After the descent, I continued on ’78 through a long straight stretch into the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where the docile weather of SoCal was left behind for punishing triple-digit temperatures beneath a cloudless sky.
At this point, I pulled over and consulted my now completely un-foldable map. I decided to continue on ’78 until it ended at S.R. 86 just south of Salton City.
As I was driving north on ’86, I kept experiencing a feeling of déjà vu. But that was an impossibility, for I had certainly never driven this fine desert road before. And then it hit me: this was where the final hijacking scene was filmed during the first Fast and the Furious movie.
I caught up with Interstate 10 (or “The 10” as you surfer dudes call it) near Coachella and pulled into a rest area across from San Jacinto Peak, which must be a pretty dang high mountain to have snow on it when it was so hot down here. I once again consulted the map, and decided to follow The 10 to where it hit The 215 and follow that back to my hotel. I had originally planned on driving through Joshua Tree National Park, but the sun started to creep towards the west behind the San Jacinto Peak, and I decided to head back.
As I drove back to my hotel along the now darkening 15—a road designed simply to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible—I realized how much more relaxed I had been driving on those back roads. With no GPS screen glaring at me, I was free to simply look around, think about things, and enjoy the drive. And that’s what life should be about. Sometimes, you need to not focus on where you’re going—stop and look around at where you are. Life is a journey, not a destination, and nothing made me realize that more than just turning off the GPS.