Thursday

Los.

At the border of California, a friendly woman confiscated my ever-depleting bag of tangerines. They had been my best companion: nutricious, tasty, great for both my breath and energy. But I had no choice. The apples could stay with me, though, because they were from Washington.

Not long after my crossing, I stopped at a gas station. I stepped out into the cool, comfortable, flavorful California air - my first taste in some time - and walked into the station. The young teen working there was on the phone in the garage, but when I walked in to get his attention, he was friendly. I was not greeted with the indifference or anger that I have come to expect. Not a moment of our interactions was hostile, embittered, remotely unkind.

As I finished fueling, a beautiful stray dog strolled up, its nails clacking against the pavement, and the teen and his boss fed it bread. This seemed to be a ritual, which made me glad. By the time I went to get food for it, the dog had already scampered gleefully over to the next station.

As I-40 wore on, I arrived at one of the most spectacular moments of my trip; the sun setting on the mountains and desert of SoCal painted a landscape too beautiful to not be fictional, not be the artist's skewed and embellished interpretation. I took photos and marveled. Route 40 had been nothing but kind to me from the moment I got on. I chased down the sun, and it seemed to hesitate, delighted by my desperate onslaught, my yearning to remain in light just a bit longer. But as promised, it ducked behind the horizon and left me yet again to the dark. I worried about my bearings, but checked a map and was comforted once more.

I pulled off for gas just before Barstow, where the only light came from the stars and the single gas station. I admired the stars, the brightest I'd seen on my entire trip. I was mere miles from I-15, the home-stretch.

Interstate 15 was a battlefield from the moment I got on. Moments before, I was in the quiet of the Californian desert, and the fastest driver on the road. Somehow Barstow had been harboring all of the people of LA, waiting to unleash them when I made the change.

Drivers weaved around me on either side, and it seemed that while going a little faster than the speed limit seemed to quell their advances, it did nothing for my nerves. The road was packed with cars. There was no time for stargazing.

I was no more comfortable as I approached the city limits. But as the basin lay before me, I could see the greater Los Angeles area in stunning, shimmering clarity. The roads, houses, and hills were speckled with pinpoints, as though it were a vast field of electric poppies. I have arrived, I thought. I had arrived, indeed.