Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Change of Plans



I try to be spontaneous. I try not to be too terribly rigid. I try to listen to the Universe.

But when it comes down to it, I'm a planner. When I am spontaneous, it's because I planned to be so. I anticipate every outcome like a chess move. I'm rarely surprised.

That makes my little road trips extremely organized. And I don't really like to go off course. Unless I planned to do so.

For my Death Valley weekend, I planned to leave work as early as I could, hustle north for dinner at the Indian Wells Brewing Company (which I made 20 minutes before the kitchen closed), and land for the night at the Randsburg Cottage Hotel, a B&B in the old gold mining town that currently houses 65 residents, rendering it pretty close to ghost town status.

I left a little later than expected. I arrived a little later than expected - after 10 p.m. - let myself in, and found myself the only person staying there.

Soon thereafter, I was greeted by my host, Goat, who stopped by to turn off the lights and close up shop for the night. He offered me a Bud Light and asked if I was OK. He invited me to come drink with a cabin full of guys that were staying at one of the residences up the road. But, already in my pajamas and tired from the drive and the beer, I declined.

The next morning, Goat was sweeping the doorway when I emerged from the Rose Room, ready to toast a cinnamon bagel and peel a mandarin orange. I must've turned down his offers for coffee a half dozen times.

But when he offered to show me around town, I accepted gladly.

Goat is a former professional motorcycle racer who doesn't really need to run a B&B for the money. He takes ramshackle cabins and restores them way beyond their original splendor simply for the joy of it. He offers for people to stay at his place for free.

The whole morning - between showing me the old church, the jail, his finished cabins (and their weekend occupants) and his works-in-progress (as well as his workshop) - Goat kept inviting me to stay another night. He even offered it at no charge. "I just want you to have a good time," he said.

"Thank you so much for the offer, but I really want to move on," I said. After all, I had my whole big trip planned. I had to go to Trona Pinnacles. I wanted to see Ballarat. And I desperately wanted to go back to Death Valley.

"She's staying again tonight," Goat would say, as he introduced me to various folks around town. I just shook my head.

Goat then took me to an almost finished cabin he's been working on for some time, right in the middle of town. We sat on the porch, on benches he handcrafted of wood himself, watching nothing go by. "Money doesn't matter," Goat said. "The only thing that matters is making people happy."

I looked at him with gravity, and I said, "I'm sorry I'm not going to stay tonight, but I will be back."

And I wondered whether I should've accepted the invitation to stay one more night, but I felt I had so much more to see, so much farther than Randsburg. After all, Randsburg was only two hours away from LA. Death Valley was so much farther, with temperatures more forbidding for the rest of the year.

As Goat bid me farewell, hugging me and again offering me a cup of coffee to go, I promised him again, "I will be back," and then I moved on, as planned.

I think I did the right thing.

But I guess we'll never know.

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