Desert Dreams

This map, Road Trip Culture and Wanderlust in Southern California, explores the cultural significance of local travel in Southern California and the deep connection I (and many other Southern Californians) feel with the desert. I am attempting to explore the desert and its many facets as both a physical home and a heart home. Many southern Californians share a fascination with the strange, mysterious, and surreal and have a passion for travel and exploration in the local landscape. Going for a drive, taking a roadtrip, experiencing an obscure place or activity, and exploring nature are all common pastimes for SoCal locals. As a child, taking daytrips, roadtrips, scenic drives, and hikes in the natural landscape were formative experiences for me. Anywhere within a day’s drive was a place of imagination, inspiration, and possibility. The weekend trip and the day’s drive were a magical transport for me, which allowed me to immerse myself in the beauty, sights, and sounds of the environment around me. I used this map to explore some of the strange, mythos-evoking local landmarks and the starkly beautiful and rugged local landscape of southern California. Each place on the map is a day’s drive or less from any point in southern California. All drives are meant to be done as a day or weekend mini-road trip. The common thread among all of the chosen places on the map is that they all explore some sense of mystery or wonder about the desert and surrounding areas.

This classroom activity was a great way to explore and express creative narrative and geography with respect to sense of place. I would consider using this type of activity in the classroom because it allows for an engaging approach to research and an opportunity for students to make self discovery. I felt that the tech aspects of this project were not too challenging to learn, and that they could be successfully implemented into the classroom.

8 thoughts on “Desert Dreams”

  1. This is incredible! You put in so many stops and places that I had never heard of, and I cannot wait until I get another opportunity to explore that region of the country. I especially appreciated all of the anecdotes and historical context you put into describing each location. It gave the project a really personal feel.

  2. Katie,
    What a neat way to show us some meaningful places to you. I loved that you framed it around the culture of Californian roadtrips and only selected places that are within a day’s drive. I learned a lot about California’s beautiful deserts because of this project!

    Also, beautiful writing! It was truly artful.

  3. Hey Kate,
    First off, thank you for sharing your experiences in SoCal.
    Do you know how people often say “Oh this picture does not do it justice,” when visiting landmarks? (maybe only I say that) but anyways, your descriptions, paired with the images, made those locations powerfully vivid. I especially am drawn towards Time Travel mart bahaha.

  4. Katie, I love your theme of “trips doable in a day” and the way you’ve presented places in Southern California with a romantic, quirky way. Having never been to California, I find myself wanting to go on a road trip with your map because the way you’ve presented the desert is so artistic and fun. I can tell you’ve found a way to love your relationship with the geography you grew up in!

  5. Kate,
    This is a beautiful description of an important piece of your life! I once spent a winter in Palm Springs, and on a day off from work (I worked for Alaska Airlines) I decided to drive through Joshua Tree National Park. So many incredible sights, but I regret not even getting out of my car! Being from Alaska, California mostly meant just Disneyland when I was growing up. I envy your Wanderlust!

  6. Very Beautiful! My family used to take lots of road trips to Southern California, but they usually were direct lines to Disneyland..maybe not a “cool” destination anymore. Now that you are in Juneau, do you miss the heat? The business? The openers of the desert landscape? I think it is interesting that all your locations are inland, not the popular beach and urban destinations.

  7. Wow, there are some really cool gems down there in SoCal! I visited Joshua Tree first because it has been a special place to me over the years then I explored all your other points on the map which each offered something unique and fascinating. Another visit to SoCal might be in order!

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