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Going Mobile

New experiences during a visit to an old fave

A weekend in Joshua Tree National Park was chock full of a whole lot of firsts. Here’s Leslie’s lowdown, which includes at least one moment of DOH!

Hitting the road: I was proud of myself for taking care of business on my final solo day in Palm Springs, loading all the gear, successfully dumping the tanks and stopping at Ace Hardware to have an extra vehicle key made. This process took a week because the Ace team had to special-order a fob key. Thanks, Greg!

The first night, I stayed in a new-to-us KOA in Desert Hot Springs, which was very nice. Their mineral pools hit the spot on a rare rainy day in the Coachella Valley.

Joshua Tree, here I come: After dropping off paperwork at the Sun Valley Storage facility – where the Thor Gemini was going to be parked for a few weeks – I drove east on the 10. The destination was Cottonwood Campground, where I was meeting my friend, Tahirih, who was driving over from Phoenix. While I’d put some fuel in the tank, the needle began moving toward empty after I passed the last truck stop. DOH!

While there was no problem getting to the campsite, getting back to Palm Springs wasn’t going to happen without an infusion of diesel. So, after an action-packed morning of hiking – documented by lots of iPhone photos – we headed out of the park to the town of Joshua Tree to get some fuel.

Oh, look, there’s a farmers market and a very cool apothecary, where an astrologist was offering readings. Turns out the detour was fruitful.

Back at the campsite, we talked about some of the highlights of the day. It was Tahirih’s first time visiting this vast national park, an ever-changing landscape that inspired a chorus of wows. Hidden Valley was beautiful and Barker Dam was a pleasant surprise.

On a weekend, Joshua Tree also can be overrun. When we left the park to go into town, there were at least 100 cars in line at the entry. Key takeaway? If you plan to visit on the weekend, go early. Very early. We were on the road before 7.

On our final night in the park, Tahirih and I headed to the campsite’s amphitheater for the evening’s program. Ranger Tai gave an entertaining talk about how Joshua Tree sprawls over two different desert landscapes, the Mojave and the Colorado. There are different plants and animals that flourish in each. We were delighted to hear about the tortoise, burrowing owls, kit foxes and bighorn sheep that call the park home.

The temps were downright chilly that evening, but the stars were bright and our tummies were full of mushroom risotto, tuna steaks and kale salad. Oh, and the tank in the rig was replenished, too.

After a restful night’s sleep, I said so long to my dear friend – the very first gal pal slumber party in a national park was a roaring success – and headed back to the storage facility to drop off Gemini. I was heading to Los Angeles for a week of visits with friends and family, but not before one last first. The Flix bus I’d booked was canceled. Dang it.

On a whim, I asked the nice guy who was helping me at the storage facility how much he’d charge to drive me to L.A. The storm’s coming, so let’s get on the road ASAP, said Jimmy after we negotiated a price that was less than Uber was going to charge. We were there in a flash and my trip to the city began in the most Hollywood way.

I wandered down from my excellent accommodations at Hotel Figueroa to gawk at the arrivals to the Grammy Awards. Another first!

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Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.