I've always dreamed of going on a road trip with no particular destination in mind, and stopping to explore any interesting places I happen upon. When I was laid off from my office job earlier this year, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to make the dream a reality.
Instead of wandering aimlessly, I decided I'd make this trip all about urban exploration. I went through the list of abandoned places I'd been meaning to explore and plotted them out on a map. I had a 17 day window to hit as many of them as I could before I had to be back in Los Angeles.
I didn't bother planning out my days because I wanted the freedom to stop at unexpected sites without worrying about how it would affect my schedule. Instead, I had a vague sense of the winding route I'd take, starting in Southern California, heading through Arizona, New Mexico, up to Colorado, then west to Utah, maybe up to Idaho, then down to Nevada and back into California.
To save time and money, I'd sleep in my car instead of staying at motels. Fortunately my boyfriend insisted I take his Rav 4, which was much more reliable than my '99 Chevy Malibu. It also meant I could fold down the back seats and stretch out comfortably at night instead of having to sleep curled up on the back seat of my sedan.
I made a list of supplies I'd need, most of which I already had, since I go hiking and camping pretty often. I got a few other odds and ends at REI or through Amazon.com.
Here's what I brought with me:
* snacks (trail mix, fruit, Clif bars, etc)
* a case of bottled water
* 17 days worth of clothes
* several light jackets
* warm winter coat, gloves, hat
* sandals, comfortable hiking boots
* air filtration mask
* headlamp, strong LED flashlight, extra batteries
* video camera, charger
* phone charger
* about 5 pillows and half a dozen blankets for those cold nights in the mountains
* music and audio books
* first aid kit
* pepper spray
A lot of people thought I was crazy for making the trip alone, but I had a few good reasons. First off, I didn't know anyone who had the free time or desire to drive around the western states exploring abandoned places. Plus I wanted the freedom to stop wherever and whenever I wanted, which would have been impossible if anyone else was with me. And I felt like I needed some time alone to unwind and get reacquainted with myself. The previous six months had been extremely busy at work. I was at the office an average of 60 hours a week, my workdays sometimes stretching to fifteen hours.
A few weeks before the trip my boyfriend and I had watched the movie Wild. It got me even more inspired and excited about my upcoming adventure. I listened to Simon and Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa" obsessively and adopted it as my personal anthem.
I hit the road on Wednesday, February 18. It was warm and sunny, a perfect Southern California day. I drove with the windows down, savoring the warm wind and the sense of freedom and adventure.
The Salton Sea was to be my first destination, but as I drove along the 10 Freeway through Calimesa, I saw an abandoned house and decided to check it out.
The little white house stood on top of a hill in middle of a wide open plot of land. A cracked and weathered driveway led up to it from the main road. I couldn't find any information about the place or why it was abandoned. Several concrete slabs remained on the property where other buildings once stood. I'm guessing a garage and large shed or barn. The house itself was tightly boarded up, the windows and doors well sealed with plywood painted the same white as the outside walls. There were no signs of graffiti and it appeared no one had forced their way into the house yet. I took a few pictures and continued toward the Salton Sea.