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Desert, Aliens, and Death Valley

September 15, 2013

Nevada – Friday, September 6

It was Friday, and a big Amway convention was getting underway in Vegas, along with some other big groups, so it was time to leave town and head northwest up toward Carson City. It was still hot out, so I found a park to walk Tula for a bit before getting into the car. We started driving across the desert, and eventually we were driving along the south side of “area 51” – an air force test site, and also one of the places that the military is rumored to have aliens – haha! The lone gas station/store/brothel along that part of the highway had an alien theme, and I just think it’s all really weird – I’ve never liked aliens. And I had the misfortune to stop by when a big tour bus stopped – I think everyone driving down the road stopped there! As I continued on, I saw signs pointing to Death Valley – the vast majority of Death Valley is in California, but there is a tiny bit of it in Nevada. I decided to duck down into California to drive through a short stretch of Death Valley. It was very hot, but I had plenty of gas in the car, and plenty of water for me and Tula, and most importantly, there was a fair amount of traffic so people were around in case of any car problems. I began the 3000′ descent down to the floor of Death Valley and I watched the temperature steadily rise from 104 degrees all the way up to 122 degrees, and even up to 123 for a few minutes. I stopped by an observation point (along with the same tour bus) and walked about 1/4 mile uphill to the vantage point – I’ve never felt that kind of heat before. I wouldn’t even let Tula out of the car in that heat. Death Valley is called the hottest place on earth, and on July 13 of this year, they set a record with 135 degree heat. Whew! The lowest part of the valley is a couple hundred feet below sea level. Down on the valley floor, there’s a resort called Furnace Creek Resort, and an RV campground, and a national park visitor center. I stopped by the visitor center and found enough shade to get Tula out for a few minutes. I can’t imagine who would want to come stay at a resort in that heat! There were some old train cars there and a sculpture of a mule train – back in the 1800s borax was mined in Death Valley and had to be hauled 165 miles to Mojave and they used mule trains to do that.

After driving through the valley for a ways, I started climbing back up the 3000′ I had descended earlier in the day, and then I crossed back into Nevada. I went through the ghost town of Rhyolite – at one time a mining town. About the only building that is still intact is a “bottle house” that someone built out of empty glass bottles, which was apparently built well enough to be standing long after the other buildings in town. Tula and I did a little walking in the town of Beatty, but I’m coming up short with my walking today – I wasn’t going to be out in the 120+ degree heat to do that, so I will get it made up in the days to come. I also didn’t make a donation today – partly because I had doubled up yesterday, and partly I was in a very unpopulated part of the state and there weren’t any places to make donations to!

And then I made the long push to get over to Carson City – there aren’t a lot of towns in southwest Nevada so although I looked into stopping in Tonopah (everything was full) along the way, I decided just to get myself over to the west side of the state for the next few days, and finally got into Carson City well after midnight.

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