I arrived home at six today, my arms numb from four hours at ten and two, from my third expedition to try and find Cecil B deMille’s Lost City of the Pharaohs. This time it was a two day trip. The idea was to spend the night in town so I could get up bright and early and head right to the Dunes while the day was still young.
It didn’t help.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t make it to the Lost City, but I definitely made significant progress towards finding it before external circumstances beyond my control swooped in and ruined it.
I left for the trip up at 4 on Sunday. I knew there was no way I’d make it to the Dunes before they closed, but I wasn’t planning on going until Monday morning, so that was fine. I stopped in Santa Barbara (which despite what certain goofy psychic detective would have you believe, looks nothing like British Colombia) for dinner at thus little organic pizza place, and ordered “one with everything” (yes, it was really called that. The place was very tongue-in cheek about their hippiness) which was good, but didn’t really agree with me. Back on the road, I hit a bank of fog with the approximate mass and density of nine-day-old pease porridge around the time I passed some Air Force base or other (I don’t remember what it was called, but it wasn’t Vandenberg) which stuck with me all the way up until I reached Santa Maria, where I checked into a motel only to discover that I’d left the wall charger for my smartphone at home. “Not a problem,” I thought, “I’m sure its got enough charge to last until morning”.
But I was wrong.
As it turns out, my phone’s charge did not last until morning, and that was the beginning of the end of my little voyage. I figured I could just let it charge in the car on the way to the Lost City, but when I got to the point on the road nearest the coordinates I’d found for the Lost City—which turned out to be not to be in the part of the Oceano Dunes I’d previously visited, but at a separate part called the Oso Flaco Lake Trail, which had its own parking area on the complete opposite side of Guadalupe (I did say Oceano Dunes was fucking enormous)—my phone was still at only 10% power, which was a problem, because I needed my phone’s GPS to find my way the rest of the way to the coordinates. I decided to idle the car for a hour or so to build up a little more charge… and that’s when the second domino fell.
As I’m sure you’re aware, when you use a car charger to charge a phone’s battery, this draws power from the car’s battery. This is all well and good when I’m driving around and my hybrid’s wheel well generators (or whatever they’re called) are spinning, but with the car idling that power supply becomes decidedly more finite. Especially when I’m idling for an hour or so. So I was sitting there in my car with the window open, watching two tractors with huge, comically disproportionate wheels like on a child’s toy plow a field and reading a book, when I looked up and notice that the lights on my dashboard had gone dark. “Oh,” I thought, “the car must have turned itself off automatically. That’s a smart feature, I guess.” This was, however, not the case, as I discovered when I turned my car back on only to find that I’d all but drained the car’s rechargeable battery. In the middle of the desert. Several miles outside the most backwater little bump in the road I’ve ever visited that wasn’t in New England. Far from anything that could reasonably described as being “a building” or having “an address”.
Turns out that, beyond having to explain to the Triple-A guy that, “No there isn’t a cross street. There is only one road, and I’m all the way at the end of it”, this wasn’t a huge problem. What was a problem was that all three (yes, all three) gas stations back in Guadalupe were mysteriously out of order at the time. Oh, and one of them claimed they “didn’t sell gas”, despite being, you know, a gas station.
It was at this point I began to suspect that Cecil B deMille’s Lost City was cursed, presumably for authenticity’s sake. I don’t believe in that kind of hocus bogus bullcrap, of course, but I was up against a Final Destination-grade contrived coincidence that seemed determined to prevent me from getting there. I know they say that everything that can go wrong will go wrong, but it generally doesn’t happen everywhere at once. But did I crumble? Did I lay down and die? Oh no, not I.
So the tow guy towed me to the neighboring (read: far away, but with nothing of any significance in between) town of Oceania (also in the middle of nowhere) to refuel and recharge my car, which I did, and everything worked great again… except that it was now 2pm and my phone was back down to 5% charge from calling roadside for assistance, so there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to drive around for long enough to get it charged, get back to Oso Flaco, trek out to the Lost City, and still get back home at a reasonable hour, and I couldn’t stay overnight again, because I have work tomorrow morning.
I got lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall in Oceania (ah, but I repeat myself), which was delicious but agreed with me even less than the pizza did, and headed home with no Lost City and no photographs. I did discovered to my relief and annoyance that the painfully long, unbearably mountainous detour from the 101 freeway that my GPS had been telling me to take on this and previous trips up, and which I’d obediently taken against my better judgement, had been completely unnecessary, and that I could just stay on the 101 the whole way… so yeah, I guess that’s something.
Another weekend, perhaps. I’ve dedicated too much to this to give up now. The damn thing isn’t even lost anymore. I will get there, even if its the last thing I do. And if things keep up the way they’re going, it just might be.