Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sharing - Joshua Tree December '08 Trip

It's about time I began telling stories from my December trip to Joshua Tree. People have been asking, and I've been procrastinating....

As usual, I flew into Vegas and took the back roads through Cima/Kelso/Amboy. I just live that drive, and not only because I can drive practically at the speed of light.

Well, actually, I did set a personal speed record. Two hours flat, from the Charleston Avenue exit in Las Vegas to the 29 Palms entrance of the park! And that was WITH a rubbernecking traffic slowdown along the way, par the course in Vegas.

"Two hours! That's unheard of!" people remarked. Apparently, the trip is supposed to be more like....three hours. Well, what can I say? I didn't stop for photos this time, I guess. That's the only explanation I can come up with.

So, I rolled into Jtree just as the sun was coming down. The weather had been clowdy since getting off the plane, but I realized that would make for a nice sunset, and I wasn't disappointed.


I wanted to get a photo with a more intriguing horizon and knew I had to act fast and get toward at least the Jumbo Rocks area. Alas, it was not to be. I kept my eye on the sun as it dropped, with the sky becoming more vibrant with each moment, but I just didn't see my shot. Maybe next time.....

By the time I got to Hidden Valley campground, it was dusk. And there was a problem. Thought the "campground full" sign was not posted, it became evident quite quickly that there was, in fact, no room at the inn. Disappointed, I knew what I would have to do - ask someone if I could stay in their stable...I mean, share their site.

I'm a nervous sort, when it comes to "getting my things done." I don't know why, but until I'm settled, I fret over the outcome. I needed to find a spot, get set up, and then run into town and let the people who would meet me the next day know where to find me. And get dinner. Having been traveling since 5am, I was also tired and now I had to do something I found difficult - asking for help. From strangers, no less.

As I drove through the campground, I spotted a possibility. One car in the parking spot, and one smallish tent in the site. Of course, the most attractive quality was that the campers were home....

I walked into the site, calling "helllooo!" There were two, a man and woman, probably a couple, who seemed to be a little older than I. My gut instinct told me they would be elderly folks who would be put out by the request. No surprise, that's exactly what occurred.

The good news was that it was all a ploy. They were toying with me, asking all manner of questions as to my place of original, intent, and personality. Questions of where, exactly, did I want to place my tent. And, did I have interesting stories to regale them with. Offers of letting me stay for a $50 fee, being from New York City and all, surely I could afford it.... They were enjoying themselves.

Unfortunately, I was not. Enjoying myself. I was actually becoming quite irritated, though I guess I kept it hidden well enough. I mean - a few jokey questions was one thing, and I played along. But I needed a campsite!

After a few minutes of this, with the status of the situation being that they "supposed" it "might" be all right, I had had enough. Unwilling to go along with the game any longer, I played the only card I had left. "Well - I didn't check (another section of the park - a lie) so I'll go do that."

Not to say they let up much, but they did make it more evident that I was welcome to set up shop. Which I quickly did!

Not wanting to be ungrateful, I stuck around a bit before doing that, and found out they were actually quite nice, and very interesting people. They'd been on their own road trip since Labor Day, and Joshua Tree was the eight National Park they'd visited in that time. Their names were Donna and Joe, and they hailed from Vermont. They'd been transient sorts throughout their married life together, had grown children who were doctors and pilots and even one who rock climbed(they only mentioned the careers of three out of their four, though, and later I wondered if the "rock climber kid" wasn't the one with no career....).

They asked if I wanted to join them for breakfast the next morning, and though it was quite generous, I feared they might be crack-o-dawn risers and didn't commit. Luckily, when I did rise the next morning, they still had some left. No doubt they'd set the absolutely delicious scrambled eggs with vegetables aside, and kept them warm for me. That's the sort of people they turned out to be, and I had almost missed out on making their acquaintance because of my impatience and anxiety.

Anyway - I had gone into town after having settled my tent, and when I returned they were still up at their campfire. I was tired, and wanted to go to bed, but instead I did the right thing, and went over to visit. That's when I learned of their interesting lives. They regaled ME with stories! And, though it didn't seem like it, they found out a lot about about me by asking questions of my circumstances.

It happened that they were departing the next day. This was excellent news, I had to admit to myself, as it turned out they had obtained one of the premier, and historically important, campsites in Hidden Valley, and I could take it over for my stay. It was the old Chongo industrial complex, where he set up for winter and ran his shoe resoling shop(or "illegal textile business" as it was technically referred to when he was evicted).

The site - 34? - IS a great one. The camp area is set back quite far from the road, and has very nice rock formations at the back. protected form wind in many directions, it offers privacy, beauty and roominess. A LOT of people could bivy there....

They also had a dog. A wonderful old Springer Spaniel. I wished I had my Teddy, and it was nice to have a good dog in camp. They were traveling the country in a small SUV with their dog - exactly what I wanted for myself.

Now - there is something peculiar that happened, which I found out about only after they'd left. There HAD been indication, as one realizes after the fact but at the time only thinks "hmmm...what's up with that?"

At one point, Donna walked over to my tent and made some comment about checking it out. That was the "WTF?" moment. She didn't seem to be the sort who would do something evil.... I was pretty certain her inquiry was not malicious. Nonetheless, I went over and "gave her the tour," which she appeared to be quite interested in, comparing their tent and mine, and such.

"Well," I told myself, "she was just interested in my tent was all." I knew that hadn't quite been the case, but just had no idea what it had all been about. They were such decent, open and cool people that I thought no more of it though.

Until I returned after a day of climbing that night.

I made a fire and went to start dinner. When I pulled out my kitchen pack(a soft-sided nylon 6-pack cooler with a secondary upper compartment) and unzipped the top to get some spices, I noticed a white envelope had been placed there.

At first I was puzzled, trying to recall when and why I had done that. I have to admit I DID have a moment of "Oh No! I DO have multiple personality Disorder!!!!" as I realized without doubt that I had NOT put it there. I was a loner! I lived alone, except for my dog, and though Teddy is damned smart, he's not THAT smart that he could put a card in my luggage....

That's when it clicked. It was Donna who'd placed the envelope, though not during the "tent tour." That had been her intent, but I'd foiled it.

She must have come back a second time, when I was enjoying that wonderful breakfast they'd shared with me. By the way, it also included coffee and a hunk of good bread with orange marmalade. How often do you keep marmalade for yourself, I ask? Never, if you're me. It was quite a treat.

Being the sort who has difficulty receiving for help, I didn't ask if they had milk and sugar when Joe handed me the cup of black coffee.

No....I'd gone to my tent, pulled out my kitchen pack, opened the top, and pulled out my baggie of sugar....

What a nice couple, Joe and Donna were, to leave me a card. The envelope said "For Terrie and Teddy - Do not open til Christmas(or Chanakuh; the writing was not legible, and I think that may even have been the intent)." On the back of the envelop was written "It IS Chanukah(or Christmas...)."

So of COURSE I opened it!

Inside was a lovely card, with an image of Georgia O'Keeffe's "Oriental Poppies."

On the inside, they'd written:

Dear Terrie, and Teddy -

May all great loving adventures continue to find you.

You have a splendid spirit.

With Love, Donna & Joe

Isn't that nice?!

Yes, I am sure you would agree that it is.

But that's not all.

Along with that nice note there was a gift. A cash gift. One one hundred dollar bill.

I am not making this up.

It was quite a surprise, of course. With a - small - bit of embarrassment, I wondered "Was I THAT obvious about my financial issues???" Well, probably I was. After all, I HAD told them how my funding for the trip had been tenuous(at best) and finally fell into place as my clients paid their invoices in the days before my departure. AND I told them how I wanted to leave NYC but didn't have a good plan laid out. How I was trying to make my way with my online ventures - just enough to support a nomadic lifestyle, of course, which takes a lot less than a physical domicile... And I HAD talked about my difficulties in working for others....

I was quite taken aback, and I left the card, and money, in my kitchen pack, taking it out to look at it each time I made food. Eventually I realized I had better put the cash somewhere more secure, and moved it to the back section of my wallet.

I wondered how I should honor their gift. Perhaps they felt I'd use it for daily expenses. Or buy myself some nice gift.

Well - that's what I did.

In the past few years, I have changed my ideas about money a bit. Partly it's due to saving for the climbing trips, but it's more about not existing in a state of deprivation. I lived a good part of my life that way, having gone without what many would consider basics for living - adequate clothing, shelter and privacy. As a young adult, I handled my money poorly, and would often find myself with nothing in my pocket by the time pay day rolled around. Jobs where the check came every two weeks instead of weekly were even worse.

But I learned to take care of myself, and that meant making sure I DID have adequate food, clothing, shelter AND things to make my life abundant. While I don't live beyond my means(no credit cards nor borrowing from friends and family and such), I will make sure I am taken care of. If that means calling the energy company to explain my payment will be late, so that I have my rent paid on time and food in the cupboards, that's what I will do.

And with that change, I have found that I DO have enough. In fact, I have an abundant life. Sure - by the standards of some - it is lacking. I own no car, and don't own my home. But how many of those people only THINK they have those things, when the truth is that without the device of credit, they wouldn't have them at all?

Anyway - so with this changing of my concept of money, I have found that when I receive a windfall, I like to use it in a memorable way. Last year, I used my bonus money from clients to purchase a good camera; something I'd been wanting for a long time. And when a small payment from my mother's life insurance - a payment that had been in limbo for FOUR years!(that's another story) - arrived in my mailbox, I set that amount aside to partially pay for my trip to Yosemite last fall. I had wanted to attend the Yosemite Facelift and didn't have the funds. But when that check arrived - it became possible. I made my first trip to Yosemite and had amazing experiences.

So, here I was, blessed with this gift of one hundred dollars in cash. I briefly wondered what I should do with it as I placed it safely away. But I knew that it must be something memorable and not simply used to defray daily expenses. That way, I conjur the energy and memories of my shared camping experience with Joe and Donna whenever I use the item purchased with the funds, or recall where the money was used.

Several days later, the use became apparent. be continued.

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