"So let the light guide your way, hold every memory as you go, and every road you take, will always lead you home." - Wiz Khalifa
We woke up the next morning and started our drive to Death Valley National Park which would be our campground for the night. We arrived at the visitor center a little bit before they were going to close, and asked them if there was space for camping. Bare in mind that we were officially at negative 200ft sea level, only 82ft short (tall?) of the lowest point in North America; which was a short drive down the road to Badwater Basin. The ranger asked if we were in tent or RV, when we answered tent she started laughing heartily and explained that under no circumstances would we actually want to camp with anything less than 2 air conditioners. The ranger explained that temperatures in the area of Death Valley in which we were considering camping were essentially unrelenting. When we arrived it was 120 Degrees, she expected that number to go down slightly but only to about 107; meaning that if we woke up at 6AM it would already be over 110. The ranger suggested 2 options - 1. If we were still dead set on camping where we were, to make sure that we had ice water in a cooler, and to sleep on top of the tables on the campground, covered with an ice water soaked sheet (and to wake up every 30 minutes when it was dry to re-soak them) or, 2. Go to a free campground with a higher elevation to ensure our survival. Considering the fact that the ranger encouraged us not to pay for a campsite, we opted to go to the higher elevation and seek refuge from the oppressive heat. This entailed driving about 40-ish miles deeper into the park, and up the mountains. In doing so, we passed a total of 3 campgrounds – with not one single space occupied. We were also privy to a very rare occurrence for the desert, but an incredibly common phenomenon for us – It rained.
We found a campground named Wildrose Canyon, which had the highest elevation we felt like getting to, and realized that we were the only fools who would camp in Death Valley at the end of June. Regardless of our insanity, it was an unbelievable view, and the fact that it was utterly unobstructed by anything was sublime, however it came with a price - since we witnessed it rain in the desert, it meant that there would be no stars for us at night. Disheartened by the realization that we would not be able to see the stars, and convinced we would be eaten by coyotes, we slept in the car so we wouldn’t have to waste time breaking down the tent in the heat of the morning. We sat in our campsite and watched the sun sink behind the mountains, painting the desert sky. Sleeping in the car however, was a touch hotter than I would have liked, but I was grateful to have my little fan circulating air.
We woke up incredibly early due to the rising heat baking our Element, and put the car back together. Thankfully it goes quicker every time we use it. With the temperatures already creeping closer to above 100, we began our journey towards Glendale to see Devin and Melissa. However, since we were in Death Valley, and there is no such thing as a cell phone signal, we had no GPS to guide us. Fortunately, we had picked up a park map at the visitor center, and we were able to decipher a path out of the park in the general direction in which we wanted to travel. So proud of my ability to read a map, we charged on-wards, and pretty much immediately upon exiting the park, we encountered a road block.
What appeared to be miles of clear and empty road, was actually a lie. There was road repaving happening for miles, and in order to combat the possibility of injured road crew, California had devised a pilot car system, where in one workman had to drive back and forth ferrying lines of cars safely from one side to the other. We didn’t know this. So instead, all we see is this one man, hanging out, doing his best to not make direct eye contact, since it is literally only our car for what feels like miles. Awkward. So we wait, and we wait, and we offer said work man some water, he says ‘thank you, but no’, and we wait some more. Joe gets out of the car, rearranges some things… and we wait. After 25 minutes of said waiting, we see a dump truck approach, and he has a line of cars behind him who are chomping at the bit to go faster than the pace truck approved 25 miles an hour. He stops, turns around, and unleashes the line of cars to the other side of the highway. At this point Joe and I had 3 cars behind us now, and the gentleman in the truck got out, chatted with our stop sign man and took his sweet-ass time getting back into his truck. And so we began our journey across the 7-mile stretch of highway at a painful 25 mph. So guess what you get to see?
After finally being freed from the singular view of the dump truck, we escaped back on to desert highway where the speed limit was 70Mph. However, we arrived a little earlier than expected and treated ourselves to “Finding Dory” in the nearby mall. After watching a movie in air conditioning, we changed in a parking garage into normal human clothes and got ready to meet up with Devin and Melissa for dinner at Messhall Kitchen (fabulous cocktails and great food). We headed back to their apartment for the Game of Thrones season finale, more wine and catching up.
We woke up the next morning and took our time enjoying the hot shower. Devin had some work to do, so we waited for him and then we drove to the coast and over to Malibu to see the ocean. We got ourselves a drink at Neptune’s Net and walked along the rocky shoreline, breathing in the salty pacific air. We even got to see a seal peeking his nose over the waves, watching a kite surfer at work.
We drove up the Pacific Coast Highway for a little while, and ogled the massive houses that were near the shore. Hungry for dinner, we stopped at Hugo’s Tacos where I had ridiculous Mexican food from a shack… AND CHURROS. Suck it Celiac! We headed back to the house to drink wine and watch "Spy Hard".
In the morning we woke up to heart breaking news, our family puggle Guinness was losing his battle with cancer, and was in tremendous pain. He had stopped eating, his one true joy and passion in life – so with a heavy heart my mother called us to let us know that she was going to have to put him down the following day. Devastated and thoroughly deflated, we stayed inside the house and mourned. We opted to not show our sniffling faces to the world, and instead watched the new season of “South Park”, drank wine and noshed on nibbles all day, then ended the day with garlic bread and kebobs.
We woke up early and got ready to drive through San Francisco to wine country. We mostly cried all day, and the weather seemed to match our sorrowful moods.
The drive was long, our eyes hurt and the day was terrible. At the end of the drive we decided to be kind to ourselves and book a hotel room, promising ourselves that the next day’s journey through the Redwoods would be a better one.
In Loving Memory of Guinness