Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Westering 13: The Horror of the Colorado Desert
I-40, Me, and the California Sonoran Landscape of the Mind

Panic settles in not more than twenty miles from Wiley’s Well Road rest stop. We were riding through the Chuckwalla Valley in the Colorado Desert, a low and scorching section of the infamous Sonoran Desert in southeast California. Sure, we’re on Interstate I-40, and only 40 miles to Chiriaco Summit, the nearest place with services for motorists.

And sure, the car was air-conditioned. But outside the sun was in the noontime sky and temperatures were reaching towards one-hundred. And this was desert, really desert. The sand was white and heat waves filled the air, the vegetation growing at a minimum, and then it dawns on me we had no water in the car at all. What on earth had I been thinking?

Scenarios now come to mind: the car breaks down, the air-conditioning is gone, we’re in the breakdown lane without a drop of water. At best the car is shelter from the sun where we will have to wait for hours for some good Samaritan to stop and rescue us from what is now relentless dehydration. And at worst, we die. So much for spiritual regeneration.

What kind of father leads his daughter to such risks? What kind of foolishness forgets the power of the desert, lost within precarious securities of civilization? Had I not seen my share of westerns, bleached white cattle skulls, mirages tempting some poor dying cowboy with the luxury of a counterfeit oasis?

At least, as Emmy says at Chiriaco Summit, after we had purchased quarts and quarts of cold spring water, I had kept this terror religiously to myself for 40 miles and 40 minutes.

~Son Rivers 2008

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