Well, I have returned from the adventure. Farewell has been said to a dear friend and he heads for the middle east (Nebraska-the middle east from where I sit in Arizona) and a new life.
After a steady morning at the office on Saturday I stopped for a few supplies, picked up my travel gear from the house, kissed the wife goodbye, hugged the grand daughter, and drove back to work where I picked up the 26′ Penske truck and car carrier.
I was on the road a few minutes after one o’clock, about an hour later than planned. As I drove west on I40 the cloud shadows danced across the desert valleys and shaded the rugged mountains, a pleasant site that never cease to amaze.
There was a temptation to avoid the longer grades, as well as traffic, and take old Route 66 but as time was of the essence resisted that urge. Instead I appeased my wanderlust by remembering past journeys across this vast desert and making plans for future ones. Perhaps this could serve as the topic for the promised pictures taken with my new camera.
With the exception of a few areas of rough pavement I held the speed at a steady sixty and listened to the audio book version of Band of Brothers. As the fourth CD continued the story of these amazing men I was rolled past Ludlow, through Barstow and closed in on Apple Valley, my destination.
Little time was spent on greetings as a friend of Jon’s had arrived to help but as he had to work the following morning could only do so for a couple of hours. With that in mind we focused on the task at hand and concentrated on loading items such as pianos and tool boxes.
It was somewhere around ten when Brian, Jon’s friend, bid us farewell and we realized we had forgotten dinner. I pride myself on adapting to challenges that arise in travel by taking a small kit with me.
If it will be a trip of more than one day and a night I carry a military surplus mummy bag, a small day pack with one or two extra pair of jeans as well as socks and underwear (long johns if it is winter travel), a sweater, razor and related toiletries, and a pair of insulated bib overalls, again for winter travel Additionally I take a small ice chest with a few cans of fruit and beans, some caned juice, and a couple bottles of tea.
For reasons unknown on this trip I added a small bag of salad. As it turned out this was a blessing.
To tired to seek food at that late hour we settled for a dinner that consisted of bag-o-salad (a bag of salad cut in two with both halves serving as a bowl), some cold beans, a can of apricots and some tea. The comradry of good friends and a roaring fire (the propane was already disconnected) to ward off the cold of an approaching storm rounded out the evening.
The following morning began with gathering the courage to climb from a warm sleeping bag, the smell of coffee, washing my face in cold water and a breathtaking view from the patio of daylight racing across the desert floor below towards the snow covered peaks on the horizon. This was followed with a first rate breakfast at Mollie’s in Apple Valley.
Then it was back to work. With each item loaded Jon severed another tie with the past and took another step towards transplanting tangible memories to Nebraska to serve as the foundation for a new chapter.
The well laid plans of mice and men would be an apt title for Sunday. Our plans were to finish loading by early afternoon and make a leisurely run back to Kingman following as much of Route 66 as possible.
By two with the truck only two thirds full and a fiercely beautiful desert storm quickly crossing the valley towards us we knew our plans were folly. So, as I moved things from the yard to the garage Jon drove to town for a bag of burritos.
As the storm raged and the temperature plummeted we took a front row seat in the garage. The rain, the wind, the thick black clouds that consumed the towering peaks made for a stunning show.
Quiet fortuitously we had just finished a pleasant, subdued lunch when the wind died, the rain subsided, and the sunlight broke from the thick black clouds to shine as a beacon on the glistening rock formations on the hill framed by the twisted arms of the Joshua Trees that seem lifted from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Now it was back to work.
Our focus on leaving Sunday afternoon kept us from planning for another night. As a result poor Jon found himself with nothing more than a pile of packing blankets and a seventy five year old quilt to ward off the cold once the fire had died down. This as well as the urge to finish had us up by 4:00 am and seeking more burritos, with little thought of the consequences, a mere hour later.
By late morning the task was done, his Dodge Dakota was on the trailer and we were on the road. Urban sprawl and the resultant ills, unchecked illegal immigration and the changes this has wrought on the culture there had driven a life long California resident and a bonafide desert rat to pack it in, to trade the sand, the sun, and the rocky crags for an island in Nebraska where you can still conduct business in English, where the neighbors take the time to chat, and teenagers have respect for themselves, for their elders, and their nation.
After fueling at a well worn truck stop in Barstow we took to the road less traveled, Route 66, and Jon began the reverse migration that I believe will soon sweep the southwest.
There is a delightful timelessness to traveling with a good friend down this road and through the harsh landscapes of the Mojave Desert. The dusty towns, the ruins, older alignments of the highway and awe inspiring views all blend into a wondrous tapestry.
There was little conversation as we were tired and full of reflection about times past. Still the trip was a pleasant one with dark, threatening skies capping the distant peaks, bright rays of sunshine spotlighting formations of dark volcanic stone and vestiges of when this was the Main Street of America passing by the windows.
After cruising the pre 1932 alignment through Goffs we were forced back to I40, the modern era and all that entails. A stop for fuel at Crazy Freds near Kingman, recovery of my car from the office and a fine dinner of avocado salad, garlic chicken pizza and black beans at the house marked the end of the adventure and another chapter.