Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012, the Year of Yes!

{raven over Joshua Tree, December 31, 2011}
I bought Tom a tent for Christmas two years. We've been talking about going camping for at least that long, but for some reason, we never made it happen. When December 29th rolled around and we found ourselves without New Years plans, Tom suggested a spontaneous trip to Joshua Tree. I thought about it for about ten seconds before saying that it sounded like a splendid idea. See, I have decided that 2012 is the year that I say yes to activities that I might otherwise have avoided in favor of hermiting at home. Now, I'm not saying that I'm going to completely forgo hermiting (spell check does not approve of my use of that word as a verb, but I stand by it). I love a cozy evening at home as much as way more than the next guy, but let's face it, exciting adventures are never uncovered from the viewpoint of the couch (not my couch anyway), and I'm a person who considers herself fond of adventure.

It is highly unlikely that my idea of a fun adventure will ever include backpacking into the wilderness with food and shelter strapped to my back, so staying at the campground that featured chemical toilets instead of the flush variety was "roughing it" enough for me. There were, however, signs posted everywhere warning about Africanized "killer" bees, so it still qualifies as adventure. See how that works? We decided to risk it, and settled in at campsite 62.

The night before we left for Joshua Tree, Tom and I split up to run errands. I went to the grocery stores and he headed to the camping store to use a gift card to buy some camping necessities. He came back with the blue bandana you see below (and in almost all pictures from the weekend) and something he called a "poop shovel." When I made it clear that I would never be saying yes to camping where such a tool was necessary, he attempted to backtrack and say that it was for putting the campfire out at night...I remain suspicious.

After setting up camp, i.e. unpacking the car, we explored Indian Cove Campground and climbed around on some of the rock formations.

My favorite moment of the afternoon was looking down on this little amphitheater in the middle of the desert and seeing this guy randomly singing opera music. He was just sitting there, watching his friends rock climb, practicing opera. It was awesome. Thanks to iPhone, I managed to capture a few seconds of the performance. I was so transfixed by the singer that it took me a few minutes to realize that Tom was halfway up this giant rock formation. It's not the greatest recording, so you'll need full volume to hear anything.

After scampering all over the rocks, we headed back to our campsite to enjoy the last couple of hours of daylight.
I checked out the view from the tent.

I did a little reading on rocks and in chairs.

I took pictures.
{Joshua trees}

I made Tom pose for pictures.

Then I made him learn Auld Lang Syne on the guitar.

Then I asked him go to the store (I told you we weren't roughing it) for more wood.

Perhaps it's not surprising that before too long, Tom was sitting on top of this rock.
{Tom's view}
Later, I was invited to join him.

As soon as the sun started to go down, it got really cold*, so we built a fire, and I piled on the layers and snapped a few last pictures.

By six o'clock it was completely dark. Like dark, dark. The kind of darkness where it seems like you can see every star that ever was, but you can't see two feet in front of your face. I miss that kind of darkness. It does make it rather difficult to do much of anything, however. Even card games were out. I feel a little bit guilty about this next part because it seems to go against the spirit of camping, but...we eventually whipped out the iPad and played Scrabble. And, actually, it was super fun, so I guess I don't feel that guilty.

The rest of the night consisted of drinking, talking, laughing, and the cooking and eating of steak kabobs and baked sweet potatoes. And, of course, s'mores.

At midnight, we popped the champagne and danced to Sinatra fireside. So cheesy, but so perfect. Maybe it was the champagne or maybe it was the four layers, scarf, and hat that I was wearing, but when it was time for bed, I wasn't terribly cold and I was fast asleep in no time.

The next day, we were up bright, Tom cooked a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs before we headed out.
{I don't care what he says, this will not be the year of the blue bandana.}
After breakfast, we hit the road with plans to absorb some road trip Americana on the way home.

First stop on our way home - the motel where Gram Parsons died. [He was in The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers; I wouldn't have known either if the documentary that Tom was watching hadn't caught my attention when they detailed how Mr. Parsons' buddy dressed up as a hearse driver, stole Parsons' body from the morgue, drove it out to Josuha Tree and set it ablaze in order to fulfill the singer's wish that he be cremated in the desert and his ashes spread over Cap Rock. Weird, right?]

Anyway, the motel is now run by a certified hippie who sells chai tea that he makes based on his friend's grandmother's recipe from the old days in India...true story. They also have a little monument there that includes the door of the room where he died. You can also stay in that room. Weird, right?

The next stop was the Claude Bell's Dinosaurs, giant roadside sculptures located next along the 10 outside of Palm Springs. Apparently these creatures have been featured in such cinematic masterpieces as Pee Wee's Big Adventure and The Wizard, which according to Wikipedia, is a 1989 "adventure dramedy" starring Fred Savage. Apparently, weird was the theme of the day.

And it just gets weirder. Built in the 1960s as harmless roadside kitsch, the giant prehistoric dinosaurs were rather ironically purchased in the mid-90s by a group who advocates a creationist "Young Earth" perspective.

I know. Just wait, it gets worse. Inside Dinny (pronounced Dine-y), the giant brontosauraus, is a whole creationist museum/gift shop. Actually, weird doesn't really cover this place. At first it's sort of  funny because it's so ridiculous. I mean, the "museum" featured murals depicting humans and dinosaurs walking the Earth together, Flinstones style.
{I was afraid of getting yelled out for openly documenting the absurdity of this place that all of my pictures are blurry, but that is a painting of cave men with a triceratops in the background.}
So, at first I'm wandering through this place, just shaking my head in disbelief at all of the Darwin bashing and biblical arguments that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the Earth at the same time. One popular piece of evidence is this quote from the Book of Job:
Their theory, it seems, is that Noah, in some sort of epic fail, shoved off without checking to make sure the dinos were aboard. No joke, according to some Young Earth creationists that's "what really happened to the dinosaurs."

Anyway, this would all be sort of amusing except for the fact that these people are selling their belief system as a legitimate alternative to evolution. And they make children's books! My stealithly caputured snapshots of said books are super blurry, so these from the interweb will have to suffice.

I mean...have you ever? I just don't know. I'm all for religious freedom, but...I don't know. Imma take a deep breath and move on now...  It was a fun photo op anyway.

So, to sum up: 2012 is the year of yes, Joshua Tree is beautiful, I like camping when it's not too rustic, roadtrip Americana is weird to the max.

*"Really cold" by my standards means fifty-two degrees.

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