Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What's for Desert? -or- I'll Mojave What She's Mojaving

Okay, I really only have two freaky stories from driving through the mojave desert, but they're weird enough, I think. The back story is that before my wife and I moved to California in 2003ish, we made a few trips from Az to Ca. Part of this journey involves plunging headlong into the Martian landscape where no sane creature would set foot, let alone stop for long, and as far as setting up housekeeping out there, well... yikes.

Story One: So, we are driving through the desert on our way to CA. Careening across the wasteland, we experience various patches of inclement weather, from light drizzles to heavy downpours. At one point it is clear but overcast, and windy. Keep in mind that we are surrounded by vast, limitless stretches of barren desert, utterly alone as we rocket our way along the highway. No one else in sight. Nothing, in fact, but sand, tumbleweeds, and a distant horizon...

But wait.

What's that?

Far ahead, a tiny speck on the horizon. It seems to bob about on the wind. It bounces to the ground and rises again into the air. It grows steadily larger, but it's still too tiny to make out.

Nothing around for miles and miles and miles and miles except for ourselves and the bouncing speck up ahead that slowly forms a recognizable shape.

It's a plastic gallon milk jug.

It bounces along, seeming to take short little flights as it moves toward us. It isn't really headed directly at us... just in our general direction. Still, it moves toward us, seemingly slowly, but propelled by the desert winds.

Finally, it seems to... notice us.

It changes course every so slightly, altering its direction a bit but still looking like it won't come near us. Much. But it does. It soon is heading right for us, and we are a captive audience, because in the middle of this vast, humungous, big-sky, wide-open, seemingly limitless expanse of desert, we can only travel along one thin tape-like ribbon of highway, and it is that strip of highway that the predatory, kamikaze milk jug decides is the only strip of real estate worth claiming, and claim it, it does. It focuses its attention on us like a guided missile, but with a dreamlike, drifting, spiraling quality as it homes in on its target.

And in the middle of the vast wasteland, with endless space to roam, the odds are challenged by fate and two points collide beneath the desert winds.


It was over in an instant. The milk jug, spent, bounced off through the desert in search of other conquests. And we, well, we continued on, stunned, asking ourselves questions like "What are the odds?" and the more accurate and relevant, "Why does it seem so normal when this sort of thing happens to us?"

Story Two: So, we are driving through the desert on our way back home from CA. I don't recall if it was the same trip, but I don't think so. We have just driven through the little town of Mojave, CA. Two things to know about Mojave: 1) They do a lot of aerospace stuff out there; and 2) right on the edge of town is a vast airplane graveyard, where airplanes and jetliners of all kinds are lined up in the desert and sit idle, waiting to be stripped for parts or whatever they are used for. It's like a huge dry-storage of aircraft.

As we were leaving the town of Mojave, driving past the airplane graveyard, a jetliner passed us overhead. We didn't think much about it, except it was flying rather low. But soon I noticed the aircraft goes quite a ways ahead of us and then turns around. A full U-turn, over the highway, and then heading back directly toward us. I thought, "Hmm, that seems odd".

At this point we are driving toward the jet airliner at approximately 50+ mph, and it is flying toward us at whatever speed it takes to keep a jet airliner aloft. To my unschooled-in-aerodynamics-or-physics-mind, it seems that the plane should pass over us rather quickly, since we are heading toward each other. Makes sense, no?

Instead, the plane, now facing us, seems to simply stop in midair. Hovering there. We are still speeding towards it at 50+ mph. It's not very far ahead of us, so we soon reach the plane. It's also not very high in the air, at least not for a jet airplane. I mean, I've been just as close to planes at the airport, and I could have walked right up to them within a minute or two. So this airplane was that low, and was now directly above us... hovering in mid-air.

I couldn't help myself, I was so enthralled. I stopped the car and got out and stood beneath the aircraft and looked up at it. It remained hovering above me, absolutely silent.

Insert any combination of expletives at this point, because I recited them all as I stepped out of the car and looked straight up at a jet aircraft hovering silently in the air, so close I could make out the details of the plane.


The scene remained unchanged. After a minute or two, we decided to continue on our way, trying to convince ourselves that it was some sort of optical illusion, that a rational explanation was available. As we drove away, I looked in the rear-view mirror, and the jet remained hovering in the same spot until we climbed a hill and left the scene behind.

This story is absolutely true, and everything happened as I described it. I will never forget it, and I will always wonder what the hell I saw.

Time for bed...


Anonymous said...

Mojave is just one hour (by car) south of China Lake Naval Weapons Center - the largest R&D base in the USA. Lots of strange things there. It sounds just like an AV8-B (Harrier or "jump jet") Those have been around for at least 25 years. Maybe they got around to making it quiet? There have been lots of sightings of silent, weirdly behaving aircraft. The stuff they work on is decades ahead of what is in production and use now. Most locals don't even give these things a shrug...

Things seem more significant in the desert because there is so much nothing there. Therefore any "something" is very noticible. Had that milk jug done the same thing in the suburbs, you would not have thought a thing about it, even though the odds would be the same.

Happy Blogging!

Granny said...

I thought about the Harrier first thing but they're not especially quiet.

Very peculiar.

windspike said...

There are a lot of creative engineers out there that I'll bet have their pulse on what your UFO might be. No doubt, it's ours, however. Good thing they are on our side.