When the Tattoo Festival Comes to Town

Caleb has been talking about adding to his collection and so I thought we’d have a look at some of the famous artists that would be at the San Diego Convention Center for the weekend, big TV names that we don’t know and other local celebrities that we’ll never meet. It was interesting for me to see so many different types of people in the same room for a shared theme; that’s how it works — ink for mom, religion, love, tradition, death, inspiration, prison, and occupation, etc.

fire cupping

I haven’t been in many tattoo parlors and I know now just how much they vary, so it was nice to be invited into the personal space of so many arms, legs, and asses getting their mark. The first walk through the event, we focus on the shirts, inks, jewelry and other booths that are set up as this profession does seem to be more of a late night situation and it’s the weekend, so people will come in later to spend the afternoon on someone’s table or bent over a chair.

We take this time to walk among the small market that has been barricaded in the street before getting two versions of the same coffee, the vanilla macadamia nut being better than the chocolate, from Chocolate Cremerie. Had we not been about to get lunch from The Blind Burro, I would have tried a few of their delicious looking gelato flavors too. Caleb will have the coffee-rubbed salmon tacos, and it’s crispy spiced cauliflower tacos for me with bacon-wrapped jalapeños to split.

cutting the tip and fitting through a tennis racket

pony up between barbed wire and the fish hook pick up

Our second walk through brings entertainment on stage with a woman who has a knack for making young men blush and the audience laugh and cringe. We will walk the booths again and no one is able to grab Caleb’s attention enough to get a tattoo here, though I appreciate the artwork of the Petunia twins who are based in Los Angeles I’m not paying for their time today. We enjoy the walk back to the car.

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A Short Part of Sunday

We enjoy a cloudy hike in 80 degree weather before a late bread-filled lunch on the beach.

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Number 138

Caleb wakes again to the sounds of glass breaking against rocky ground and a metal fire ring, so he’s up again to calm these people down just to get back in the tent in time for the rain to start at 2am. We left the rainfly in the car and the screen door on the tent isn’t holding any water back. I struggle to hold part of the tent door over the opening while Caleb throws the rainfly on and dries off with his shirt inside the now humid sleeping compartment.

a five-stripe or black-throated sparrow

Even after all this, Caleb is up with the sun and getting beautiful photos while he lets me sleep, which we both know is a role reversal of how our trips usually go. He gets me up and we leave the tent to dry, though we’re not staying here another night and chancing an encore of last night’s events. We’ll hike the Skull Rock Loop in the opposite direction and find the marked trail way easier to follow.

This is a great start to our morning and there is only one other person out on the trail with us. Breakfast has soaked properly upon our return and we take it with us as we drive into Twentynine Palms for gas, water, and the cultural center that opens at 830 to renew our park pass that expired in May. Lucky us, the farmer’s market is already set up and we get some Brazilian lemonade, evaporated milk being the key ingredient, to add to our list of new things tried.

We’ll carry our 32oz cup around while we look at clothes, vegetables, jewelry, and job opportunities with paid training. The milk balances the sour but I’m grateful we shared the large, easily fermentable, drink before the heat made the lid pop off. Inside the park’s new visitor center is an exhibit about Key’s Ranch and we’re told we have to get our pass from the ranger booth at the park entrance. We buy a new adventure edition atlas and drive back south.

We turn around because we forgot to get water and then we will u-turn again before the park to visit the Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center that’s been here since 2010… talk about leaving something to come back for. Mike is quick out of the shade to hand us a postcard and offer a tour of the orrery and point out other structures over 200 yards in the distance that represent the rest of the solar system from where we’re standing next to the pinhead replica of Earth on an easier to grab globe so he can keep up with its orbit every four days and move the first four planets accordingly.

La Quinta Cove Oasis

Back in the park and we stop at the first trail we see and wander out some while the temperature is still in the 80s. We spook a family of quail and stumble upon some baby coyote melons growing in the rough sand. We drive back to Jumbo Rocks for our tent and the quiet makes me want to nap but Caleb says there’s not enough shade or breeze for that.

The heat continues to increase and causes the clouds to leak a bit as we make our way south to the Cottonwood Visitor Center where we dump sand out of our shoes before going to the picnic area for lunch. This idea of giving us energy for hiking only fuels us to find a small hotel room with the A/C blasting on the bed for over an hour so we can regain brain function for the remainder of the day.

Yuan Dynasty — blend of Mongolian and Han Chinese elements

Our camping spot was $20/night and our room cost us less than that thanks to a loyalty program. With a nap in we’re able to drive to La Quinta Cove Oasis for a short exploration of the beautiful desert in all its 105 degree glory before Caleb starts looking up museums. The first one is now a medical plaza but the Museum of Ancient Wonders is still open and being watched over by two guys — one you pay and the other gives us a guided tour of the Cathedral City exhibit leaving the numbered fossil timeline, Asian guidebook, and solar system walls to do the rest.

Toraja ancestor figure, Ifugoa people statuette (Bulul), no info, Batak people ornament (Singa)

We made it to the museum just before their one-hour before closing entry policy so they’re packing up to leave behind us. Dinner will be picked up from a place with the word bakery in the name, but they specialize in cakes, not delicious breads. Caleb got a turkey rueben and I got a slice of deep-dish marionberry cheesecake so we could both try something new, even if mine will be breakfast. After a shower my hair feels more gross and after a little bit to eat I’m definitely ready for sleep.

Venus of Willendorf

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Finding City Sounds in the Desert

We start the weekend with a sleep deficiency and I’m sure taking brisk morning walks in the cool of 4am doesn’t add to my REM but it does give me a sweaty back for Caleb to rub. I finish a post and a book before going to work but am home by 11am and Caleb soon after so we decide we’ll go camping for two nights to escape the noises of Imperial Beach and replace them with the soothing sounds of nature.

We were in for a surprise. We packed shorts and wool shirts, granola and pasta, tent and water. I grabbed my camera and we were on the road heading north by the afternoon. There was a weird amount of stop-and-go traffic, some road construction delays, and a short stop at the Ricardo Breceda Gallery and Sculpture Garden to peek at some large metal creations before continuing on the 79 east.

I enjoy the downhill cruising and slight breaking when necessary on the Pines to Palms Highway and then we seem to arrive to an empty Joshua Tree National Park. We revel in the solitude and put on our hiking shoes. Smiles on our faces and some sand in our toes we find spot 100 at Jumbo Rocks Campground around 6pm. Caleb set up the tent and I made dinner before setting off on a hike.

The Skull Rock Loop being the closest we thought it would be a nice 1.7 miles, but we have trouble coming out of the campsite and it only gets more difficult once we get lost on the other side of the road. This is definitely the lack of sleep catching up with us, but luckily we have a speed limit sign to guide us on a shortcut and once we see the skull we can find our way back over the last half mile.

We happily refill our already depleted energy reserves with the help of the wooden utensils I keep in my purse, since we forgot a few car camping necessities. We then attempt to read with the light of dusk but the best way to handle someone else’s screaming child is to yell back at them. Luckily, the mom was respectful about the situation and I apologized, but her husband’s personality was embarrassing.

My little outburst got the other sites near us to turn off their music and we put away books in exchange for stars through the partly-cloudy sky with tons of planes flashing their lights and some possible aliens getting their aircraft across our view in a hurry. This gives me time to recall my idea earlier of a show called Camp Swap, where couples, or families, get to use the gear of another couple at the same site. I also think about time travel but with the ability to have the mindset of the time you’re visiting.

Anyway, I think it’s time to put our thoughts away for the day and carry them into my dreams. Most campsites have quiet hours between 10pm and 6am, but since this is one of the few open in the park we are stuck between a couple in and out of their car and yelling at each other in the dark and two guys even louder overusing the word bro trying to hear each other over their music at 1130pm. Caleb gets up to tell them to turn their music down and there is a temporary reprieve.

Maybe I missed the memo, but I feel that music should be reserved for cars, showers, gyms, museums, and concerts, etc. People also have the right to headphones, even if you can hear what they’re listening to on public transportation, but it saddens me that nature, not only overrun with light and plastic is now being ruined with sound garbage.

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Getting Out of State

After a year of working at the hospital, in the limited duty department, Caleb was finally able to get orders to be an engineer again as long as he signed up for another year past his original retirement date of November 2023. Bahrain and Singapore were not an option, though he asked and waited for anything overseas, it would be back to LCS where he traveled last time to Alabama frequently and this time has the option of Singapore and Guam; which would be a new country for me.

Anyway, with a transfer comes a leave period (a military vacation) but instead of our usual one month break we could only take the one week that my job would allow, so we made the most of those nine and a half days. Cutting out the other seven days we had planned will give us something to look forward to on our next adventure, this one including our 14th anniversary.

We pack the car and leave by 5pm on a Friday. We’ll get as far east on Highway 8 as Exit 54 in Arizona which leaves us on a dirt road with space for setting up the tent versus sleeping in the car at the Mohawk Rest Area. We passed the miles by listening to tunes from our youth; when we were 15 to 25 years old. Dad calls back and it’s always nice to hear his voice, even if I don’t agree with what he’s saying, while I stare at the stars over the mountain peaks.

I’ll return to camp and climb in the tent that Caleb set up so that we can listen to Satan’s train drag metal across the desert. The next train sounds like it ran into the mountain and then drove over the broken rocks and glass. These are the joys of travel and camping. These are moments we look forward to turning into memories. We are so lucky to have these stories.

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