Yuccas and Joshua Trees

Trip Start Jan 30, 2011
Trip End Nov 16, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, March 19, 2011

My sleeping bag served me well, I was nice and cosy with that and the added warmth of my liner, but had to get up midway through the night as the heater on full pelt as well as these two insulators were making me a little uncomfortable. The bunk was surprisingly comfy and squeaked less than any hostel beds I've stayed in so far.  We were up at seven to tackle the last big day of driving, but not many of us, if any, could face the shower followed by sitting in the cold wind with wet hair, making for a musty bus at times.  We piled into the van to head into Williams, still in Arizona, to get breakfast at McDonalds; unfamiliar with its breakfasts I gazed at the many pancakes, eggs, burritos, and combinations of all three available, but settled on a maple and fruit porridge with my beloved hot chocolate.  A large group of elderly tourists were also having their breakfast in there, all getting ready to head out on their long drives ahead too. 

Once we’d discussed Libya, Iraq, and English people’s willingness to attack their own country as opposed to Americans who are much more patriotic, we headed back into the Scooby bus to make a start on our six hour drive to the Joshua Tree National Park.  I nodded off several times on the way, which caused a bit of a stiff back, as I was sitting at an angle to try and get some extra leg room.  A brief moment of clarity enabled me to hear that we were stopping off at Wal-Mart for an hour to look around in awe and buy some food for the next few breakfasts and lunches. I headed into the large ASDA and managed to kill an hour before loading back up on the van ready to head to lunch.

Our lunch stop was at a truck rest with a few benches where we enjoyed bagels and baguettes alongside the daunting sign warning us of snakes nearby, fortunately all we saw were some little dogs that I mistook for large kangaroo rats on first sight.  Packed up and ready to go, we were onto the final stretch to the Joshua trees.  Apparently they were named after Joshua from the bible by the Mormon of Salt Lake City, who had headed north to explore and found the trees that they thought resembled Joshua when he had his arms in the air for a day.  I don’t know the details of the Joshua story, but any good bible should be able to provide a greater background.  We were also informed that they’re not even trees, but bushes, and so have been incorrectly named, though the name has clearly stuck. 

We arrived at the National Park, opened by Bill Clinton in 1994, at three and set about a mini ramble up one of the rocks to see an overview of the Hidden Valley, where stolen cows were hidden, hence the name, by thieves whilst they went out stealing more.  The track to the rock was a little scratchy as the dry plants caught my arms and air whilst trying to negotiate the path, and I then had a mini attack of acrophobia whilst walking up the steep rock, having to remind myself of the much steeper Mount Kinabalu.  A few pictures of the landscape before heading down, often the worst part, to follow the track around the valley and take some more pictures, even experimenting with the panoramic tools on my new camera, though the lens is covered in dust so the specks might show on the photos. 

We watched the rock climbers ascend the many formations before arriving back at the van following a discussion with another NHS worker about the organisation and how doctors are often more interested in money than their patients, amongst other issues, making me feel less like a backpacker and more like a normal person for those brief moments. 

The wind was still whipping around us even though we were in California so we all jumped back into the van for more snoozing, on my part anyway, and more dodgy comedic performances from the man whose sketch is based on 'you know you’re a redneck when…’ We learnt a lot about rednecks when we arrived in Yucca Valley for our stay at the Super 8, not least when we popped over to the fairground to kill some time before Applebee’s  had a table available for all thirteen of us.  A sign over the ride said passengers’ maximum height was 99", which we struggled to work out as we haven’t had to use our brains for a while, so I headed over to the controller to ask him.  I thought the man talking to him was also in charge of the ride and so asked him if I was too tall to ride, but he told me he didn’t have a clue what I was saying and was just asking a question himself, at which point the controller in his heavy-duty parker slowly turned around to reveal a stereotypical redneck face seen only in the movies.  He laughed a scary laugh and told me the limit was nine feet so I was too tall, but then laughed as I was clearly baffled either way.  Assuming I was okay to ride I headed over to the ticket booth to pay along with Michelle, the only other person who would ride with me as everyone else said it was too cold. 

We boarded the ride and got clamped in, making extra sure the bar wasn’t going anywhere before feeling even remotely safe, then watched as the redneck took hold of the controls and played God to us minions.  The ride had a full-on G-force effect that pushed Michelle over to me throughout the whole ride, forcing my ribs against the edge of the container, making me thankful that we’d not sat the other way around or she would have been a goner.  Michelle screamed whilst I did my scared laughter and felt tears streaming sideways across my face as the wind caught my eyes in every rotation.  Two not-so-little girls behind us weren’t amused by the redneck’s leaving us rotating for some time after he ride had finished, and shouted some stereotypical redneck terms themselves.  We eventually escaped to see almost everyone had waited to see if we survived the fairground horror and headed back to Applebee’s, warmed up by the adrenalin. 

We still had a few minutes to wait for the table, ending up watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship along with the rest of Yucca Valley as they cheered for the men in little pants hugging each other for two long in what seemed to be yearning rather than anger.  The matches were playing throughout the whole meal, and showed us just how much the locals love to see two men kick, slap, punch, and knock-out one another whilst they eat their food and drink their beer.  We couldn’t help but watch either, actively trying to make conversation rather than watch the TV, but mostly ending up like the couples around us who moved from sitting opposite each other to beside so they could better see the fight whilst eating.

Full bellies and empty purses sent us back to the cold van, walking past the manhole cover that was bubbling away and threatening to blow at any moment, luckily not on either of the times Chris decided to stand on it.  Warmed up, but forced to walk out into the cold, Daniela and I realised we still hadn’t had our beer and gathered our six bottles of Corona from the trailer to take upstairs, dripping water from the bag the whole way to our room.  A few people came in to help us with it, but once they’d left we still managed to have three left, and so drank them from our Super 8 complimentary cups before leaving the last to go flat as we’d opened it already, and heading off to bed one last time.
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