California High Desert, 1986 -- After a Coke and a pit stop, we jumped back into the '72 Volkswagen van and rolled down highway 14 toward Los Angeles. Death Valley was a good three hours behind us now.
Dean and I were about ten miles out of the desert town of Mojave when we saw what we thought was a person on the side of the road. It was dark outside and the faint incandescent headlights of the van barely lit up the white clothes of what looked like a roadside casualty. Our first thought: A dead person!
We came to an abrupt stop on the rocky shoulder, between the highway and the railroad tracks. I was the first to approach the person. I leaned over and directed the beam of my flashlight into the sunken eyes and face of what I could now see as an elderly woman.
“Is she dead?” asked my friend, Dean. Hesitantly, I poked her shoulder and she came alive! Dean and I jumped back.
The woman popped up off the gravel and brushed her white pantsuit clean. Curious, I asked why she was sleeping on the side of the road, in the desert, in the dark!
She explained that she spent all her social security money in Las Vegas and had just enough for a bus ticket to Mojave where she usually finds a ride home to Los Angeles.
“So…, this is not the first time you’ve been in this predicament?” I asked.
“Oh dear, no.” The woman explained, “This happens a few times a year—but only when I loose all my money, you see.”
Dean and I offered her a ride home, which she gladly accepted. During the drive I was able to steal a shot of her sleeping.We dropped her off in front of a restaurant where one of the orderlies of the home regularly picked her up. We waited until the man arrived--disgusted yet humored by her tenacity.
The woman was 86 years old.