Adios, Death Valley…..
We will miss your kissing ravens and your beautiful sunsets.
As the former governor of California said “I’ll (We’ll) be Back”and next time we will have a Rubicon.
The Starship cruised into the southern entrance of Death Valley crossing two passes at 3,315 feet then descended into an extreme and surprising landscape. Snow covered Telescope Mountain (11,049 feet) towered over Badwater Basin where Sam and Janet docked in a toasty 68 degree parking lot.
The hottest temperature ever recorded (on earth)YES (on earth) was in Death Valley at 134 degrees farenheit. Scorpions can only take 113 degrees.The coldest ever recorded here was 15 degrees. Both in 1913.
The highest point in the lower 48 is Mount Whitney at 14,491 feet. It is 100 miles west from the lowest point at Badwater Basin -282 feet below sea level.
It is very dry here. Rainfall averages 2 inches a year. Mesquite trees have to send roots 150 feet down to get enough moisture. Visitors to the campgrounds are encouraged to conserve water. The Pool at the Furnace Creek Ranch has a continuous flow of natural warm springs and the golf course pond ….the crew does not know where that water comes from but they did find this tank up one of the draws.
Furnace Creek General Store charges $14.94 for a 6 pack of Bud.
Death Valley National Park is the biggest at 3.4 Million acres. It was designated in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. If you have a Jeep or a mule its easier to get to the 85% of the park not seen by other human eyes. You can rent “Rubicon” (best name for a Jeep) for only $250.00 a day. Thats only 16 six packs of Bud.
Rocks move across a dry lake bed in a northern area of the park known as The Race Track. Scientists have yet to prove how this happens. There was a rare occurrence in Mesquite Campground where a rock moved almost 10 feet just outside of the starship.
This photograph was taken the next morning.
An volcanic explosion spewed rock over a 6 square mile area leaving Ubehebe Crater which is a half a mile across and 500 feet deep. The crater can hold over 3 Million tourists at peak season.
Second Best Night Sky
Janet has had the privilege of seeing the night sky in Moses Coulee Washington.
The sky in Death Valley is amazing and spectacular however the big dipper doesn’t appear before 3 AM therefore it just didn’t make the cut for number one. Janet understands how hard this must be …having tried out for Bisonettes in high school and not even making the second auditions.
Worst Short Cut
In 1849, several wagon trains try to take a short cut from Salt Lake City during the gold rush. One bunch had to butcher their oxen at Stovepipe Wells and cook the meat with the wood form their wagons. Only one wagon made it out and that was because George Manly (best name for a rescuer) helped them find the pass. They had lost only one member of their party. The story goes that as they left the valley one of the surviving members turned and said “Good bye Death Valley”. What if he had said “Good Riddance, Stinky, Poopy, Hell Hole” or “See ya later, Tumpisa” which is what the Timbisha tribe called the valley when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
In the 1920’s Albert and Bessie Johnson (fabulously wealthy Chicago Congegationalists became friends with Walter Scott (Death Valley Scotty)(a self promoter,trick rider for Bill Cody’s wild west show and a huge fan of Death Valley) He convinced them after several expeditions in tents to build a castle (Bessie kind of wanted one too) at the north end of the valley near a spring hence the odd and extravagant visage “Scotty’s Castle”. Albert Johnson said “We have been partners for long time.Scott has an appetite for money and I like to feed it. He has always repaid me —in laughs.”
Shorty Harris (prospector)started the rush to Rhyolite (Ghost Town) He had picked up a rock that was sort of green and shot through with gold.”Look at her. She squats in my hand like a bull frog.’’ Hence the Bullfrog gold mine. He and his partner staked the claim. When they sold out, the partner left with 80 k and Shorty bought everyone in Goldfield dinner and champagne. Anybody that needed money asked Shorty and he was broke in a week. This story repeated itself throughout Shorty’s life. He always used burros instead of mules. Sam and Janet like the looks of this guy.
10 thousand years ago the valleys here were full of lakes.The tiny Pupfish whooped it up in those lakes and as they evaporated, the Pupfish had to move into smaller and smaller ponds. Some are as warm as 90 degrees and are 5 times as salty as ocean water. This story resonates with the Timbisha tribe. They used to live in dwellings on the valley floor in the winters and would migrate up the slopes when the summer heat arrived. The government had a policy of destroying any uninhabited dwellings. You get the picture. Luckily in 2000,The Timbisha Shoshone Act allots the tribe acreage within their ancestral homeland. The Tribe and the Park Service working as partners,jointly manage zones within the park boundaries.
Longest Mule Trains
Chinese Laborers gathered Borax Salts and 20 mules were hitched to two wagons and a water tank on wheels. These mules hauled the loads to the nearest rail roads.John Spears writes of the teams ,“The most civilized pair are placed in the lead and the next in intelligence are just ahead of the tongue,while the sinful,the fun loving,and the rawhides fill in between” Just like families.
Yes, Death Valley is a land of extremes…..but while Sam and Janet were here, it was 29 degrees below zero in Great Falls, Montana. I bet even George Manly would have been miserable in Great Falls last night.
Sam and Janet didn’t think anyone would be in Death Valley for Thanksgiving. As usual they were dead wrong and delighted.The place was full of families loving up a national park. What a great idea. Go to a national park for a national holiday.
That long, lonesome highway took them in the southern entrance.
Many have tried to make a go of it here.
Its big country.
That little black dog keeps following them everywhere. Comet likes Death Valley a lot. He has garnered the name Marshal Dillon here below sea level and Cupid has taken the name Miss Kitty.
The starship has a little elbow room out here.
Although the going isn’t always easy.
This is the Devil’s Golf Course. He has a corn patch here as well.
This is his dog.
Janet never felt so low in her life.
Good thing …as she was at 282 feet below sea level. Snark Snark
She cheered up after she got a hole in one, not too difficult here and look at that form.
Back to those families celebrating Thanksgiving here.
This little girl was Thankful to be out of the car.
Sam and Janet have not been able to leave Death Valley. Act two soon
Rain became a constant companion for a few days after the Starship and its crew left Sonoma. Shiny parking lots served as home while the travelers waited for drugs and money….. oh its not what you think….the drugs were for blood pressure and the money from Social Security. They passed places called the Battered Beaver which to their relief had gone out of business before they could even cipher what business happened within. They made their way toward the Grant Wood foothills of California covered with oak forests.
The map had a Yosemite Visitors Center. The search for this place sucked them into a Bermuda triangle in training. They turned the starship around to find it and found a saw mill with huge burned timbers from last summers fires waiting to be turned into to boards. The Visitors Center was not on the western corner nor was it on the Northern corner….. they puzzled and stopped …..they puzzled and had lunch and decided to return to the easterly corner. There he was… Chef Plonka (a visitors center of a different color). Martin Plonka is a hitch hiker with huge dimples that don’t seem to impair his ability to catch rides……His sign at first said Josemite.
He has…hitched …..Hungary, Italy, Egypt, Thailand, Tunesia, Australia, New
Zealand,Taiwan, Austria,Poland,The Czech Republic,Denmark, Portugal,Canada,and now the USA. His experience with GTA San Andreas helped him to feel very comfortable in San Fransico and he is on his way to Vegas to see if it holds true. Chef Plonka is a ripe (this is true) 23 year old German citizen from a farm in the beautiful Spreewald area. His life dream is to live off the grid on this farm and grow everything he needs. He is going home to plant nut and fruit trees this spring.
Chef Plonka (yes he fit cooking school into this rigorous hitching life) made Sam and Janet Bratkartoffelund and Schnitzel. He has the secret recipe for Quark from his grandmother which consists of a sour cream,pickle,onion dipping sauce for potatoes that is his favorite thing to eat . Unfortunately the starship lacked the ingredients for this dish. Martin also carries with him strong opinions. “Sometimes you just have to Chill the fuck out “ he said after Janet told him about her retirement from teaching. For Captain Safety AKA Good Sam he said “There are limitless possibilities so safety is impossible”.
“I dont understand why people eat those huge piles of vitamins. Why don’t they just eat an apple” This was before he observed Janet taking her giant pile of vitamins. He was a very helpful traveling companion. He told Sam and Janet that his father always said ,”See the work Martin..See the work” Chef Plonka always saw the work and he also taught Sam and Janet how to play the card game Shithead. Chef Plonka played cds as the starship cruised through the incomparable Yosemite National Park.
He regaled them with educational philosophy as they drove toward Kings Canyon National Park. He wanted to see the giant Sequoia trees and was ecstatic as he took selfies and stood in front of these giants. The General Grant tree was 268 feet tall and 40 feet wide at just 1700 years of age. Chef Plonka standing at 6 foot 6 inches could relate to this accomplishment.
They wound their way down toward Bakersfield snitching oranges and pomegranates as they went. He needed a new pair of shorts (boy howdy) for his eventually meeting with the family in Tulum. The last evening with Chef Plonka they took the exit to Edwards Airforce Base and turned into a parking lot right before the entrance. Within 5 minutes two women in uniform came to chat. It turned out that the starship was welcome there for the time it would take to make some tacos but needed to move on for the rest of the night. They parked on a frontage road between the base and the plant that produces parts for bombers. Cupid had become quite fond of Chef Plonka and she was especially sad to see him jump out in Barstow,California on his way to fear and loathing in Los Vegas, Nevada.
The Starship crew waved Chef Plonka off to spend his Thanksgiving in The City of Sin. They pointed the rocket ship toward Death Valley where you can picture an ancient turkey carcass baking in the sun casting long shadows to the east. Happy Thanksgiving dear readers.
The intrepid travelers left the coastline of northern California with all its drama, beauty, and scary roads.They touched down in Sonoma,California which has nestled itself in The Valley of the Moon. That old devil moon was full and round during their visit.This town is home to two women that met in a convent long ago near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Each of them emerged from the cocoon of the church to live colorful,fulfilling lives as teachers and artists. Sam and Janet laughed so hard their bellies were sore and their tear ducts well irrigated from the stories of the convent.
There were many firsts here Sam and Janet are proverbial virgins when it comes to California: the taste of fresh persimmons,palm trees, bay trees, oak galls, California Jays, making sticky rice, acres of grape vines and Princess Cake (which had marzipan frosting) Janet’s birthday was Sunday and Dee and Janet made sure she was spoiled rotten.
They took Sam and Janet under their strong wings, fed them, made sure they had clean clothes and bodies. They were shown around town physically,aesthetically and politically. Today there is a vote on a hotel restriction.A very wealthy man wants to plunk a French Chateau right on the square which has been able to retain its historical architecture. They are fighting to restrict this kind of development. They take care of each other,they cherish where they live, and embody charity and creativity. It was a joy to be with people who softly and wisely walk their talk.
Sam and Janet had fallen in love with Sonoma and left reluctantly.
In their starship was Naan,Garam Marsala, fresh persimmons and lemons,two beautifully carved turtles,clean clothes and full hearts.
Sam and Janet have been over some pretty narrow roads this week. There are many hairpin turns on a climb with no guard rail (not that a starship needs a guard rail mind you)….. free range cows, logging trucks, cement trucks, sport cars and cliffs that drop into the sea maybe 400 feet but it seems like more. Its edgy stuff. (no pun here at all) Add some darkness and fog and you have starship crew praying for a Walmart parking lot to appear out of the mist like Brigadoon. Sammy couldn’t take photos of it because to be honest he was scared. His side of the starship you see was on the cliff side of things. Janet was very glad the starship had many gears and was so easy to handle.
Sam and Janet suggest to any of you considering a trip up or down the California coast that you rent a tiny, red, and powerful sports car and make reservations at a posh inn like the Sleepy Pelikan or the Whalen Jennings.
They were going to hole up and become Druids at the South Coast Senior Center because it was inland with a grocery store,movie theatre and a yoga spa. They could picture never having to venture out again from that very flat place and hey Druids can be fun can’t they? Besides there are some great houses in California.
But…..they knew they had to be brave or they would never see their loved ones again so they stayed on the ride at the fair that had gone on a little too long. This very night they are on a ridge that looks out over the Pacific ocean. The wind is howling. No vehicles are going by because only insane people that really need to see their girlfriend would tackle that road at night. They will rest and descend again tomorrow and head into the ease and slow pace of San Fransico traffic.
At the time of this post November 16, 2013 (9AM) The starship and its crew are safely tucked in front of Chipati’s house in Sonoma where the streets have wide shoulders.