Peanut Gallery: Mojave moments in desert delirium
Spending six days in the Mojave last week was like watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie the third time. Every time I visit my in-laws I notice something different. I think it’s partially due to what I call desert delirium – the brain void that appears as the temperatures rise.
My first case of delirium was reading a road placard that read “L.A. Aqueduct” and wondering how corny it was that someone named an aqueduct La Aqueduct, like Le Aqueduct. The part that made this ironic was that I had written an in-depth research paper on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and the LA Aqueduct one year ago. It was a good 10-mile laugh.
Next was my consideration of changing professions. We were stopped by road construction on Highway 395, just north of San Bernardino, directly adjacent to a large wooden sign reading “Earthworm Farmers Wanted Call…”
We were stopped there for almost 25 minutes, giving me plenty of time to think of earthworm possibilities. I would like to meet people who farm earthworms. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the psychological profile of an earthworm farmer.
It was only hours into my mini-vacation and seeking the serene life of earthworm farming didn’t seem all that bad.
Then there was the realization that road paving in the desert happens whether it’s needed or not. Once the traffic broke and we could drive through the construction site, I found the five-mile stretch of road in perfect condition.
My in-laws live on 100 acres in Twentynine Palms, south of the Marine base and north of Joshua Tree National Park. We stopped at the local grocery store and I stayed in the truck with my dog, who ended up instigating conversation with a boy in the car next to me.
Josh was about 12 and well-versed in movies and reptiles. He told me he wasn’t going to see “Godzilla” because the movie company decided to use dinosaur feet, not lizard-type feet. He also told me not to worry about frogs in the winter because they eat a bunch of food for hibernation. Frogs dig into the ground and live off the stored glucose. Stuff for Jeopardy, I thought.
After 10 minutes had passed, Josh had told me probably more than a parent would have felt comfortable with, but I guess he felt comfortable with me. I told him to look me up if he ever traveled north and he said he would because he wanted to learn to snowboard. I told him I would teach him to ski, not snowboard.
By the time we arrived at the Mays’ residence my dog had shed 90 percent of his winter coat (which he will need when he returns tomorrow).
The desert was in full bloom, the days in the low 90s and the nights in the mid-60s. There was still plenty of snow at the top of San Jacinto, the peak that hovers above Palm Springs. I refrained from the annual hike to the 10,500-foot summit, because I thought I had had just about enough of the frozen white stuff. The coldest things I encountered in Palm Springs were the margaritas at Los Consuelos Cantina – that’s an annual trip not to be missed.
I flew out of Vegas Sunday afternoon after getting my last lungful of second-hand cigarette smoke at the Cheers bar in the airport. The only wide-screen TV showing the Lakers’ pathetic attempt at playing basketball was in the middle of the smoking section. The game wasn’t worth the added health risk.
Just like the added Hitchcock lessons, I learned many things during this trip. I learned that in the desert sourdough bread dries out instantly after being removed from a bag, my dog turns into a panting ball of fur in the desert, Memorial Day weekend at Lake Mead is the same as Fourth of July at Tahoe, land is still available for homesteading in the Mojave, there were ranchers in Joshua Tree in the 1800s despite the brutal heat and earthworm farming is always an option.
Sherry Mays is the features/community news editor at the Sierra Sun.
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