A note: this story originally appeared on my tumblr. But I’m putting it here too, because I wrote it and I can do that.
Last weekend I covered 1,032 miles, at an average speed of 71 miles per hour, and 23 miles per gallon. My car told me so.
I was headed from Los Angeles to Phoenix to see Limbeck play their first rock & roll show in about four years. Now that I’m living on the same side of the country as them, I feel like I have to go wherever they decide to pop up and play.
Also, it was a great excuse to take the car on our first road trip together. A new coolant expansion tank, set of tires, and a car wash later, it was all set.
So I took off at ten in the morning on Friday, got out of LA with no problem, and was passing the giant wind turbine farms near Palm Springs when I realized I had blown by the exit for Joshua Tree six exits ago. After a quick internal debate, I flipped around, caught the right exit, and drove way out of my way to go look at some weird trees.
Totally worth it. There’s a really great piece I read a while ago, and I can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it or where I read it, but it was about getting out off of your proverbial front porch and checking out what America’s got to offer once in a while, before you forget that it’s there. And whoever wrote that is totally right. We all get so caught up in our lives inside a four- or five-square-mile box that we don’t make time to get away for a little bit and see what’s out there.
And holy guacamole, there is some amazing stuff out there. Exploring Joshua Tree National Park is like setting foot on Mars. I meant to just drive through, snap some photos through the windshield and keep making good time to Arizona, but I stopped all over the place to get out and see. I stood outside my car on the edge of the road and waited for the alien trees to start walking across the desert. It’s truly unreal. I got to a high point in the park and shut the car off and the silence was crushing. I was uncomfortable. My own breathing got really loud, and I could hear this other car coming way before I could see it. A small lizard ran under a branch next to me. I thought about death, and how if my car broke down, a park ranger or visitor would probably find me and I’d be fine, but if they didn’t, these tiny lizards and the birds circling overhead would eat me. I got back in the car and held my breath for the two seconds it took to fire back up.
By the way, the National Parks Service built a hell of a road. Glassy smooth, wide open, nice sweeping curves. It was fantastic. Thanks guys.
I got back on the 10 and got moving again. Five or six hours later, I pulled into the driveway of my Airbnb. I crashed there for about an hour, and then called a car to go see the band.
It would have been worth it to go twice as far. The friendly travelin’ Limbeck band played for almost two hours. They did songs they hadn’t rehearsed, they messed up lyrics, they were a little sloppy. It was so great. There was so much joy in the room on both sides of the stage. Arms up, dancing, everyone sang every word, everyone was so happy to be there. Everybody was so happy that the show was happening at all.
The show eventually wrapped up, I floated outside, and called a Lyft back to the house. My driver was super friendly, a little wired, and as we came around the corner back to the house form a different direction, he lost his shit. Apparently I was staying behind the biggest, nicest strip club in all of Phoenix. He told me all about how he drives some of the girls home at the end of the night, he takes all his friends there when they visit from out of town, and how lucky I was to be staying so close. And who knows, if I hadn’t just spent eight or nine hours on the road and three hours at a show, I might have been more excited about it. But I went inside and fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.
The next morning I was up and out real early to drive to Tucson. My buddy Jake from wers-days lives out there, and we met up for coffee. I hadn’t seen him in about four years, and it was rad to catch up on everything. He says Tucson is currently going through its Austin/Portland-before-the-hype phase: bars and breweries are moving into the arts district, there’s lofts going in downtown, we were in a really nice old grocery store/pizza place/coffee bar/real bar, everybody was either young with tattoos or an older former hippie. It had a real nice vibe.
We shot the shit and I got back on the road. When I finally made it back through Phoenix and into the desert, I opened it up. Hauled ass through that desert. Triple digits across that desert. Big rocks, spring blooms of desert flowers, foothills growing into mountains, it’s all out there. The car was great: planted, relaxed, no big deal. Loud though. There’s a leak in one of the seals over the driver’s side window that howled & whooshed, and there isn’t much sound insulation anywhere else. But it was good. Even when my leg started cramping up. And almost every time I stopped for gas, somebody said something nice or gave me a thumbs up. That was new and neat.
I made great time, too. Only one slowdown, a nasty accident… Somewhere. I made it back to LA from Tucson in seven hours, I think. Maybe less. There’s a time change in there.
So there you go. Take a weekend and put a lot of miles on a car. Go see a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Get a load of some nature. Find a rock show. When the road trip itch hits, scratch it. Clear your head, and then write about it on the internet.