Day 7: “Though I walk through the valley of death”

08/07/2008 //

Death Valley – Lone Pine – Independence

You know what’s hot? Death frickin’ Valley, that’s what! And we were seeking this out willingly. We’d decided to travel through Death Valley on out way north. I think we were both a bit nervous – after all, it’s roughness is legendary. There’s no water, no nothing. But hey, we could buy water and stuff! So off we went, armed with a tray of water bottles, a cooler bag and a full tank of gas.

Death Valley is – as you would expect – a very barren landscape: it’s all jagged rocks, sand, cacti and heat shimmers. The only thing there is, is the road. It cuts through the land like a knife, occasionally twisting around some hill. I can see how hypnotic it can be. Luckily, there were two of us, so we stayed focused when we were driving.

Not too long after entering the park, we arrived at Zabrieskie Point. This is a gorgeous spot surrounded by strange, otherworldly rock formations. A terrible, terrible movie was once made called (wait for it!) Zabrieskie Point. It only has one thing going for it, which is a massive explosion at the end. (You can find this here, so go ahead and watch that if you want.) There were quite a few tourists around, and they all seemed to be European like us. We walked up to the vista point from the car, then back again. This took a grand total of eight minutes, and left us drenched in sweat. Soon after, we rolled into Furnace Creek. The temperature hit 120 F here, which was sort of, you know, hot. We had some food and topped off the gas. They gouged us on the price, but we’re from Norway and still pay twice as much, so the joke’s on them, I guess.

Anyway, we kept going. The temperature crawled up to 122 (50 centigrades) at one point. We pulled over every now and then to snap photos. When you step out of the car, the heat slaps you right in the face, but it’s a dry heat, so it’s not quite obvious at first. It’s only when you sit back down you realize how straining it really is to move around. Which is why I was flabbergasted when a guy leisurely jogged past us. He was dressed up in a suit that looked like something out of a science fiction film, but there was no doubt he was jogging. As it happened, he was probably training for the Death Valley Marathon. Yes, apparently there are 200 masochists who come here every year to run in a marathon.

Coming out of Death Valley, we drove through the little town of Lone Pine. We stopped and visited the Lone Pine Movie Museum, which contained tons of paraphernalia from the hundres of movies shot in Lone Pine. Mostly westerns, but these foothills have stood in for India and China as well. High Sierra, one of my favorite Humphrey Bogart movies, was shot here, as was parts of Bad Day at Black Rock, another favorite. My good deed of the day was helping the owner out with a poster (he wanted to know if it was Norwegian poster – it was Danish), and then we drove on to Independence. We passed by the infamous internment camps from WW2, where the Japanese-Americans were placed during the war. These days, though, nothing’s left but the site itself.

Anyway, we stayed at Ray’s Den Motel, where we spent the evening on the porch with a couple of Miller tallboys and the sound of crickets all around us. And to be honest: after the full-on assault on the senses that was Las Vegas, this was a quite welcome change of pace.