We did it! I finished another half marathon, and my husband and foster kid completed their first half marathon races. We stuck with Vacation Races of course, heading just a few hours over from Las Vegas, Nevada to Joshua Tree, California. Both are in the Mojave desert, making me think I had some sort of training advantage, but boy was that night time course at Joshua Tree tough! Here are the highlights of our trip.
Years and years ago my husband and I actually lived in 29 Palms, California, so we were rather accustomed to this drive. We used to drive over to Vegas from 29 Palms for the Marine Corps ball every year, and occasionally we used Las Vegas as our airport too. This time we just did the road trip in reverse! We cruised through the Mojave National Preserve and were so sad to see all the Joshua Trees on one side of the road had been through a fire 😥 It takes around 50-60 years for a Joshua Tree to mature, and they can live over 100 years, so all the burnt ones are a huge loss. Almost every road we went on was super remote- to the point of our cell phones not even working anymore. Foster kiddo was pretty disappointed with no cell phone data, so Dart wasn’t the only one falling asleep in the back seat.
We made sure to stop at our favorite rest stop in Kelso, California. It’s essentially a ghost town by now, but a logical place for everyone to take a break between Vegas and 29 Palms. Years ago we could stop there and run into a random Marine Kyle knew from his other trainings in California. The little old post office in Kelso was super cute, and I definitely need to learn more about this ghost town’s past on our future trips. As we ventured further, there were even some historic abandoned rest stops and motels along Route 66. I wish, wish, wish we had gotten a good photo of Route 66, but it’s so hard to find the medallions painted on the road while you’re cruising along at highway speeds!
Our Viva Frida Airbnb was pretty awesome. I’m embarrassed to say it was the third one we reserved, yikes! The first one didn’t have enough room once our foster kid decided to join the trip. The second one wouldn’t allow dogs on any furniture (super confusing because it wasn’t disclosed in their rules when I booked). And then the third house we reserved was just right. We had a record player, game room, art nook, and Frida-themed artwork and photography all over this house. Because no good trip can happen without a good mishap too, we forgot the bag of food we packed at home, but once we got that situated and shopping out of the way, we had a great time! We were so busy having fun that we didn’t even turn on the television once.
Prepping for race day was rather easy, my whole family had opted to have our bibs and t-shirts shipped to our house ahead of the race. Rather than hassle with packet pickup, we simply enjoyed the race expo on Saturday morning and had fun souvenir shopping and perusing the different race booths. The Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground was pretty cute with a little duck pond, tons of deserty metal artwork, and a few retro campers and busses too.
So, on to the actual race. I really tried to beat my previous record, but this night race in the sand was too tough! As we lined up at the start in my later wave, the fastest runners were already racing up a huge hill, their handlamps illuminating the course for everyone watching from afar. I got almost no photos of his dark terrain, but the moon and a planet (Venus?) beautifully graced the night sky at our evening start. Friendly locals were dotted along this course, sometimes cheering us on from their driveways. The thing I love most about the Joshua Tree area is just how DARK it is outside, and I mean super dark like I had trouble backing out of the driveway at the Airbnb with tinted windows and no streetlights. Because stargazing is such a popular activity in the area, there are local ordinances against light pollution and you can clearly see the Milky Way and thousands of other stars in the night sky. The dark desert and dirt roads were a great way to connect with nature again, but also a great way for me to find a few trip points and rolled ankles- definitely not a course I could travel very fast on.
So would I do this course again? Definitely! I could see us possibly making this an annual trip, despite how much I hated training during our scorching summer months. The weather was absolutely perfect for this fall race, and I lamely kind of loved not needing any sunscreen while we ran in the dark. The atmosphere was made even more fun at this race by the volunteers singing and partying at aid stations, and all the fun lighting and cheering at the finish line that could be heard from miles away. Fun fact: we could also hear the Marine Corps base doing some nighttime training, as I had to explain to other runners that no, that was not thunder we were hearing. The only thing I’d do differently next time I run this race is to be more intentional about wearing reflective gear, as my headlamp maybe wasn’t sufficient if I broke away from the crowd of runners on some of these dark country roads.
There you have it- another vacation race complete, a husband that finally re-visited his Marine Corps days, and another foster kid that’s interested in running. Oh, and the cutest dachshund ever, along for more crazy adventures with us.