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"The essence of U2 is not something that happened in 1983 or 1993. It includes from 1980 to 2000. You know, all that you can't leave behind, yes, to me the best bit of U2." — Bono

Joshua Tree Journeys: Ryan Connolly

San Carlos, California, U.S.A.


[Ed. note: This is the first in our new series, which highlights visits to the U2 Joshua Tree, as shared by our readers.]

Early spring, 1994. High school. I was obsessed with all things U2, especially The Joshua Tree. Countless family road trips from San Diego to the Eastern Sierras, hours spent gazing out the car window wondering where the band had once stood next to that lonesome tree. I was looking to find myself and begin a spiritual journey to find a tiny spot on this planet where everything made sense.

If you enter “Harmony Motel,” Zabriskie Point” and “Bodie State Park” into Google Maps, your ideal route will pass right by the remains of the famous tree. But in the days before the internet and GPS, all I had were the clues available from published materials (album art, tour books, etc.) and a little mailing list called WIRE. A few people claimed to know where “THE” tree was located, but their information only led me astray. I knew I had to trust my own instincts and follow my own path.

The exploration spanned two separate weekends and nearly 2,000 miles of driving. The first weekend’s search began with the Harmony Motel to the south but ultimately did not bear fruit, although it eliminated many possible routes and left the sights clearly set for the second excursion.

Round two: Zabriskie Point northward. We finally saw where the album’s cover art was shot, but not much else. An hour outside Death Valley, with the setting sun in our eyes, the mountain ranges began to look familiar and a puzzling feeling came over me. I had been here before -- a thousand times before -- as eyesight and mindsight converged. In the distance, and a few hundred yards to the south, was a solitary Joshua tree. We stopped, and in stunned silence realized that we had found it. There were no neon signs, no road markers indicating we had arrived, but as the last light of day evaporated and night fell on the high desert, we knew our journey had come to an end.

Ryan Connelly visits Joshua Tree

The “we” in this journey refers to me and my mom, who was the only person crazy enough to go along with my scheme to help find this needle in an enormous desert of a haystack. This isn’t the most typical story of a teenaged boy’s hijinks, but she isn’t a typical mom, either.

I love you, Mom.

(c) @U2/Connolly, 2017.