Rolling Roads And Signposts
Four hours into my trip, I crossed the Colorado River on South California Avenue (CA-62) from Parker AZ into Earp CA. The two-lane road resembled a roller coaster as I drove further away from Arizona.
Up and over one steep bump, down the other side, and immediately up another. The up and down humps of the road seemed to appear as mirages as the sun beat down on the landscape ahead of me. Alone in the car, I would let out a little ‘weee!’ as I would clear each one.
Eventually, the road flattened out a bit as I continued to drive deeper into the Mojave desert. It was a peaceful and quiet drive, but not much to see. About 45 – 50 miles later, a random signpost caught my eye and I pulled off to take a picture. I was at the Iron Mountain Pumping Station turn off.
Previous visitors had created their own personal signs, attaching them to the already full marker. I stayed for a few moments, marveling at the at the signs that were shared by those who were there before me. Mostly I wondered if there was anything cool in the mailbox that was mounted near the top. (Here is the history I later found on this signpost)
As I pulled back out on CA-62, I had no idea there would be a test of my mettle just a short distance down the road. A test of whether I was truly as fearless as I professed to be.
A Fear Revealed
About 10 miles later, as I approached a stop sign ahead, I noticed my GPS indicating CA-62 took a sharp right at the sign.
There was a pull off at the turn and a very large 5th wheel was completely blocking my view to the right.
I decided to pull off for a moment to check my GPS and map. CA-62 on this stretch of road is also known as 29 Palms Highway and goes along the back side of Joshua Tree National Park. It was 50 miles to the next gas station in 29 Palms, but I had half a tank of gas. I was good to go.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the 5th wheel pulling off, heading in the opposite direction. I looked up and gasped. What I saw looked like a scene out of a movie, a beautiful scene, but desolate and frightening at the same time.
You Can’t Reason With Irrational
Ahead of me, I saw a lonely 2 lane road, dwarfed between two mountains, stretching as far as the eye could see. There wasn’t a single car in sight. The mixture of fear and fascination plastered on my face as I glanced in the mirror on my visor. If anyone had noticed my expression they would have gotten a good laugh.
I began to panic. What if I don’t have a cell signal, what do I not see on the other side of the mountain? What if I break down or have a flat tire? What if I break down or have a flat and a bad guy finds me? And finally, shamefully, I actually wondered how far I would have to backtrack to pick up Interstate 10. I even began to reroute my trip on Google Maps.
I wish I could say I immediately squashed those silly fears. Unfortunately, I can’t. It took me 10 minutes to decide what to do. What’s the worst that could happen? I have plenty of blankets, food, and water in a worst case. Roadside assistance in a best case. And pepper spray! I could blind someone if I had to.
Ultimately I remember thinking if I didn’t do it, I would deeply regret it. Was I an adventurous free spirit or not? What self-respecting nomad was afraid of a lonely road in the middle of the day anyway?! Not me damn it!
I Started up the road holding my breath at first. Torn between fear of the unknown and awe at the beauty of it all. At one moment I was gripping the wheel and focused on the road and mountains ahead of me. A moment later, mesmerized at the long downward road behind me in my rearview mirrors.
I don’t want to be cheesy and say it was a magical drive but… it was. Totally magic.
In fact, it ended up being the most fulfilling and liberating 50 miles I have ever driven. A smile plastered on my face all the way. I was proud of myself for going for it, mad at myself for almost not going for it, and absolutely giddy thinking about sharing the story with somebody.
I didn’t get any pictures, but they would have been magnificent. Although there were no other cars in sight (only about half a dozen passed me on the whole 50-mile stretch), the road was narrow and it never felt appropriate to pull off. Next time though, because there will be a next time!
A Spark Of Magic
I have tried to explain the mix of fear and excitement I felt in that moment when I first looked up. Seeing the desolate beauty of the road reaching up toward the sky.
I’ve tried to explain why I almost didn’t take that road and ultimately why I knew I had to.
Not many people get it, but I can see in their eyes when they do, though. It’s the same spirit of adventure that lives in me. The spark in my soul that makes it impossible to let anything prevent me from living my dream.
There have been some bumps in the road for me this year. I am happy to say things are now coming along nicely. Doors are opening and plans are falling together in ways I could have never anticipated.
There is still work to be done, but I will be on the road in the first half of 2017 easily. The first quarter if I’m extra successful. Experiences like this one definitely keep me focused on my future and excited to see what happens next!!