pages fly away 84

Sometime during the middle of the night, the TV went off, but then came back on close to morning.  This was the day I was supposed to get all the way back to Los Angeles, but I wasn’t ready to quit the trip yet.  I was out in the desert, not far from Parker.  I figured I’d drive up there and then head over to Joshua Tree.  If I went that way, I could pass the Colorado River Indian Reservation.  One more day, one more reservation.  That seemed appropriate.

The Colorado River Indian River Reservation was established in 1865 for the Native Americans who lived in proximity to the river and its tributaries.  These were originally the Mojave and Chemehuevi people, but in 1945 some Hopi and Navajo were relocated to it.  The seal of the reservation shows four banded feathers beneath a rising sun. 

To get there I drove north on County Road 1.  I passed the Water Wheel Resort along the way, and then came to the community of Earp, where Wyatt Earp had staked some copper and gold mines.  There was a minimart with his picture on the wall.

From there I crossed the Colorado River and parked the Mountain Bluebird beside the bridge, beneath an American flag.  That would go on to be the picture that best summed up the trip.  I drove once around town and then headed back across the bridge again.  The idea was to take the 62 west to Joshua Tree, but on the way came across some vagabond art installations. 

First, there were some spray-painted mattresses.  Then some PVC pipe, stuck in the ground with shoes wrapped around it.  Next, a whole fence of discarded shoes.  Someone was sending a message.  When I came to a bush that was covered with COVID masks, it suddenly occurred to me I’d never been to Slab City.  I looked it up and it was three hours away, right next to the Salton Sea.  Man, that was pushing it, but I still had all day.

When I got to the 177, I headed south.  That took me to the 10 and the General Patton Memorial Museum where I got gas.  It was a long drive through the desert from there, on Box Canyon Road, through a series of steep-sided cliffs.  It was a relief to get to the 111.  I was now at the Salton Sea.  The sky was pale and the clouds were thin.  I’d been there many times before.  Now I pulled into Mecca Beach and sat there facing the sea.  It seemed like as good a place as any to try to mediate.  A big bug was splattered right on the windshield in front of me.

When I was in high school my father wanted to take a fishing trip out to the Salton Sea and had enlisted me and my brother as first and second mate.  We had a small fishing boat from the Midwest that we’d hauled out to California when we moved there.  It wasn’t fit to take fishing out west and would almost never start. 

On this trip the wind had been raging, and we’d drifted across the lake while my father yanked on the starter rope.  Eventually, we’d been stranded close to shore, casting into the wind.  When we got back to the car, I’d needed space and run off to the top of a small hill, where I shut my eyes and leaned into the wind, almost daring it to push me back and keep me from falling.  Down below I could see my father and brother loading up the car and looking around for me. 

Now I could smell the stink of dead fish.  The Salton Sea is toxic.  One side, at the very least, is always littered with dead fish.  A train was passing to the east of me.  It must’ve been three miles long.  The whistle went on and on.  Strong gusts of wind pushed and tugged at the car.  After a few minutes, the last boxcar passed and gradually the whistle grew fainter.  Then it was just the wind.

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