KZAX heads to Desert Daze

by Forest Camire

It’s Wednesday evening Oct. 10, and I’m catching my last few moments of rest, waiting for the other two cars in my caravan, before hitting the road. My contact for Desert Daze had gotten me the press list just a few hours prior, and I had spent the afternoon like a kid in a candy shop, face stuck to the screen with the sugary excitement of basking in the California sun amongst this gathering of absolute heads.

As I’m making my final preparations, and idly glaze over the latest images of friends’ stories, I catch a moment of sparks flying to the four on the floor beat of a warehouse techno belter. Before we’ve even assembled the caravan, one vehicle is being welded back in to existence.

Very nice.

I didn’t expect to make it without a little elbow grease any way.

We postpone our departure a few hours, 8 p.m. quickly melting into 2 a.m. before deciding to cut our losses and consolidate our caravan down to two cars, leaving two members of the caravan behind, and we hit the road.

Blazing a trail down I-5, following the scent of dirt cheap cannabis on the other side of the state lines, we waste no time through northern Oregon, cutting through Portland before deciding to step off the beaten path.

With fresh sun rays beaming over the horizon, and our highway hypnotized lizard brains dry of stimulation, our eyes become transfixed on the great shiny thing rising out of the East. In those few darkest (and boredest) moments before sun rise, we decide to see if we can beat the sun to the coast. And like kids racing their parent to the car in the parking lot of the grocery store, we enthusiastically slap the beach, like the saluting flippers of Joe the Sea Lion, as we arrive before the sun stretches its light across the sand.

Scaling the rocky fingers reaching out of the Pacific Ocean towards Lincoln City, Oregon, we evicted seagulls from their morning perch, sitting amongst the anemones and urchins, greeting the sun with a snuff of Hapé before fastening ourselves back into our wheel-steeds for the next several hours.

However, with the ocean splashing late-summer-like sunlight up into our eyes, our motivation to boogie south washed out with the tide. Or was it because of sleep deprivation?

Either way, we found excuses to make frequent stops along the coast; visit to Thor’s Well, obligatory test of 4-wheelin’ chops on the beach, hammock nap overlooking the Pacific. Until that evening we receive a call.

Vehicle 3, by sheer force of will, is on the running. Like some fierce bogey launched from fate’s nostrils.

And with that we forget the coast ever existed and cut East to link up with our missing piece.

Just shy of 3 a.m., we convene at the Lithia Fountain of Ashland, sipping the weird waters of Ashland, Oregon before screaming like bats out of hell into the night towards our final destination.

The three vehicles of our caravan, now appropriately named Larry, Snot Rocket, and the Space Wagon respectively dislodged from their proverbial nostrils, sailed into California.

Whenever I drive through the mountains along the I-5 corridor into northern California, much like whenever I drive north into Bellingham through the Chuckanuts, it feels like time compresses. Like the density of events in a certain amount of time speeds up. Or maybe it was that Oregonian stuff I had picked up. Either way, it felt like we were on desert time now – whatever that means.

Apparently Snot Rocket thought so too.

We pull off the road and into the parking space of Pilot Travel Center, essentially a truck stop shopping mall, to peek under Snot Rocket’s overheating hood. At this point I’m told that the repairs that were done on the vehicle just the day before to get it back on the road had been nothing short of an adventure in itself.

Having been taken to a mechanic first thing the morning before, Snot Rocket was turned away due to the mechanic being too busy. But he had a friend. And he should be able to get to it today.

He couldn’t.


But said mechanic’s friend also had a friend. And he should be able to get to it.

Very nice.

And get to it he did. Within an hour and half Snot Rocket was blazing down I-5, hot on our trail.

Of course the friend of the mechanic’s friend forgot to reconnect several cables from the cooling system and engine to the vehicle’s computer. Thanks friend…

We made quick work of these cables though, and hit the road once again. Now with 18-wheeler road trip sized coffee from Pilot.

With nothing left to stop us, but last minute supply runs, and a mesmerising lightning storm on the horizon, we cruised at full speed to Desert Daze.

The thing we were unaware of at this point, was the fact that the gates to the festival had been backed up in an hours-long wait since opening for the first day of the festival earlier that morning. We managed to make it time to hear from our cars Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats take the stage, yelling at the audience “We’re here to ruin your f*****g night!” as the lightning storm began to crash overhead. For being almost a mile away, the set sounded pretty nice.

After finally making it through the first parking checkpoint, I realized that I had been separated from the other members of my caravan, and it was beginning to rain. I decided to park my car arbitrarily and pick up my press pass before trying to find my crew, aiming to make it in time to catch Tame Impala. However, by the time I made it to check in, that lightning storm that had been on the horizon engulfed Lake Perris. Festival staff evacuated the grounds three songs into the headlining set, and encouraged campers to find shelter elsewhere. It’s the largest storm they’ve recorded at Lake Perris in decades.

Having not found my crew before this insanity, and having two interviews early the next afternoon, I slept in the front seat of my car. The first real sleep I’d had since leaving Washington almost 48 hours prior.

I was privileged the next day to have coffee with Ash Reiter of Sugar Candy Mountain, and ponder where the hell all the dessert was any way with Malcolm Mooney, founding member of Can. Between the two interviews, my crew had found me, and with the work done, we set to losing our minds over the next day and a half; passing beers off to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, hopping fences for more exclusive viewings of the art installations, meeting rad bikers, attending sunrise sets, all while conducting general wiz biz.

What we lost to the storm on that first day, we made up for with the time we had left. We took our time picking up the pieces of our Desert Daze, and spent the next day hitting up San Bernardino meat markets and taquerias before retreating for an extra night into the Mojave to rejuvenate in a remote hot spring.

The next day, my path forked from the rest of the caravan, and after prepping a meal on our tailgates that abuelita would be proud of, I made a solo beeline north along the I-5 corridor, making it home just in time to catch a few ZZZ’s before heading into work.