Jumping for Dreams
The lonely road picture. I had been wanting to get this exact image for a while. I have seen many pictures of open roads, and we specifically chose this route through Death Valley in order to make this photograph a reality. Contrary to what a few people believe this is not the road that Forest Gump ran on in the movie, that road is located in Southern Utah, another place and another story.
It was just after 10 AM and the day was already scorching. We had been driving a little over an hour from where we had camped the previous night. I was sweating, there was nothing we could do to prevent it. My thighs were sticking to the leather seats and I could feel the back of my neck being burned by the sun filtering in through the moonroof.
“So, what do you think?” I asked gesturing out the window.
“I love the desert,” Gustavo said. “It makes me feel like we’re on another planet.”
“Imagine what it must have been like for people who discovered it for the first time,” I replied.
He nodded his head and I turned back to face the landscape slipping into my own thoughts. "Journal of Ardency" by Class Actress was playing through the speakers and I stared out the side window allowing the music to fill me.
Where we were felt so foreign, so alien to me. There was nothing for miles, no towns, no people, no cars, no water. We were out there, truly alone. At first, this thought spooked me a little. What would we do if we broke down or became lost while hiking? Would our dead bodies ever be discovered or would sand be blown over them during the time it took rescuers to search for us? I rolled the window up and down allowing the dry air to ripple over my bare arm. Even though it was hot Goosebumps rose along my skin. Gustavo noticed.
“Tav, what’s up? Why’d you get goosebumps?”
I shivered. “I don't know I just feel like it’s spooky here. You know last night when the wind was crazy and you told me you were a little afraid?”
“Yea.” he said.
“Well, it’s sort of like that. Being out here all alone just the two of us makes me sort of nervous. It’s hard to explain well, but I feel like the world is so big it could swallow us up and no one would even know.”
He started laughing affectionately and put his hand on my bare thigh
“Your imagination carries you pretty deep sometimes.”
Always the practical one Gustavo proceeded to tell me all of the reasons we wouldn’t get lost in the desert and how someone would find us in less than a day, and we would never wind up wandering in circles as the sun slowly cooked us to death. I mean he had a good point, but to be fair it's not like getting lost in the desert is impossible, it used to happen a lot.
Anyway, enough about that. We continued driving along Route 178. We had driven past a place called Searles Valley, home to Searles Minerals. There were mounds and mounds of salt from the mines that made it look like there were piles of snow in the desert. The houses on the main street were in shambles and looked like they had long since been abandoned. It appeared as if the desert was reclaiming her territory.
A ghost town straddling two mountain ranges in the Mojave Desert, roughly 176 miles northeast of LA. According to Google, the town’s population is less than 2,000 but I didn’t see a single soul the day we drove through. The only evidence of life remained on the side of a nearby rocky hill where it looked like high schoolers had spray painted their jersey numbers and initials into the dry Earth. Gustavo and I both came to the conclusion that it was a pretty strange place.
A few miles later, right outside the town limits, we approached the Death Valley National Park sign, of course, we stopped and snapped a quick picture there. We were heading towards the lowest point of elevation in North America at Badwater Basin. A small thrill ran through my body one that I was growing accustomed to feeling whenever we were about to arrive in a new place for the first time. Our road trip had been full of firsts and this day was no different.
After passing the sign we turned onto a new road, Route 190 which runs all the way through the National Park. Excitement rose inside me, this was the road. I stuck my head out of the passenger window as we drove up it.
“Stop!” I yelled towards Gustavo when we reached the perfect spot. “Pull over.”
We parked the car on the side of the two-lane road and got out. We wandered to the middle and looked at the mountains rising in the distance, at the heat shimmering in rivulets under the sun’s glare, at the perfect yellow line that traveled off perfectly straight for miles, this was it.
“Okay.” Gustavo began giving me instructions. “Lemme' hold your hair ties, I don’t want them on your wrist. Put the hat on. Okay, go to the middle, nope a little to your left. Take two steps forward. Okay on three… one…two…damn it, move Tav there’s a car coming.”
What were the odds we hadn’t seen a car in hours? I laughed openly up at the sky. Gustavo was getting impatient, he wanted the shot too before more cars came in the distance.
“Tav, get serious, let's go.”
Okay, I waved at him, took my place in the middle of the road and waited. In those few seconds before the count began I stared at the road ahead of me. It was so vast, so open. It made me feel full and happy. In that moment I had my life stretching before me, like this road. I felt so fortunate to be living moment to moment. And despite all of the doubt and worries I could not wait to continue down my own road. I listened as Gustavo counted to three and then I jumped, and although the camera can’t see it, there is a huge smile pasted on my face welcoming myself to the long journey ahead.