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Obligatory Vacation Blog

One of the nice things about family get-togethers is nostalgic reminiscences. One of the things my brother John and I reminiscenced about was spending summers on the road with Dad and getting to report on what we did on our summer vacation when we were shackled back in our student desks. The trip itself called out for such remembrances tooling around with Dad in his big Ford 250 diesel was a lot like cruising around in the old semi, although I got to sit in the back seat instead of on the dog house (the plastic covering over the engine that rose up between the seats in old cab-overs.


I flew out of Kansas City after driving there because my return flight was too late for the shuttle. I got out just after the snow started falling and got to witness my first wing de-icing. Not an inspiring sight as the first wing they cleared was covered over before the second wing was done and we were off. I flew into Las Vegas, which John said was Spanish for Devil’s Anus. I think it harkens back to imperial Rome and makes me more sure of who we are as Americans. History is not going to look on us kindly. Its kind of pretty in its gaudy tawdriness, especially at night, even as it screams its wrongness.


But Vegas was just an airport, our real stopover was in my Dad’s chosen hometown of Mesquite, just north of there. Got to see Dad’s little efficiency which seems more like an extended stay hotel but it seems to suit the Popster pretty well. We had one of those buffets and met Dad’s buddy Dora. She was sweet and charming and I’m glad he’s found someone to at least hang out with. We decided too skip the longer trip we had planned through AZ and go to Death Valley instead. John and I had done Christmas there 3 years ago and it was pretty fun and Dad had never been. I had been there 3 times previously, although John doesn’t count my first time because we just drove through because it was so damn hot and we went through a part of the park not in the valley. I count it because it was a long ass drive and we saw a lot of cool stuff.


We camped our first night on possibly BLM land outside the park. The dogs loved it there running wild in the wild. John has two dogs these days adding Smokey (aka Doo Doo) a pretty rambunctious Australian cattle dog to the world famous Shadow (try googling “ornery critter” aka Fat Dog). My dad got a puppy who I was glad to finally meet named Myrtle (John nicknamed her turtle which caught on and I got to calling her Princess Mildred down the stretch). Traveling with a pack of dogs takes a little patience and some planning but it can be a hoot. I especially got a kick out of waking up to hearing John yelling and then having him tell me Smokey pissed all over him (glad I decided to bring my own tent). I would have been more sympathetic if it wasn’t so fucking hilarious. Princess Mildred and I were the only ones who heard the coyotes that night, but Smokey was out after the horse rider in the early morning.


A word about Smokey. John is one of the most conscientious and attentive dog owners I have known but Smokey is a handful. John tried hard on the reward system that made Shadow such a great dog to be around but it didn’t take with the Smokester. After failing to find someone more likely to make a good dog out of her John sent her to reform school for a couple of weeks and they largely shaped her up. The technique is mostly built around a choke collar and swift punishment for not listening. It also involves bopping her for misbehavior which is kind of fun. I can see why she needs the tough treatment when I bopped her one for beating up Princess Mildred and she was ready to throw down. Smokey and I ended up becoming pretty good friends although she chewed up my glasses on our last night together.


With dogs in tow, a little piss soaked but still optimistic we drove into the park saw some sights and camped off a jeep trail near Hole in the Wall (most parks in the West have got one). It was a nice sight except for when the Santa Anna winds kicked up and our tents blew away. Mine ended up about 100 yards down the canyon and John’s went a good ½ mile and he and Dad had to go driving to find it. Fortunately we weren’t in it in the time and they were both sort of structurally intact (John’s has some holes and my zipper is fucked possibly terminally). It at least got out the smell of piss John reported. My Dad had called it too so he got a big kick out of that.


After a couple of days of seeing the sights we drove into Beaty NV for a hotel and more casino cooking. We stopped off in Rhyolite an old ghost town from the turn of the century that is pretty cool being mostly structurally intact. We also stopped by the cemetery in Bullfrog, which was new to all of us and pretty neat. We later drove through this really cool cemetery with mausoleums carved into the rocky hillsides, speaking of cemeteries.


We then drove back into the park and camped right in the valley. It was backed by a hillock which was a nice windbreak and had a 270 view of the colorful mountains that surround the valley. I can’t describe how beautiful it is there, even being largely devoid of life. Moths were our best critter siting and their aren’t even cactus there, just some mesquite looking things and a lot of this bunch grass (its all the salts in the soil, in better times Death Valley is a lake bed). Its got volcanic action going on and sedimentary stuff and the rocks are just so colorful in so many different ways. Anyways, its one of the 5 prettiest campsites I’ve had and I’ve had some amazing ones.


From there we drove out to an abandoned mine and climbed back inside. It was a very Scooby Doo moment walking down the shaft over the little train tracks with 100-year-old wooden bracings sharing a flashlight with 3 people and a pack of dogs. “Don’t fall in a hole” John told them and none of us did.


After a return trip to Beaty we motored back to Mesquite to lounge for a couple days at the casino hotel. It was nice to have some good time to relax before leaping back into the salt mines. That was delayed when I broke my key off in my truck door at the KC airport at 2:00 am. It was 9 degrees my coat was in the truck and it took me till 6:00 am to get a tow truck out. I ended up getting home, changing clothes and going to work. Thank God my 10:00 cancelled and I got to run home and sleep for an hour.


All in all it was a fun trip. If you ever get a chance to ride around with my dad and brother through Death Valley I would definitely recommend that you take it. They were both excellent hosts for the West for this Midwesterner.


Categories: travel
  1. foggytown
    January 10, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Well you threatened to tell the world about my dog pissing on me…

    Excellent post, I enjoyed reading it. And the trip was a really good one. It is not often that I come back from vacation feeling refreshed, but I truly did this time.

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