In 2006 I took a Road Trip from San Francisco to New Mexico and back over the course of a month, writing and taking photos all the way. Two years later I had a show of paintings based on those photographs. This is a series of posts of those paintings accompanied by the relevant diary entries.

010 desert inn, barstow, CA

Desert Inn, Barstow, California, oil on board, 8 x 9 inches (approx.)

9.May 4th, 2006

This is one of my favourite paintings from the series and you’ll find a little more background on it here...

This was my first motel and though it’s not in the diary I remember when I went to put my bag in my room the person in the room next door cracked his door so he could ogle me. I went back to reception and she told me it was a long time resident and he was fine but she moved me anyway. This was the first time I felt a whisper of the fear that other women expressed to me when they heard I had done this trip.

“On your own!” they say, “But what about all the serial killers!”

Even though I am an avid crime drama reader and watcher and have a bit of an imagination this idea had never really crossed my mind and in truth I still find it bizarre. My position on it, rightly or wrongly, (and very probably entirely politically incorrectly from both the male and female perspective), is that if I wasn’t able to attract even a common or garden psychopath into my life at any point, let alone a regular person, then I am unlikely to attract the rarer species that is the serial killer. Having said that many other fears, driving on the right side, being killed by bears, dying of thirst, an exploding hand or aggravation at rude people, as well as being randomly killed by a gang were on my imagination radar as you will see below..

I’m finally in a motel!-in Barstow in the Mojave. Left Midpines at 8am, got to Fresno at 10 and stopped to buy a tent and a sleeping bag in Target along with various medications for my hand which has started to swell-and continues to do so as I write- because of a tiny insect bite between my fingers…it’s hot and ITCHY! No sleep last night.

I drove the whole day with my hand out the window…

The desert is very like Namibia, all scrubby and yellow with brown folded hills. The drive between Bakersfield and Mojave was lovely. I got lost for an hour in Bakersfield…

I remember circling the city and ending up behind the same gang car twice-I knew because of the decals on the back window and also because the the occupants looked pretty dodgy-and I imagined I might not leave Bakersfield alive if they thought I was some kind of undercover cop whose tailing skills were in need of brushing up…

Route 223-green hills with thousands of wind turbines turning. Very windy at the rest stop near Edwards Air Base…

Looking out at this sprawling town (Barstow) in the sunset is wonderful-I love the contrast of plastic and cars and lights with the brown, desert hills. When I was out and about, a young, black homeless man trollied past me and down the hill as I got the Los Angeles Times from one of those newspaper machines…

..first time for that too!….

No idea where I’ll stay tomorrow. This motel, The Desert Inn, is cool, clean and tidy, with a microwave and a fridge. No cutlery though so I ate my TV dinner with a stick of salami. Hello America! My legs are still f**ked from Yosemite and I am hobbling around with my swollen hand like some kind of eejit. I wonder if the legs of all the other people that were there that day feel like this?

Passing over little bridges on the way here-they are like the ones across the gulleys in Namibia-except these have names : Hawes Wash, Turtle Wash…

Thought my thoughts would be more interesting today-but they’re not. Wish I’d bought some chocolate.

Tomorrow the Mojave and fears of dying of thirst…

Swollen Hand, oil on board, 7 x 9 inches (approx.)



  1. Norman Bates has a lot to answer for. I wonder if all motels are seedy, or whether Hollywood has exported that idea. I’m not bothered if I never know the answer.

  2. That is very true re:Norman Bates…compared to the next motel this was heaven…and I stay in a lovely one later in the trip…with pillowed mattress!stay tuned!

  3. Yes I like a bit of seedy too…more character!…thats happened to my hand a few times..once to both hands…the first time it happened I was terrified they were going to explode, like balloons on the ends of my arms…some sort of reaction :p …hasn’t happened in a few years now..

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