Through the Sun

We haven't had a tour update yet, but there's no reason for it, so... Yesterday was just too much crazy, anxious, what-hell-did-we-just-do fun not to share. Here it is, sequentially: We woke up in BEAVER, Utah and drove to Las Vegas, which was our crossroads for the day. When you've got 3 days off, it's time to play. Here were the options: 1) prime rib at a Vegas casino, 2) kick it with the crazies still living next to the Salton Sea, 3) go through DEATH VALLEY. We chose option 3.

Before entering Death Valley, we filled up on gas. We weren't about to have that working against us. I got a gallon of water - you know, for luck. John got some pizza and those new fangled uber-awesome Reese's BIG cups with NUTS. I suppose I should give you some more background: Nabil was in Seattle working the record store. He had had enough of these 12 hour drive days. Eric was somewhere between sleep and non-sleep. Jared--our trusty sound guy--rocked his iPod, or his Powerbook, I can't be sure which.

Anyway, by 6:30pm, upon reaching the very cusp of Death Valley and beginning our 'deathly' descent, we feel a queer rumbling. A death rumbling? Not quite, but alarming enough to pull over and check it out. No flats, but there's a weird burning electronics smell and I detect a puff of smoke coming off the front driver's side tire. Everything seems fine. We continue the descent. Death Valley is 200 feet below sea level. At 6:40pm we stop the van to plot our trek through the valley. I notice more smoke coming from the front of the car. Everybody gets out. OK, we know for sure now: the brakes are overheating, and we've got about 3000 more feet to the bottom of the valley. Our decision: wait for 30 minutes, let the brakes cool, continue on the present course, stopping at the first town with reasonable accomadations, and take our trusty stead to the shop in the morning.

7:30pm--we had descended all the way to the bottom of the valley and climbed again to 5000 feet (who knew there were more mountains?). The van needed a rest and we wanted to check out some stars, which are wicked sweet in this area. You should do the same sometime. Even with the sun barely set, the Milky Way was a highway of Dayglo in the night sky... 7:50pm - start downhill once again, but by 8:00pm the burning smell is bad enough to warrant pulling over with another 3000 feet to drop. Check out the front wheels to see the brake drums GLOWING RED. Thank god for that gallon of water (and the other random water bottles we kiped from the venues). With no other choice, we stay put and let the brakes cool some more. 8:10pm - a kindly off-duty park ranger stops off to see if we need any help and tells us we've only got about a mile to the bottom of the mountain and then it's a flat 60 mile ride to Ridgecrest, a town of 30,000 just outside the park. Dear park ranger, whoever you are, thanks! You're a gem.

8:40pm - the evening takes a turn for the bizarre. No doubt about it, we see a UF-fk'n-O. It's triangular in shape, there are 3 blinking red lights at each corner and it's moving slowly (way too slowly to be a plane) just over the crest of this mountain that's right in front of us. It's not making a sound. I see it just moving along in a straight line. Jared and John see it tumbling end over end. Eric--in the midst of a desert nature trek--doesn't see it at all. 3 out of 4 ain't bad. 8:50pm - instilling our van with mountains of confidence and good juju by telling her she's the best and no other van comes close to being as good and we'll kiss her oil pan if she just gets us to the next town, we continue down. Down. Down. Kinda like a Joseph Conrad novel, but desert instead of jungle. We continue to scan for UFOs. Except john. He's concentrating on going down a 9% grade without using the brakes.

10:20pm - we arrive safely in Ridgecrest and pull into a Denny's. High 5's all around. John only used the brakes 4 times. We're all quite certain he's the man. I've never been so happy to eat a 'moons over my hammy'. Actually, I've never been happy to eat one of those at all, but, this one was great. And now we're monopolizing WIFI and a room at the Ridgecrest Comfort Inn way past check out time. But what else is new? The van should be fixed up any minute now. next up, L.A.