On Thursday, Andy and Laurie flew to Hawaii and left me their car to do with what I wish for a week. Legends. Andy left me some maps and I drove north east into the desert. As I wasn't in any hurry to get anywhere, I took the smaller, older highways rather than the massive, quicker interstate freeways. The landscape changes enough every 10 miles that it doesn't have the same feeling of nowhere as Australian deserts have. Which can be a good or a bad thing depending on the way you look at it. They're also a whole lot smaller, but don't tell a yank another country does something bigger than they do. Once I started getting into the more remote areas, dark clouds took their place above and started doing their thing. The one time I drive through the desert and it rains. It rains hard. Lightning. Thunder. The whole works. I parked the car on a hill and watched a couple of storm fronts battle it out about 15 miles away. The open bits of sky between them bathed the landscape in bright desert sun, while where I was sitting was dark, gloomy and wet. I drove on, passing through little towns, using a map and Andy's GPS to navigate my way there. On the south side of the Joshua Tree National Park, I stopped at a little diner in a town called Desert Center. I walk in and find chaos. There are three people scurrying about trying to clean up the water leaking through the decaying roof. Containers of every size and shape are littered about the floor collecting the brownish water dripping from the ceiling. I find a dry seat, sit down, order some food and start chatting with one of the ladies who work there. A 24/7 truck stop, Desert Center Cafe used to be one of those towns everyone stopped at before the big Interstates bypassed it. During the 1940s, the army stationed 400,000 troops at a nearby base, translating into lots of business for all the locals. Now all that's left of these days is some dusty old photos of the building when the neon worked and there were Borises parked out the front.
I finished eating, left and drove on into dusk. I figured I could find a spot to pull over and sleep the night, I just wasn't sure where. I was running low on fuel and pulled into a place on the border of California and Nevada. The pumps had closed 20 minutes earlier and the next town where I could get petrol from (Needles), was another 50 miles away. I drove on, a little worried my metric mindset for judging fuel would underestimate the imperial distances involved. I took my chances and reckoned I could make it to Needles ok, but only after finding a place to sleep for the night. I drove for about 20 minutes, found a small dirt side road and drove down it for a little bit. I found a an out of the way space to park and got comfortable. I woke up a few times thinking hillbillies were trying to kill me, but it was just my mind confusing dream with reality. Eventually I drifted off again and had the most vivid dream about Antonio Gramsci and Karl Marx having an argument about socialism. Gramsci was saying to Marx that the reason why his and Engels theory on socialism is flawed was because it doesn't factor in the influence of culture on the populace and only articulated humanity's needs as those necessary for animal survival, failing to accommodate for the complexities of human emotion. Karl Marx retorted saying his theories were just fine and sighted that because his beard looked like Papa Smurf's, he had more authority on the issue.
No, I wasn't eating Peyote.
I woke up early, drove to Needles, filled up and continued on my way. I arrived in Las Vegas early yesterday afternoon and eventually found the place I'm staying, hiding behind one of the behemoth casinos on The Strip. I'm staying with Cindy and Andy (a different Andy), in their plush apartment on the 21st floor of this brand new hotel complex. Nice.
More on Vegas in a couple of days.