May 20, 2008

A Series of Eventful Misfortunes (Pt. 1)

So, Sunday morning I dragged myself out of bed at eight, so that I could get a jump on my long, meandering drive from LA to Vegas. The plan was to head north to Death Valley, then cross over into Nevada and loop back towards the south and Sin City.

Then, about ten, Mallory (who will evidently make a good mother one day) called me in a bit of a panic — turns out a heat wave had rolled in over night, and there was a severe temperature warning for the entire Death Valley region. It was to reach a record high (for May) of 117F, or 47.2C. This, if you are unaware, is about the temperature at which titanium spontaneously bursts into flames, and meant that (assuming my car didn’t overheat in the middle of the desert), I wouldn’t actually be able to stand outside of it for longer than about five minutes without, um, dying.

So I pulled over and we worked out a plan B.

Instead I cut east along winding state roads, watching the desert flap into mountains around me. A little past Barstow, California, I stopped at a ghost town called Calico. Ghost towns had been on my to do list for Death Valley (it’s full of them, shockingly), so I was happy to find one along my new route. That said, Calico was definitely a consolation prize: it’s more of a tourist trap than anything else, with only five original buildings among the two dozen or so Disneyfied ones. It boasts such authentic attractions as a Popcorn Wagon and Icee Drink Stand, the Calico Photo Studio, the Sweet Shop (serving old Western espresso drinks), and the Maggie Mine Shack. The last one particularly intrigued me as it boasted an infamous “Glory Hole”, but I decided not to pay the admission — doubtless it wouldn’t have lived up to expectations, either.

From there I hooked into I-15 and drove northeast, between the northern edge of the Mojave and the southern edge of Death Valley. You can actually see Death Valley from the freeway, and it’s pretty striking; you’re just driving along, flat across the desert — and thinking things couldn’t get much flatter — and then suddenly, on your left, the desert drops away in the distance and a wavy fog hangs in the gap.

The Mojave, in the meantime, is beautiful. I ducked on to a county road for a while, a two lane strip of bumpy asphalt that changed colour as it flew by — brick red in front of the car, slate grey in the rearview — and scraggled, pistachio brush stretching away for silent miles on either side.

Then I crossed the state line into Nevada, and was immediately greeted by two casinos, an outlet mall, a rollercoaster, and billboards advertising for porn auditions.

Some preliminary photos on Facebook, if you're interested.

Next: Vegas, baby!

2 comments:

Mal said...

In all fairness, it was, in fact, my mother who alerted me to the fact that you were going to spontaneously combust. I just followed the thread.

See what I did there? It's like 24.

Anonymous said...

so...um...are we going to see the porn audition pictures or what?


also, good work Mal's mom. high five!


(maryam :o))

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