Baja Mexico: The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 13: Hassles Made of Sand (Slight Return)

(Click here to Return to Day 1)

Day 04

El Conejo, BCS > La Paz, BCS

Monday, August 29th:

Don't know why they even bother putting this highway on the map Everybody that's ever been on it knows exactly where they're at Hells on both ends of it And no where's in between This highway's mean. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Don’t know why they even bother putting this highway on the map
Everybody that’s ever been on it knows exactly where they’re at
Hells on both ends of it
And no where’s in between
This highway’s mean.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

No Problem

Okay, so we lost a couple hours by getting the car stuck in the sand on the beach; but now that that problem’s been neutralized, we’re cooking along. It’s about 20 miles back to the paved highway. No problem.

But the problem is, nobody ever says “No problem” in a situation like this, unless the phrase is being deployed as a vehicle for ironic foreshadowing. Just sayin’.

After about 15 miles, the sand of the road starts getting pretty deep and unruly. I can’t deny that I’m getting a little nervous that if I slow down I’ll get the car stuck again; so I keep plowing along at a slightly faster clip than would otherwise be advisable on this dusty stretch of nowhere thoroughfare.

But wait…what is this? Cresting a shallow rise, I can see up ahead, just before the crest of the next rise, a stopped vehicle. Seeing as how turning around, stopping, or even slowing down are all completely out of the question at the moment, we exercise our one option, taking it on hope that the driver of that car up ahead will get moving before we catch up to him.

We don’t bother asking the question “Why is that guy stopped?”

Because we know the answer.

"No problem". (image property of goingslowly.com)
No problem?
(image property of goingslowly.com)

Here In The Sea of Sand, Nothing Ever Goes As Planned

We’ve almost reeled the guy in all the way; he hasn’t moved. I start casting about frantically for a bypass of some kind- a way to go around him, so as to maintain enough speed to remain afloat on the hungry sea of sand. Problem is, for random stretches here and there, the road bed runs through a two-foot depression in the surrounding land; and this is one of those stretches. So to try to go around the stopped vehicle would mean risking significant damage to the car, unless I can figure out how to do a two-foot bunny hop up onto the raised shoulder.

But I don’t know how to do that. And anyway, even if I could get the car up there, that way lay all manner of scrub brush, cactus, animal holes, and crumbling, collapsed washouts to contend with; so we’d probably end up just as porked up on the bank as we are here on the road.

Dig Me Out

Which is why we are now stuck once again- sunken in the sand behind the other car, immobile. Even if that guy started moving now, we would not be able to follow. Yep, we’re buried again- even deeper than the last time (which was only a half a fuckin’ hour ago). But as buried as we are, so is he.

Now, as much as misery loves company, this is not ideal. Our company consists of three locals: two men and a woman, probably all in their 30s, give or take. I notice that in front of their car sits a dirt-equipped motorcycle, which I assume one of the hombres was riding. The motorcycle does not appear to be stuck in the sand any more than a seaworthy raft is stuck on the surface of a lake.  I try to converse with the three of them; but the woman shies away and ducks demurely behind one of the men, saying nothing. And with the men the language barrier is thick, impermeable, unyielding. Employing the international language of “You’re fucked, we’re fucked; we’re all fucked. And fuckedness knows no borders. So let’s put our cabezas together for the benefit of todos”, we are able to glean that nobody is happy about this.

These are not the Mexicans we were looking for. (image property of starwars.wikia)
These are not the Mexicans we were looking for.
(image property of starwars.wikia)

Señorita I’m in Trouble Again, And I Can’t Get Free

A moment later the two men set off on the motorcycle, back in the direction from which we came- the direction of nothing. Nothing that I know of anyway.

But it does seem a bit odd that they’ve just left their woman alone in the middle of the desert with two random gringos.

The woman remains in the front seat of her car, eyes straight ahead. This also seems odd; because if we did have some kind of malicious intentions toward her, her staring out her windshield with her back to us probably would not intimidate us into restraint, nor would it afford her anything more than the absolute minimum chance of thwarting whatever nefarious advance we might have in mind. But Mexican chicks have never been my thing; so she’s safe.

Eeaassyy… I’m just kidding… she’s not safe.

Eeaassyy

I’m Digging For Tires

We take a few token digs at the underside of the car; but it is utterly hopeless. The entire chassis is resting squarely on the sand. There aren’t really even any air pockets between the sand and the car. Now it’s just a waiting game.

This way lay beauty...and death. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This way lay beauty…but also death.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The assumption is that when these dudes come back, they will be bringing help for all. That doesn’t feel like all that much of a reach, despite the mild apprehension that attends the thought.

It’s getting dark. As the light starts to dwindle, the lights of cars on Highway 1 start emerging through the hot waves of desert air, five or six miles up ahead, in a slight depression of the land. Behind us nothing whatever can be seen, save for the dirty yellow lights of a clearly-uninhabited storage building of some sort, miles away across the vast open desert. The ocean was visible a few minutes ago, but now even that shit has gone to bed for the night.

This is the second flying truck we've seen in the past two hours in this immediate vicinity. What's that shit all about? (image by bestnewtrucks.net)
This is the second flying truck we’ve seen in the past two hours in this immediate vicinity.
What’s that shit all about?
(image by bestnewtrucks.net)

Enter: The Bo-Hweemoth

After a little over an hour of milling about by the car, pretending to be unaware of the woman who is pretending to be unaware of us, a set of headlights, and another solitary headlight, appear off in the distance behind us, heading this way.

Here comes either help, mockery, or death.

The motorcycle comes flying up the dirt road and guns it past our car and the one in front of it, and reclaims its parking spot from earlier, in front of everybody. The other vehicle comes bouncing up behind us. It is a gigantic pickup truck, cranked way up off the ground on suspension lifts . The term “pickup truck” doesn’t even seem adequate- the thing is one fang short of being a monster truck.

Oh wait… there’s the fang.

How the fuck did these two guys just take off into the lifeless desert and return a little while later with a fuckin’ monster truck?

The large-wheeled monstrosity stops behind Chalk’s car, and sits there on top of the sand, not even the slightest bit concerned about sinking in the sand. The knobs on the tires are so huge, and the tire themselves so ridiculously colossal, that this thing could probably cross the Sahara Desert without getting stuck. Gas might be an issue, though.

There's more to me than you'll ever know; and I got more tire than Saharahara Oh. (image by livescience.com)
There’s more to me than you’ll ever know; and I got more tire than Saharahara Oh.
(image by livescience.com)

After a brief survey of the situation, the driver of the newly-arrived huge truck simply turns the wheel to the right a little, guns the engine, and goes plowing right up the steep embankment, along the raised desert bed, past both trapped cars, and then down again onto the sandy road bed in front of both vehicles.

Ayuadame, Por Favor!

Instantly, ropes and chains are flying every which way, hooks and cables are linked, pedals depressed, and chasses yanked violently out of deep sand and down the road a piece onto terra firmer.

Sweet. We’ll be out of here in a couple minutes.

And just as quickly, the Mexican dudes start packing up their towing gear and throwing it back into the bed of the big-ass truck.

Ayuadame, Obi Wan- tu está mi solamente esperanza. (image by Geek.com)
Ayuadame, Obi Wan- tu está mi solamente esperanza.
(image by Geek.com)

Whoah. Whaaooohh. Wait a goddamn minute here.

The guys with the big truck and the towing gear are not the least bit concerned about our plight, and as such, are completely uninterested in spending any more time out here in the darkening desert helping a pair of stupid, luckless gringos. A look of equal parts incredulity and panic takes shape on Chalk’s face.

One of the original two dudes (the driver of the other stuck car- the one whose fault it is that we’re stuck), makes a gesture to me that says Sorry, mano. What do you want me to do?”

Well, I’ve got some ideas. I insert myself into the mix, in an attempt to advance a reasoned argument for why the big-trucking-hombres should help us as well their countrymen. Problem is, my argument has not been thought through any further than “Because we need help, and want you to provide it.” It’s lacking in incentive for the would-be assistance-givers, unless “because it’s the right thing to do” registers; but it’s looking like it doesn’t. We’ve got to sweeten the deal somehow.

It's cut-throat out here in the wilds of Baja Mexico. You barter with what you've got, or you perish. (photo by thomasz_sienicki)
It’s cut-throat out here in the wilds of Baja Mexico. You barter with what you’ve got, or you perish.
(photo by thomasz_sienicki)

Jäger Meisters

But there’s no way we’re whipping out our money reserves here, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a crew of local dudes with big-swingin’ trucks. Because, as we all know, the bigger, and more ludicrously masculine your vehicle, the tougher you are.

So what do we have that might move these dudes to help us?

Chalk remembers this large, unopened bottle of Jägermeister that we’ve been carting around since San Diego, saving it for… uhh, this moment, apparently.

Chalk digs out the Jäger bottle and holds it up, like one of those babes on The Price Is Right (though not quite as sexy), as I voice the offer, en español.

It was nowhere near this intoxicating. (image property of slotozilla.com)
Truth be told, it was nowhere near this intoxicating.
(image property of slotozilla.com)

When Spanish Eyes Are Smiling

Suddenly Spanish eyes are smiling. One of the dudes steps forward and says they will drag us out- for the bottle of Jäger, and $20, U.S. At least I think that’s what he said.

But as I stated already, I’m not willing to whip out my money stash right here; so I explain to the best of my ability that the offer is acceptable to me, except no tengo alguno efectivo ahora (I don’t have any cash on me at the moment). The dude responds that he’s fine with following us to a cajero automático (ATM).

We ponder this for a moment: Are we better off tipping our hand now, and risking having everything we’re holding taken away from us; or are we better off trying our luck with the bank machine, and hoping these dudes don’t stick some chrome in our grills and demand the balance of our bank accounts? Then it hits me: there’s less money in my bank account than in my wallet! Brilliant!

Suddenly these are some dice I think I’m comfortable rolling.

Up and ATM

Less than five minutes later we are once again making our way down the dirt road towards Highway 1; and soon we are turning back out onto the pavement and resuming our southward trajectory, albeit with a Mexican monster truck up our ass and looking for money. Our money. Whatever- a deal’s a deal.

 

Previous: Chapter 12: Hassles Made of Sand

Next: Chapter 14 (coming soon)

Baja Mexico: The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 12: Hassles Made of Sand

(Click here to Return to Day 1)

Dude, pull the car up another twenty feet. It's critical. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Dude, pull the car up another twenty feet. It’s critical.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Day 04

El Conejo, BCS

Monday, August 29th:

The car makes it down the dirt road to the ocean without any real difficulty. Passing by little fishing villages and various beach encampments, we cruise the dusty road alongside the water until a beach calls out to us. Chalk pulls the car up onto the hard ground near the edge of the sand. Perfect...

“Actually, why don’t you pull the car up another ten or fifteen feet.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, so we can see the car better from the beach?”

“You’ll be able to see the car fine from down there.”

But whatever. He pulls the car forward anyway.

In the Mexican Outback, there is no succour, save that for which you create. (image by www.streetlegaltv.com)
In the Mexican Outback, a man finds no succour, save for that which he creates.
(image by www.streetlegaltv.com)

The Sand. It Burns.

After spending thirty minutes laying in the 110-degree sand furiously trying to dig the car out with no success whatsoever, I can’t help but ask myself… What the fuck possible reason could I have had to insist that the car needed to be ten feet closer to the water?

There is no shade for miles, no offshore breeze to speak of. The atmosphere breaths not. Every few minutes we have to run down to the water and hurl ourselves into the ocean, but only to immediately return to the car to resume digging in vain. You can’t see under the car. In fact, if you open a door, you carve out one wing of a sand angel.

Okay, this is not sustainable- time for outside help. But then, we are stranded in deep sand on a remote beach in a remote corner of a sparsely-populated part of Mexico’s least peopled state. What to do?

Back To The Village

Well, there was this shitbag little fishing village a few miles back. Maybe that’s the call.

We lock up the car and set off on foot, hoping to find more than a bald chassis when we return. The giant dunes roll and swoop; and at the troughs between them we keep losing our bearings. But you know: keep the ocean on your left, and the dirt road on your right, and head north until you hit either the water, the road, or the little village where the two meet.

Fuck you very much. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Fuck you very much.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

It’s The American Way

An hour later we come upon a seaside clearing partially encircled by RVs bearing U.S. plates: Arizona, Texas, Colorado. Each one has, parked next to it, a jeep, a quadrunner, or an all-wheel-drive pickup. In the center of the crescent, a group of middle-aged white men sit in lawn chairs with beverages, beneath gigantic beach umbrellas. Viewing them from afar, they don’t look like they came here to meet 30-whatever-year-old American dudes.

The eyes are rolling before I even get a word out. Immediately I know how all of these men vote. I explain my case: that we got stuck in sand just a couple of miles down the road, and it would be really easy to pull us out, and would any of them please help us.

None of the Americans will help us. “Sorry, this is my vacation”, says one of them, speaking for the group, as evidenced by the nods of assent which accompany his declaration.

“Really? It would only take 20 minutes. Please sir, we are in a real jam here.” I look around for a flag to salute. There actually is one mounted on one of the RVs; but I leave it alone.

“Sorry son, you boys can’t just come out here unprepared and expect people to bail you out when you get yourselves into a little trouble.”

There is absolutely no question about how these guys vote. “Okay well fuck you very much then.” They ignore me.

After all, we’re not even here.

Okay look- I've been patient dude. Where the fuck is this fishing village? (photo Lucasfilms)
Okay look, dude- I’ve been more than patient. Where the fuck is this fishing village already?
(photo Lucasfilms)

Put a Roof On The Sucka

Another twenty or thirty minutes of walking arrives us at the aforementioned “fishing village”, which up close is revealed to be no more than a tiny little shack, with another one kinda near it.

Actually, can something be technically called a shack if it doesn’t have a roof? At any rate, it’s a structure of some sort; and more importantly, there’s a pickup truck parked in front it.

A barking dog announces our approach, and then appears from out behind the back of the “house”. He’s a mini black lab; and he’s just doing his job, goddammit. Good boy. A bedraggled hombre steps out of his four-walled enclosure and into the open, greeting us in Spanish. He’s missing a few teeth, skin torched by a lifetime spent under a pitiless sun; and his head is wrapped in a bandana. No shirt.

It Takes a Village… of One

If it’s possible to look at a guy and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he definitely doesn’t know any English, then this guy is the poster child for that possibility. Anyway, hopefully he speaks the international language of “Our truck got stuck in the sand a few miles away and can you please help us?”

He does! Give it up for hand gestures and mannerisms! The guy seems to perceive clearly enough what it is we need. Then again, what other kind of problem could anybody be conceivably having out here?

The guy grabs a really strong rope with metal clips at each end and throws it in the back of the pickup, then motions us into the front seat. His demeanor suggests that this is the most exciting thing to happen to him in years.

Follow that dog!! (image by fourwheeler.com)
Follow that dog!!
(image by fourwheeler.com)

Hound Around Town

We go bouncing down the “driveway” and out onto the same dirt road we drove in on a couple hours ago; and as we do so, the most amazing thing happens:

The dog, unspeakably jacked at the opportunity to run wild, leads us directly back to Chalk’s car. I mean, the fuckin’ thing literally runs in front of the truck, showing the way.  And it’s not like we’re cuing him in any way, either- and it can’t be that he’s simply following our scent back to the car, seeing as how we came over the dunes, and not by the road, to reach his homestead. Though the dog is running with everything he’s got, at times he is so close to the front bumper of the truck that we can’t see his entire body; yet the dude never slows down or shows even the slightest fear for the dog’s safety. And the dog demonstrates that there is in fact no such need. The guy babbles at us excitedly, though by now it’s perfectly obvious that we don’t know anywhere near enough Spanish to allow for this level of spirited conversation. But this only makes his incessant yammering that much more entertaining and memorable.

Ten minutes later we roll up to Chalk’s car, still laying in the sand, fully castrated. We never even gave the guy one directional instruction; there was no need- the dog had this from the start. The dog leaps around in front of Chalk’s car as if he’s high on Costco crack-jerky, practically doing back flips of exhilaration and clearly saying to us “Here’s your car!”

Everyone knows you can get really cheap towjobs in Mexico. (photo by ourtakeonfreedom.wordpress.org)
Everyone knows you can get really cheap towjobs in Mexico.
(photo by ourtakeonfreedom.wordpress.org)

Give ‘Em Enough Rope

We have to dig down in the sand several inches just to get to a part of the undercarriage of Chalk’s car that can safely bear the pressure of a tow line without warping or breaking.

Two seconds later Chalk’s car is back in the spot he’d originally parked in- the one I had insisted could be improved with a twenty-foot forward roll. The guy unhooks his rope and chucks it back into the bed of the truck. He starts profusely thanking us- or at least it seems like that’s what he’s doing. When I offer him some money, he refuses, with a gesture that clearly conveys “Don’t worry about it! Happy to help!”

Hey I pissed in this can for you. Thanks again for helping us, (image by praktikantenfutter.wordpress.com)
Hey I pissed in this can for you. Thanks again for helping us,
(image by praktikantenfutter.wordpress.com)

Te gusta cerveza?” (“Do you like beer?”)

“Ah, sí sí sí!” (“Yes! Yes! Yes!”)

I pull a couple of piss-warm Tecates out of our ice-free cooler and offer them to him, adding a gesture of apology meant to convey acknowledgment of the fact that warm shit-beer doesn’t really constitute a sufficiently fitting gift for the critical service he has just provided. He motions to only accept one beer; but I insist; so he takes both, and then promptly offers one of them back to me to drink (Chalk doesn’t drink beer).

Fuck it. Well-played. I accept his kind offer, and the next few minutes are spent standing around in the scorching late-afternoon sun, sipping piss out of cans, and communicating in the international language of “Thanks for helping us/ You’re welcome, thank you for the beer/ No, thank you/ Ah, sí sí sí!”

The hombre finishes his beer, tosses the can into the nearby scrub brush, puts the dog into the cab of the truck, and drives off, hand waving furiously out the window as if he’ll never forget us. We definitely won’t forget him, anyway.

We resume our southbound trajectory along the coastal dirt road.

 

Previous: Chapter 11: El Conejo Done Died

Next: Chapter 13: Hassles Made of Sand (Slight Return)

 

Christmas in the Desert (Part 2)

(Click here to return to Part 1)

... And the Star of Bethlehem said "Follow me; for I will lead you to the Baby Jesus." And I said "The stars command me not. You will bring the child to me." (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
… And the Star of Bethlehem spaketh unto me “Follow me; for I will lead you to the Baby Jesus.”
And I respondedeth “The stars command me not. You will bring the child to me.”
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
DSC_5307_PS
Hmm… *scratches head perplexedly*.
Well at least I can still have a cup of cheer.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Off Into the Wild Tan Yonder

It’s a photo-finish; but the race to reach Joshua Tree in time to photograph the moonrise ends in failure, albeit low-stakes failure. I miss my mark by just a few minutes.  But I don’t care. The way I see it, everyone takes a beating sometimes.

DSC_5289_PS
Take that, graffitti police.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We roll into the Indian Cove Campground a half an hour after sunset. The moon has just risen. I’m excited to be camping in the desert for the first Christmas full moon since 1977; but Katherine spoils my party by pointing out that the Christmas moon will be rising tomorrow night… on Christmas.

(photos by D. Speredelozzi)
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Katherine sets up the tent and starts getting the dinner stuff together; but for my own part, I won’t be eating again today, thank you very much. I work on getting the campfire going, in between frantic runs to and from the pit toilet, as the endless war (of the Meatballs) rages on, my pleas for parley having gone wholly ignored.

DSC_5456
Archaeologists in Petrified Sleestak National Park, working tirelessly beneath the sweltering heat of the Double Suns, have at last succeeded in tracing the origin of this skeletal monolith all the way back to Sid and Marty Krofft’s Saturday Morning Super-Show from the early 1970s.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

After this, nothing else stupid, interesting, embarrassing or hilarious happens. The rest is more “Ho Ho Ho” than “Ha Ha Ha”.

And nobody wants to read that shit.

But here are some more photos:

DSC_5332_PS
I awoke on Christmas morning to a magical landscape, blanketed tenderly with a freshly-fallen layer of sand, rock, scorpions, and reverse-barbed yucca cactus.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Et tu, Jabba?
Et tu, Jabba?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Every Christmas morning, this close-knit family of yucca trees gathers to watch the sunrise. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Every Christmas morning, this close-knit family of yucca trees gathers to watch the sunrise.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
DSC_5479_PS
This is what passes for a shady grove in Joshua Tree National Park.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
DSC_5347
Why don’t you come up with a caption for a change?…

That’s what I thought…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Christmas in the Desert (Part 1): The War of the Meatballs

It’s All Happening in Bakersfield

We decide to spend the holidays in Southern California this year. Our first stop will be Joshua Tree National Park, where we will camp under the first Christmas Eve full moon since 1977; then we’ll loop through San Diego and L.A. for a few days to see nieces and nephews and shit. We leave mid-day on December 23rd, bound for the Mojave Desert.

Of course no trip from the Bay Area to the Mojave would be complete without a stop in Bakersfield, de facto farming capital of Southern California. It’s kind of unavoidable- especially in winter, when all but a few of the other trans-Sierra through roads are snowed over, and closed until the spring.

Apparently the Padre Hotel didn't get the memo. It seems to think Bakersfield is a real city. (image by imsohideous.wordpress.com)
Apparently the Padre Hotel didn’t get the memo. It seems to think Bakersfield is a real city.
(image by imsohideous.wordpress.com)

We stop for the night at the “historical” Padre Hotel, shining star of Bakersfield’s urban nightlife district. It’s a nice place. And with a $90 credit from Hotels.com, it only costs ten bucks a night. And one of their three restaurants has ribeye. And… they allow dogs, even ones that unleash a face full of bark-flavored harassment upon the wee-hour cleanup crews, after smacking your book out of your hand at 1:45 AM when you’re trying to read yourself into dreamland- an unsubtle hint that a trip to the roofless realm is necessary.

Lucky for us, that fire-breathing dude at the hotel bar had other plans that night. (image by www.thepadrehotel.com)
Lucky for us, the fire-breathing dude from the hotel bar had other plans that night.
(image by www.thepadrehotel.com)

Everyone Knows it’s Windy

Next day we take a hike on the PCT near Tehachapi Pass– best named mountain pass in California. It’s the same spot where the chick from Wild started her epic journey- but we go the other way (southbound).

Driver- follow that Radio Flyer!! And STEP on it! (image by wikimedia.org)
Driver- follow that Radio Flyer!! And STEP on it!
(image by wikimedia.org)

We hike up to the Alta Energy Wind Center (aka the Mojave Wind Farm)- the second largest terrestrial array of wind turbines (these are to windmills what the motorized car is to the horse and buggy) in the world.

DSC_5206

Hey- Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm!! BLOW me. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Hey!!- Mojave Wind Farm!  
BLOW me.
(photos by D. Speredelozzi)

If you drive California Highway 58 over Tehachapi Pass, you can’t miss these things- they’re all over the hills on the west side of the pass- between Tehachapi and Mojave. There’s thousands of them peppering the hilltops. You can’t count them. You can’t ignore them.

Rather than being at the ridgetop Mojave Wind Farm, Katherine opts to tell the world that she's there. You know nowadays you haven't actually "been" somewhere until the social media sphere is hip. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Rather than actually being at the ridgetop Mojave Wind Farm, Katherine opts to let the world know that she’s there. You know, nowadays you haven’t actually “been” somewhere until the social media sphere is hip.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The War of the Meatballs

This is why you have to have breakfast in Bakersfield before you climb a mountain in Tehachapi: because if you don’t, then by the time you get down off the mountain and drive the 100 miles to Kramer Junction, deliriously ravenous, you cannot be trusted to order lunch responsibly. Plus, you’ll end up having to settle for Subway (have you been to Kramer Junction?) But your wife will  leave you alone to order while she uses the restroom and buys Doritos in the main store of the truck stop. And by the time she joins you in the queue, it’ll be too late.

It’s like going food shopping when you’re wicked baked. Mistakes get made. All decisions are filtered through a kind of madness that has no place in a room containing all the food in the world.

So I ask the dude to rustle me up a meatball sub (which anywhere west of Philly is a roll of heavily-loaded dice as it is).

Regular or footlong?

(Mistake #1:) Uh… footlong.

Would you like double the meatballs?

Umm… how many does it come with normally?

Eight- so the double comes with sixteen. (*I knew you had to be smart to be a…rustler*)

How much extra is it?

$2.50.

(Mistake #2:) Fuck it- yeah, hook it up.

Would you like double the cheese?

How much?

$1.00.

(*sighs audibly, powerless to resist*)

Yeah sure (*groans, knowing full well how this ends*).

I’ve never been known for my restraint in situations where the long view is the advisable one.

You know I don't like watching anybody make the same mistakes I made. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
You know I don’t like watching anybody make the same mistakes I made.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Three Mistakes and One Parm

You know how you can’t tell how full you are for several minutes after you eat, so the smart move is to eat slowly and take breaks, lest you find out 10 minutes later that you’ve fucked yourself?

(Mistake #3:) Apart from one and a half meatballs given to the Peanut, and one to Katherine, I snarf the whole goddamn sandwich in five minutes- which, despite the fact that I did it, is actually impossible to do. Anyway, I’m not hungry anymore. (more on this later).

By the Time We Make it to Barstow, We’ll Be More Than Halfway to Hell

Forty miles later I am engaged in a battle to the death with a toilet at the Vons supermarket in Barstow, while Katherine food shops for our night of camping at Joshua Tree.

At first the pushback is significant; and in the early stages of the skirmish I am completely boxed in and unable to advance my troops. But eventually there’s an opening in my front lines, and the toilet falls under heavy fire. The firefight is severe and unrelenting; and at its peak, the sound of the bombings can be heard far beyond the boundaries of the contested area.

In the end I emerge victorious, but with heavy losses. My troops are scattered all over the battlefield- the carnage is devastating; though, interestingly, no blood has been shed. Nevertheless, I don’t think the media will want to report on this.

I stand proud, the victor; and pull my pants up; and moments later a flash flood comes sweeping down canyon, un-looked-for, and flushes away all evidence of the conflict.

But I know this war is not over yet. In fact even now the very forces that put this whole conflict in motion are regrouping, reassembling- lining up for the next attack- an attack whose arrival could come at any time, but at any rate is assured. It is a gastrointestinal certainty. But if my side is to prevail in the next rush, it is critical that my generals behind the lines receive at least some advance notice from the outlying lookouts.  In the meantime, I am given temporary leave to visit with my family before the fighting resumes.

I rejoin my wife in the produce section.

Go to Part 2