Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mastering freeways and desert missions

I'm newly arrived in LA and I have slight culture shock.  It's giddily warm, lush with plants and totally alien.  Grey was the signature colour of my 5 years in London, and now I have the wide pale expanse of Santa Monica beach and the transformative blues of both ocean and sky at my doorstep.  

First things first. One must drive and be brave and ruthless on LA's freeways. No room for tentativeness here. It's the wrong side of the road and I haven't been a frequent driver in England due to (outstanding) public transport and the ease of communal cars (thanks Zip Car!). Do note, that was an rather undisguised wee gripe... more of those to come, because as we know, America is no longer the land of milk and honey.  

I pick up my rental car from Hertz.  I have her for a month. She's a relatively unresponsive 2014 Chevvy, but she'll more than do. I'm very happy to be nestled in behind the wheel again.  Slowly, slowly, I gain confidence on the streets of Santa Monica.  I'm now confident at turning into lanes, automatically watchful for pedestrians and have the hang of first come, first served intersections. 

The freeway beckons.  Now that's a big old step. Six lanes across at 70 miles an hour? I wake one morning with an idea. The only thing that's going to get me on those freeways is a mission. And I know what that is. 

The desert.  Palm Springs.  Joshua Tree. Only 2-3 hours from Santa Monica. 

The trip's a blast. I feel at ease on the freeways.  Although, LA drivers - you have got to check your blind spot!  I stop at the Morongo Indian Reservation and pay a visit to their quiet little museum. Dusty shelves reveal elder stories and exquisite basket craft.  I bump into one of the community's several pastors and she takes me for a walk around the community's teaching garden. I crush black and white sage between my fingers and inhale the scent. All of the plants here have their uses.  For a sample, have a read of this selection of regional ethnobotanical plants

She gives me an insight into how the reservation-built casino has changed the lives of the 1000 or so tribal members.   A huge influx of cash flow into the community means different choices for young people on the reservation.  Very few apparently take advantage of available collage scholarships.  Mulling on this, I thank her for her time and head back out to the freeway, saying 'bye to the elderly cop who allowed me entry. 

I drive on to Palm Springs, but don't stop there.  After a tasty, health conscious lunch at Palm Greens Cafe, I take stock of my remaining daylight hours. I have just enough left to reach Joshua Tree National Park. I want to be in the high desert as night falls. 

Continued here

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful set of photos... and discripitions... Really enjoying them.