“I’m not just blowing in the wind,” McConaughey says when told that to an outsider’s eye it can look like he doesn’t quite give a fuck about his career—that he’s cruising along, taking in the sights, seeing what happens. “I do give a fuck. But my tastes are a walking paradox.” Recently, this walking paradox has come to include a genre of film that a perplexingly large population of America adores. “Yeah, I went and did some romantic comedies,” he says with a laugh. “I did one called The Wedding Planner, and one called, uh . . . How to Lose . . . Shit, what was it? How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Right!” Maybe he isn’t blowing in the wind; maybe he just can’t be bothered to recall exactly what he was doing to get to where he is.

That shit-what-was-it-called movie raked in a respectable $106 million in the United States, restoring his box-office clout. But that doesn’t mean McConaughey now gets everything he wants. He went after Alfie, which went to Jude Law, and has struggled to get financing for Tishomingo Blues, an Elmore Leonard adaptation that Don Cheadle plans to direct and co-star in. McConaughey hopes that he can parlay Sahara into an Indiana Jones–style running gig. “I want to do four more, six more, 18 more,” he says. “It’s so ripe for it! I’d been looking for a franchise character—I read many things, none of them quite there. Indiana Jones, James Bond—I call them renaissance guys, the guy who wrestles the gator Saturday morning and dances with the queen Saturday night. That’s [Sahara protagonist] Dirk Pitt. He’s a treasure hunter, but he’s a senator’s son. He actually survives by movin’ on to the next thing!” McConaughey plans to convert his next Airstream jaunt into a publicity tour for the movie.

It’s been a few more hours, and the tequila bottle is a finger away from empty, the sun now starting to dip down behind the Pacific. McConaughey finishes his sipper in one, extended gulp, grins for an uncomfortably long stretch, and finally says, “I think it’s about that time.” With that, we meander toward our respective cars, taking off in opposite directions.

Half an hour later we find ourselves next to each other at an intersection, a destination we each should have reached in three minutes.

“You get lost, too?” McConaughey asks, leaning out the window of his gargantuan Chevy Yukon. “I don’t know what happened.” The light turns green. He laughs. “All right, I think I know where I’m goin’ now.”