After months of preparation and hours of planning I departed Dallas, destined for California. I pulled out of the garage of my downtown loft at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, and it took about three blocks to get lost in my own damn neighborhood.
It was late, so I decided to go the short way through an area that's seen major road and highway construction for several years. Normally it's a no-go zone due to horrible traffic, but at 1 a.m., I was ready to risk it.
On this night. all the construction was gone. The barricades removed, the exits open and the lanes running at full capacity.
The problem for me was that this was all new. The number of intersecting interstates, highways, bridges and underpasses make the area just south of downtown brutally confusing when you drive it every day.
I'd never seen or navigated any of these interchanges because they'd been under construction for five years.. Clearly, I didn't get it right and it was 2 a.m. before I made it out of downtown.
I drove west on Interstate 20 until 4 a.m., then pulled into a rest stop near Ranger Texas. I slept in the rear on my inflatable NEMO Zor sleeping pad. I woke up rested and ready to hit the road. My first goal was getting to Interstate 10 a few hours east of El Paso.
A hit a major storm an hour west of Midland-Odessa. I had to pull off because the rain was torrential. It was like a whiteout.. I couldn't see the lines on the road, much less a car in front of me. I didn't want to get rear-ended by some idiot plowing through, so I sat out the storm on the frontage road before continuing.
I stopped in El Paso for some supplies then got back on the road. I crossed into New Mexico and made it halfway across the state before finding another rest area to park for the night.
I slept well and woke feeling ready for another full day of driving. I made coffee and breakfast at the rest area. When I was done, I cleaned up and hit the road.
I crossed the New Mexico-Arizona state line just before noon and the next goal was getting to Tuscan. The eastern half of southern Arizona is dry and hot. Towns are far apart and the area looks socioeconomically depressed.
I saw this flying saucer playground apparatus and loved it. I pulled over and made a short trek down the interstate embankment then crossed a short field to grab this photo.
Before I knew it, Tuscan was in my rearview mirror, and my next waypoint was the California state line. I started to see these sighs for The Thing. If you've ever driving across souther Arizona on I-10, you probably know what I'm taking about.
The hype about The Thing, Mystery of the Desert, goes on for a hundred miles, maybe more. By the time the exit arrives, you feel invested in The Thing having read hundreds of roadside billboards about it.
It's basically a gas station with a museum containing several exhibits of questionable provenance. But it was fun
Just beyond The Thing lies Texas Canyon, the first noteworthy piece of topography since merging onto Interstate 10 east of El Paso.. It's an interesting rock formation that rises up and poke out of arid desert. It's a dramatic contrast after hours of the featureless landscape that lines the shoulders of I-10 between there and Texas state line.
As a Native Texan, I never tire of seeing places in other states name after Texas.
Interstate-8 between Casa Grande, AZ and San Diego gave me ecological whiplash. In what felt like a mile, the landscape switched from parched desert to lush valley. There were several places I would have stopped along this stretch of highway if I had even a couple of hours to spare.. But I had to forge on, resolved to arrive in San Diego that evening.
Just before sunset I entered Yuma, a huge suburb to nothing in what felt like a dry lake bed. A featureless, treeless colony of RV parks, chain restaurants, and big box retail stores. Yuma sits on the Arizona-California state line, but its bleak setting took a little luster out o my arrival into the Golden State.
I arrived in Chula Vista just before 9 p.m. The first order of business was to find Ursa Minors's shop, then track down the storage facility where I'll be storing all my stuff for the week. Tomorrow at 9 a.m. I'll move everything into a five-by-five unit before delivering Ellie to the guys at Ursa Minor.
I decided to have the top done in a school bus yellow, instead of the standard white or matching red. I'm a little nervous about that decision because the owner, John Gish, seemed apprehensive at the notion when I called a month ago to change the color.
I also opted to have the tent sewn in red fabric instead of the standard white and grey. I've only seen one example of the red tent on Instagram, but combining that with a yellow roof was definitely uncharted territory..
Those two options added a quite a bit to the final price. Look... if I'm doing it, I wanted it to be original. I just hope that color combo works. I guess we'll know on Friday.