finding life in death valley.

my son needed a little break from the winter doldrums back in grey-skies-will spring-never-arrive-cleveland, so we sent him a ticket to fly into las vegas and planned a few days of camping and a visit to death valley national park.

now the name death valley conjures up a desolate, barren wasteland of nothingness. a mad max-like expanse of desert as far as the eyes can see, with nothing growing, just the occasional blowing dune, or skeleton of the tourist before you who didn’t bring enough water. (always bring enough water)

so, we were pleasantly surprised when we found that death valley had really more life than death. and just as many highs as lows.

one of the most spectacular highs being dante’s view.

I mean, come on.

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from the top you could see 360 degrees for miles. and on the way up there (you climb a mile high over 13 miles of winding road) was so much green, and wildflowers…..no death anywhere. 

stunning.

and the sunset from there, well, it sure takes the mind off dreary cleveland weather.

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there were lots of opportunities to climb things.

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and climbed they both did.

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this is called the artist’s palette: it’s mounds of colorful mineral-rocks left after volcanic activity. it basically looks like a melted ice-cream sundae.

the lowest point of the trip (get it, lowest) was badwater basin: literally the lowest place in the western hemisphere. we got there before 9am and it was already climbing above 90 degrees. it’s the craziest place I’ve ever been, will probably ever be. the smell in the air is like sulphur/salt; the “ground” crunches beneath you and the silence (once you get away from the other tourists) is deafening. you’re almost 300 feet below sea level, and surrounded by mountains that reach a mile into the sky that are topped with snow. 

insane. 

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view from above:

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there’s 250 square miles of the white stuff; looks like snow from up here, it’s basically table salt. 

my favorite part was hiking through mosaic canyon. the boys left me to do their own climbing of the walls instead of just hiking the path, so I enjoyed the cool canyon walls and the silence all by myself. 

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(hikes in a skirt)

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even though it’s name is intimidating, and some of the days were hot and tough, I think we conquered death valley. it is now one of our top five national parks; it is park number 25 (if you’re keeping track) that we’ve visited since december (including national monuments, not including national forests) *btw: national monuments, like white sands, are not “national parks” merely because it takes an act of congress to make it so. death valley didn’t become a national park until 1994; it had been a monument since the 30’s. your history lesson for the day 🙂

onward, we go!

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 All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life

kindness of strangers.

we woke up friday morning all kinds of stressed:

would the radiator arrive?
would they get it installed today?
how much is it going to cost?

all things running through our head, and making it impossible to focus on anything else.

we left the hotel at 11 (after the kind lady at the front desk did our laundry because the public washer and drier were both on the fritz.

she folded it too.
amazing.

so, we checked out at 11 and walked carrying all of our things, the short walk through two parking lots to the McDonalds, got ourselves some coffee and some free wifi, and sat down for the long wait.

I occupied myself with trying to figure out how to supplement our income on the road….loaded up my photos to blue melon.com in hopes of selling some, did some jeannieknits social media, generally just pissed around on my computer to keep my mind occupied.

we decided, after not hearing from our buddy Randy at M&M Wrecking, we should give him a call;

“the radiator isn’t here yet.” Randy informed me immediately.

“do you have any idea when it’s coming…I mean, it’s today right?”
“yeah, today or tomorrow”
“no, Randy, it has to be today. you have no idea….”
“ok, ok, yeah…it’s coming on a truck from dallas to el paso and they’re supposed to stop here….maybe I should call Napa and see if it’s in.”
“yeah, could you do that please? and give me a call back”

*more anxious waiting*

*phone rings*

“hey it’s Randy, from —“
“yes, randy, what did you find out?”
“the radiator is here, but…did you guys pay for it yet?”
*what?*
“no, we didn’t pay for it….why?
“well, since our boss is in the hospital they froze his accounts and we need cash to pay for the radiator. you need to come pay for it at Napa..”
not shady at. all.
“seriously? ok, well can you come get us and take us there?
“that’s just what I was fixin’ to do, m’am.”

good ole texas.

a few minutes later, up rolls the tow truck and in we hop with all our our gear…and off to buy our radiator.

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“SoSo” and the “Stupervisor” / van horn 2.5.2016

after installation, randy came over to me (I had been reorganizing the car and generally just keeping an eye on these two mechanics in charge of our literal survival)

“we need antifreeze”
“ok…?”
“so, you gonna come with me or should I ask the other guy?”

OH…we need to go buy the antifreeze now.
seriously. what the hell.

off to Napa, back to the shop.
when they were all finished, and everything was running as it should be, the “foreman”, a mexican named SoSo, told us the amount and then informed us that his credit card machine wasn’t working.

“drive them to ATM” he motioned to Randy. “get cash out.”

are you fucking kidding me??

back in tow truck, off to ATM, cash in hand…

“can we get a receipt?”

hahaha sure.

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the best thing we ever did see.

finally on the road out of Texas, the Welcome to New Mexico sign was the best thing we’d seen in a week. we always make an effort to stop at the information center, because there’s lots of free goodies there, and usually the people there are super helpful; New Mexico’s visitor center was adorable and like a mini museum. we set to work, grabbing pamphlets for what we thought we’d like to see, free magazines, etc. the gentleman behind the counter asked us to sign the visitor book, and as xander was signing it he noticed the name above us was from Toledo, Ohio.

“Toledo! what are the odds?!”

we hadn’t even noticed the older woman, in a baseball cap, gathering up pamphlets and maps in the tiny visitor center room with us.

“You two again!” came a voice from under the hat, and we realized immediately who it was.

Diane. We had met Diane in the Del Rio Campground (other side of texas) almost two weeks ago. and yet, here, in this remote information center, there she was.

after what must have been a very entertaining and conversation for the two people behind the counter, we got ourselves all caught up (filled her in on our car mishap) she said to us,

“well, I’m headed to dinner in Las Cruces. how about you guys join me, my treat.”

I practically burst into tears. we are so depleted, both psychologically and financially, after the terrible week in Van Horn. this was a huge gift.

we ate at an authentic mexican restaurant, recommended by the lovely workers at the visitor’s center, and caught up on everything we all had seen and done since our last visit.

Diane is retired, and traveling on her own in a van. She’s determined to see all, or as many of the National Parks that she can. She tells wonderful stories, and in my opinion, is one brave woman.

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diane. del rio texas, 1/2016

when we were parting ways in the parking lot, we each gave Diane a big hug, and after exchanging phone numbers, she yelled to us,

“Next time you have car trouble, don’t hesitate to call me!”

like our own traveling guardian angel, right there.

🙂

ps: if you’d like to help us on our journey, and (get something in return) click on the GAS MONEY link above. 

 

 

All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life