After a restless night I peered out the window into the darkness of early morning, anxiously awaiting my ride. Ever since returning home from my lengthy hospital stay, thoughts of my desert had constantly flooded, and interfered, with my daily rehab, both in mind and body. Now, with my lucky army dog tags hanging from my neck, wearing my 40-year-old desert hat with an owl feather attached by a roach clip to protect me from the sun, and my small pack (now loaded with legal drugs) across my shoulder, and oh yes, wearing a Medic Alert bracelet, I was ready.
Just as one would believe from a former CHP officer, and having made numerous trips with me as guide, now officially a desert rat, Ronn Dominici arrived right on time. I kissed my gal goodbye and plopped down in the passenger seat of an almost new Jeep Rubicon, compliments of Ronn’s gal, Cheryl. Not being able to drive that far (4.5 hours) it seemed it would be a long, strange trip from the right side of the Jeep.
After our usual stop at Apple Annie’s in Tulare for morning sustenance, it was on to and over Tehachapi. The first sighting of the beautiful, mysterious asymmetry of a Joshua tree putting forth creamy spring blossoms of yellow and white raised my spirits immediately.
We made a left turn near the town of Mojave then, further up Highway 14, a right just past Jawbone Canyon, then another right to the 1890s mining camp of Randsburg and Highway 395. At the neighboring, but smaller, almost-ghost town of Johannesburg (Joburg) we passed a speed limit sign. Ronn missed seeing it while driving and talking (of course), and doing “20 over” the limit when, approaching a hill and the turn east toward Panamint Valley, I advised him to slow down. He did, and just in time. Cresting the top we spied a CHP officer, radar operating, ready to red light any speeder…