The Joshua Tree Epilogue

It’s been 6 months since my trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

Life is very different from what it was before the trip. Even though it looked like I transitioned back into the hum drum pretty well, I didn’t. I don’t think anyone really does after adventures like that. It’s as if your brain chemistry changes. Nothing is the same ever again.

There is the eternal itch to pack up my bicycle and just ride.

To anywhere.

To nowhere.

To oblivion and back with a detour through hell just for shits and giggles.

To ditch everything I’ve built here in the Denver/Boulder area and just disappear on the open road. As much as I love to ride, it’s hard now to get on the beer bike to commute or get groceries because all I want to do when I start peddling, is to keep going.

When I first started biking (instead of buying a car) in March of 2011, it was just a means to and end. To get somewhere I needed to be. To not spend money on something I didn’t need and saving my carbon foot print for flights to far off destinations. It was practical, logical, and reasonable. Never did I think I would love biking, that it would become so intertwined with my contentment. To go longer than a couple of days without biking, I would become mean, moody, and hate the world.

All because of a bicycle.

The beer bike has become more than just a piece of equipment or a means of transport. It’s a symbol of the the ideas I love most in life. Simplicity, hard work, freedom, perseverance, and as the Taoists say, being the uncarved block, or pu.

In Joshua Tree, I found what so many search for. The stillness of inner peace and the contentment of love and being one with the universe. Every time I get on my bike, I feel it all over again. That’s now why I ride and why I will never stop.

To anywhere and nowhere and all points in between, it’s just me and my bicycle.

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Part VIII: The Way Back Home

I remember flying through the valley but it’s more lush. Flowers that I hadn’t seen on this trip were blooming. The bushes looked green instead of brown. It was still desert, but different. I dip into what looks like the Pinto Basin and then hug the mountains until I see him. He holds out his arm and I settle myself on it. He speaks kindly to me in a language I’ve never heard but oddly I understand. His face is a mix of Mayan and some other Native American. We’ve been here before…

Often I dream of flying. I’m usually a very large hawk or an owl in these dreams and meeting up with an Indian man. I’m never quite sure if he’s a medicine man but I always feel like we’re looking for something.

Waking from this dream, I notice the sky not being so dark. It’s probably about 6:00am. The dream weighs heavy on my mind and I lay there so I can commit it to memory. I dread climbing out of my cozy down sleeping bag, knowing what I must do today.

Leave paradise.

Sunrise over my camp.

Sunrise over my camp.

Breakfast, pack, check the tires, load the bike.

My heart hangs heavy as I start my journey back to Palm Springs. The only motivations for biking a decent speed are the possibility of a hamburger and definitely a shower, though it isn’t that motivating. This road is familiar to me since I had biked it on Sunday to grab supplies. Once I get out of the town of Joshua Tree, it’s unknown territory amidst cars and large trucks. So what do I do? I lollygag through the rest of the park.

 

Do I really have to leave?

Do I really have to leave?

That thing is HUGE, like bigger than my hand huge.

That thing is HUGE, like bigger than my hand huge.

You'll always be in my heart, Joshua Tree. You were my first.

You’ll always be in my heart, Joshua Tree. You were my first.

After having biked I-10 at night, I was hopeful that route 62 wouldn’t be worse.

I started to wish I had taken I-10 again.

Route 62 has a lot of local traffic: cars, small trucks, the occasional semi. The down side is that on many parts of the road there is very little shoulder and it’s in super crappy condition. The super downside is the areas you want a shoulder, there is NONE. For example going down all the hills…there is no shoulder, there is a super strong head/side wind, and it’s curvy with concrete dividers. Even if you hopped the divider to get to what could be a safe spot, there’s no land to step on. It’s pretty much a cliff.

I had the fear of death on I-10 but at least there was a 5 foot shoulder the whole way. Route 62 scared the living bee-jeebus out of me.

When you crest the hill, the shoulder magically disappears as you gain light speed in a head wind.

When you crest the hill, the shoulder magically disappears as you gain light speed in a head wind.

Normally, I would take a food/water break. I took “get my nerve back up” breaks instead.

With the worst of route 62 behind me, I found myself looking at Palm Springs and the massive wind farms that preside to the North of the city. Almost there! Wait…what’s that sound…

With the little bit of shoulder I had and being careful to keep one eye on traffic, I start searching my bike for a strange whirring sound. Turns out, I lost a screw on the bottom arm of the bike rack so the rack itself was resting on my back tire. Fortunately, I had brought with me the extra screws for my clipless sneakers. It was a perfect fit. No MacGyvering it with duct tape and zip ties!

I exited Rote 62 onto Pierson Blvd, then took North Indian Canyon Drive all the way into the heart of Palm Springs. Civilization again. It was much hotter down here than in Joshua Tree. Exhausted, hot, and smelling horrendous, I arrived at my Air BnB hosts’ house. After dropping off my stuff, I hit the local bike shop to pack my baby up and get her shipped back home to Denver. With that done, I can relax.

Thank you to the bike dudes at Palm Springs Cyclery for all your help!

Thank you to the bike dudes at Palm Springs Cyclery for all your help!

Shower then food.

It was the weirdest thing. Even though I had a good burger, it just wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be. I found myself wanting a salad instead. I guess that is what happens when you eat nuts and fruit for a week straight.

I can’t remember what time I fell asleep. I just remember laying on the bed, which was so comfortable it became uncomfortable, thinking, “How the heck do I assimilate back into my normal life after this? Is it even possible?”

Not really.

Part VII: The Hidden Valley and Rock Climbers

I might have to put my fear of spiders in a temporary box so I can learn how to rock climb.

Definitely envious.

The sun is starting to set and there’s still tons of climbers all over this little valley finding routes up small rock behemoths.

At one part of my life, I was learning how to climb but my chosen profession soon made it clear that destroying my hands was not acceptable. Sometimes I listen to what “they” have to say too much. I should have just done it. Next lifetime…

It’s Monday and I took the day nice and easy. Tomorrow I’ll be making my way back to Palm Springs, another 60+ mile day. Sleeping in until 8:00am felt weird. This is going to be one of the last times I pack all this gear up. I’ve finally got it down to a science. It makes me sad to think this is my last day in Joshua Tree but trips like this wouldn’t be as awesome if they went on forever. The realization of impermanence spawns awe and gratitude, even if only for a moment.

See you later Jumbo Rocks…I’m off to Hidden Valley!

The air is still crisp at 9:00am which is a good indicator that it’s not going to be beaming ass hot like it has been. It’s a short 10 mile jaunt so I made a few stops along the way.

I wasn't fast enough to catch the guy climbing on the rock. He was like Spiderman!

I wasn’t fast enough to catch the guy climbing on the rock. He was like Spiderman!

Did you see Sick Sex? All I could think about was the line about steamed oysters.

Did you see Sick Sex? All I could think about was the line about steamed oysters.

 

Thank you Mr. Cyclist for taking the only photo of me on my bike!

Thank you Mr. Cyclist for taking the only photo of me with my bike!

After setting up camp, I decide to check out some of the local hiking at Barker Dam(1.3 mile loop) and The Hidden Valley Trail(1 mile loop). Both of these are easy strolling trails that are pretty flat and take you through some of the rock formations. Barker Dam was first on the list:

How do they always know where I am?

How do they always know where I am?

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Barker Dam. Weird how humans build stuff in the middle of nowhere.

Barker Dam. Weird how humans build stuff in the middle of nowhere.

This was my favorite spot. I think I sat here for 2 hours just thinking.

This was my favorite spot. I sat here for 2 hours just thinking.

Then I scooted off to the Hidden Valley:

I can climb a BURRITO?!?!

I can climb a BURRITO?!?!

Can you find the climbers?

Can you find the climbers?

Tree

Hidden valley

HiddenValley 2

 

After leaving the Hidden Valley Trail, I couldn’t help standing in awe of what Mother Nature had put before me. It took 4.54 billion years for this moment to happen on the Earth. It’s taken 38 years for me to be standing in this spot. I am so very, very tiny in this universe. We all are.

Use your imagination...dinosaurs traipsing across the valley.

Use your imagination…dinosaurs traipsing across the valley.

So why do we think our problems are so huge? Why do we continually war over things that do not matter? How can the human race be so arrogant and almighty and destroy this planet by our own greed and ignorance? How the hell do we get the 7 billion people on this planet to step it up a notch on overall enlightenment? Are we doomed like the dinosaurs, to eventual extinction via the universe/mother nature squashing us or by our own hand? How can humans NOT want to protect something so amazing as what I’m looking at? Billions of years, boiled down to one moment, a moment that is no more than a grain of sand out of all the sand on the planet. A planet that will outlive us, more than likely, in a universe that will go on long after humans and the Earth are gone.

Wouldn’t it be bad ass if dinosaurs were running around here?

For the first time in decades, I wished I had a tab of acid or some mushrooms so I could sit here for a few hours in undisturbed awe as the sun set and the stars came out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s surreal enough on its own, but sometimes the extra little kick is nice.

The campsite felt so tiny when I returned. Thoughts of my return to so-called civilization distracted and saddened me as I ate my last dinner of avocado, cheese, nuts, and a tomato. Tomorrow is a big day. Sixty plus miles back to Palm Springs.

Sleep did not find me easily that night.