Here we are again. Yesterday afternoon, we were told that this was not the place that they wanted the compressor–they want it delivered to a place in Los Angeles proper. Worried about what might happen to the machine at the hotel, we decided to leave it here overnight and had it taken out of the truck with a forklift. I had planned to finish this entry upon our arrival at our lodging in Irvine–a La Quinta that had been built into an old grain elevator (Room 117)–but I was so tired that I instantly fell asleep. Dad did the same. We woke up about 4:00 a.m. and ate a small breakfast at the nearby Denny’s and headed back down here. I should note that, on account of turning one street too early, we managed to get a little lost yesterday but I quickly corrected our problem with the aid of the Rand McNally map I had stored in my Palm. No one was here when first we arrived. We noticed that a shipping truck was blocking the dock where we unloaded the compressor yesterday, but thought little of this, believing that the truck could simply be moved. However, now that people have begun to show up, we have learned that someone hit the machine yesterday, causing most of the oil to pour out onto the concrete. That has now been cleaned up, but not one minute ago Dad opened the truck door to tell me that the shipping truck blocking the dock will not start. It has become quite bright now, and I fear that we will be facing the worst of Los Angeles morning traffic–exactly what we wished to avoid by waking so early.
All this being said, I now return to my narrative of the trip up here. As I had said, I was greatly impressed by the clarity of the night sky in far West Texas. This is not the first time that I have seen that sky–when we used to go out there for any number of reasons, I would almost always drive out to the Marfa Lights viewing area and watch the stars as often as I would watch the lights themselves. As we drove westward, I was amazed at the brightness of Arcturus, which shone brightly straight in front of us, and the brightness of the Milky Way as it blazed to the south. Many of the stellar clouds were quite visible, almost as visible as if they were clouds on Earth. A little bit to the east, Mars shone brightly, lighting up the sky in a way that it will not in another 60,000 years. I never got the chance to stop and look at them properly, but the view of the stars I had from the driver’s seat was enough to satisfy me for a long time. Had I had my telescope, though, I know that I would have been able to see the objects I have often hunted for on the ranch in Goliad, such as the Andromeda Galaxy. At one point near Balmorhea, we saw a bight, green meteor light up the sky in the west for almost five seconds. The majority of the rest of the trip was without incident. We stopped and ate a quick meal in El Paso at a Denny’s on I-10. As I have said before, I personally drove until Deming, New Mexico and let Dad sleep. I woke up as we were passing through Texas Canyon, Arizona and Dad pulled over at the rest stop and let me take over the wheel. It was the first real sight of the western mountains that I had seen since I stopped traveling the cowboy poetry circuit a few years ago, and my eyes greedily drank the sight of so many of the places I used to frequent. There to the south were the distant lights of Sierra Vista, Arizona. There to the north was the shadowy peak of Mount Graham, which Dad and I had almost ascended during a trip to Safford, Arizona. To the southeast, behind a small mass of hills and mini-mountains, lay Tombstone and Bisbee. The clouds had largely cleared (it had been raining on and off since we left San Antonio), and the morning sun bathed everything in a beautiful pink light. In retrospect, I wish I had been in the passenger seat so I could have taken a few photos. We stopped and filled up at a gas station south of Tucson and bought a road atlas, and Dad took over the wheel until a little bit north of Picacho Peak, Arizona. For a long time we deliberated whether we should take 10 through Phoenix or whether we should take 5, bypassing Phoenix and getting to see San Diego in the process. Pressed for time and worried about the effect the weight of the compressor was having on the truck, we decided to go through Phoenix. By the time we reached Phoenix (they got the shipping truck started and moved out of the way and are now–5:39–loading the machine onto the truck), I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly that my hands were falling asleep. Having reached Phoenix by about 9 a.m., we were rushing through the aftershocks of morning rush hour traffic. Luckily, since there were two people in the car, we were able to use the HOV lane for a long section of the road, but this became almost as dangerous as being in the regular lane since frustrated drivers were often trying to cut in front of us from the near-still lanes packed with cars. The weight of the compressor was constantly pulling on the car, and I admit that I was more than a little agitated (though without showing it much) as I struggled to make the turns at about 75 mph–or more. At last I made it through Phoenix without incident, and we headed west towards California. Nothing of note happened until we arrived in California; after eating in Blythe, California, we drove west across the Mojave Desert. Because of the extreme strain that the compressor was putting on the tires, Dad was afraid that the heat would cause the tires to blow up. This was no idle fear; during our trip I personally saw the tires of at least four cars go flat, causing the drivers to pull of the road in that god-forsaken landscape. Once, we saw a van that had lost one of its tires, and while trying to pull off the road at what must have been a high speed, it had hit one of the hardened dunes in the median and had ended up smashing into another dune. A highway patrolman was helping the stunned driver out of his car as we passed. Instead of driving 75 as I had wished (the people around me were going about 90), I had slowed the car down to about 65 mph in order to keep the strain on the tires as minimal as possible. Eventually, coming close to Indio, we saw the Coastal Range loom into few, the smog from the Los Angeles Valley pouring out through the wide passed over which 10 went. Upon seeing it, I had told myself not to be so happy–though in sight, the pass was still about 40 miles away. Luckily, however, we made it through without incident and we happy to be driving in the comparatively much cooler L.A. valley. One thing surprised me as we drove through–the last time I had driven to Los Angeles, I had come to perform in Santa Clarita, California. That weekend it had snowed, and the grasses of the surrounded hills we a deep green that made me understand–or so I thought–why so many people loved Los Angeles so much. No such greenery exists today, or at least during this time of the year. Though we were definitely out of the desert proper and though grass was now everywhere to be seen, it was brown and dead-looking. This was true in whatever direction one looked; indeed, it is true even here in Santa Ana. I remember that I had been told by the Camdens in Idaho that the grass there only stays green for a few weeks out of the year before returning to the brown color in which I had seen it during my passage through there and thus I wonder if the same holds true for this area. Having shrugged off the grass, I found myself commenting that the traffic here is unbearable–by Beaumont it had already become troublesome and we were still technically 50 miles from Los Angeles. California drivers strike me as exceedingly rude and inconsiderate–the exact opposite of what one would expect from a state that prides itself on being so “liberal” and “compassionate”. At one point, believing that I had to get over in the right lane to make a certain road, I sped up in order to get safely in front of a Jeep that was slightly behind me in the right hand lane, its grill being approximately even with by back tires. The car quickly sped up and cut me off once it saw my blinker and Dad told me to calm down. Eventually I saw that both lanes turned in the direction I needed to go, and so I shrugged it off. However, a short distance down the road, the lanes merged into one–merging to the left, and seeing the merging, even though there was barely a car’s length in front of me, the same jeep tried to speed in front of me and cut in front of me. Not really angry, I closed the gap, Dad telling me to back up. I said something, chuckling, like, “Try to cut me off, will you?” and forced the person to get behind me. I told Dad, “Now cutting me off back there was, I guess, permissible, but trying to do that just identifies him as a genuine, red-blooded prick.” Dad pointed out that this could not be so since the driver was a woman.
We are now at the place we meant to come to, and have successfully unloaded the compressor off the truck. The trip over here brought us, as we had expected, through the worst of the morning traffic, but, to be fair, it was not as bad as we were expecting it to be. One of the things about Los Angeles that Dad and I can’t help but notice is the unusual amount of smog here. It is so thick that it obscures the view of the mountains in any direction, unless one is nearly on top of them, and it coats everything white with a layer of grudge. How these people could criticize Houston for its pollution is something that greatly puzzles us. Dad was constantly coughing during the trip over here as a result of the thick smog. While we were in the general Pasadena area, I managed to catch a glimpse of the downtown skyscrapers through a wide pass in the hills. I tried to take a few photos of them, but I am not sure how they turned out.