The day’s heat was rising and in the air condition-less car both windows were open a bit. All I heard was the steady sound of the wind rushing past as I drove through the light afternoon traffic. Passed the wind turbines near Palm Springs, the large looming machines looked like giant floor fans. Some were on top the mountains and others in the valley. I noticed that some turned their triple blades quickly while others scarcely moved. So many of them loomed overhead they gave off a science fictiony feeling. I needed a soundtrack to go with the sight, I thought. There were hundreds and hundreds of them and they were tall—more than 200 feet tall each, I guessed. So dramatic. So SoCA.
Soon after the manufactured wind energy display, the road changed from 4 lanes down to 2. I was officially away from the last metropolis of Palm Springs. For most of my journey I’d be on a 2-lane interstate, not freeway, that crossed other states and only when the towns were actually cities did the lanes multiply. Having lived in L.A. for so long I’d forgotten about places that didn’t have 7 or 8 lanes of traffic and multiple cloverleafs filled with vehicles. I’d forgotten about places without electronic signs warning of some nearby car crash that was disabling traffic for miles and closing off lanes.
The orange warning sign read: “Avoid overheating. Turn off a/c next 10 miles.” This was seen in the Sonoran desert just before climbing the Chiriaco Summit. I made sure my windows were rolled down enough to benefit from the breeze but still allow me to drive without too much noise. I was also happy that my ‘Stang was being driven the way it was supposed to. Fast. Unfettered by those sudden blockages on the 101 or 405 even late at night or way early in the morning. My ‘stang hugged the few curves in the road. I admired the surrounding desert scenery, absorbing it, loving the dryness and the warmth. My car sped so easily as it hadn’t since living in the midst of Los Angeles. And it was quickly heading to the 80+ mile away gas station somewhere in Blythe where it would greedily suck up that $2.27 per gallon fuel it needed to get me to my destination.
Phoenix, Arizona was still about 250 miles east of me. I hoped to get past it that afternoon or evening and spend the night further north in the Grand Canyon state. Overhead the blue smogless sky loomed above me. I’d see the occasional sign pointing out that radiator water was available, further emphasizing how hot it gets in the summer. But not now. Now, everything seemed more spacious.
Sped past the familiar but increasingly unnecessary orange and blue call boxes along the sides of the freeway/interstate, remnants of pre-cellphone times. I’d seen them so frequently along all the freeways that I scarcely noticed them anymore. But where I was going they didn’t exist. Where I was going…a place I didn’t want to visit. I was driving into the future, ever southeastward, but to me there was nothing in front of me that I wanted to see or do or hear. I was going someplace because the place I had left behind was no longer.
The sights around me distracted my thoughts. In the midst of the desert I saw a field with grazing sheep. Marveling at that incongruity, I stopped off at a gas station, making sure I stocked up on bottled water for my journey through the desert between here and Phoenix. For food I had been snacking on pumpkin seeds and raisins. This way I could drive, drive, drive. But that night I’d find a fast food place just because I felt that during my trip I could justify an inexpensive and unhealthy dinner. After all, I hadn’t packed any cookware and where I was heading I’d find plenty of it.