Writing on the road is a funny thing. In dog training, we talk about an emotional state called “conflicted” – feeling two opposite things at once. In my case, to get off grid, away from technology and deadlines, but also loving to reach out, to write, valuing all the armchair adventurers who join us vicariously by tuning in and reading these posts. What to do? For dogs, we watch body language, offer agency, teach them make the choice that puts them most at ease. For me, it’s ice cream. Two scoops.
Before coming off the road for a week with family, we packed in two more nights in the deserts of the southwest. The first was in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge near the Arizona-California border. It was one of those near-perfect boondocking sites: a wide and very flat space big enough to host 20 campers (but that night hosting none save our little Rocinante), a sand-dirt pause in the austerely beautiful but prickly and fragile desert vegetation, domed with a starry, starry sky. The only reason it got the slight holdback of near-perfect was the distant but still-visible lights of the Mexico-US border checkpoint through which we passed along highway 95, a flash photo of our license plate joining the Great American Database.
Mid afternoon we reached Joshua Tree National Park, and had the sudden, fantastic, and of course entirely unique idea to stay at a campsite in the National Park itself. As we got closer it dawned on us that it was a Thursday night during National Park Week. There would likely be more campers than spines on a saguaro, and they’d be more dug in at their early-booked spots than a cholla caught on a puppy’s paw. Cottonwood is reservation only, but we drove through and asked about openings in vain hope. And by some miracle still beyond us today, we got a spot! It was pretty central and so a touch busy, but we maneuvered the trailer to create a little nook so we could sit fireside away from the path, and were off for a bikeride in time for sunset, Katie riding behind me in her basket, nose in the air to smell the world.
In the morning were up early for another bikeride and another National Park hack: while dogs must be on paved roads only, they can also be 100 feet off the road on either side – just enough wiggle room to find a rocky breakfast outcrop with a view, Katie quietly snoozing on her leash beside us. NP heaven, our tax dollars at work.
One last stop in the area is at JT Country Kitchen in Twentynine Palms, which we discovered in 2017 when it was a breakfast shack with a writeup in Lonely Planet – not for the eggs ‘n’ sausage, but for the chef-owner’s specialties, made daily and tucked in a cooler. She had since sold the place, but her legacy continues: if you go, pass up the dime-a-dozen breakfast burritos and burgers, and instead head straight to the noodle and peanut slaw dishes of Mareine Uy’s native Cambodia. Good enough for Anthony Bourdain, and worth a trip of 1000 miles for us (3000 miles, really – we pulled in last October, only to find they were closed on a Tuesday.)
From there, we were ocean coast bound and by nightfall, we’d arrived with my folks. Staying with them is a treat and we looked forward to a week at a very different pace, with local fresh-catch sushi nights and Blue Mountain coffee with whipped cream mornings. Can one get out-of-breath points eating an ice cream?