart. Faced with the long dark northern winter during a pandemic, not working and living in our isolated house, Kurt (my husband) and I, decided to return to the road.
The plan: Head due west into the setting sun into uncharted territory before heading to the Arizona desert.
The reality: We drove directly into the first major storm system of the year.
On an inauspicious frosty October morning we departed from our home peninsula set snuggly among the Great Lakes and headed west. At first the day was bright and full of hope. It ended with us colliding with a snow storm somewhere in Minnesota. That is where, after spending a night in a glorified parking lot, we decided to travel directly and quickly south.
South through Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas.
Here was our dilemma: The plains states were being hit with the winter storm front. It was sweeping down across Colorado, Oklahoma and parts of Northwest Texas. The southwest states were still getting triple digit heat. The fires were still burning in the west. And the Gulf of Mexico was being hammered by a historical hurricane season.
So… Texas Tour 2.0
Initially Texas was just going to be a place to stall for time while the weather cleared. Then Texas became ground zero for kitty search 2020. I think I’ll save that story for another day. However: cause and effect.
The one place in Texas I wanted to see was Caddo Lake. It was a challenge to get a reservation in the campground so I settled for just one night. We skipped around a few different Texas State Campgrounds before and after that.
We languished for weeks on the Gulf Coast and I’m not sorry for the experience. We discovered there were places along the Texas Gulf Coast where camping was free right on the beach. (watch those tides though). Imagine falling asleep to the rhythms of ocean waves, windows open, camper door open all night to humid breezes. Waking to red sunrises and going to bed after the sun bleeds into the night. Everything is covered in a layer of salt. Your hair, your skin, your bed, the floor… Great Blue Herons fishing in the waves next to you… Days filled with the zen of watching the tides erase your footprints.
After Texas we had to plan how to get to Arizona. We needed to trek across Texas, driving through El Paso (one of the Covid hot spots), and across southern New Mexico. Camping to out-of-state residents in New Mexico was discouraged in state parks. The Covid numbers were causing tighter restrictions and shut downs. Traveling in late 2020 required more planning. What is open, what is closed and what requires reservations in advance. Each state may be tighter or more relaxed on masking which might reflect on the data for infection rates. Who wants to risk getting seriously ill hundreds or thousands of miles away from home… and out of network. We avoided high Covid areas and areas that weren’t taking masking precautions.
Arizona. Reliably sunny. Warm days, cold desert nights filled with wide open starry skies and the singing of coyotes. Night after night of perfect sunsets. The days running together. This year we miss the restaurants and the arts. The excitement of new roads. This slow year. I squat in the desert making art. Mostly waiting for clouds. When the clouds come I’ll get to photograph something new.