[Amboy Road…to Wonder Valley. Photo is mine.]
I’m driving from Joshua Tree to Twentynine Palms. I turn left on Adobe Drive. Ahead of me is the largest U.S. Marine Training Base in the world. I don’t go there. I turn right on Amboy Road and pass the RV campground where we spent a week in 2016. We pass by and have memories of our stay there. Then I pressed the foot to the metal and headed east…toward the Mojave desert…and Wonder Valley.
I’ve been down this road before. We left the aforementioned RV park and drove down the Amboy Road. I thought at the time, seeing the increasingly isolated adobe houses, churches and trailers that nothing legal was going on out there.
I was wrong. At least to my knowledge.
I wouldn’t be writing this blog and revisiting this place if I had not run across an article in the New York Times digital edition on my iPhone. A writer from LA, Ivy Pochoda, had an article in the Travel section about “getting lost” in Wonder Valley and the music of the absolute quiet.
I had to revisit the place that I saw on my drive through in 2016. I’m glad I went back.
This is not to say that I got to know the few residents…I didn’t. But I spent a few hours in the Palms Restaurant that I glimpsed in ’16. This time I was serious. I wanted the storied french fries and have a mug of the only beer that was on tap…Pabst Blue Ribbon. I haven’t had a PBR in forty years. The fries were fabulous. We watched King of Kings on the TV…an Easter movie in the days before Christmas?!
[Photo is mine.]
We chatted with the soft-spoken bartender, Kevin, to try to get a sense of what it was like to live out here where nothing takes on a whole new meaning. Take my advice: if you want isolation and to get off the grid…go to Wonder Valley. But, it isn’t all sand and sage. The Palms has a very active social calendar. Sunday brunch usually finds the place filled.
The Palms Restaurant is a world unto itself. There is a backyard dining area where summer concerts (cowboy music, mostly likely) is played on a funky stage. The food is outstanding and very inexpensive.
[The backyard of the Palms. Photo is mine.]
There is a newsletter called the Sand Paper which connects the widely spaced residents of the Valley. Many musicians and artists make this their home. More than a few of them have painted the many murals on the sides of buildings in 29 Palms.
It is a kind of an oasis in Wonder Valley. Along Amboy Road are leftover homes and spooky desert shacks.
[Along Amboy Road. Photo is mine.]
[Yet another reminder of days gone by. Photo is mine.]
I probably could live out here…in Wonder Valley. Mariam definitely could not. But, there’s a peace and openness that has eluded me in the Northeast USA. The sky is endless and almost always clear.
There is the waxing moon. I could see the Milky Way nearly every night. In the winter, one needs one of those down ‘sweaters’ to fend off the night chill.
There’s something about the desert that attracts me. Out in the emptiness, you rely on yourself and your neighbors.
And your trust in your own skills of dealing with isolation and that big void of land and the clear night sky.