Day 211

Salton City, CA to Borrego Springs, CA

Another incredible sunrise. The wind has calmed down, and I watch in great comfort from my sleeping bag.

Once I get going, the wind appears again. I don’t mind, since I’m in no hurry today. I have until this afternoon to make 30 miles to Borrego Springs. Soon I enter Anza Borrego State Park. I hope for a picnic table to hang out at, but no such luck. I climb over some serrated hills, then find myself headed down toward an apparent oasis at the foot of a high mountain ridge. It’s only 10:30, so I find a Tamarisk to shield me from the wind and stop for some more oatmeal. It’s a nice, sunny, warm day. Killing time is not unpleasant.

I arrive at Michael’s at noon, ring the doorbell, and receive a groan in response. I guess they’re still asleep, so I read and explore for a while. At 1:30 I knock again. It takes a few minutes, but Michael eventually appears. We hug, greet, and sit down to a glass of juice and a protein bar.

Michael is living here because the dry heat is good for his girlfriend Julie, who is on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant. I see a picture of her on a desk, a very thin, blonde, rambunctious-looking woman. I assume she’s behind the one closed door in the small apartment. When she emerges I see the same face in the picture with the tale of a long struggle added. She’s haggard, resolute, wise, witty, cynical, optimistic, young, and old. A woman living on the verge of annihilation, with no intention of giving up. I’m filled with admiration, respect, sympathy, even a sort adoration for her. I’m also touched by Michael’s tender, creative dedication to her. I’m disappointed when we have to leave her to go get some food.

Michael takes me to a local Mexican joint. I talk about my journey and Michael waxes on about Kerouac and the joys of travel.

I stay up late with Michael and Julie, getting to know them. Julie is closer to my age than Michael, and reminds me of my friend Molly. She’s smart, sharp, and sometimes foulmouthed. I sense a capacity for righteous beligerence. She and Michael tell me how they threw caution to the wind and went to live in Mexico for a while when she got sick. They’re clearly in love.

At 1 or 2 am I retire on the back porch, but they stay up together.

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