Regular readers will recall that my brother is taunting us from his extended holiday in the US. Despite myself, I must concede he is funny. Consider this email:
Report on the trip around the S. West. I set out from San Diego in a gigantic gas guzzling SUV, got up sold in the car rental place very easily; how Mum and I are related Iâ€™ll never know. First stop was Joshua tree NP in the dessert. The â€˜townâ€™ I was staying in was Yucca Valley, like a lot of rural places in America it was basically just a strip of fast food joints, motels and stores on the highway…..no character but tell me where in Ireland could you get a Burrito at 01.30am (and 7am too probably)?
Next morning I went to the rangers station. Even with my So Cal bronzed skin I suppose itâ€™s fair to say I donâ€™t look like a species thatâ€™s ideally adapted to life in the dessert, however, the ranger gave me a concerned look like I was a black guy going to a Ku Klux Klan meeting. I was warned of the dangers of dehydration and hiking in a remote area. Suitably apprehensive, setting out I nearly cleared a gas station of their entire stock of bottled water. On into the park…vast haunting open spaces…it was a strange landscape. The Joshua trees were named by Mormon settlers after the biblical character, there was some reason for this I didnâ€™t altogether understand.
It was hot but I did only short hikes. On the first hike, with the warnings ringing in my ears I loaded up on water, I was in more danger of a broken back carrying the water than I was of dehydration. The U2 album the Joshua tree was inspired by this landscape, no wonder they were obsessed by nuclear devastation. I was hoping to find the tree from the album cover, but it was take your pick from millions of them.
Next morning it was off to the Mojave desert , it made Joshua Tree look like a metropolis, there was a place with two broken down sheds that got a mention in the map (Cima check it on Google maps, seemingly the 2nd city of the Mojave). The main place in the park was Kelso, a renovated railway station, which served as a visitors centre. It was pretty cool saw a Union Pacific train passing very slowly, there must have literally been hundreds of freight containers (no passenger trains use this route any more). I enquired about hiking routes and got more concerned looks from the ranger but at this stage I was more confident of my dessert survival skills.
I was revelling in the vastness and solitude when suddenly the decision to rent the gas guzzler came back to bite me in the ass. Having passed up an option to get gas before I entered the park on the basis it was too expensive (although still half the price of Ireland) I found myself in the middle of nowhere when the display suddenly jumped from 100 miles to empty to 40 miles to empty. Night was falling (why did I ever watch that movie Deliverance) and the nearest gas station was 40 miles away. Driving style went from all action 4 wheel driving to Driving Miss Daisy. After a long and stressful hour, (no radio just in case…I didnâ€™t want to get stranded in the desert due to listening to Country and Western music), hoping that Sat Nav was correct in its identification of a gas station, and that it would also be open, eventually just as the message on the dash came up saying â€˜youâ€™re rightly fucked nowâ€™ out of the vastness came the magnificent sight of a Neon sign with a yellow shell. Phew!!! I pulled up to the pump and fed my thirsty chariot. As soon as the relief of not dying alone in the desert had faded I was mightily miffed at the price of the gas (…5 dollars a gallon, I suppose Iâ€™m related to Mum after all) and as well in my panic I filled up much more than I actually needed to get to Las Vegas where the tour was starting from.
I proceeded from there to Vegas without further incident. No roulette table for me though, early night was needed as I was up at the crack dawn to kick off my tour……to be continued, my hopeless editing skills have meant that my email about the tour has gone over the max before I even started talking about the tour……
Take it easy,
PS Before all the pedants get back I freely admit I’m not sure if spelling of desert is correct it could either be a harsh dry landscape or something sweet to be consumed after dinner (but rarely found in the parents’ house), it should be clear from the context which is intended.