Volume III : Chapter I
"A near miss or a close call?
I keep a room at the hospital.
I scratch my accidents into the wall."
We talk a lot about writing more but this last year I felt like we didn’t have much to say.
“We’ll write again when we’re back on the road, when we’re done working, when we are actually living how we want to be again and not working in the background. When we are truly living free and on the road, then we’ll have something worth saying.”
There were a lot of things we said we were going to do back on the road. Take more photos, experiment with our work, immerse ourselves in a life thats lived to only create, explore and improve. You can do that on the road, free of the distractions of the comforts of a home, a solid internet connection, a warm bed. We left December 7th. Exactly one week later, after making it to California, through the snow and mountain passes of the North West, we felt calm and ready. We parked in the Salton Sea and immediately got to work, manically throwing ideas at each other, pulling all our equipment out and getting down to it. We felt inspired, frantic and excited. We were doing exactly what we promised ourselves we would do. We slept soundly that night knowing that we were finally building back what we felt we had lost creatively, everything from here on out was going to go as we had planned, it just took that one perfect night to get it back.
The next night we wrecked, bad, while driving back from Salvation Mountain, a monument to faith and redemption created by the late Leonard Knight. Highway 111 surrounds the Salton Sea, itself abandoned and faded in memory. Someone told us it leads to only two places of note, Salvation Mountain and the Calipatria State Prison, and every car on there is driving to one of the two. I remember on the way in, a conversation that echoes now in a chilling way, seeing a weathered white cross from a roadside memorial and Jill asking aloud, “how would you crash here? It’s a straight away.” We tend to have a lot of nothing conversations together as we drive, observing out loud what we’re seeing out the windows.
A few days later we returned to our crash site to sift through the wreckage; finding some clothes and debris, taking some souvenirs in the form of glass, metal and asphalt. Small reminders of our mortality to be held in our hands. Looking down that straight, symmetrical stretch of pavement, with our skid marks throwing off the balance running off the road, there was the cross staring right back at us from the opposite side.
The crash was horrific; a complete loss of control, the sound of metal searing on the road, glass breaking, the taste of dirt in our open mouths, rolling and losing your sense of whats up, whats down. Coming to a standstill just as quickly and screaming for each other, reassurance in hearing the others voice. Hanging from my seatbelt upside-down, I could hear Jill underneath me, both immediately overcome with the urge to get out. Unable to open the crushed door above me. Jill in her confusion frantically pushing on her door below. There was an all consuming urge to do everything we could to remove ourselves. We saw lights coming our way yet they passed. Then more lights and they passed by again. No one was stopping. Our headlights were still on and there was dust still in the air. I laid on the horn as hard as I could thinking if for whatever reason they didn’t see us, they could hear us. A third set of lights appeared and slowed, a man ran out of his car and yelled for us. We both freed ourselves from our seat belts, using the headrests to step up and climb through the packed backseatand out the broken back window. The man pulled each of us into his arms and lowered us to the ground.
Not a scratch. Nothing. Somehow standing next to our caved in truck and broken apart trailer, we were on our own legs searching frantically for some type of wound. At that point another car had stopped, an elderly woman held me in her arms and repeated, “you’re ok, it’s just stuff, it’s just stuff”. Her arms were warm but we were all shaking. The first responders arrived on scene, relieved to see we were intact. They helped us pull things from the wreckage, our cameras were first, the bag stuck on the bent metal of the door frame below. There’s a strong urge as a photographer to make sense of events through your images, to document for later reflection. With shaking hands and sirens lighting the scene, we knew these would stay with us forever.