The following post was mostly written Sunday

Remind me never to drive through the desert in a front-wheel drive car ever again.

So Friday night after the Spin Doctors concert, I crashed at my brother's pad in LA. The next morning he gave me directions to highway 405 (a.k.a. "the 405" for all you SoCal-ers), and I was off on the rest of my vacation. I headed east towards Edwards Air Force Base (where the Space Shuttle normally lands) and the Mojave desert. One of the few things I enjoyed about this particular day was looking at the rock strata in the many roadcuts through the mountains. You could see how the land had been lifted, tilted, and in some places, faulted or bent. The geology of Southern California is pretty chaotic. Sure, it sound boring to most people, but I found it interesting.

Speaking of rocks, while I was still in LA, some dip in a Toyota passed me on the left and kicked up what was probably the only large rock in the city. It hit my windshield and left a nice little spider-pattern crack, about 1.5 inches across. Now I get to pay Enterprise Rent-A-Car for the damn thing. Wonderful, no?

Anyway, from 405 I got on 14 and headed into the Mojave desert. Somewhere past Palmdale and Lancaster, I saw a hill out in the middle of nowhere that looked small enough to climb, but high enough to get a good view from. Most of the surrounding desert was flat and featureless, but there were these occassional hills and outcroppings that made the landscape interesting. Most of these features were remainders of volcanoes, or so I guessed from their general structures. I took the Backus Road exit (like Baccus, the Roman god of wine, but dumbed-down) and looked for a way to get closer to the hill. There was a dirt road leading off from Backus, so I took it and got much closer to my goal. Then I saw another dirt road leading almost directly towards the hill, so I took that. Eventually I decided I was close enough, and pulled to the side to stop. Big mistake. Not two feet off the edge of the packed dirt road, my front wheels sank into the sand.

For what seemed like hours I tried to get the car out of the sand. I tried sticking rocks and wood under the wheels, but to no avail. I found a rusted piece of metal, what I imagined had once been some sort of rectangular frame around a past victim's radiator, and used it to dig out sand from under the car. Every now and then I felt small waves of panic, imagining being stuck for days, or worse. Then I remembered that my cell phone reception was good, and there was a house not 1/3 of a mile away back towards the paved road. Eventually I gave up on freeing the car myself and started walking towards the house.

I kept my eyes open for rattlesnakes or other desert denizens, but nothing else was foolish enough to be out in tbe desert at high noon As I approached the house, I saw that it was surrounded on three sides by a large fenced-off area that contained about ten horses and half a dozen dogs. The horses moved to the far side of the house as I walked by, and the dogs ran over to me and started barking up a storm. It was then that I saw a woman walking through the yard towards the horses, and called out to her to ask for help. She started walking towards the house, so I did the same. As I came around to the front, a man came out of the garage towards me. I apologized profusely and asked if he could help me with my car problem. He said he was leaving in a few minutes, but I could use the phone to call a tow truck. I called Enterprise and after 15 minutes they said they'd have a truck to me within an hour and a half. The man had to leave, but he let me sit out on the porch to wait in the shade. He even gave me a chair and a glass of gatorade. I sat there for a little over an hour, listening to the wind, watching the shadows slowly creep across the ground, checking every vehicle that passed by on Backus. There was a dead mouse on the ground not six feet from me, and I wondered how it got there before it died. It didn't look chewed up, it just looked like it keeled over from the heat. I panicked a little.

I was feeling a little dehydrated (I had had lots of water in the car, and had some before walking to the house, but foolishly forgot to bring it with me), but I decided the best thing to do would be to wait by the road, where the tow truck driver could see me more easily. I sat under a telephone pole's shadow and waited. A guy and his teenaged pulled up to me in their truck and asked if I was ok. I explained the situation and thanked them for checking on me. The guy said some fellow had died in the sun there recently, so he just wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.

I got a call from the local Tow Truck company, saying their driver couldn't find me. I gave them directions to where I was on Backus and the driver showed up about ten minutes later. I hopped in the truck and showed him where my car was. He said he wasn't supposed to go so far off the paved road, but he was already there, so what the heck. He attatched a chain from my back axle to his truck, and as I put the car in reverse, he pulled with the truck. When my wheels had traction again, I was so relieved. All those panicked feelings from earlier disappeared. I tipped the driver well and thanked him profusely. I was finally back on the road. I didn't bother taking any pictures, I just wanted to get through the desert.

This put me rather behind schedule. On 14 I passed through Red Rock Canyon State Park, then took 178 into the mountains. I was hoping to be in Sequoia National Park by the evening, but I didn't even get close. I spent the last couple hours just looking for a place to get a room, but EVERYTHING halfway decent was filled up. Ended up taking highways 155, 190, and 65 through Sequoia National Forest. Kernville, Porterville, Lindsay, all full. I ended up going all the way to Exeter before I found a vacancy at a AAA-recommended motel, and it was dark by the time I got my stuff in the room. I took a nice cold shower to counteract my day in the desert and watched some TV before falling asleep. I slept very well that night.

Sunday was all about Sequoia National Forest, Sequoia National Park, and King's Canyon National Park. I've discovered in the last couple days that I enjoy driving along winding roads. Being a passenger on such roads would make me very sick, but driving them is another thing entirely. I imagine it must be even better when driving a car with a manual transmission. Still, having an automatic made it easier to look out at the scenery every so often. There was a lot to look at this day.