Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Joshua Tree Trip (11.12.15 - 11.15.15)

Anyone who knows me even remotely well is probably aware of a few things:

1. I write and play music.
2. I cook and eat food.
3. I love the Mojave Desert.

The breathtaking view from our backyard at Rancho Rincon. Photo by Jess.

For this entry, let's focus on that third thing. My earliest trips to the desert happened as a Boy Scout. We had camping trips, hikes, and bike journeys through that magical place when I was a child, and then as a teenager in the later high school years, I'd accompany my friends to that area for various kinds of shenanigans with details that probably shouldn't be documented in any form. But from then (in the mid/late 80s) all the way up until 2010, I somehow forgot that the desert was a special place to me. No wonder I went through some rough mental/emotional times during that period.

But in fall of 2010, my ladyfriend Kat and I were looking for a vacation spot to visit together that didn't involve long plane flights or exorbitant costs. Living in Southern California, there are many place to choose from within a half-day's driving distance. Kat had been a huge fan of "desert rock", the sub-genre of music also known as "stoner rock" that came from (or was inspired by) bands and musicians living in the desert communities. I believe that was one of the main reasons that we decided to visit Joshua Tree in October of that year.

From the moment that she and I pulled off Highway 62 and started heading deeper and deeper into the land of yucca trees and coyotes, we were hooked. She fell in love with JT for the first time, while my fascination with the area was immediately rekindled. In the five years since then, we've been back again and again. We took our friend Jess for the first time in June 2011, and then took our pal and bandmate Bunny along in June 2012. You'd think that we'd had enough of the place by then, but no; we again had Jess join us in March 2013. Later that same year, in October, Kat and I went out there only to have the federal government shut down the day before our trip (which still was great, even without being able to visit the National Park). In June 2014, we again visited with Bunny, and Kat took her mom there (without me, being busy with work at the time) last spring. I guess it's pretty clear that we think of Joshua Tree as a special place that one simply can't get enough of, and we still have no intention of going elsewhere on our rare vacation times.

Back To the Present
Enough reminiscing. For this trip, we invited both Bunny and Jess to come with us, and we were completely thrilled when they both accepted. We started planning for this trip about three months ago. Due to a variety of circumstances, this was to be my first vacation of 2015. Side note: don't go a year or more without a vacation. It's not good for either your mental state or your ability to be a productive person. Anyway, needless to say, this trip was very welcomed by the time the date finally arrived.

Bunny arrived at my place at 11:00 that morning, followed shortly by Kat. After a quick run to the store for road snacks, we picked up Jess, who had just stepped off a plane from Minnesota, at LAX at 12:30. We were all hungry and grabbed lunch before hitting the road. The three-hour drive of about 150 miles was smooth and fun, with lots of goofy conversations and good tunes happening. By late afternoon, we rolled into JTree and first headed for the Desert Lily B&B, where we said hello to the lovely innkeeper Carrie Yeager, who has become a friend over the years we've stayed at her places. For this trip, we booked Rancho Rincon, one of Carrie's rental cabins where we'd previously stayed. We got the keys, rolled down the street, and unpacked. That evening, we just absorbed the desert vibe. It was beautiful... a bit chilly, but clear and lovely. One thing about Joshua Tree: you don't really need to be "doing" stuff all the time, or any time for that matter. The world of nature surrounds you, and sometimes just being quiet and looking around at the flora and fauna is as good as it gets.

We spent a good portion of our time hanging around the cabin and doing our first official jam as They Stole My Crayon. It went as well as I expected. Video capture by Jess.

The first two nights, we enjoyed the fire pit that Bunny tended, roasting weenies and s'mores and all that good stuff you can do outdoors. Photo by Jess.

I did manage to do a wee bit of yoga with Kat while we were there. It was actually an excuse for me to run around half-naked. I would have been fully naked but... it was cold, and shrinkage was a distinct possibility. Photo by Jess.

Heading into Hidden Valley with Jess, Kat, and Bunny.

These are my friends.

They Stole My Crayon in the desert, again.

The Paris Connection
One thing was new for this trip, something that was good but not entirely welcomed: we had Internet/cellular service at the cabin. A new cell tower must have been recently installed. Normally, we go entire multi-day trips without knowing anything about the outside world, and the disconnection from society is a welcome change.

This year, one of us surprisingly noted that their phone was showing full service. On Friday evening, I thought it might be cool to post a picture I'd taken that day, and popped into Facebook to do so. That's when I saw the news about the terrorist attacks in Paris. I bring this up now only to note a rather odd coincidence, and a personal connection to what had happened. One of the bands that came out of the desert scene is called Eagles of Death Metal. The last time I was in Joshua Tree before this trip, we'd gone up for a special event for EODM member Dave Catching's birthday, held at the world's best roadhouse, Pappy & Harriet's. We had two bands that we were happy to see performing that night: Fatso Jetson and Eagles of Death Metal, and the show was a total blast. We are also fans of Dave's Joshua Tree-based recording studio, Rancho de la Luna, which was recently made much more well known via an episode of "Foo Fighters Sonic Highways" HBO series.

Anyway, it soon became clear to us that the band playing at the historic Bataclan venue where the majority of the attacks took place was indeed our friends of EODM. We ascertained that none of the band was killed, but we also knew that despite this, the fun-loving band would be shattered by what had happened. They've since released a very positive statement about the event, and it's my opinion that after taking an appropriate break, continuing to rock is the very best thing that Jesse Hughes and his merry brigade could possibly do to continue to make the world a better place.

Outside the amazing Pappy & Harriet's, getting ready for yet another meal of a lifetime.

Inside Pappy's, pausing from shoveling food in our faces for a quick picture of Kat and myself.

Jess and Bunny... two people who rock hard.

How To Do Nothing
I'm not sure how most people plan vacations, but I have a nagging fear that they try and set up things to do the entire time they're supposed to be relaxing and recharging. That sounds like hell to me. My to-do list in the desert would have gone something like this:

- Eat food when hungry
- Stand outside and stare at the horizon
- Look at rabbits and chipmunks
- Go somewhere if we feel like it

And so on. In my daily life, I am very bad at doing nothing, and pretty much fill my days with responsibilities and creative tasks. There was no problem putting all that aside while in Joshua Tree. Sure, we had some things that we wanted to do... trips into the Park, a dinner at Pappy's, and so on. But a good chunk of this trip was purely putting everything aside and being relaxed and content, and I think we accomplished that with flying colors. I give us the highest marks in overall laziness and sloth. We rule.

Here's To Next Time
I don't know when our next trip to Joshua Tree will be, but I do know there certainly will be a next time, and a time after that. A wise person once said, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in JTree stays with you for a lifetime." I can't agree more.

Amazing sunset photo by Jess.

No comments: