Day 29 (Pete)

It is night. We are in the town of Mojave, a place I have been to many times. It’s lonely here. Being out in nature by yourself with nothing to do can be wonderful. Being in a dusty little highway town in such a situation is lonely. Dyl’s here of coarse. It has come to pass that I refer to being with him as being by myself. Not that I am tired of him or his company. Rather, I have fully integrated his presence into my sense of self. I wish Siri were here to share my pizza with me. I wish she were here to make the field out behind the grocery store a little more inviting bedding. It feels like a hobo’s life tonight.

We left the bus behind and headed out along the aqueduct. Water was to be obtained, we were told, out of certain access points to the buried pipeline. The first of such was paved over in what looked like some recent work. After a few nervous miles, we sniffed out the second access point. A pipe sticking vertically out of the cement. After unscrewing its cap we could hear, and feel the moisture from, water gurgling at the bottom of a deep black hole. The opening was one to two inches larger in circumference than one of our one liter bottles. Dyl tied a length of parachute cord around the bottles plastic lid and lowered it down. It bobbed uselessly on the surface of the water. Getting water out of the pipe consumed us. I briefly looked around for a long stick before realizing there was absolutely no vegetation that would produce one anywhere in our vicinity. Fortunately, we had the collapsible tent poles. The bottle was lowered in by Dylan as I held the pole in the bottle. As it hit the surface I gently pushed down. Dyl could hear the glug glug of the water filling our bottle signaling the heave ho back to the surface. The water was mucky dirty. A terrible disappointment. The pipe, for all we could tell went a short ways down past the aqueduct’s water level. Someone had dropped dirt into the pipe and it floated trapped on the surface unable to flow away with the current. We optimistically made the decision that the water in the aqueduct was microbe free. So, we wouldn’t have to completely clog our filter by running the particle laden water through it so as not to get dysentery. Instead, Dyl suggested we at least use the prefilter to take out some of the dirt and make it palatable. It did the trick but took a lot of life out of the mechanism. On the second attempt I pushed down too far and shoved the bottle out the pipe into the main current of the aqueduct. Dylan yanked again and again vainly trying to reel the bottle back into the narrow pipe opening. He ended up pulling out a dis-bottled plastic lid. I commend him for restraining his outrage as well as he did. I was not paying precise attention and, consequently, we are now able to carry one liter less in a place where water is always an issue to take very seriously. He duct taped the rope around the body of the next bottle.

After filling our bodies and bottles we headed out on more utterly strait, bleak and surreal dirt road walking. Not too much concentration was required to stay on coarse; so, I took the opportunity to begin some meditation. My prayer has streamlined in its literary aspects down to a few words. In the instance of incessant repetition it becomes more of a sound or hum. Some sort of fluctuating tone repeated again and again. Conscious occupations sort of melted off and I became more and more entranced. After about thirty minutes I caught myself somewhat drooling and unable to really see as my eyes had rolled back and my lids were fluttering incessantly. Resurfacing was like I imagine a hibernating bear must feel. Slowly, groggily waking up. Piece by piece feeling the animal in me gathering strength.

This morning we woke at Cottonwood creek. It was no more than a dusty wash. Water could be obtained somewhere in the vicinity from the aqueduct. It was a process left for us to figure out as we knew the location but no specific details. After not being able to sniff out any obvious access, I was strangely compelled to begin moving rocks around. Sliding a one away revealed a chipped hole it the aqueduct’s cement cover. We filled up and slid the rock back. An initiative puzzle left for those to come. We quickly began following a new segment of trail veering to the north away from the aqueduct and toward the Tehachapie mountains. This segment post dated our maps. The whole day would rest on the blind faith that we would be able, hopefully in twenty five miles or less, stumble onto highway 58 twelve miles west of Mojave. It took us a little too long to climb onto high ground after a torturous morning of desert foothill contouring and cutbacks. At one point we seemed to be significantly climbing up and away from the valley. Coming across a steep canyon seared way into the ridge line was a sickening obstacle. The trail dropped all the way down to the bottom forcing it to climb all the way back up again. We made light of the situation by dirt glissading down a steep hard packed slope as opposed to trudging down the trail. I fell on my but and we both got shoes packed with sand. Regardless, it was enough to force a laugh and got us too the bottom in forty five seconds rather that fifteen minutes. Eventually scrub brush and Chemise gave way to sage and pines. The heat softened and our spirits lightened. It took most of the day to complete the climb over the range. We could see a distant wind farm that I knew, from past travels, adorned the hillsides outside of Mojave.

A small stream marked the bottom of our descent through the towering windmills. Exhausted after twenty miles of trudging motorcycle chewed trail, we washed up and attempted to cook up an early dinner for extra steam. The stove just wouldn’t stay lit in the wind. Hoping the highway was but a little way off we tiredly set out. Shortly a trail sign deflated any remaining optimism. “Highway 58 7 miles.” It looked like one and a half to two hours of day light left. Full well knowing we would have poor luck hitching a ride after dark, I asked Dyl if he thought we could do it. He unhappily replied, “Yea we can probably do it.” It seemed to me to be something that once decided upon had to be done with every amount of available physical and mental energy. I set out as fast as I could walk which after hundreds and hundreds of miles was a good clip. After a couple of miles through giant rotating vulva shaped windmills, I turned to catch a glimpse of Dyl actually jogging down a short slope. The insanity of it all just king of grabbed me and my entire presence became absorbed with a sort of wild euphoria. Laughing and yelling I began to jog too. We half ran and half super speed walked for four more miles to a vista above the thin snaking band of the highway far below. I reached a glimpse of the road first in a sort of manic epiphany. As I jumped up and down yelling and screaming with my arms raised, Dyl came around slightly less pleased. He quickly remarked that he hadn’t ran since the seventh grade when he got beat up after the first day of track practice. My pace had evidently forced him to break his steak after so long and he seemed kind of pissed off about it.

I had really prayed to be rewarded for our efforts while running through the wind farm. Consequently, or so it seemed at that point, we were picked up by the first car. It was the to town express as the guy, a navy pilot, drove at ninety five miles an hour. When I told him we had just rocketed past our hopeful dinner spot he locked the parking break, cranked the wheel, and simultaneously hit the gas throwing the car into a high speed skidding U-turn across three lanes. It was really fun and surprising. I had never ever been in a car that did something like stunt people do on T.V..

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