Sunday, May 13, 2007

Back from my trip to California.
It was exhausting. I was getting up at 6:30 a.m. to call speakers on the east coast because the governor's schedule was changing. And then working until 9 or 10 p.m.
But it all worked out in the end.

Then off to Palm Springs, Death Valley and Las Vegas. If I ever do it again, I'll go to Las Vegas first and skip Palm Springs. PS is a cute town and all, but seems more a weekend getaway than a vacation destination.
While there, we did get to see where the two plates on the San Andreas fault come together. What if the two plates clashed together in an earthquake while we were in the narrow crevasse between the two? hmmm. A little frisson of danger.

We stupidly took the advice of a 20-year-old on a sushi place. Never listen to a youngster about food. It was the worst sushi I've ever had in my life. The tuna nigiri tasted like plastic. The rice was stale. Ugh. And worst of all it was in a shopping mall. That should have sent off alarm signals if I hadn't had some of the best sushi in a shopping center in Sacramento.

Then on to the best part of the trip, which was Death Valley. We took a route through Joshua Trees and Mojave Desert. The Mojave was about as bleak as you can expect, but fascinating.
We stopped at a non-functioning gas station (we had 3/4s of a tank anyway) to stop and get directions since none of our maps had the names of the roads we were traveling on.
The guys, who seem to support themselves by selling bottled water, were incredibly nice and friendly.

Death Valley was awesome. The colors were amazing. I expected it to be bleaker. It is desolate. It is empty of civilization. But it is not empty of life. We couldn't use our cell phones once we went over the mountain into the valley. And that was rather blissful to me after living on my cell for days at the conference.

We were going to go to Scotty's Castle and the Ubehebe Crater first, but the ranger at the visitor's center recommended seeing Artist's Palette at sunset and she was so right. Monet has nothing on God. J joked about the rangers coming out at night to spraypaint the mountain, the colors were so vivid green and lavender. Unfortunately, the pictures don't do the colors justice.

J flirted a bit with another traveler (she denies it, of course). I was nervous about taking the dirt road to Devil's Golf Course but he recommended it, and the road wasn't that bad, plus it was a short trek. We didn't see any of the bizarre salt formations, but I think you need to hike out quite a way. Unfortunately, the nearby ones probably have been broken by man.

The hotel at Stovepipe Wells Village was pleasant. And oh, the stars at night!

The next morning I got up early to shoot pictures at the dunes near the hotel. It was worth every early morning minute. Even though I sometimes saw other people, they were far away and quickly disappeared. I could see how someone could get disoriented and lost in the dunes. I kept wanting to go farther and farther away.

The last highlight of DV was the coyote we saw at Scotty's Castle. It must be used to people and that's probably a bad thing. Nonetheless, I got great shots of it.

Then on to Las Vegas. We stopped in Rhyolite and Beatty, Nev. The casino we had lunch in was a bit sad. It looked as though the people gambling at the slots all had one disability or another. But Rhyolite was cool. Artists are putting up outdoor sculptures at the site. They include two that involve ghosts -- one of the Last Supper and one of a ghost and a bicycle (Ghost Rider of course). Check out the website for the exhibit.
My camera's batteries ran out so an artist who helps run the site was gracious enough to take a picture of me and J at the site.

Las Vegas was a culture shock after Death Valley. That's why I recommend going to LV first. The traffic, the noise, the crowds were dizzying in comparison. I enjoyed the lights and the locals were amazingly helpful considering how many tourists they must see. (that's so not true in Florida, or DC for that matter).
But it was a bit...much after Death Valley!