Death Valley Melts My Brain and Changes My PlansShare
Riding the bike to Death Valley I passed another mileage sign to the nearest towns. This one was different though – at the bottom of it was San Diego 393 miles. Wow, my destination is less than a days drive away! Not my destination for that day, the one I’m going to wind down this phase of the trip to. Maybe that’s what got me thinking…
My first day in Death Valley was all about the unexpected. Pleasant temperatures, mountain summits, and a loss of power with the bike. Today I was heading to the heart of the park and the lowest point in North America. The other campers around me started rolling before the sky lightened and I wasn’t too far behind. Sunrises are gorgeous here and the mornings are cool, but that changes quickly.
I made it to the Mesquite Sand Dunes an hour later. Which are easily found off the main road. The hike on them is challenging going up and down over the sand, but rewarding. Even with a half full parking lot there was plenty of space to take pictures of the empty spaces and contemplate on life in this environment. The animals that live there have adapted and hide underground during the day. It was fine at 8am, but they do have the right idea.
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center has some good displays about the history of the area which consists mainly of lost settlers perishing or suffering and miners trying to strike it rich in one of the harshest environments on the plant. A pretty touch go either way. All around the park are historical sites from mines, charcoal kilns, and a castle up north.
I kept on pushing south stopping off at the Golden Canyon and Artists’ Drive. It’s amazing the colors that show up in these rocks just when it seems like every inch of the place looks like all the others.
I pulled up into Badwater Basin right at 12:30. Hmmm, the visitor center was predicting a high of 109 today. I’m pretty sure it got there too. The Badwater Basin in the location of the lowest point in North America -280 feet below sea level. It’s name comes from a pool located there that a surveyor couldn’t get his burrow to drink out of and wrote ‘Bad Water’ on his map.
Walking out onto the basin it continued for miles to my left and right and ahead. Telescope Peak loomed over 11,000′ above, the summit of which I’d been standing on exactly 24 hours earlier. Salt covers the basin area builds up in hexagonal structures providing the only feature to the basin.
So glad I had a camelback with me as I was sucking on it constantly trying to keep some moisture in my mouth. Back on the motorcycle I was heading for the southern exit riding through one furnace after another as I came around corners and over rises. I was ready for lunch, but there was absolutely no shade anywhere!
Finally reaching the edge of the park there was still no shade, and I was an hour away from Baker, CA a city I associate with the huge thermometer you see on the drive to Vegas. It also got me thinking. All I need to do is hop on I-15 and I can be home in 4 hours. Shower, bed, food, shade. ”I can come back and do Joshua Tree anytime. It’s only a couple hours away from home” I thought.
Getting into Baker I found some shade, a sandwich, and a little bit of willpower to continue to Joshua Tree. A call home to my parents and thinking about my itinerary more took it right back. So I did it…
I hopped on I-15, battled the Sunday afternoon exodus from Vegas to So Cal, let the bike do all it could (which was just keeping up with traffic), and arrived at my parents just before 8pm on September 9th. Only to discover an empty house… the dog wasn’t even there. Ok, I’ll move the bike, hide out at the neighbors until they get back, and surprise them then.
Going up to their neighbors I thought I saw my mom inside and then heard her laugh. This will work too, now I get to surprise 4 people. I knocked and held my finger up to my lips so the secret wouldn’t be given away. I didn’t even think about the fact that I was in full riding gear and my hair was going everywhere. After almost getting the door closed on me, recognition set in and I got to enter to the surprise of all.
It was a great moment for me and my parents. Plus there were lots of leftovers for me as I told the story of how I decided to come home early and other stories from the summer. So there we go. I’m in San Diego 18,377 miles after departing from central Texas. I’ll be here through Daniel’s wedding on the 25th then will be getting back on the road for October.