Saturday, February 25

Slow down when wet

I’m not sure of the exact wording, but the title of this entry is pretty much what the roadside sign said on California State Route 58 heading east toward Tehachapi, Mojave, and that general territory. People tell me that the sign refers to the condition of the road, but I interpreted it as meaning if I, the driver, was wet, I should slow down. Since I was dry, I kept going along at 70 mph or whatever the rest of the traffic was doing. Coincidentally the road also happened to be dry.
None actually impressed me as important. Perhaps I missed them.
Karla and I were on the way to the kids’ place at Furnace Creek in Death Valley. It was a mini vacation, the first we had taken in a very long time.

A couple of days later Luke and Hilary and Benjamin and we went on a tour of the sights. We had seen many of Death Valley’s attractions on previous visits, so we headed for Nevada where Luke had managed to procure a hard-to-get haircut appointment at SuperCuts in Pahrump, and Hilary had some banking business do to. On the way we stopped to admire the World’s Largest Cow. Honest. It’s a great big cow that just lies there and seems to wish she could stand up at least one more time before she dies. Huge. Honest.
Too windy to see the Pupfish.
We also took a detour to Crystal Springs. Warm water gushes out of the desert at 2,500 gallons per minute. A sign placed by Audubon piqued my interest. I didn’t see any really important birds, however. Maybe birds don’t flaunt their importance like humans do.
Luke, Hilary, Ben and Karla on the boardwalk from the spring. Nice sky!
As we approached Pahrump from the west, we saw a curious traffic sign. It warns of an upcoming stop ahead, and does it with unique precision. It says, “Stop ahead 473 feet.” Makes you want to get out your measuring tape to see if they’re serious. From the opposite direction, the approach sign simply says 400 feet. It must have been installed after the precision-freak sign guy got fired for his first sign.

Visiting southwestern Nevada was enlightening. I was reminded of President Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, and her campaign to beautify America by limiting the profusion of billboards. Nevada apparently didn’t get the message; in Pahrump huge billboards seemed to be about every 250 feet or so along the main road. They were spaced only far enough apart so they wouldn’t obscure each other’s messages.

Being in Pahrump reminded me of its best-known citizen, Art Bell, the former late-night host of Coast to Coast AM, a four-hour seven-times-a-week radio show on some 600-plus stations in the US that starts at two in the morning on the East Coast, ten PM on the West. He made his broadcasts from a double-wide mobile home in “The Kingdom of Nye.” (Nye is the name of the county.) His subject matter emphasized weirdness, from UFOs, the mysterious Area 51, the elusive chupacabra, a beast that sucks blood from goats, and myriad oddities of the imagination. From what I could see, at least one of Pahrump’s streets bears his name.

On the way back to Furnace Creek, we dropped down into a canyon of fractured rock held by walls of hardened mud. Long ago miners dug borax out of those walls. At the bottom of the canyon is China Ranch. Over a century ago, a Chinese man noted its abundant water and fertile mud and planted date palm trees. Now it’s a diversified date orchard with a gift shop. One claim to fame is explorer Kit Carson’s overnight stay. “Kit Carson slept here,” bragged a sign by the restroom. From all the bragging signs I’ve seen about famous visitors at obscure places, it seems that all they do is sleep. China Ranch must have been just as exciting back then as it is now.

In the gift shop were little bags of date seeds. A dollar-fifty. Seemed like a joke to me, since most tourists would buy a bag of fresh-picked real dates. They’d be full of date pits. Maybe date pits aren’t date seeds. I’ll have to look that up.
Did the road disappear completely? As we drove, it seemed to be re-creating itself ahead.
The next day we had a scrumptious dinner at Luke and Hilary’s celebrating Valentine’s Day. The following day we headed back home. Driving south through Panamint Valley I was compelled to take a picture of the longest straight stretch of highway I ever saw in my whole life. It disappears in the distance to invisibility. A few nights ago as we were driving through Panamint to Death Valley, approaching headlights seemed to be there forever before the cars finally reached us.
Tehachapi was snowy. To Sioux it was a lovely huge cow pie.
We drove through occasional rain and snow flurries as we approached Tehachapi, where the world’s largest array of wind turbines spun frantically in the stiff wind. We stopped at Denny’s Diner to fuel up for the rest of our trip home. Sioux, the Wonder Dog, ran on the snow in the vacant field next to the restaurant. She rolled in the snow as if it was the biggest, freshest cow pie ever. (Sioux does her own fragrance management.) Incidentally, I talked to the manager of Denny’s. I told him that his restaurant was highly recommended by many travelers, and that the only complaint I had about it was the incessant wind. I said, “It would be much more pleasant here if they’d turn off those big fans up on the hills.” He laughed and told me he hadn’t heard that one before.

We arrived at home to find that the temperature inside was 56°F since the house is heated with wood and we had been gone for several days and it had snowed in the meantime. The woodshed held lots of dry oak and pine firewood, so we got things back to normal in a hurry.

All in all, it was a very nice vacation.


Agneta and David said...

We were wondering what you were up to. Nice story and pictures to go along with.

cindat said...

Beautiful pictures! Your blog always makes me smile. I'll have to make the trip out to Death Valley again soon, especially when Luke, Hilary, and Ben are there.

I think visits to the ranch are over. Fred's health is not good enough to do the trek. We have wonderful memories and pictures, though.

Thanks for letting us in on your adventures.

Tom Hurley said...

Thanks for liking the pictures. They're taken with an iPhone 3GS, a phone that's three generations old! Imagine what the pictures from an iPhone 5 will look like. Probably three-dimensional with sound and scent.