Only four more hours to go. While the landscape was still rather lackluster, we knew we had crossed the Arizona/California border for two reasons: 1) gas shot up an entire dollar, and 2) we were stopped at the “border crossing” so that they could make sure we weren’t bringing any forbidden plants or fruits into the state.

What?!

And so, we entered this new country called California. We kept waiting for the dry, barren surroundings to suddenly grow a lush array of palm trees.

“I seriously can’t take much more of this,” I told Ten. We’d been listening to an hour of podcasts already. They were interesting and humorous at times, but at some point I realized that the voices were deadening my senses, rather than keeping me alert. “Is there anywhere on the map we can stop?”

Ten started looking. “The Mojave National Preserve is just up ahead.”

Just then we passed a sign saying: “Mojave National Preserve: Caverns Closed”.

“Well,” I said. “Think it’s still worth a stop?”

Ten just shrugged and said, “Whatever you want to do, Deb.”

Our dynamics hadn’t changed very much during the trip.

I pulled off at the exit, following signs towards the preserve. We started driving down the small, empty roadway. It was a few minutes before I realized that we were just driving into more desert. There was nothing out here.

“Ten… how far do we have to go on this road? Until we reach the Mojave, I mean.”

He looked at a map. Then looked at my iPhone. Then handed the phone to me. I looked. The little blue dot that was our car was bouncing down at the southern rim of the green preserve outline. The road went for tens of miles. And there was no “visitor center” in sight.

Oops!

I looked in my rearview to see Tim still following me with his U-Haul. This was probably not a great plan. I waved out the window and made a looping motion with my hand. Since there was no traffic at all, I made a u-turn in the middle of the road. Unfortunately, the road was so skinny that I sort of went off the side of it, into the sand below. And my wheels lost traction. I scooted forward: stuck. Backward a few feet: stuck. It was about 110 degrees outside and I did not want to push my car back onto the road! My car squealed as I shifted gears again. I looked over to see Tim laughing in his own car, safely on the road still. I muttered under my breath, jammed the car backward, and flew back onto the pavement.

I looked over at Ten; he was smiling, too. I stayed frustrated a moment longer before collapsing in laughter and relief onto my steering wheel.

It had been a long trip.

After that “mini” adventure, I had enough adrenaline to push through the last few hours in the car. We headed south of Los Angeles to Mission Viejo, where Tim and Ten would be staying with the Barkley family until we all found a place to live (ah, yes, I might not have mentioned that before. None of our “Wheaton crew” has a place to live in LA, yet! Just another adventure before us…).

We were close to the Barkley’s house, but I had other plans. I kept driving. My phone started buzzing.

“Hey, Tim!” I answered.

“Wasn’t that the turn back there, Debby?” he questioned.

“If we were going to Camden and Colson’s, then yes, that was the turn. Don’t worry about it. Just follow me!”

And he acquiesced to my request. Only moments later we drove around a final bend in the road and saw the Pacific stretching out before us. We managed to find parking (even for the U-Haul!), took off our shoes, and ran straight down to the ocean. It was glorious. We meandered down the shoreline until we came to a large rock outcropping. We sat there, gazing into the blue for what seemed like hours. The Barkley brothers called, wondering where we were. When we told them we were down at Laguna Beach, they happily offered to meet us there.

It was wonderful for us all to be reunited right there on the beach— a fitting conclusion to this first leg of our Hollywood journey.

Eventually, we drove back to the Barkley’s home (Tim’s U-Haul got a flat tire on the way. Seems the adventures are starting to find us now!). Mrs. Barkley prepared a delicious meal and made us feel so welcome. I left soon afterwards to drive up to the San Dimas area, where I will be staying with my friend Liz until I can find a place of my own.

The road trip is complete. But don’t worry, I think Los Angeles has a lot more in store for us all…

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