So I've been sedentary since I returned to the Bay Area. Great things have happened (Austin, Pittsburgh, SF), but in my blood is still this restless agony that requires constant inattention. (I have to ignore it, but it's always there.)
My buddy Mike (who made his appearance in Chapter 1) finally said "fuck it" and inquired about Death Valley (for the 90th time). He and I are similar in a hell of a lot of ways, but whereas I cut the padlock to the parachute vault, pass out life preservers and then jump when I see smoke in the plane, he handcuffs himself to the flight controls and takes his chances with crash landings in order to save a plane that's not his (filled with people who, if they survive, will blame him for the whole incident). On the rare occasion he does try to bail his parachute either gets burned in the exhaust or sucked into into the engine (usually in the form of an ex-wife who is so discontent with receiving near-five-figure checks every month (and a six figure one here and there), she recently attempted to go after half his frequent flier miles (not kidding)). You can't make this shit up.
I wasn't letting him off the hook, though. Death Valley is perhaps the greatest escape from the civilized world I know of. Exactly what he (and I, to a lesser extent) needed.
Most think of the desert as just a boring expanse of nothingness filled with peril. That's true. But there can be so much more. Case in point: after leaving the Bay Area around 9pm and sleeping in Red Rock Canyon (2am), we woke up to this:
It's right out of Raising Arizona. And yes, there were two people sleeping in there. (We woke 'em up and they weren't pleased).