Travel adventures began in 2019 with a trip out to Death Valley at the end of February. An old (I’m being rude to both of us) friend from high school and I set out to escape the winter barrage as it was winding down. The plan was set earlier in the year and we flew out to Las Vegas since it was close and super cheap to fly into. ORD>LAS was the itinerary. A relatively quick flight and suddenly it was shorts and t-shirt weather again.
This definitely will not serve as an advertisement for Las Vegas because personally I just didn’t enjoy the town. The Strip was basically my version of a wide awake nightmare with the amount of commercialism just crammed down your throat. I understand the attempt to appeal to everyone all the time but it is nothing if not completely overwhelming. If you aren’t some form of inebriated I honestly think you are doing Vegas wrong. What it lacked in substance it did make up for in a fair deal of people watching when we made our way to Fremont, which, for my money, puts the Strip to shame. To each their own and I’ve met many who love the glitz and glamour of all the bright and shiny things. It was only a point of interest because it was one of the closest airports to Death Valley and certainly the cheapest place to land and rent a car. For me, that was enough. Starting on day 2 it was desert time…
Day 2 just happened to be a Tuesday, so by the time we got around and ran to a store to pick up some food/beverages for our desert adventures, Vegas had already calmed down and moved on for the day. Our exit was smooth and rapid, as I had not-so-secretly hoped it would be. On the way out of town we stopped by In-N-Out because I didn’t honestly know the next time I’d be near one and you can’t skip that unless you’re out of your damn mind.
What followed was a low-level flight to Beatty, Nevada which is about 15 minutes drive from the California border and thus the entrance to Death Valley. We got a great AirBnB rental and set up shop before packing the car with water and ingredients for sandwiches. We were doing this one right: Cheap.
If I were forced to choose a word to describe Death Valley I’d take the liberty of using two… Staggeringly beautiful. It isn’t just the stark contrast to where we call home in the Midwest. It is just everything you see. The scale is massive and the vistas appear upon first glance to be infinite. Once you have driven 50 miles and look back you realize you can also see exactly where you were 50 miles ago. It is that kind of scale. Wide open spaces have always given me an immense sense of wonder and Death Valley had those in spades. The temperatures were well into the 70s and in the depths of the valley into the 80s. We were spoiled for the week and were 100% aware of the fact.
Since we only had 5 or so days we both agreed from the beginning that we would be returning to Death Valley to see it again. Near the end of the week when we had seen much of the park and wanted to move on, we headed to Joshua Tree national park which is located in the aptly named Joshua Tree, California. This place already had a special place in my heart but my copilot for the journey had never seen it and as always was down.
See, I am fortunate to be surrounded by a few people who love adventure as much as I do, and the idea of a national park gets them all going. I am just honored to have shared the experience with another great friend. Also, as an added bonus, we had to pass through the Mojave on the way, which was much like Death Valley but just more… Scrubby looking. Same massive views, same roads that seemed endless, same highways with speed limits that might as well have read “Try to keep it on the ground”. The entire day was only to waste time because I didn’t want to spend any more time than we had to in Vegas and our flight out was at 1:00 the next morning. We ended up back in Fremont and proceeded to get vigorously drunk before waiting it off a few hours and heading to the airport. Turns out drinking in the streets is kind of just normal in Vegas… Meanwhile at home you’d go straight the hell to jail.
But I digress, as is my style…
We are indeed going to return to Death Valley, only this time there may be 4 or 5 of us, all class mates from high school. The last time we all got together the two among us who had already been said that it was high time we dragged the rest on the road with us. To my pleasant surprise, everyone was on board. Now the game of logistics must be played because not everyone is as lucky as I am and can just fuck off for a week and basically tell no one. But I honestly believe we are all in on this one. This will be another great adventure, and I’ll get to see another set of reactions to one of the most starkly martian landscapes I have ever seen. Slowly but surely my circle of travel partners expands! But one most choose wisely, and as previously mentioned, a balance must be struck. Sometimes solo is the way to go, and sometimes a copilot, and sometimes you just bring anyone who wants to go.
The desert calls, and adventure is assumed. Hopefully the bar in Beatty still has the Peanut Butter Stout by Belching Beaver… We got the entire bar drinking it during one night and hope it stuck, because it was like drinking Reese’s.