I have to admit that I had an anxiety breakdown Thursday night, trying to figure out where to spend Friday night and which route to take to get there.
I think it was either the creepy neon green lighting in the hotel, or the nearly fatal head-on accident I'd avoided earlier when a VW bug decided to pass a truck on a narrow 2-lane road without allowing enough time to get back into his lane before we met. My sudden turn into the gravel just before the bridge allowed him time to overtake the truck and sail on by, in my lane. Passing an occasional cluster of artificial flowers stuck into the ground alongside the road, I gained a more vivid understanding of just what that meant.
Anyhow, I scoured the Internet and referred to Yelp to find some place smaller than Barstow and larger than Joshua Tree to spend our last night. I finally settled on Hesperia (because it had a cinnamon roll bakery), but I was totally stressed out over how to get there. I-40 would get us there quickly, but what if there was nothing to see or do in Hesperia? How far away was Apple Valley? Victorville? Joshua Tree? How could we make these last two days interesting... not just a rush to get home? It would be a shame to waste the end of our trip. Right? But then I didn't want to get stuck out in the burning desert without water.
Dave suggested we go to Big Bear but then commented on the possibility of icy road conditions. Strike that one from this list!
I finally gave up and went to sleep.
Nothing was quite so scary in the daylight, although the hotel was still a little weird.
We decided we'd take a chance on the desert roads and called ahead to reserve our room in Hesperia so I wouldn't need to worry about finding a room. I'd found a bead store in Apple Valley I wanted to visit. I figured Apple Valley had to be a pretty good place to visit since it had 2 bead stores. My cousin Mary Lou grew up there, which means I'd probably visited there at some time in my childhood.
This bird was a good omen.
And the weather was perfect. Blessings and safe passage from these rock faces.
It really was hard to leave Arizona.
So much color and visual evidence of our ancient geological history.
And then we were in California.
Where they took away my last delicious apple--from the roadside stand in Sedona--but refused to take the bag with the banana peel and an apple core. Wouldn't they be equally dangerous?
We decided to take the desert roads, but wanted to get a full tank of gas before we headed out on the roughly paved road shown on our map.
Fortunately there are two gas stations at this junction.
Our first stop on the desert road was at the honey trailer.
This made me really happy that we'd chosen this route. It was self-serve. Put the money in the envelope, drop it in the box, and take your honey.
Then we stopped at the Desert Information Center for a more detailed map. The tourist adviser assured us that the road was safe and well-paved, but to watch out for snakes, scorpions, and spiders if we got out of the car to look for rocks.
We had plenty of water in case we got stranded in the desert. Cellphone coverage is limited out there.
But it turns out the road south to Blythe is popular with truckers, so getting stranded isn't a big issue.
Dave, of course, decided to search the next available dry stream bed for rock souvenirs. The guy at the information center said the stream beds are a rock hunter's paradise and the area is open to rock hunters.
I reminded him about the snakes, scorpions, and spiders but he ignored me and came back safely with a handful of rocks with various mineral compositions including some nice sparkly ones.
In addition to choosing the hotel and stressing out over the route, it's my job to take photos from a fast-moving car with dirty windows. Most roads we traveled had soft-shoulder edges so almost all of my photos have to be cropped to take out the "speed of light" smear at the bottom of the picture.
This is one place we did pull over to take some photos, look for more rocks, and snack on the bread and goat cheese left from our previous adventures.
The road ahead goes west toward Joshua Tree. Doesn't this look like the fake backdrop in an old western movie? I have a lot of photos that came out with this flat effect. It must be an atmospheric effect.
It didn't take us long to reach Joshua Tree.
We stopped for a vegan lunch (all we could find on Yelp were vegan cafes). It was a little disappointing--beautiful and well-meant, but bland.
GPS Lady tried to direct us into a field, so we backtracked until she'd recalculated us onto a course that actually existed. I wanted to get to Apple Valley before Desert River Beads closed.
Just before coming into Apple Valley we passed this monument to the modern desert.
We'd just read about desert varnish in one of our desert brochures. It's that black and reddish brown coating on the rocks. A thin patina of clay minerals and oxides of iron and manganese is cemented onto the rocks by microscopic bacteria that live inside and under the patina coating.
The bacteria absorb the oxides from the air and precipitate them onto the rock. The clay coating protects the bacteria from the dryness and heat of the desert. Manganese oxide blocks ultraviolet radiation. Desert varnish is a healthy living environment for these bacteria.
The varnish is used to help date landforms. Undisturbed varnish may be well over 10,000 years old.
Early people carved petroglyphs into the patina, revealing the lighter colored rock beneath the varnish.
Drawings painted onto the rock surface are called pictographs (often painted with a red dye). So the designs on the rocks above are modern day pictographs but more ephemeral than the ancient ones.
I was surprised to discover that Apple Valley, Hesperia, and Victorville have blended together, sort of like communities in Los Angeles. Apple Valley has a beautiful mountain backdrop and really well-stocked bead stores.
Traffic was heavy on the road to our hotel and fast food chains beckoned us from every corner.
This was our corner.
And on the opposite corner.
The good news--no neon lighting in the hotel lobby or halls and our room was comfortable and tastefully decorated. We ordered Papa John's pizza and buffalo wings to be delivered.
One more travel day.