, , , , , , , , , , ,

Five hours doesn’t sound like much sleep but it’s so nice to be up with the early morning light, cool air and birdsong. The roads are so appealing without the hordes blocking the view.

Passing Vegas for me, is much nicer from a distance. After the first visit back in December 2001, my thoughts have never wavered and not once, have I been struck dumb with the Vegas fever, or tempted to take one of the beckoning pocket-change flights, to lose my weekend and savings. I’d like to go back to a sporting event or show, or maybe I’ll just head in with a pen and paper and continue to document my intrigue of this supposedly magical land.

I couldn’t resist peeling off to Death Valley junction, instead of taking the right turn, straight to the California oven and the desolation didn’t disappoint. Most of the junction is vacant, with exception of the hotel. There is also oddly enough, an opera house, but I couldn’t find anyone around to ask about it, not even after walking freely through the hotel, camera in hand.

The documentaries all display the heat of Death Valley and the egg-cooking incidents but what they don’t prepare you for, is the vastness and the sheer apparent length of barren land. Despite having driven across the expanse of the mid-west, and entering this park at mid-point, I was glad to reach the exit and put some distance between myself and the glaring Sun.

There were actually some wonderful moments in the valley, of which the rock colours, high views and positioned scenic drives are worth the time – Artist Drive and Artist Palette being the prime example of visual diversions. One word of warning and that is to not enter the valley if you’ll need fuel. Passing through Badwater, the Chevron prices were over a dollar per gallon more expensive, than anything outside and the attendant when I stopped for a pic, had the ‘I don’t give a damn – where else you going to buy?’ attitude with the customers.

Even with the temps in the upper 90’s temp, I saw a couple of cyclists while driving through. I have no envy of seeing the valley floor this way and from fighting off the uncomfortable burning from inside a car, I hate to think what kind of pains they were putting themselves through.

Despite Mojave preserve being a very short drive from the exit of Death Valley, it contains a much larger array of desert foliage. in fact, the initial surroundings were straight out of a 50’s b-movie and I almost expected a floating eye in a cloud to appear, in the rear-view mirror.

The drive across some pitted roads, dropped to a smooth glide, after passing over the railroad crossing, near the center of the preserve. It was wonderful to jump out in a few places, feel the warm, strong breeze drying my skin and the desert sounds of unknown animals swirling around the air.

By this time, the evening was drawing in and the sunburn I’d achieved from hanging my arm out the window, was happily enjoying the cool air. Just as the Sun finally dropped below the horizon, Williams sharply swung into view.

Williams on this particular night (although I don’t know if this is normal) seemed to be a buzzing hub of activity, albeit slightly youth-filtered obscurely. After checking into the Motel6, I wandered through town for a bit in the car, amongst the one way 20mph crawl. The restaurants were packed and spilling on to the streets, leaving crowds of young, congregating in strategic groups. I hit the nearest burger bar, which was also run by kids – all young girls. It seemed the adults of the town were all filling the bars and the kids were running the rest of the show. I opted to swing around at this point and head back to the motel, for the night.

One of the last things I realised and something I had forgot to plan, was the difference in time zones. I had ended up in Williams an hour later than I wanted but with the time zone change, actually ended up bang on time. Another night of five hours sleep, should put enough gas in my tank for the hike tomorrow in the obscenely early hours, of an Arizona morning.