What follows is a lightly edited and mostly stream-of-consciousness travel log of my journey from Florida to California and back again.
20160524 – Tuesday
Up in the early, cool morning, everything is a bit stiff but refreshed to be sleeping out in the tent again. That morning Utah mountain air is something else. My partner made coffee, I packed up camp, and we headed out to our final westward leg to Los Angeles.
Going south before heading west, we hit the Arizona/Utah border for both spring water and food, at the lovely and quiet polygamous LDS settlement of Hildale. The state borders run straight through and divide the town, which we crossed on the way to the Merry Wives Cafe. The burgers we ate were delicious and rich, the cashier had an accent I couldn’t quiet place: perhaps native to the FLDS community, it sounded old and a preserved bit of history.
From there, we explored the town a bit as we searched for Sawmill Springs at the base of a local state park. The women wore long, deeply-colored, and well-woven skirts with leggings underneath to show no skin from their lovely clog-like shoes to their face, hair, and hands. Some opted for a bonnet while others allowed their gold and auburn hair to shimmer in the desert sun.
I saw a pickup truck with three young boys ranging from 6 to 16, on the way to the spring. They seemed to be having a great time, swaying with the uneven dirt roads, then we passed them as the truck pulled off to turn around, and I realized that the cab held an additional four girls, sitting on each other’s laps, and an an older girl or a young mother driving the whole party around town. It felt like the LDS truck version of a clown car, packed to the gills with smiling bodies.
After filling up with tasty water from the earth, we steeled ourselves for the drive into deep civilization. A strong sprint through Las Vegas towards Los Angeles.
Arrived on the outskirts of the bustling metropolis around 8p, we found our evening accommodations around 9p— Spa Palace in the heart of Los Angeles.
I’ve never seen a jjimjilbang this big or well-designed— not to say that Jeju or Shangri-La are ratchet, but that this place is a step above. Lots of young people as well, a group of young Russian men were enjoying the saunas with me and jumping into the cold tubs. Russia has a strong banya culture which mirrors the Korean jimjilbang tradition. It was nice to have their energetic company, listening to their animated and foreign conversations, usually I’m sweating alone. As I left the same-sex areas for the co-ed restaurant, a group of older Russian fellows arrived, ready to take my place with their youthful counterparts.
Ate bibimbap, enjoyed our final night of sleep under a roof, and rested up for the true road trip destination— Bradley, CA and the Lightning in a Bottle music festival
20160525 – Wednesday
Woke up as the sun began to rise over the eastern skyscrapers, edited together a dirty dozen podcast for On Death, as I didn’t end up interviewing Doug Masiuk back in Frisco. Also, edited together the next few days of this travel log for publishing on Sunday.
With these things squared away after an hour or two, I had no obligations until well after LiB, meaning I could just relax and enjoy the event with my partner. The drive to the festival grounds were uneventful, if slightly stressful as it was the culmination of a week of mental and emotional foreplay. Searched for camps as the sun set, and crashed well into the dark.
20160526 – 20160528
During which time, we played on slacklines, enjoyed no showers, and I helped reduce psychedelic harms with the Zendo Project.
20160529 – Monday
Woke up after a weekend of festival madness and about a mile away from our car. My partner and I had hiked into the California foothills to get away from the throngs and chaos of the general camping. The benefits of camping so far away from everyone else meant that we could be naked in camp without disturbing any childrens or adults, and have relative peace and relative quiet— both very loose terms when you can hear the main stages sound check in the morning while still snuggled into your sleeping bag.
The hike out to our site with our gear felt much shorter than our walk out, but that’s probably because we didn’t have four days of dancing, slacklining, and otherwise late nights under our belt. Additionally, the sun heats up around 1p, baking the dry little California valley in what feels like the high nineties. At night, the temperature drops to the fifties— the fluctuations demanding some sort of preparation on both sides.
So, we trudged our way to the car, under the afternoon heat, fully loaded with our campsite on our backs. The air was dusty, plumes of brown clouds following vehicular traffic out of the festival grounds. Back at the trusty Toyota we loaded up without much ceremony and queued up to exit the premises.
All told, it took about two hours to leave the festival and arrive on honest to goodness clear roads. Four days prior, we had entered on Wednesday in about fifteen minutes, mostly slow driving to parking. Between then and our current conga-line of vehicles Monday afternoon, was the arrival of about 35,000 people, with probably half as many cars.
That’s a lot of people. As we exited we could see how deep the mass of campers went, how far it extended to the entrance, and how many of them had already left. So, we made friends with our temporary line neighbors and traded our way to a jug of water and two cold hard ciders— we had finished the last of our water while packing up camp, assuming exit would be a simple affair. The ciders were delicious and the water warm, but hydrating.
Once out of Bradley and back on the open road, we aimed north for a spring. Along the way, we stopped at In-N-Out Burger for my initiation into the west coast chain’s tasty menu. Quite worthy of the hype, the burger and fries were well-cooked and delicious (ordered animal-style, covered in sauce and grilled onions), and the kitchen was open to the waiting customers and run admirably and efficiently. We ate our fill and then moved further north: Aptos, by Seacliff.
My partner had never tried Airbnb, an online lodging service where individuals can list their room, apartment, or property for an evening, week, or month-long rental. Reviews and ratings for both the renter and rentee provide some stability for the cream to rise to the top— highly rated individuals can generally be trusted, whereas that cheap one bedroom with two stars is an ‘at your own risk’ proposition. Our lodging for the evening was a well-regarded one room attached to a garden and sun patio, for about the price of a decent hotel. Mark, our host, greeted us kindly in his driveway with a glass of red wine and his partner, Jan.
We were bushed, after a full day of waiting in the hot sun to exit the festival grounds, a couple hours drive, and a goose-chase for a nearby spring that turned out to be on private property. My partner and I said our hellos and goodnights, and settled into the cozy bedroom by the Pacific Ocean for our first hot showers in a week and a proper bed with blankets.
Long Form Sundays
- On the road, from CO to UT (or summer travels: Part Three)
- On the road, from KY to KS (or summer travels: Part Two)
- On the road, from FL to KY (or summer travels: Part One)