"We chose the name U2 to be ambiguous, to stay away from categorization."
Joshua Tree Journeys: Levi Lieb
February 14, 2017
[Ed. note: This is the fourteenth in our series, which highlights visits to the U2 Joshua Tree, as shared by our readers.]
A few weeks before I made the trek to the tree, an old friend I hadn’t seen in 12 years — when she was an exchange student at my university — came to visit me from England. We’d been amazing friends, but hadn’t communicated much over the years. And although I always had a secret crush on her, the timing before never made sense, nor had there been any romance between us.
The second she returned, I instantly fell for her again. By the second night of her visit we declared our love for each other. By the end of her scheduled week, we made the decision to never be apart, so rather than have her depart back to England, we would drive to Las Vegas and get married.
A road trip for a Brit through California to Las Vegas was a dream itself, and rather than drive the boring interstates I’d traversed dozens of times, we decided on an alternate route through Lake Tahoe and along eastern California and Death Valley. At this point I was already a dedicated U2 fan, and the Joshua tree was something I’d wanted to visit since I was in junior high. It was this album that made me a U2 fan.
We made it a goal to find the tree because “With Or Without You” was the song my fiancé and I felt was ours alone. All I knew about the location was that it was roughly a mile off a junction from a specific highway.
After reaching the general location, we figured we could use the mountains from the album to guide us, but were surprised by how quickly the background moved when not much else was around. I knew the tree had been dead a few years and was lying on the ground, and that the band was drawn to it in part because Joshua trees tend to grow in clusters, but this one was by itself.
We got a late start and were racing against the sun. We pulled off at two different areas along the highway and scoured the grounds in separate directions at a jogging pace. By the time we’d given up at the second area, we were about to call it quits.
We knew the third location would be the last one that the light would allow us. I remembered seeing in some photos a “stick” Joshua tree that was near the U2 tree. As I began to look for this other tree, not sure what it would look like today if it were even still alive, I saw it in the distance.
I was surprised that despite being dead, the U2 tree looked almost the same as it did on the album. I marveled at just how big it was. A sealed plastic bin next to the tree, marked “U-tube,” was full of notes left by other people. I’d looked at lots of pictures of the location, but had never seen this. Words were written in small rocks on the ground, and my fiancee wrote her soon-to-be last name on the ground. Years later I saw an Instagram photo of the site; surprisingly, my name was still there! I think it’s because my name means “love” in another language.
My better half and I continued on to Vegas, driving through Death Valley in the dark, and the next morning, in a small chapel in the old part of town, were married by Elvis.
Three years later on our anniversary, I got the tree tattooed prominently on my arm, and the U2 Joshua tree continues to be an integral part of our journey as a married couple.
(c) @U2/Lieb, 2017.