I finally left the motel on Ventura Blvd on Wednesday morning. After having the power steering gearbox replaced, I noticed that my fluid was empty again, so the problem hadn't been fixed. So I headed up to Mike's auto again, where he found a stripped bolt on the power steering pump (probably the result of the intense vibrations the car had endured on the rough roads). He fixed it at no charge, and I headed over into the Angeles National Forest to take a scenic route to Joshua Tree.
It's amazing how you can drive such a short distance from L.A. and find yourself in such high mountains, from which you can see downtown miles away. I saw signs on the road saying the road was closed ahead, and figured I'd turn off onto a northbound road out of the forest and continue west. I assumed there'd be a sign denoting the last chance to turn off, but when I finally came to the closed road, I had to drive back 25 miles to find an alternate route up out of the park. Up and over, I drove through flat country, past Victorville, and arrived at Yucca Valley by nightfall.
I checked into a Best Western hotel in Yucca Valley. Took a non-smoking room, too tired to continue searching. Big mistake this time - here, I had to take an elevator down from my 3rd-floor room and walk outside through the lobby every time I wanted a smoke. I know smoking is bad for you, blah-blah, but you'd think businesses could show a little more consideration for their paying customers.