Joshua Tree National Park, California.
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Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Some night photography and light painting in Joshua Tree National Park.

The milky way and stunning expanse of stars.

“Give up your stress and anxiety to the giant sequoia, its ageless branches will gracefully bear your burden. Let the mighty mountains handle your business woes for a time, they are stronger still. Drown your cares and concerns in a river, lake or stream and let their cleansing waters wash away the knot in your heart. Find your “center,” gain your perspective and get in touch with the better parts of yourself, outside in the wild, the only real place it’s possible.” ~ Joe Galliani

This is an excerpt from a 2012 Blog Post. You can read the full post with photos here.

AND… we’re in California. Well, we’re actually in Tokyo, fast forward about a month. But this is almost the final post of our USA – The Roadtrip Series 2012. We have completely ignored the Vegas chapter, we’ll get around to it eventually (when we can remember what actually happened during that now quite infamous week). So we leave the bright and faded memories of Vegas in the dust with a quick stop at our newest tradition In-N-Out Burger. The only way to leave Las Vegas. And we hit the road to Cali.

And that means one of our first stops is Baker. A favorite diversion in times past. For this is where we find…of course, The World’s Largest Thermometer. And some more Alien Fresh Jerky. Oh, Roadside America! How we love thee.

We pass Zzyzx again. And again… we love it.

And it’s just past here, that instead on continuing onto Barlow, we turn off. We are heading for Palm Springs with a quick stay in Joshua Tree National Park. One place on our Route 66 journeys of yesteryear that we never made it to was Newberry Springs – where ‘the’ Bagdad Cafe is. This time – it gave us a great chance to travel down the REAL Route 66 (with the much newer and less rugged interstate beside us – but what’s the fun in that?) and explore some places that have been on the R66 wish list for some time.

Bagdad, California is the original setting for the fabulous film Bagdad Cafe. There was an actual Bagdad Cafe that existed in the 1960s when U.S. Route 66 ran through the town; the town has since vanished but the cafe itself is still open for business. The site is marked by a railroad siding and a single tree. The film was shot at what was then the Sidewinder Cafe in Newberry Springs, California, 50 miles west of the original site of Bagdad on old U.S. 66. Since then, the café has become something of a tourist destination, and has changed its name to the Bagdad Café. A small notice board on the café wall features snapshots of the film’s cast and crew. On this day all that welcome us, belied by the blue skies was wind. A mad, mad wind.

Then we seemed to head through some sand dunes. Which had almost swallowed the road.

Around this time we gave up hope of making it to Joshua Tree for sunset as we just HAD to stop every 100m for photo ops of our MOST FAVORITE stretch of road in the world…

Next we amble our way, via the rubbly road to Amboy – just a ghost town now – reminding us of what Route 66 once used to be. Once upon a road. In the heyday. We are on the lookout for the iconic Roy’s Motel and Cafe – seen in numerous movies, now a defunct motel, cafe, gas station, auto repair shop on the National Trails Highway of U.S. Route 66 in the Mojave Desert town. The historic site is an example of roadside Mid-Century Modern Googie architecture. We just LOVE Googie architechture. (Hello Las Vegas Sign!!) And our dream house will definitely be designed with this in mind – along with that champagne fountain that Em keeps suggesting. We found Roy’s somewhere in the distance… Classic.

Had a few shoes to throw up into the Amboy shoe tree as well… but it looked like this might be a new one as there were not the thousands we expected… so we’ve kept them for another day.

And it was around here that we sadly had to turn off Route 66 to head down to Joshua Tree. As the sun started to set we passed a lot of salt flats along the roadside. Which further delayed our arrival.

Even after all the stopping, photos and Route 66 shenanigans – we still made it into Joshua Tree for a spectacular sunset. Well almost. It was pretty much done as made our way into Yucca Valley. We pulled over to the side of the road, to get these magical twilight shots. All handheld…

Hello Yucca Valley… You are divine and a new landscape for us to explore. Nothing like a California sunset. After a quick trip to Denny’s it was then check in at the hotel with multiple alarms all set to go for sunrise. And we totally didn’t make it. At all. The week in Vegas taking its toll. No problem, we quickly re-adjusted and headed into the park after the sun was up to do some hiking and to enjoy the desert floor and spectacle during daytime.

We passed Old Woman Springs on the way in. Doesn’t sound like the most inviting place to live. But certainly an entertaining address to have.

There was a big line up to enter the park. “Was it for an event?”, Trace asked the Ranger? No… just a regular pleasant weekend. Oh, it was the weekend! We had forgotten what day it was…that’s a sure sign of being on the road for the right amount of time. Presenting…our daytime take on JT NP.

And then the gorgeous day made us want to take a nap. It was just the right temp. Sun on our faces, a slight breeze. We totally crashed out. And it was just a dream. The literal nap. Asleep in the desert – waking up just in time for sunset and a hike up to the Arch (with bottle of wine and snacks to see in the evening…). There was a plan…

We took everything we could think of so we could settle in for the night. Decided to camp out here than head down to Palm Springs. The desert was just way too enticing.

So with the dinner picnic set up and tripods ready to roar into action… it was time for us to be alone in the desert again. All to ourselves. Under the stars. Time to play with the heavens and some painting with light imagery.

It truly was a fabulous night. And luckily we got these photos before the bottle of wine kicked in. For – and it’s full disclosure here – this was our epic fail during and after the wine. Just the one bottle, mind you. There were a few bumps and stumbles around the tripod… giggling, promote controller going slightly haywire and some very bad self-timer shots that will never see the light of day.

And this is the result. The lesson. Don’t drink and shoot while star trailing. We’re owing it.


Morning came. We left the desert, the memories and the many lessons. Knowing that the stars are always there, above us, day or night. We explored the last part of the road as we went. And then the rest of this trip was all about getting into LA. A quick stop in Palm Springs. Then a harrowing drive into LA in a storm. Some last-minute shopping and we found an awesome BBQ and with the sweetest, freshest strawberry lemonade ever. Random, but oh so fitting for this trip. In between all that were the requisite meltdowns over packing, packing, packing and a last evening in West Hollywood that again will never feature for all the right reasons here on the blog… And this is pretty much the only photo that hasn’t been vetoed. By Trace, not by me.

And that’s it – February done. Seven states, our presentation opening night at WPPI, ghost town shoot outs and stunning, stunning landscapes. From the red rocks to the snow-capped mountains, bison and back-streets, strip-tease and the magic hours of sunrise and sunsets… It was… an adventure. A healing of the soul. Outside in the wild. Outside in the world. Let loose. And many, many thank yous to the endless list of characters, cast members and gorgeous friends who appeared and colored our way. You have given us a most amazing start to 2012. We are so grateful. And is it really bad that we just want more? The road is always calling.

Keywords: California (2), Joshua Tree National Park.

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