In 1989 you reached Barstow by driving the two-lane past worn out alfalfa fields, rotten barbed wire seining plastic bags from the desert wind, fences of decaying schoolbuses. At 45 per in the ancient veedub it was an agonizing slog. Overnight in the Boron rest area. An eternity of Hinkley. Breakfast in a Barstow bowling alley.
The old road was all there was, curling around the north end toward the dry riverbed, the derelict train depot.
Daggett by eleven, and Ludlow, past the incongruous green of the Springs of Newberry. The old split-pane windshield topped out an inch below my eyes. No gas gauge. I had to slouch to see more than a quarter mile of road.
Truck tires on asphalt gamelan, a decade-old tape deck on the passenger side seat, a tinny recording of Canadian country-rock on endless repeat. My housemate in Berkeley had just bought the LP. An endless expanse of creosote and barrel cacti, and then gas in Needles.