I was supposed to be leaving. It was already late afternoon and I was facing a long drive back up the coast. But instead of heading west on the 10, I reflexively hooked a right. East.
I exited once to take some pictures of a derelict sign and stopped in a ramshackle antique store. I bought an old Pepsi glass. Maybe I should have turned around then, but I had to keep going.
I drove out to where the Inland Empire tapers off and the windmills line up and stretch into vast fields, which for me has always been the point where L.A. finally ends and the desert begins.
On a whim I exited past Banning, looking for something I couldn’t describe. I kind of found it on a local road that runs alongside the 10. I had the windows down and the A/C on full blast, pacing a freight train to my right. We stayed that way for a while, the thrum of metal on rails and the rush of wind drowning out the radio, until I doubled back and took an overpass to the other side of the freeway.
There, I really found what I was looking for, and it turns out they were dinosaurs. Those huge, goofy, concrete tourist-trap dinosaurs can be seen in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. And in that moment all the scattershot pieces of life line up and clicked into place. Standing at the edge of the desert in the sinking sun, surrounded by tacky dinosaurs and children shrieking in Spanish and a busload of Marines, somehow made the most sense out of anything that had happened in a long time.
I was ready to go home.