from Evan Ryan:
The longer I live the more I become convinced that God made deserts for the singular purpose of road trips. The natural habitat they provide, the ecological and environmental balancing of the earth’s biosphere, all secondary, all accidental. If I was drunk and in the desert I would even go as far as to say all the animals, and people that live in it, are missing the point. The desert doesn’t want you there. You don’t want to be there. The desert’s purpose is to be crossed. All you need to do is to start driving, and don’t stop until you’ve reached Flagstaff.
|Don’t stop in the desert for too long.|
I planned my first road trip right out of high school. I had been on road trips in the past, with family, church, or the boy scouts, but these were required. In high school I was too busy worrying about the social repercussions of leaving town for weeks on end to ever go on a road trip voluntarily. I wanted women, and there were less women in the desert. The ones that I saw there were leathery and cragged, looked like they had armored armadillo skin. I wondered why they lived there, but never lingered on the though. With high school over, and a summer to burn before college, and college women, my friends and I decided to drive to the Grand Canyon.
It was me and three other friends, all smaller than me, and all very reformed Jews. I have always liked Jews, they are only satisfied when they are unsatisfied. It’s a beautiful approach to life, always something to complain about, and less goal oriented, more journey. They were Dave, Gregory, and Steiner. I should also mention they were all very neurotic when compared to me. I still love those guys. The road trip was their idea in the first place. I needed it more than they knew.
The trip was short, but we were taking our time. The most exciting aspect was that we would take the old route 66 route as much as possible. I don’t say the whole way because most of the route is a service road along the freeway. However, there are still significant stretches that roll through abandoned towns, salt flats, burnt canyons and more scenic views than anything you would get on the freeway. We all packed up in Dave’s father’s Audi A4, my father said goodbye to me, all my friends parents said goodbye to them and we left.
It was and still is the best trip I have ever taken. The best memories are made through a careful combination of stupidity, fear, and confusion. Coming out of high school we were stupid enough to make decisions that put us in situations that we didn’t understand or were not prepared for. The first day alone, we got surrounded and attacked by wild dogs in Barstow, and we went on, what we thought was a two mile hike up a crater, that ended up almost killing us. It was more like double that, in 120 degree weather, and with very little water. I still remember stumbling back to the car, sent ahead of everyone else, in order to get water. I was hallucinating from dehydration, and had fallen more than once. When I finally got to the car, I realized they forgot to give me the keys, and I was locked out. We still remember those moments with Semitic satisfaction.
Here I am, happy to start the hike. There are no pictures from later in the hike, because we couldn’t lift the cameras.
We also passed by a car show in a small town. This is a blog called Auto Literate after all.
The day after we all came close to dying from dehydration, we set off on a part of route 66 that became the most isolated road in the journey. No power lines, cars, towns in the distance, any other sign of human activity other than us and the road we were on. Throughout a lot of the Mojave there are hills and mountains dotting the landscape. However here the desert was flattened and burnt as if the sun and sky had crushed the life out of the land.
This is a picture of sky and some ground.
After driving on this road for several miles, we approached a tree. A lone tree on the side of the road, surrounded by nothing else besides dirt and dead brush. Dave, who was driving, pulled over to the side of the road. He and everyone else wanted to take pictures. So we did.
I have never again experienced a quite that I felt by that tree in the desert. When we all stopped walking it felt as if the stillness of the air was squeezing our eardrums to the point of bursting. There was a tension in the quiet that none of us kids from Los Angeles knew how to handle. Everyone took their pictures in silence, not knowing what to say to break such an intimidating calm.
I spoke up first, but only because I got bored with pictures. “You know, we could say the worst stuff ever, and no one would hear us. We could yell atrocities and no one would ever know we did.”
Everyone looked up at me for a moment, and the silence returned.
“MY MOTHER’S A FUCKING BITCH AND THE HOLOCAUST SHOULD HAVE GOT HER.” Dave shouted. Silence.
“NIGGERS, KIKES, SPIC, DYKES, FAGGOT, SHIT, FUCK, JAPS, COCK, ASSHOLE, PISS, WETBACKS, FUCK, FAGGOTS, CHINAMAN.” Gregory shouted.
“Chinaman? That’s the best you got?” Dave said.
We all took turns yelling profanity and racial slurs as a loud as we could. Each of us trying to think of a new slur we haven’t used. The ones for white people were never very satisfying, but we still loved using the anti-Semitic ones. I laid off using it as much as them. They told me saying “Kike” and “Heeb” felt like it filled their whole mouth, it was just a fun word to say. I think it’s like stretching a muscle you don’t use very often.
I wanted to go. I had to tiptoe around words when yelling generic “bad things” I wanted to say something that I wanted to say, from somewhere in me I don’t understand. I wanted to let out my directionless rage, and I didn’t feel like I could so that with slurs.
“FUCK EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE I JUST WANT TO KILL EVERYTHING AND MYSELF AND MY FAMILY AND MY FRIENDS AND THE DESERT AND THE MOUNTAINS AND THE BUILDINGS AND THE ROAD. I HATE EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE I HATE EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE I HATE EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE.”
After I went it was silent again. There were some appreciative nods from my friends, the way a hipster poet would get snaps. Then bombs started dropping in the distance.
The explosions were far away, and we couldn’t even hear the explosions. Just silent explosions in the desert’s distance. Maybe we could hear the bombs, it was a while ago. The memory has changed with me. I just remember that we all stood and watched as the bombs blew up, and we stood by the tree.
The Mojave is littered with military bases, and the bombs were probably some sort of test of one of the bases. I couldn’t tell you how big the explosions were. They could have been huge, but they were far away. Regardless of the distance the bombs reminded us of where we were. We were young and in the desert, it was important to get through it. We got in the car and continued on the road.