Another Desert dusk and the stars are gaining glow. A.j. And I are standing in the sandy clearing at the Valley Falls Safety Rest Area 20 miles past Baker, California. Baker is supposedly the hottest place in America and did you know they have the worlds biggest thermometer? It's great. It's actually not that big, fifty feet maybe? But it sure is cool looking, all lit up in Red at night with a bright neon sign reading "GATEWAY TO DEATH VALLEY" but the only road leading out of Baker, the 15, is a direct route to Las Vegas, which is two hours away from Death Valley. Either way, it was a nice landmark to strive for two nights ago walking in to town. And it's the world's biggest thermometer!
The town of Baker is really just a mile long strip of Gas Stations and very sanitary fast food joints located in bigger mini fast food joint strip malls that also sell Leather Vests, Cheap Beer, Crude Bumper Stickers and other parifinalia mish mosh. And Jerky. Lots of Jerky. It's Great. Not really, but it's pretty convenient and fun and a real slice of life. Subway, Jack-In-The-Box, Burger King, Denny's, Mad Greek, Pizza Hut, TCBY, and Quiznos to name a few other slices. A real fast food Americana salad. Baker. The Temperature Read 48 Degrees walking out.
As we stare at the moon after an exhausting day A.J. and I comment on how it's changed since we began our journey. It was just a sliver of light at 5 a.m. On Venice Beach two weeks ago. Now it has become near full, quietly significant and noticeable.
Walking through the dessert is like terracing an Alien planet. Behind us the Sun, ahead the Moon and the powder sky swells with pulsing clouds in the broad dessert daylight. My feet trek and trek across the brown red dirt of the Mojave and she hangs steady, white, right in front of me and it doesn't feel real. The mountains in the distance seem to grow smaller with each step, expanding and contracting. I think I'm losing it. Walking towards them they seem more and more foreign as little tiny lizard guys scurry in front to hide under dried out dessert brush. They look like miniature dinosaurs. They basically are.
Every few miles I would spot a tiny pink flower growing through the dried out bedrock of a once stream or a crazy looking flat cactus I've never seen. It's amazing where life can sprout. Its amazing what life will sprout. I watch my step every step for the massive ant hills that spread. Not just for fear of tripping and being eaten alive by alien desert ants but those hills look like they took a really long time to build. This entire sweating excursion is in a place I've never been with terrain I've never walked, weary creatures I've never seen and the whole time the moon is right there staring me in the face as the Sun, brighter than I have ever felt, strikes my back...It may as well be Mars. These are just a few of the unique qualities of the West that you have to see to disbelieve.
An old acting teacher of mine lives by the moon. He's a Viking. A striking, funny guy of five foot five with a beer belly and something timeless about him. His bright white hair bristles against his bright white viking beard and personalized ADIDAS sneakers. I began to notice he would often subtly dictate our classes based on the moon.
"New Moon this week. Tough one..."
Things like that. New moons are always tough. He was also a mask maker, making masks during different cycles of the moon. I pretended to understand what he meant at the time but I was 22 and thought I knew everything. I'm excited that it will be a full moon in Vegas this weekend. I am starting to fall into it's calendar rather than our own.
Five hundred years ago sailors crossed worlds on our earth using just the stars and winds to guide them on hand crafted massive wooden ships built to handle the hells of the sea. For all they knew they were going to fall off. That's guts. Mental strategy and problem solving used in full force with physical endurance and grit. True brilliance, one taken for granted now. We drive and drive, so comfortable. "Don't move to L.A. the traffic is a nightmare." Mapping the Arctic was a nightmare, just ask Captain Cook.
We live in a "Complete" World now, A globe, A Mapped Planet. Google Earth it, you'll see. Our GPS loses power on the way to Target, A business meeting, Disneyland or wherever and we freak out. People are so preoccupied in they're own world it seems we have forgotten to look up. Walking is meditative. Walking the Mojave is spiritual. When you work your body as hard as your mind there is a satisfying clarity and good nights sleep ahead.
The moon grows a halo piercing clearly through the sailing night clouds. A.J. Says its bad luck almost in sync with the cawing crow that swoops in front of us. We laugh. The air is much colder now than the day and I want to go back to the R.V. As I stare silently at the sky I think...
I've looked at the map my entire life. I always saw California, I always believed It was there. I assumed. Now that I am walking it, I see California, and I can't believe I'm here.