‘Hey Drone Guy’ – Coachella Valley, California

I was driving from Palm Springs to San Diego and trusted in Google Maps to get me there the fastest way. The highway petered out quicker than I'd hoped, becoming a two way road that started to wind its way uphill. The colours change quickly in California in the Spring, from the blushing white of a field of cherry blossoms to tangles of desert brush curled against the tan-hued dirt.

Higher and higher, I pushed my hire car to its tinny limit on hairpins and steep inclines. The sky seemed bluer, the vistas starting to stretch out as the road fell away to the left and now the right. Then suddenly, ahead, a little car park on the left, taking my life in my hands to get across quickly, now, before another car came careering downhill. I could tell before I got out of the car that the views would be spectacular, so I dug around for my drone in the boot of the car.

Coachella Valley Vista Point

The car park was not particularly well-tended and the wall I choose to unpack the drone on smelled of people getting caught short on late night manoeuvres. I shifted to the top of the car very quickly. I sent the drone high into the air, turned this way towards the setting sun as cars flew by and swirled it around in a circle to face the tens of miles of clear blue sky reaching east across the California plains. The sharpness was breathtaking, something special about the mountain air that feeds the lungs and de-fogs the tiredness of the eyes. People stopped, grabbing their phones and snapped a pic, back in the car, carry on. I'm not sure what else I could see. But there was something there. Some glimpse at infinity.

“Hey, Drone Guy”, a woman's voice cuts my reverie. “Ohhhhhkay”, I think… “is that me she means?”. I don't know whether to be affronted or complimented. I am, after all, operating a drone and am ‘a guy', so she has a point. This is a woman who is used to organising people. “We are travelling in those cars”, a sweep of her hand indicates what might be five Nissan GTRs (my knowledge of Japanese supercars is limited), “and wondered if you might film us leaving”. She is overestimating my capabilities, but thrusts forward a hand containing a business card which proclaims “We solve your accounting puzzles”. This is exactly the kind of person I would want to solve my accounting puzzles, if I had any.

I set the drone to hover about 40 feet above the car park, like an angry bumblebee droning above the swoosh of passing traffic. The group of 5 cars waits for a lull in the traffic, a perfect opportunity to curve right out of the car park, each glinting and throbbing after the other. One goes, then two, then three and four urges forward, but five is caught out and a Suburban pushes downhill faster and takes its place. The convoy is broken, but still I push the drone forward as the cars disappear behind a hill on a hairpin curve. Then like ants far below first one and the other appear like an accountant-driven chase scene in a movie. I swing the drone right trying to pick them up again, but they are gone, lost in the foothills of Coachella Valley.

Today, I posted the trip report on YouTube with the five cars and went looking for the woman's card. I'd photographed it so I couldn't lose it and up it came in my Photos. I wondered if she'd realised that the fifth car hadn't made it. That might be a puzzle she can't solve.

Check out the video here, if you're so inclined: