The desert is an inspiring, yet unforgiving place. Enter with awareness and respect. Thank you to all Food Partiers! who waxed poetic about Deserts beauty and allure. I loved your songs and histories.
Few compatriots found interest in heading “that far south” to discover more of the mystery. Their loss.
I headed out on my own.
To be successful traveling solo, one needs:
1. To like yourself, or at least respect yourself enough to spend a continued length of time alone together, until you work it all out and realize you actually do like yourself.
2. Motivation to plan things
3. The ability to keep yourself entertained
Possibly a good list for life in general. A writers perspective is also helpful. Every experience has a story behind it. Solo travelers have more time to wonder what those stories might be. Look at people and places as characters and scenes in a play. What’s their story? Wondering connects us to them and us - it reminds us to look closer at our own motivations. That can be revealing and entertaining for years lol!
First stop Salton Sea State Campground - a 9 hour drive from the Bay Area, split up with an overnight at Mjc’s Airbnb in Bakersfield – great deal, $35 (plus tax and fee) for a quiet room in an immaculate home. Airbnb offers solo travelers an easy way to get the local scoop on what’s happening (hosts want to share). Let your host know you’re travelling alone and see what social possibilities come your way. Be open to adventure. Solo travel offers a unique chance to go with yo’ flo'. Surf the waves that come just for you.
Take out a few library books on tape for the road trip – fill drive time, listen to something besides crappy radio, learn something new to ruminate on while you are out there. On the way down I enjoyed Brene’ Browns, Braving the Wilderness: “We can find sacredness in being a part of something or in standing alone.” On the way up it was Cooked by Michael Pollan. “Fire, water, air and earth transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink."
Pre-trip research and a written itinerary are solo travelers #1 tool. Did I say you need to entertain yourself because no one else is going to? No worries - you get to do what you want to do. Google “what to see in X area,” and take notes. Base stops on your interests; I like food stops for instance. Shield’s Date Farm in Indio was first.
An old-fashioned roadside attraction that hails from the Coachella Valley, south of Palm Springs, an area that produces 95% of dates grown in the U.S. Open in 1924, Shields offers date-filled everything made from varieties you’ve never heard of. Try the famous date shake (24 oz, $7.95).
Kind of large for the solo traveler (and sorry, too sweet), so slow down your slurp watching Romance and Sex Life of a Date in the onsite (air conditioned) movie theatre – a 1950’s film explaining how dates are grown and picked; cheap date puns included.
Camp stop #1 - Salton Sea.
At 35 miles long and 15 miles wide, the Salton Sea is California's largest body of water – resulting from a 1905 overflow of the Colorado River. 227 ft below sea level, it has been filling with salts and fertilizers for years, and off limits to swimmers or boats - no matter - what a place to visit. I loved spending the night next to her/they (should we use gender to communicate environment any longer?)
Loose yourself wandering the shore of crushed fish bones and sun-bleached sand. I read it stinks with sulfur, but didn’t smell anything. Campsites have good tasting water, free cold showers, but with sun rays that sneak through the wooden stall slats, and lots of room ($25 per night). And the train, oh the train that lumbers with whistle echoing through the wide open landscape. I imagine jumping on to one of the open cars and muse… where might it take me?
You might tell the camp host that you are traveling alone, or not. I’ve been traveling alone for years and notice a lot more single women camping lately. When I want social, I introduce myself. We’ve shared great campfires in the back of god’s country.
Outdoor toys add motivation, so bring along a paddle board and bike (hiking poles and backpacks, etc). An easy 4-mile bike exploration from Mecca Beach over to the next camp revealed a blooming cactus garden and history of the entire region. Bikes always add surprise and unexpected entertainment. Surprise is apparently more satisfying than stability. Eschew predictability in favor of discovery, novelty and opportunities for unpredictable pleasure. - New York Times, 2012
No matter how many you are cooking for, camp dinners should be easy, delicious and healthy. Somehow whatever I cook outside always tastes better. Build a shopping list with shelf staples that heat quickly (Traders Joes is good), along with sauté vegetables and fruits that last in a cooler or trunk (broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, baby carrots, kale, apples, oranges, blueberries, onions, garlic) I bring a small cast iron skillet, abusable and study. First night dinner at Salton Sea was a one-pot sauté of kale, tofu, onions and Everyday Seasoning, a side Trader Joes canned Eggplant with Tomato and Onion and a glass of Zinfandel. Saute/crisp your tofu first, remove from pan, saute onions, then kale. Add back tofu and heat through.
For breakfast try a bowl of Overnight Oats. Mix dry ingredients at home, and store in a mason jar which packs nicely. Include 2 small, empty Tupperwares. The night before you want to eat, combine oat mix and enough milk of choice to cover. Breakfast is ready!
Next week we’ll head south to Bombay Beach and then Slab City - an area I bet you can’t even find on the map (hint: start at Niland). What a place!
Traveling can offset your digestion. Keep regular with a superfood combination of flax, hemp, oat and chia.
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 T chia seeds
1 T hemp and flax seeds
½ cup blueberries or fruit / dried fruit of choice
2/3 cup almond milk or milk of choice
touch maple syrup (optional)
! T powdered nut butter or a spoonful fresh nut butter (optional – the powdered is easier to mix in)
Combine all ingredients in a container, cover and refrigerate (we let sit out at room temp on bike tours). Enjoy in the AM as is, add more fruit or nuts, or pop into the microwave at home if your container is glass.
photos by LSIC