Day 11. 1/21/2016. Starting Odometer: 143993. Final Odometer: 144253. Mileage: 260. Total Mileage 2087.
(Today’s episode has musical accompaniment. Press play to listen while you read!)
In March of 1987, I bought my first Compact Disc. Oh sure, I’d bought records before in the past. The Star Wars soundtrack, Sean Cassidy, “Spooky Sounds of Halloween” and all the classics. I’d bought plenty of tapes before: Christian artists like Whiteheart and Michael W. Smith, popular performers like Weird Al Yankovic and Disco Duck. But the future waits for no man, and I had me a CD player; I was gonna use it. I bought U2’s new album, The Joshua Tree. I think it’s fair to say that that album became a massively influential part of my life, and indeed, every succeeding U2 album after became must-buy items.
I drank Bono’s poetry like water, and incorporated his poignant lyrical sense into my own. I spent hours a day belting out the songs on that album in my VW Deathmobug, driving just to have something to do while the music played, and no one to tell me I couldn’t.
So I as I pulled out of the Furnace Creek campground in Death Valley, I cranked up The Joshua Tree, and played it as I crossed desert after desert, until I reached Joshua Tree National Park. I sang my heart out. I cried, as it seems I do a lot now, when the words were more powerful than my broken heart could sustain. And the miles passed.
I crossed the I15 at another Baker, this time Baker, California, where once upon a time there was a Bun Boy restaurant, and the world’s tallest thermometer, to tell you how hot it was. Bun Boy isn’t there anymore (I think it’s a Greek restaurant now), but the thermometer remains.
After that, it was south and west, into the Mojave Wilderness, heart of the Mojave Desert. It turns out, coming full circle for U2, that the famous cover shot of The Joshua Tree was actually photographed somewhere here, and not in the national park. Easy to see why: there were whole forests of the lumbering cactus plants. Other things in Mojave weren’t so easy to figure out. There were huge levees, trenches and ramparts built out of dirt along the northern side of the freeway, and I wondered who or what had been moving all that earth around, and for what purpose.
Day turned to dusk as I approached 29 Palms, both the home to the US Marine Corps and the gateway to Joshua Tree. The sun was red across the desert’s rugged horizon. I wondered if that meant any sailors this far from the sea would take delight. With a late departure from Furnace Creek, and an early sunset in Joshua Tree, the day seemed wasted, even more so because I knew I was on an tightening deadline. I had a lot of places to go, and the time to get there drew shorter every moment.