Tatooine and the western terminus
Knowing I was facing a relatively short drive of between six and seven hours yesterday, I had a nice breakfast with my kind friends and hosts near Phoenix and didn’t start logging highway time until just after 9 a.m.
Just before reaching Yuma via Interstate 8, I passed a cluster of what looked like distant fires – I don’t know if they were brushfires or controlled burns or something else entirely, but for a minute or so, the dark smoke at the core of one of them was caught in a swirl that took on that creepy life-of-its-own serpentine movement like the Wizard of Oz tornado.
Naturally, as soon as I’d roughed out my journey’s map and saw that it would take me through Yuma, I decided that if it was at all possible, I’d visit the area where the Sarlacc pit scenes were filmed for Return of the Jedi. I was thrilled to find that the place – a recreational area for off-road enthusiasts in particular – had its own dedicated exit right off the highway just inside the California border, so it became a must-see stop.
Before I got there, I stopped in Yuma to make a sandwich. And knowing that the Star Wars saga has sometimes drawn names and words from real-world inspirations, I couldn’t help but have my lunch here:
(Yes, I know that “fortuna” is a word that exists in several languages and had a long history well before it became Jabba the Hutt’s majordomo’s surname. Still.)
After about 15 more minutes of freeway driving, I got off at the Grays Well Road exit and parked myself on Tatooine.
There are, of course, fences and power lines and restrooms dotting the base of the dunes, and the highway’s right there, and parking lots and maintenance equipment, but even with all those real-world intrusions, it’s ridiculously easy to look at this stretch of sand and sky and feel like you’re on that made-up planet and imagine a Krayt dragon skeleton just over the horizon, or a jawa sandcrawler cresting the next dune.
Wait? Did I really bring an old Star Wars toy all the way across the country for a five-minute stop? Why yes. YES. I. DID. And I love the way this picture turned out, first try. (And yes, I am well aware that the dewback is a Star Wars toy and didn’t make a Jedi desert appearance. I chose it anyway.)
The trip finished up with a surprisingly fun drive 4000-plus feet up into the mountains –
and then down into the greater San Diego area, where i pulled into my friends’ driveway midafternoon, some 2,500 miles after leaving my own.