Driving through the Desert

One of the most formative experiences of my life — maybe because it was borderline traumatic — happened to me when I first drove out to the beautiful state of California to start on my new job back in the year 2000.

At the time, I was working in St. Louis, MO, and had only just accepted a job in Northern California. I had a few days before I started, so I decided to drive across the country from Missouri to California in my bright blue Pontiac Grand Am. I drove through Missouri, Kansas and Colorado on the I-70 going westwards. It was a pleasant enough drive. I can still remember driving through the vast expanse of the Kansas prairie — I had never before driven through such a vast plain in my life — and enjoying the sunset on the flattest, widest horizon I had ever seen. I also remember the quaint country hotel where I overnighted and the breathtaking snow-capped peaks in the distance as I drove through Colorado the following day, after passing through Denver.

Pretty soon, I arrived in Utah and took the I-15 northwards to Salt Lake City, where I got onto the I-80 going westwards towards California. Leaving Salt Lake City, what awaited me was a long stretch of driving through a barren wasteland — the deserts of Utah and Nevada — a tough, relentless drive. I still remember checking my gas as I left Salt Lake City — the gas gauge read half-full (or half-empty, depending on how you look at it)! “No problem,” I thought to myself. “This should be enough gas to get me to the next town, where I can fill up.” And so, I began my fateful drive through the barren Bonneville Salt Flats, a dreaded stretch of desert west of Salt Lake City.

As I drove on, the desert yawned out ahead of me — a vast, parched wasteland. Not the least hint of civilization or culture for miles. I continued along the highway, glancing nervously at the gas gauge. The sun beat down mercilessly. I passed by the occasional truck on the otherwise empty road. Not a car to be seen. The gas gauge continued to fall, and still there was nothing. I began to wonder if I would ever get to the next town. I began to imagine terrible scenarios — being stranded in the middle of the desert without food, water or gas for my car. Even if I had a cell phone on me — and I didn’t at the time — it would probably have been useless in the middle of the Salt Flats!

In the end, I was literally driving on fumes and praying to Jesus Christ with all my might, but still, pushing forward through the desert, hoping for a miracle! And a miracle did come! Just as I heard my car engine begin to sputter, I arrived at a gas station, frequented by truckers. It seemed like the only gas station in that desert for miles — a run-down establishment overcharging for gasoline and other provisions — but it was, at the time, a veritable Godsend! An oasis! Nirvana! I whispered my thanks to God as the gas tank in my car greedily swallowed the gasoline I pumped into it!

I continued my drive through the deserts of Nevada and, as I approached California, from a distance, it truly seemed to be the Promised Land — a green haze seemed to have settled over the verdant hills of Northern California, signifying the promise of salvation from the relentless arid wasteland that I had left behind me. And as I drove through a hilly stretch of road in California, approaching my destination, it truly seemed like “a land flowing with milk and honey!” It may sound somewhat naïve, but that experience has stayed with me ever since then. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if I had chickened out on the desert road, with the gas gauge reading empty and nothing but vast stretches of barren desert in all directions! That experience makes me think twice about taking anything for granted and makes me appreciate art, culture and civilization all the more!

The vast prairie horizons of Kansas, the majestic mountainous horizons of Colorado and the desert horizons of Utah and Nevada are ingrained in my memory and partly became my inspiration in launching Horizon Cybermedia several years later. The experience continues to inspire me to push forward in life even when it seems as if I am driving through the desert on an empty gas tank — because if you push forward, you just might make it to the deserted gas station in the middle of nowhere that will save your life and enable you to continue on your journey, all the way to the Promised Land you are hoping for!

Please do check out my series of web videos, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar, inspiring one to continue to travel and explore and pass through new horizons and into unexplored territory. In this modern world, with all the amenities that civilization offers us, one might imagine that there is no more room for exploration or adventure, but that notion couldn’t be further from the truth! As long as there are human beings on the earth, there will continue to be new horizons to explore, because all experience is subjective and civilization is always in flux!

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

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