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.

Mojave Desert Shrine, oil on board, 8 x 9 inches

10.May 5th, 2006

The next day I left Barstow and headed south west into the Mojave Desert. My head continued to chew on itself…

Long day-can’t stop driving!The Mojave was wonderful but then you ask ‘how much desert can I take?’As with Yosemite, ‘what do I do with it?’ Is there any point coming to view things rather than live in them? 

I was concerned with pragmatic matters too. I didn’t have a huge amount of money and there are a few pages in the diary devoted to working out finances….

Gas is going up in price. $3.79-$3.99 around the desert when I saw it for $3.19 in Oakhurst. Got some today for $2.99 though.

Stopped in Needles for a burger. Looked at all the fat people who live there. Scary. 

Fat people are a recurrent theme. I am probably being politically incorrect here but we are talking fat. More on that in later posts.

That’s it for that day…in the diary anyway. For some reason I didn’t write that I had left the road and driven on a dirt road across the Mojave. I was apprehensive about doing this as I wasn’t insured to drive the car off the highway, I didn’t know what state the road was in and I was also convinced the car would break down and I would die. Hanging around in the back of my head were those stories of people needlessly expiring after making one wrong turning, having one too few bottles of water, or falling asleep and being eaten by something.

As a matter of interest I came across this article last year regarding a German family whose disappearance in Death Valley in 1996 was for a long time the subject of much speculation. It’s a very long read but entirely riveting. It is written by a man who makes it his business to find out what happened to people who have disappeared. After many years, some intelligent detective work and a series of hikes into remote and deathly areas he found their remains. What is extraordinary about the story is the compassion he shows to the people whom he was trying to find. It’s human to assume people who have suffered some sort of accident have done something to deserve it. We want to rationalize, to imagine it couldn’t happen to us. In this instance the author reconstructs their last days with great compassion, and portrays them as intelligent but unlucky people.

Anyhoo, with all this in mind, I filled the car up with gas and  many massive bottles of water, phoned my college buddy, now back in New York, and told him if I disappeared to tell my nearest and dearest I forgive them for everything and everyone else that they would now be sorry they weren’t nicer to me and I left the 15 near Baker.

It was wonderful. As it is the ‘high desert’ it wasn’t as hot as all that, not anything like Death Valley for sure. The road wasn’t graded but it was fine. Nothing happened to me (though I did chip the paint on the car). The landscape is dry, as you would expect but thronged with scrubby shrubs and Joshua trees praising the cobalt sky. I meandered though Cima, Ivanpah and came out on the 140 near Goffs I think (a strange name for a desert town, it made me think of Goffs Horse Sales in Kildare). The drive was about twenty five miles and I stopped once or twice but there is nothing much else to report. It’s hard to experience these places properly just driving through and I wasn’t set up for prolonged hikes or camping.

I have meant to keep these posts about paintings only but the best laid plans of me…etc. etc. so to make up for a lack of narrative, here a few photos. My camera was just a compact 3mp, as this was in ancient times, so the quality is not great….

At a junction near Cima I came across the shrine which is in the main painting. Nearby there was a broken down, clapboard hut, once a trading post or a bar or a shop probably, or all three.

MOJAVE 3.jpg


Tomorrow we’ll be in a smelly motel…


3 responses to “ROAD TRIP : MOJAVE DESERT

  1. Well worth clicking on the painting, great details, love the post boxes. I am reminded of Edward Hopper’s paintings, which I love nearly as much as yours. Looking forward to the next instalment and to see how many more imagined deaths you had!

  2. Ta Fraggle R!That’s a big compliment!LOVE Hopper too…as for the deaths …there are thousands of them teeming in my overactive head 🙂 🙂

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