Into the Desert

I stayed in Simi Valley longer than necessary, especially since when it was time for me to go, I saw that my driving time had increased by over an hour. Also, my route changed, freeing me from heavy traffic on the 210. I say the 210 because I’m originally from Southern California, and Southern Californians place the article before the highway name. I still say the 10, the 405, the 605, but I say 80, I say 50, I even say 5 because I never drove that highway until I was a Northern Californian, and Northern Californians cut to the chase when it comes to talking about their freeways. My GPS took me through what to me has always been uncharted territory: Pearblossom Highway, straight through the town of Pearblossom. My husband had warned me that the drive would be bleak, and indeed the drive home, along the 10, was trafficked and uninspiring, aside from the dinosaurs in Cabazon, which I hadn’t expected, surrounded as they were by outlet malls and casinos. But that came much later, after the weekend, after hours of yoga and offerings of bliss.
The town of Pearblossom exists along a cool strip of desert: a shock of early Joshua Trees and yuccas, wooden structures, brown-skinned white people with long beards and cowboy hats. In retrospect I might have stopped, but at the time I thought if I kept driving I might still make it to the early check-in yoga practice, which turned out not to be the case.
No worries, I kept driving as the road became a smooth series of dips and undulations. I don’t like driving. I was in a pretty bad accident several years ago and it has made me shy on the road, not even to mention all the asshole drivers and the police cameras at every intersection, but this road was lovely to drive along. I went fast, cresting and falling. The road like an ocean, like a heartbeat. I stopped for gas. I thought this might be the last gas station I would see, as it seemed as if I was entering deep desert.
Then suddenly, the desert spit me out. I was near San Bernadino, surrounded by fast food chains and traffic and strip malls. I got out of there as fast as I could and was happy when I turned onto the 62 and the landscape again began to settle itself. I was listening to Like Water for Chocolate on my CD player and I pulled over to read my screenshotted directions, and I read the word Kickapoo Trail at the same time the audiobook reader said “Kickapoo Indian.” That kind of thing happens to me sometimes; I drive a lot and listen to a lot of audiobooks when I drive and there are moments of synchronicity where I see a sign that says, for instance, “Wholesale,” at the exact moment the reader reads the word. But Kickapoo seemed random as hell; it had to mean I was heading deep into something magical, and indeed I was.
The sun was setting when I arrived in Pioneertown. I was alone on the road, or maybe I was alone on the moon. I ejected my audiobook and found a classic rock station (or anyway it was a station that was playing Aerosmith) and I drove along this dirt road on the moon with my music and my sleepy exhilaration. It had been a longer drive than I had counted on, but I could see the lodge up the hill. I paused for a jackrabbit, and then I made my way past the windmill and the Joshua trees.

to be continued…