Death Valley and a Sorry Town

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Death Valley was great. We barely beat the traffic out of LA and drove straight and smooth for hours. We ate dinner at a KFC in the desert. The cashier was a cute thin blond with crooked teeth. She didn’t eat meat and we laughed at her job together. In the corner was a party of six in their late sixty’s, grey haired, overweight, toothless and so happy to be there. Against the windows was fat man, a really fat man, so fat he hung off the chair on all sides, spilling over it like a ball of dough. His head hung; the energy to lift it while waiting for his multi-gallon buckets of fried chicken was too much. His mother paid and they waddled out together carrying what looked like a weeks worth of groceries. We talked about being that fat and having no teeth. We talked about how it wouldn’t happen to us. How we felt bad for him and how we didn’t.

The hotel was free for me, but my friends paid $300 for what $100 can usually buy. It seems the Ranch people have a bit of a monopoly on Death Valley. They’re the only place to stay in the park. It was too late for food, so we slept instead. Morning came quick. At the general store we bought sandwiches for breakfast and more sandwiches for lunch and then got and early start on the park.

We hiked five miles on soft dirt over faults and through canyons. We wandered around Badwater Lake; now a dried up salt flat and the lowest point in the western hemisphere. We saw pastel painted mountains and intimidating black birds. We hiked over sand dunes into the sunset while imagining the heat of summer beating down on us. We ran out of water and daylight on the hike back, so we aimed towards distant floating headlights and we all drank once at the car.

By the time dinner came we were starved, but they didn’t finish their ribs and potatoes, nor did I finish my chicken salad. We slept even earlier than the night before, with plans of watching the sunrise from a mountaintop.
At six we were back on the road. The fuel was on empty but we drove 30 miles and 5000 vertical feet to the top of Dante’s Peak. The air bit our hands and faces; it was much colder up there. In a long awaited blink, the sun rose from behind mountains miles away, then just as quickly dipped behind clouds that stretched back to us. Our legs were sore and tired of hiking, so we packed up our things and drove again.

We turned off our route to drive through one of the sorriest towns I’ve ever found on American soil. There was a giant mill, pouring smells of sulfur into the sky and from it spread crippled houses, half with boarded windows and the rest with men sitting shirtless on their lawns and children wandering the streets. It was the weekend and that’s what they did. As we drove off, we talked about their lives and wondered if they were happy.

We made it back to our lush hotel room in time for the Superbowl. We watched from LA while they watched from their sorry town. But I think it was me that was sorry.

2 Thoughts on “Death Valley and a Sorry Town”

  1. gert Says:

    ah yes the kfc in the desert…dude those pictures look better than ever! keep it up!

  2. vanessa Says:

    great shots! wish i was there 🙂

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