Category: California – December 2016

One Year Later: My Desert Awakening Went Back to Sleep

One Year Later: My Desert Awakening Went Back to Sleep

One year ago today, December 28, 2016, I stood in the golden sun of the California desert taking in Salvation Mountain. The day shimmered with magic, possibility, and the excitement unique to being on a journey.

sal·va·tion
noun: salvation
1.
preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.
synonyms: lifeline, preservation; means of escape, help, saving, savior

During my week of desert solitude, I found and lost myself a hundred times over. Each new vista that spilled away to the mountains that sit at the edge of eternity breathed new life into me. The cycle tore me down to the raw meat of who I am – weak and scared, and then mile by mile, it built me up again. I found salvation in the controlled burn.

By the time my ride came to an end, I thought I came away with some understanding. I was so sure that I took with me a change. But here I am, one year later, and I don’t think I have. I am that same uncertain person who went fumbling around in the desert for answers. How could I have learned nothing?

Walking With Ghosts in The Desert

Walking With Ghosts in The Desert

The Goldwell Open Air Museum sits just outside of the northeastern entrance of Death Valley and at the edge of the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada. I’d seen photos of the sculptures that grace the grounds many times online. But, seeing the ghostly shapes of Albert Szukalski’s pieces in person caused a visceral reaction – somewhere deep inside, things felt off kilter. The figures possess a powerful and strange voodoo.


The Last Supper – Albert Szukalski

I find this figure to be particularly haunting.

What an incredible gift to have, to be able to make people feel something with your art.

New Year’s Day with Beggars in Death Valley

New Year’s Day with Beggars in Death Valley

On New Year’s Day, I awoke in Las Vegas. The rest of the world was still asleep after a long night of reveling. As I rode down the strip towards old Las Vegas and the Freemont Street area, a less-than-glamorous film stuck to everything. Once outside of the fantasy bubble of a bazillion-dollar casino hotel, the empty streets seemed gritty. After visiting a few sights scattered about town, I hit the road towards Death Valley. After two nights with a million of my closest friends in Sin City, it was time to get back to nothing.

My ride into Death Valley wasn’t without company, however. I met a car full of young women who also stopped to take photos at the park sign. They didn’t speak very much English, but they were able to convey that they were excited to see me alone on my motorcycle. I guess some things are universal. Women who ride motorcycles kick ass in any language.

I also met these two wily beggars. They were hovering around the roadway, waiting for cars to come along. As a car slowed, they’d move in closer. They must get a lot of food that way. I didn’t feed them but I enjoyed watching what they were up to. Seeing animals, especially ones not typically in your environment, is a simple pleasure.

After the hustle of Las Vegas, being nowhere felt wonderful. It was a perfect way to welcome 2017.

New Year’s Eve in the Valley of Fire

New Year’s Eve in the Valley of Fire

On the morning of December 31st, 2016, when I awoke it was still dark. I was in Las Vegas. I hadn’t planned on being there for New Year’s Eve, it was just the way that my trip unfolded. Though it was a holiday, it was an easy place to get a room and I ended up staying for two nights.

It felt as if I’d personally brought rain to the desert. I arrived among the shimmering signs and the bustle of Vegas in the pouring rain on New Year’s Eve-eve. By morning, there was still dampness pressing down but at least the rain had stopped.

Because of pre-celebration preparations, the strip was scheduled to close to traffic on the afternoon of the 31st. Being an early riser on east coast time worked to my advantage. I was able to head out at 0’dark-thirty, see some stuff and get back before anything shut down. My destination for the day? Valley of Fire State Park.

At first, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see the luminescent colors of the rocks in the sunshine. But, that disappointment faded when I saw that the fog brought its own special drama to the landscape. Nothing is perfect and plans deviate from your daydreams. You just have to learn to see beauty in new ways.

Snapshots from Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park

 

The Grasshopper, Scorpion and Serpent Who Stole My Heart

The Grasshopper, Scorpion and Serpent Who Stole My Heart

Coming down from the mountains along Montezuma Valley road there were spectacular views of the desert valley below. I was on my way to Borrego Springs to visit Galetta Meadows and the metal sculptures that live among the sand and scrub.

Though there are over 100 different sculptures scattered about, without hesitation I can say that it was the giant serpent that drew me to Galetta Meadows.

It’s rusting, scaly body undulates hundreds of feet through an ocean of sand. It is ferocious and beautiful.

Though there were dinosaurs, elephants, camels and other more snuggly type creatures around, the giant scorpion was my second favorite sculpture. Something about the way it sat menacingly low and ready to strike really captured my heart. I’m not sure if me liking the creepy crawlies best says something about me.

The hapless grasshopper… face to face with a scorpion. We’ve all been there, probably on both sides.

Incidentally, by the end of my trip I’m pretty sure my legs looked just like the grasshoppers. We’ve all been there. Am I right ladies? 😉

I found two liberty dollars in the sand by the giant scorpion. It was my lucky day. My lucky day indeed.

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