First time I ever wrote in the Sonoran Desert (I think)
I was headed east one time years ago, somewhere between Los Angeles and Tucson, riding on the lower Interstate 8 along the border of Mexico and California, when I took a wrong turn and became lost in the middle of the night. This, was the first time I ever wrote something.
I foolishly chose the road less travelled, which isn't always a bad thing but in this case that specific road just had less gas stations. As well it had some of the most amazing landscapes, I regret as I do quite often not having a GoPro running full time. I've retold this story before and usually realize halfway through telling it I'm spending way too much time explaining the scenery. I mean it's desert right? No one is really losing their mind over how beautiful the desert is. At the risk of sounding like the bio of an online dating website however; seeing the sun set in the desert is truly unbelievable.
I was riding for quite some time on a two line highway when it dawned on me that I hadn't seen another vehicle for longer than I could remember. Also in this moment, which lasted around 30 minutes it seemed, I watched the desert turn and change from the harsh glaring sun, with heat waves and a light burnt brown tinge with a clear blue sky, to soft pinks and purples along the ridges in the distance, then eventually to a deep blue and finally an almost chilling grey barren land that continued on forever with an immense black sky above. These colours seemed to change very rapidly before my eyes, and no, unfortunately I was not on hallucinogens of any kind. Just the soft glow of my headlight and a huge low gigantic glowing moon to guide me into the night. The beauty of motorcycle travel, or at least the way I prefer it, is when there's no actual deadline or places to be. I may be on a vehicle but I'm actually outside, braving the elements while on a bike, experiencing the journey so much closer and deeper than if I was in a car.
I have no idea how long I'd been travelling completely alone on this highway. And a small flicker of self doubt crept up in my mind, wondering if I had taken a wrong turn or missed an exit. I slowed down a little, looking for signs or any indication as to where exactly I was. Nothing.
Ok no problem, maybe I'll just find a place to camp for the night, because I am actually not a fan of riding at night especially in places I've never been. So I slow right down, my bike's exhaust thundering through the otherwise silent night air. There's an unmarked road to the right, and from what I can see by the moonlight, a massive area on each side of the road, with only a few cacti scattered throughout. Perfect.
I pull off and begin squinting in the infinite darkness through my sunglasses (clear glasses at night just make too much sense) to discover a decent spot to set up camp for the night. I pitch my tent, disconnect my bike battery (I've seen the movies, there could be bandits out here) and attempt to start a fire. Not that a fire was crucial, it was August and the desert nights don't get too chilly at all, but I mean what's a campsite without a fire? Now, I've never chopped pieces off a cactus with a knife but let me tell you; it's harder than it looks. What's even harder, is trying to get a cactus to burn. Eventually I got an embarrassingly weak fire going, thanks to a little help from my bike's gas tank.
Next, I take inventory. I've been rambling on for just over two weeks now and I've already collected far too many random items in my army surplus duffle bag. I didn't exactly plan to be camping this particular evening, so I wasn't as prepared as I would normally be. Nevertheless my current cache was as follows: 5 cans of rodeo cool Miller lite, 1 king can of warm Budweiser, about half a mickey of Evan Williams, 12 cigarettes, one half eaten jar of roasted peanuts and a bag of gas station beef jerky. Looks like I'm in for one wild night.
I settle into my desolate paradise, feet propped up, laying next to my bike and the pathetic cactus fire, staring up into the sky littered with millions of stars. Cruising through my snacks and beverages (I hadn't eaten since the morning in LA, breakfast with a beautiful exotic brunette I will no doubt write about soon) I have a small revelation; why on earth am I not writing this down? I'll explain this in a future post but I had a saying, almost a mantra that I tried to remember when moments like this happened. "Write it down, take a picture." That's it. (I found the origin of that saying in a story I wrote a few years ago and I'll eventually get around to posting it.)
So, I had brought a small notebook with me on this trip with the intent of writing everyday and up until this point, hadn't written a damn word. I felt I had writers block before I even tried writing anything. Some may know this feeling and how discouraging it actually is. Then it hit me. I had somehow organized words out of thin air that interested me and as they gained momentum and continued on in my mind I frantically jumped up and opened my bag. I rummaged through the depths of the duffle bag in the dark, feeling around for this notebook and eventually just dumped out the entire thing fireside, my phone was dead and of course I didn't have a flashlight to aid in my midnight search. I find the notebook thanks to my fingers landing on and recognizing my belongings like a blind man reads Braille. I have a silent moment of victory, holding the notebook to the heavens, for all the desert critters to behold. I then get up as close to the fire as I can and begin furiously scribbling away, trying to recall my original thought. This, was the first thing I ever wrote:
"The feeling of yearning. Sunset.When will I feel satisfied? This hunger is so deep and large, it's out of control at moments like this. I have an insatiable urge to be somewhere else. The thought of being completely alone in some place I've never been gives me an instant panicked sense of excitement."
And that was it. I didn't know what more to write down but just that. So I felt mildy accomplished and content by finally writing something and lit up my last cigarette, cracked another warm beer, and stared lazily into the mesmerizing flicker of the fire until it died out. I had the words of my all time favourite writer reverberating in my mind;
"There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars."