Some diary highlights from my recent tramp across the Mojave Desert.

First up, an amusing fact: though my Spot tracker and Followmee (correct spelling) are recording my GPS location and miles as I march along (my web master friend, Sean, is still working on the live maps on the site), my Garmin watch is struggling.

The reason is my hands are holding on to my cart all day. Arm movement is restricted so, although my heart rate is monitored (this always rises whenever I look at it!) it struggles with steps. Had a good laugh about this with Garmin support who have offered to send a foot monitor (not as accurate and drains GPS).

For now, on Garmin’s suggestion, I am attaching the watch to my thigh which seems to be working well, and saves constantly knowing the rhythms of my ever erratic heart!

Ok, back to the Mojave Desert, pronounced Mohave.

Day 23/24

Last night’s wild camp in the Mojave Desert. A desolate but striking spot, too remote and windy for phones to work.

Over three days walking, I have covered 68 miles of desert highway and hope to clock up over a marathon (27 miles) tomorrow to reach an isolated gas station at Vidal Crossing.

I’ve loved these last days hiking, and the stark, ever shifting, high desert. 

The sweeping, rock-strewn horizon and the star-peppered night sky, have made me feel so small. Yet, there’s great comfort knowing my fragility, my insignificance out here: it somehow brings a sense of perspective and peace.

Wow, how the Mojave can shift moods though. One minute you are yomping along, clear sky, a gentle, tail-wind whooshing your cart like a spinnaker.

An hour later the sky has turned to lead, a desert storm is spitting sand in your face and dust devils swirl in the distance. For a moment you feel like Lawrence of Arabia but, sporting a blue bandanna and coconut lip balm, probably look more like Florence of Arabia.

Then, two hours later, the storm has blown over, and the tumbleweeds, having been flipping around like derangued pinballs, resume their normal langorous pace.

My desert walk would not have been possible without the back up of the wonderful folks @godwinchristianfellowship who brought me fresh supplies each day.

Indeed, when Olympia and Stavros turned up after the storm with fresh water and a ham sandwich, I was so frazzled and hungry, I welled up at their kindness – which, frankly, must have embarrassed everyone, including the sandwich.

Lovely Amy, who has a heart the size of Mars, was also a massive star with logistics, as was her friend, Will. Thank you all so much – it is extraordinary acts of kindness like yours that make me believe I really can walk round the world.

Now, one more day hiking and I am back to civilisation: a lone Chevron garage no less.

Day 25

A haunting and beautiful shoe tree in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where the ghost town of Rice once stood.

 

One of the joys of hiking in the US boondocks are the many weird and wonderful roadside marvels, this being one of the best to date.

Story has it, years ago, Marines from the nearby base – the Mojave is first-class terrain to toughen up rookies – would throw their underwear on a lone tamarisk tree. 

This tree finally burnt down and, instead, passers by on this deserted highway now tie shoes to a new tree. Some attach messages for loved ones, living and dead, and some crack jokes. A tree for Lost Soles, as one wag put it.

In the vastness of the desert perhaps we all feel like lost souls. The monster of a black spider I saw scrambling across the highway certainly looked like one.

 

I’ve always loved spiders since reading Charlotte’s Web as a child. This beauty was the biggest I’ve ever seen in the wild, its body the size of my thumb, with a lower body like a grape. I’d love to know what it is if anyone has a clue. Cousin Paul @pzfreo insect snapper extraordinaire, any ideas?

Other lost souls included Charlie, a laconic Arizonian (right word?). He’s been pedalling America for over a year and I’m the first long distance walker he’s seen. Worrying.

Then appeared super friendly Wayne and Robert, plumbers at a nearby mine, who plied me with Dr Pepper, donuts and good wishes, making my day.

‘We’re all a bit lost out here in the desert, bro,’ said Robert.

But we are all lost souls really, it’s the human condition, our tragedy and our triumph. None of us really know 100 percent what we are doing here, whether the Pope, the Queen, the Dalai Lama, Beyonce, Lionel Messi or Donald Trump (yes, I know, a rum mix). In a seemingly anxious world, where fear is eclipsing trust, we must celebrate being a bit lost, celebrate being human. 

Like the shoes on the tree, we need to hang on in there together, support each other, joke and take the piss out of each other – just stop judging and fearing each other!

Phew, sorry, enough! I’ve been amongst sand and rocks too long. Thanks for reading.

Day 26

Thrilled to complete my first US state. Hola Arizona!

After several nights wild camping in the Mojave, last night I set up my tent outside the disused 1950s Jitterbug Diner by an isolated gas station, alive with the thrum of trucks.

While happy to top up water and buy provisions at the garage, I soon longed for the open desert: the silence, the sand, the rocks, the peerless night skies.

Today, hiked 18 miles into the little town of Parker – passed a sign in stones urging ON ON (or maybe NO NO, if looked at the other way!) – then bridged the Colorado River into Arizona. Over the last five days I have clocked up close to 115 miles. Hurrah!

In his classic book, Arabian Sands, the defiantly old school explorer, Wilfred Thesiger, wrote: ‘Here in the desert I had found all that I asked: I knew that I should never find it again.’

Of course, it would be absurd to compare my little Mojave foray with Thesiger – a man who mapped out swathes of the notoriously harsh Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia, but, at least by scratching the surface, I know a little of what he meant.

I feel hugely lucky to have hiked through the desert last week, it made a profound impression. 

So, thank you, Mojave, you wild, magical, redemptive, scary as hell and never to be forgotten oasis.

Thank you all so much for your support on the road, on the web and to those who generously gave to the charities this month – Alessio Sorrentino, Barney Larkin, Scottie Scott-Adie, Jim Sutherland, Lynda Cole, Tim Brooks, Julie Lunn, Biddy Wood, Sean Franklin, Micheal and a few anonymous: THANK YOU! Your donations make such a difference.

For those of you new to my ramblings I write a near daily update on Instagram under Tom Fremantle. I try to write meaningful observations about today’s America but amusingly, the post that attracted the most comment this week, focused on the best way to ease a chafing groin!

On that note, I wish all the best to the hearty runners and the brilliant volunteers, at the Swanbourne Endeavour tomorrow. A cracking event for terrific causes.

Cheers all, see you later down the road…and for all those asking about Einstein the dog, he is, by all accounts, flourishing in San Diego with the Kiys. Hurrah!

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The Alzheimer’s Society, The Puzzle Centre, Medical Detection Dogs

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