Joshua Tree 23! Recap

Joshua Tree 23 Recap!

First, I’m gonna have to set the tone for this recent adventure. Have you heard of Murphy’s Law? The first law to be specific. For those who haven’t, it’s “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” From the first day, it started off pretty subdued compared to the rest of the trip. While packing, we could not find our sleeping pads. We have all the camping supplies in one corner of the studio, but for the life of me I could not find our sleeping pads. We have had these pads since I was in middle school so it wasn’t the end of the world to upgrade it. It just would’ve been nice to know before the morning we were leaving.

Halfway through the driving of the first day, we stopped for gas and it turns out our gas cap broke and got stuck. Thankfully, we didn’t drive in empty, though it’s not uncommon for us to do so. We drove to the nearest O’Reilly’s (seriously these guys have helped us out of a bind more than a few times), and with the magic of a screwdriver and pliers we got the old gas cap off and bought a new one. This delay set back our schedule and had us driving a little longer in the dark than we planned. We usually try to minimize the amount of night driving due to harder driving conditions in new areas at night and the unsurprising increase of wildlife on the roads. When we crossed into northern California, there was a winter weather advisory on the pass. We did not expect that it was snowing like crazy and the fog was so thick we could hardly see 5 feet in front of our car. We eventually made it to our first stop for the trip, and it was the coziest little cabin and with a good night’s sleep after a 14+ hour day of driving.


The sun rose across hundreds of acres of field with Mt. Shasta overlooking the farmlands in the morning. However, we had little time to enjoy it until we were back on the road. As per usual, multiple traffic delays led to us getting to our Joshua Tree campsite closer to midnight than we originally planned. Setting up camp in the dark was a first for us but what made it worse was the insane wind gusts. Now we have never actually camped in the Joshua Tree before so we didn’t really know what to expect. Gusts of 65 mph and 35 mph sustained winds were NOT what we expected, let alone planned for. So let that be a reminder to everyone camping in Southern California this time of year. Have you ever tried to stake out a tent where the first two steaks rip out and the other side of the tent greets you right in the face? Yeah that was our night. After a brutal battle in the dark, the tent was staked down and up. It was somewhat of a relief to see everyone else in trailers, because that tent was not quiet or quick to set up. It was a rough night of sleep as well with the sides of the tent slapping us in the face, as the high winds did not die down at any point of the night. Did we also mention that it was 28 degrees outside? Yeah, it was quite the experience. The stars that night were still my favorite from the entire trip but, sadly, it was much too windy for a tripod to remain stable.


The next morning, after freezing our butts off with the strong winds and sub-freezing temps, we asked our AirBnB if we could check in early. In the meantime, we went to the visitor center where a kind park ranger told us the Santa Ana Winds were hitting hard and that night was actually going to be even more windy than our previous night—hard to believe. Luckily, our AirBnB host, Thomas, was amazing and had the day open, so he let us book it and come warm up. We checked in asap, warmed up, and got all our food in the fridge. Thomas gave us a lovely tour of the place and a rundown of all the things to do nearby. However, a surprise to all of us, was that the fridge worked a little too hard over the night. It ended up freezing our eggs solid! The milk became a slushy as well. We didn’t find this out until the next morning when I was going to make fried eggs and hash browns with nice hot tea. Almost all the eggs were split open and essentially ice cubes. I took the three best looking ones and put them in hot water to get them thawed and cookable. The first one I thought was thawed enough to cook plopped in the pan and—surprise—it was still frozen ~haha. This is when we switched to scrambled—worked out much better. Past the everything freezing bit, we figured most things just needed a nice thaw and continued our days with the fridge turned down from the recommended setting to avoid the freeze.




Finally, the wind died down a bit, and we managed to gather the energy to venture to Joshua Tree at sunset to try to catch comet ZTF. Got some Starbucks on our way, as we are stereotypical Washingtonians and are heavily addicted to our caffeine. But guess what? That’s right! Betsy—our exceptional little van that keeps going—had other plans. She made a downright awful noise as we pulled into the parking lot and we thought best to call a mechanic cause we aren’t about to drive into a national park to break down without signal. We found out the SoCal area is full of great mobile mechanics and set up an appointment for the next morning to get Betsy all up and running again.

The mechanic test drove the car and looked it over. And told us we had a damaged front axle and, of course, we needed new brakes/rotors. However, we were pleasantly surprised that he got us back on the road about an hour to 2, and the price was quite reasonable. He was also a super nice dude and started being a mechanic after Covid because he always worked on cars and he said his hands were more built for cars and less built for his last job, a dental assistant. Which definitely made us laugh because he, for sure, did not give off dental assistant vibes. Huge shout out to Rick with Rick’s Mobile Mechanic Service down there. Back on the road again, we went over to set up for the Southwest Arts Festival. Setup was pretty exhausting, but we got ourselves a little treat and tea at a little shop called Cali Rosina Tea Shop. They were super welcoming and have quality sourced teas. We ended up getting 2 teas to brew throughout the trip and a delicious hot chocolate to go. Who would have thought that hojicha (green tea) and hot chocolate would go well together?


After the first day of the show, we figured the wind was good; the car was—hopefully—good; and, thus, it was time to shoot comet C/2022 E3 ZTF! It had become visible to the naked eye, and we were excited to capture another interstellar visitor. We traveled into the Joshua Tree National Park a bit and stopped at what looked like Plymouth Rock from the Lion King. It lined up great with the comet, so that I could catch it all in one shot. The moon was at a quarter moon and still up so the comet was a little faint compared to what I expected, but it wasn’t supposed to be as bright as comet Neowise. It was a brilliant green glow relative to the sky though, and I am very pleased with the composition. After a few shots, we headed back, as we had to make sure to be awake and welcoming at the art show the following day.

There was more wind than expected at the show, so there was plenty of time for us artists to wander and make friends. What can we say? We can’t always have weather on our side but we can always make the best of the situation. We actually became such good friends with another artist there we ended up staying a day with them after the show on their farm/animal sanctuary! Dogs, pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys, donkeys (not kidding)—it was so much fun. It was so cool getting to meet all their animals and just hang out with other artists for once. And we made connections with others that we may end up staying/caravanning to other shows with! As some of you may know, I video artists making their art and interview them about how they got into art and, Chris—one of our epic artist friends—will have to be an artist I do a video with, cause her work is absolutely amazing. And same with Tessa, of course. Check out both of their art here: Chris’s Work and Tessa’s Work.



Then, heading back up after the show, we were almost to Salem, OR when the van started vibrating violently. Right when we felt it, Dan got over to the right lane, slowed down, and then POW! Our tire blew. We quickly pulled all the way over, cursed to the sky, and got out to see how bad it was. Needless to say, we weren’t going anywhere. I added the photo here so you can see it too. Looks like two porcupines had a tussle before spontaneously combusting in there. Turns out our tires were a bit old. So after driving here, there, and everywhere the poor thing gave up. Its timing was just wonderful as it was also just before we were going to break for lunch. After getting a tow to the nearest tire place, they got us back on the road again. We decided we needed some cheering up and food by this point, so we went to a In-N-Out burger for the first time, as many of our friends back home have told us we just HAD to try it, *pause for dramatic effect*. It was actually a pretty good place to grab a burger and shake and even though we are Washingtonians; we stand firm when we say In-N-Out beats Dicks hands down in fries and burgers—Dicks wins on shakes. This was certainly the trip of many delays and more car fixes than I have ever needed in a single trip. We were incredibly relieved by the time we finally made it back home—that kind of kiss-the-ground-off-the-boat kind of relief you see in movies. Not every trip has this much drama shoved into it but we still had some fun, made some friends, and certainly made memories on this insane trip.