Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Land ho!

I love adventure. Especially the kind that reopens the imaginary
worlds I left behind in childhood.

Today's like a high seas adventure, only we're on sand, in the middle
of a desert, in Twentynine Palms, CA.

As the sun glides lower in the sky, we turn off a main highway onto a side road, then off a side road onto a hard-packed sandy road with a most romantic name: The Old Chisholm Trail. (But it's isn't the REAL Old Chisholm Trail; it's just a little-used sandy/dirt road LIKE The Old Chisholm Trail.)

I notice after a while we're alone. No other vehicles, no businesses,
no houses, only sage brush, sporadic spring flowers and scrawny
mesquite shrubs. Then, I notice, the hard-packed sand's now  a
washboard (it's fun to hum along and hear my vibrato). Soon
the sand turns spongy and our slide potential heightens.

THEN,  The Old Chisholm Trail disappears  into an impassable sand dune, abruptly ending the romantic ride and begining my childhood adventure.

The only options are turning left or right in the dead center of an
uninhabited desert, where there are no roads, just lines in the
shifting sands left by other vehicles (probably ATVs, NOT 24-foot motor

We turn left; we curve right, then left, cutting through six-inches of
sand as we go. Then, as we descend and ascend across dry creek beds,  
I imagine we're  rising and falling with the waves. At times, the
washboard returns, and we rumble along as if we're crossing a motorboat's wake.  The road narrows and the sand deepens, yet still we slog
forward. Discarded household items appear, big items, such as
sleeper sofas, chairs and stoves. They line both sides of the trail,
as do dozens of books, piles of clothing and kitchen utensils. It's the stuff of many capsized families.  

As the sun slinks lower and the shadows dance, I can imagine I'm
riding shotgun, on the lookout for pirates (or banditos, cowboys, Indians and
maybe even Charles Manson and his "family"), all of whom are obviously
hiding behind every scrawny mesquite shrub, ready to relieve us of all
 our riches (our stuff) and maybe even our lives.

Reality returns and I feel the sand  getting deeper, and the road
narrower and steeper and the GPS announces we have reached our
destination, which we know is not true. There are no houses in the
middle of nowhere.

We stop, settling deeper into the sand. And wonder. Then I see, up to
our right, the outline of a sailboat.

This is no childhood fantasy or a desert induced mirage.

The aging, crumbling sailboat sitting in dry dock  in the middle of
the desert belongs to our nephew's neighbor. I remember it from
the last time we visited.

So with a mighty heave, we crest the top of our final wave and settle
easily into the calm of our nephew's paved driveway. 

I need to drop anchor.

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