The fourth of July this year landed on a Monday, giving us 9 to 5 workaday during the week folks a long three day weekend.
I took advantage of this time to go back to a place I first visited in December 2011, Death Valley National Park. Why did I want to go in the middle of the summer you may ask? I guess I like to push the boundaries of reason and sanity. Unfortunately, I went over the edge into an nightmarish abyss.
Saturday morning started out well enough. I land at the airport early, get a nice big truck for my rental, and start the 3 hour journey to the park. First stop is to find the ghost town of Rhyolite just outside the park entrance, and about seven miles from the town of Beatty, Nevada.
Driving along a dirt road as I’m leaving the ghost town, the low tire pressure light comes on. Confused, I put the truck in park and get out to examine the tires. Sure enough, I loud hissing sound is coming from the front left tire. Freaking out, I beeline it straight to back to Beatty, stressing as the PSI drops rapidly…
I make it to a gas station, and ask if there is a repair shop open around town (remember it is a holiday weekend). She gives me the cell number to the only mechanic. I call, only to find out he is on his way back from Las Vegas.
He can help me, but it will be a couple of hours. Eventually, he gets my tire replaced, using the spare on the rental.
I thank him, thinking my bad luck is out of the way. I’m behind schedule, but need to go back into the park to check into my lodging at Furnace Creek. Along the way I see road closures and pools of standing water along the road.
An hour and a half later, I pull into Furnace Creek. There is a line coming out the front lobby, people sweating in the intense heat. I get in line….
I finally get to the front desk, only to learn that a major freak rain and lightning storm had rolled through the park the night before, knocking out all power to Furnace Creek. With no A/C, power or phone service, they had no way to contact us beforehand, but due to safety reasons, we couldn’t stay in the park. Everyone was frantically trying to find alternate accommodations, all of which were at least an hour or two from our current location.
I decide to just drive back to Beatty, and find a small motel that has a room available for the next couple of nights.
“it can’t get any worse, right?…”
The next morning, I head back into the park to explore new areas previously not seen. I’m limited due to most roads being closed, but I do find one open that takes me deep into the park.
Driving along the paved road smattered with small rocks that were washed up on the road from the previous rainstorm, I’m chugging along when the low tire pressure light comes on again.
“I can’t be having another flat, can I?….”
Yet that is exactly what is happening. The right front tire this time, and the air is escaping much quicker. I’m not seven miles from a town like the day before, I’m about 50 miles from a major highway, 60 miles from any civilized town.
“This could be how I die.”
I have no cellular service, so I do the only thing possible, and drive as fast as I can. Somehow, I make it back to the main highway, and about 4 miles from the town before that tire completely blows out. I pull over and wait for someone to help me.
No one does. Desperate, I try to call 911 with no cell service. The call goes through….
A hour later, just as the last of my water runs out, the police show up, and give me a ride back to town. They let me know that due to the rainstorm, rocks turn into razor sharp little bastards that wreck havoc on the roads, which is why my tires were being punctured.
They drop me off in town so I can call my rental car company to get a tow truck. I plop a quarter into the pay phone and dial…
The nice lady that answers can’t even find my location at first on GPS to send a tow truck, but eventually we get it all worked out. Only problem is that the tow truck is a couple hours away…
Finally he arrives. I sit in his cab, no A/C but plenty of cigarette smoke. I breath deeply.
I tell him my stuff is in my hotel room back in Beatty, but he tells me that we will never make it up that road towing this truck, we have to go another route to get out of the park.
“just get me the hell out of here.”
So I lost two tires, my luggage, and my sanity. I went straight to the Las Vegas airport and caught a flight home, trying to shake the unimaginable stream of bad luck that plagued me in Death Valley.