We loaded up our gear and cut out from the Big Sage in the Taurus, driving north from the reservoir on the rocky dirt roads in the pre-dawn light until we couldn't go no more and then east over till we came down off the plateau and hit old Goose Lake. Pushing on, we soon were upon the green sign signaling the California border.
"Think they're really gonna be there?" Josiah asked.
"One way or another," I said.
"What's you meaning by that?"
I looked at Josiah and shook my head. Out the window to his right low scrub trees passed in a blur and the sun climbed up over Goose Lake and reflected off the exposed white rock where the water receded in the summertime. Josiah grunted and turned away from me.
"Oh come on now don't be that way," I said.
"I ain't being any way," he said in a pout.
I pulled off the road just short of a driveway leading up to a farmhouse and barn.
"Get out," I said.
"What you gonna leave me now after all this?" There was genuine concern in his voice. I laughed.
"Of course not you damned fool." I hopped out and banged on the roof. "Come on now."
He followed me along the road and up the driveway. The farmhouse looked abandoned, with the front door open wide and a small pile of discarded clothes and broken-looking camping supplies next to the ruts in the road where a car used to sit. We went around the house and walked between two dried-up and browning alfalfa fields, where I stopped and swung my arms wide.
"Where are all the people," I said.
"I dunno," Josiah said. "Aren't you worried about the car?"
"Nope. Think about it. No one came to the Big Sage. Empty roads coming down. No one here tending crops."
Josiah kicked dirt and looked back at the farm. He scrunched his face together and bit his lip like was fighting tears.
"Hey, that ain't important man. We're going into Lakeview looking for the girls like I promised, but you need to keep it together. We could find them holed up just fine," I said.
He nodded and I clapped him on the shoulder and squeezed. "Then again we might not, and you need to be ready for that."