On a bright and breezy Sunday I slammed into the whooptie* and shattered the silence of the canyon. A whole-hearted expletive was crushed short by the sound of a 1988 Honda impacting the desert landscape, rider akimbo. Sound is such a tenuous thing, and died a quick death against the powdered talc and rotten slate that surrounded me. Rolling slowly off, I could feel that something was wrong but didn’t know what yet. Waves of black shadowed shock threatened the corners of my eyes. Nausea and a desperate need to strip out of my protective gear overcame me but, my left arm was pinned across my chest. I couldn’t feel any stabbing pain—something I’ve found is an indicator of much worse trauma—so wiggled gently out and tried to stand. Bad idea, so sat right back down again, breathing deeply all the while to get oxygen back into my brain. It was my only hold on the moment, that breathing, and helped me stabilize. As I pulled out the radio and called for help, “Cracka down, cracka down!” it dawned on me that I’d just dislocated my shoulder. I wasn’t happy about that, and visions of emergency rooms and violent bone setting procedures flashed through my mind as I swore some more.
Tough guys do it in the movies, just pop that sucker right back in. But frankly, I’d rather have someone that knows more about setting shoulders than watching Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon slam his body against the wall, and was PISSED about having to deal with it. Continuing yoga breathing, I rolled onto my back against the whooptie that caused the whole thing and rested, arm still pinned across my chest. Staring into the beautiful blue sky and wispy limbs of cloud, I shifted my left arm ever so slightly and felt the unbelievable sensation—much too explicit to describe here—of my arm joint rolling ever so slowly back into place. I let it go, and had a queer rush of adrenaline afterward (probably because that meant NOT going to the hospital, at least not yet).
I’ve done some yoga—was raised doing tumbling—and try to stay flexy. It’s important, for a multitude of things, not least being crumpled in a heap like a dart against a mound of dirt right next to (and on) a 500-pound motorcycle. I can still picture the stars as my helmeted face smacked the ground, little acorn-sized flashes of white with a blue nucleus.
Okay, enough of that, and on with the picture parade. As you can see, all my bones are intact (does anybody NOT like looking at xrays? I find them fascinating and my doctor was kind enough to e-mail them).
Anyway, before I ruined any more riding for the weekend, we had been all over the Mojave desert, skirting the China Lake Naval Weapons Testing Center, a massive sweep of land in Central California that the military uses to play with practice using explosive devices. Fully armed jets passed over us occasionally, and looked absolutely carnivorous.
The first time I was out here I kept wondering where all the sand was, you know, considering this is a desert and all. But the terrain is surprisingly varied, with craggy rock and dry riverbeds galore.
Wildlife is technically not abundant, and this blooming cactus is a rare thing to find, but we saw TONS of lizards swimming through the gravel trails and skittering to safety when we cruised through their land.
The vastness of the terrain here cannot be exaggerated. The vistas extend for hundreds of miles. Other than the trailer park towns and main highway through this area, we didn’t see a soul on the trail for three days.
I did find a Mojave Desert Sidewinder, and if you look closely you can see his lazy butt lounging across the trail. Crotalus cerastes cerastes doesn’t like to be observed closely however, so when he went into a coil, I promptly left without getting a better shot.
Another thing I tried to photograph, since this isn’t the most photogenic of places, are the trance-inducing cloud formations. As luck would have it, it actually rained while we were playing in the desert. I could bore you with a lot of images from the sky, but this one captures the elemental nature of the weather best.
We were five on the trip and all of us came home with bruises of some sort.
Sweet… Mission accomplished.
*Mounds of dirt resembling moguls on ski slopes. They are formed either with intent or by the action of ATV’s digging into the earth over time. Typically these are a straightforward matter when riding offroad. The one I hit was hidden behind another, bigger whooptie that was undercut by a stream. Ouch, and I was riding very cool and slow, Mom (and Luna(s))!
**Note from Kristin: I was thrilled about this. No, really. I absolutely love the five days a year he goes to the Mojave, as barren nothingness translates to no cell reception. So amid my cupcake feast in NYC, I nibbled down my newly-acquired French manicure in anticipation of that first word from him—and for good reason. Last year, he returned with a chipped elbow and a scar that spanned his wrist to shoulder. This year, it was just that much worse. (He didn’t even tell you the damage done on his knee and the needle and tube used to drain that sucka)(For good reason. I nearly passed on after hearing the story via phone.) Next year, he’s staying at home. Even if I have to slip a roofie in his Crystal Light before bed and lock him up in a straightjacket in the middle of the night while he’s sleeping.
***All photos taken with a Canon XTi, various lenses.