Road Angels and Desert Magic

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Joshua Tree was full of road angels.


To get to Joshua Tree from Palm Desert, I had to go south first, to Mecca and the Salton Sea. At Mecca, I stopped to eat some face-burner tacos and watch freight trains loaded with new cars chugging east. I filled two water bottles with ice water and set out for Box Canyon Road. Once out of the farmland, the air turned dry. It was a long, hot, slow ride to the park entrance and my bottles were completely dry by the time I rode passed the entrance to Joshua Tree.


On the phone, a ranger had told me that the campgrounds were likely full. But no worries, I could fill up my water bag at the Ranger Station and then ride back to BLM land outside the park to dry camp.


This seemed like a good idea until I saw the hill up to the station.

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I stopped in the road and halted traffic to rescue a desert tortoise that had wandered into the road. When I tried to take his picture, he hid his face and peed on my hand. Maybe it was pee. It was pink and chunky. I worried that it was his water reservoir, that I’d saved him from squishing only to condemn him to death by dehydration. Sorry, little tortoise.


The five miles to the Station were a slow brutal climb. I rode through sunset. No surprise the station was already closed when I arrived. The restrooms were still open so I could get water. Right away I made the executive decision to make myself comfortable here, instead of riding back out to the BLM land. P3040126 (1).jpgI slept on a picnic table under the stars. When the rangers rode in on bikes the next morning, I was packed up drinking coffee, ready to pay my park fees.

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When the rangers said the campgrounds were all full, I chose not to worry about it. And not less than an hour later, a nice German man pulled over and offered to share his campsite at Jumbo Rocks campground. Later some more people pulled over to offer me a bag of sliced oranges. The Road Angels were dropping out of the sky. At the campground, the campers next door were eager to hear about my trip, and also feed me gallons of beer and barbeque. We spent the evening around the campfire, talking about travel and alien encounters. My favorite sort of night.P3050148.jpg

The next day I pulled into Twentynine Palms. I counted three massage places: Japanese Massage, Tokyo Massage, and Okinawa Massage. I wonder which one is the best? I stayed at a cheap motel and took two hot showers. No massage though.


The next day was quite a ride.


Thanks to a lovely storm on the west coast, I had tailwinds all day long. I felt like I was riding a motorcycle. I rode 93 miles, which is huge for me.

Desert Bicycle Art
Here’s where the desert ghosts live.
Why is this mailbox so tall? And how do they get their mail from it?
This cute little guy needed an official escort off the pavement.
Here’s where the UFOs hang out.
Lucky and his human Marty

Marty hangs out on the highway and sells water and American flags. He rides around on his quad and picks up recycling. He told me that he’s ridden across the country by bicycle four times.

Marty gets his own misspelled highway sign for all his hard work.


At the end of the day, I pulled off into the desert and put up my tent in the wind. I was only a few miles from the Arizona border, the second of many states to come.

Worst. Bike Lane. Ever.



2 thoughts on “Road Angels and Desert Magic

  1. Hi Gretchen! This is Pedro, back in Tucson. I think I saw you yesterday arriving in Tuba City! I was on my way back from Monument Valley. I’m so happy we could met at Grand Canyon. Best luck!!


    1. Hi Pedro, it was so cool meeting you! That probably was me you saw in Tuba City. I changed my route to get to Boulder on time. I should be in Colorado in a few days. Good luck to you, hope we meet again someday!


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