My Wonderful Journey
Through the Valley of Death
and Back Again
by Lennart Lövstrand
April 8-16, 1995
This is a journal that I wrote a week in early April while driving around south
central California with the ultimate destination of Death Valley. The journey begins in
Palo Alto just south of San Francisco; from there we take highway 101 through San Luis
Obispo and Santa Barbara down to Los Angeles. From L.A. we continue through the San
Bernardino pass towards Las Vegas, but veer off north some 50 miles before the Nevada
border and head towards the Death Valley National Monument, the goal of our journey. Here
we experience heat, rocks, solitude, and an engine breakdown, all within the scope of 48
hours. The return is made on the east side of the Sierras with a day's skiing stop in
Saturday, April 8, 1995
Palo Alto. Tax Hostage.
Help! I'm being held hostage by my taxes! I wanted to leave today, but it's already
late in the afternoon and I haven't yet been able to access my tax files on my roommate
Laurie's computer. Since this is the last week before Tax Day and since doing other
people's taxes is part of her profession, her machine is in constant use by either herself
or one of her Amazon minions (a.k.a. Kim, Nicole, or Virginia). To be honest, I've been
busy myself cleaning up upstairs and doing general paperwork, paying bills, etc., so I
probably wouldn't have been able to leave earlier anyway. Still, I'm running out of other
things to do and it would be awfully nice to get these tax forms out of my way. All I need
to do is to update a few figures and print them out. Oh, and buy some cat food of course.
Maybe I'd better do that now...
Sunday, April 9, 1995
Going South on 101.
OK, I'm finally on my way. After many false starts, including one where I got half way
around the block before I realized that I was really low on radiator fluid, I've now
finally officially started my vacation. Yee-haa! But boy is 101 boring. I've been
doing 70-80 mph (or more) for several hours now, but I still don't feel like I'm getting
anywhere. It's way past lunch time and I'm starving, but I'm too impatient to stop and
eat. I don't want to go to the same old McDonald's that I can find at home, yet I don't
want to spend any time eating a "real" meal either. I've buzzed through several
small towns looking for some "interesting" fast food, but most of them have been
a bit too much on the greasy spoon side to experiment with this early on the journey. If
I'm going to get food poisoned, I'd rather that it would be somewhere where I could at
least appreciate the environment from my sick bed than something that looks like my own
back yard. So onwards I go...
Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo.
The Red Feeding Alert is over. I finally gave in outside of Pasa Robles and had the
lunch buffet at Pizza Hut. I haven't been to Pizza Hut in many years, and I think I'm
beginning to remember why... (Burp!) Right now, I'm at this very improbable and yet very
Californian place called the Madonna Inn just south of San Luis Obispo. The town
itself is nice and quite charming. This place, however, is an entirely different story. As
you enter the main door into this stone castle, a receptionist in a rock booth greets you
in front of the very pink velour lounge. If you quickly try to escape into the coffee shop
promising "an Old World charm and atmosphere," you're immediately attacked by a
dozen or so waitresses in bright red and green Heidi dresses who seat you at a
copper table with iron tube chairs shaped as big hearts, or, if you're lucky, at a solid
wooden booth with red leather seats and carved inscriptions (+ a dozen or so more little
hearts). All of this is surrounded by a variety of kitsch, mostly of man made materials.
I order myself a cappuccino and out of pure shock add a pink champagne sherbert on top.
"Sherbert?" I have never heard of this word before, but I'm guessing that it's
something like what we call "sorbet" where I come from. When I ask the waitress
to describe the concoction, all she can say is something like "Oh, you know, like sherbert.
It's good." Not very reassured, I order it anyway. You won't have any fun unless you
take a risk once in a while. When the dish arrives, it turns out to be a scoop of very
pink and very sweet substance more resembling artificially sweetened and flavored ice
cream than a frisky blend of fruit juice slush. Oh, and did I mention that it was served
in a bulky cup made of thick, patterned green glass? Fortunately, I manage to down it
without throwing up (a feat by itself considering my surroundings), pay, and get up to
explore the rest of the establishment.
Downstairs, below the velour lounge I find the caveman bar and upstairs are gift shops
for him and her sporting the latest fashions, also mostly of man made materials. Talking
of cavemen, in a corner I find a display of their various theme rooms which includes a
caveman bedroom (complete with real rocks, color TV, minibar, and shower), the Viennese
Room (a prepubescent dream in white and satin), and many other "romantic honeymoon
suites." All this was created by the husband and wife team of Alex and Phyllis
Madonna, architect and interior designer, respectively. This just points to prove that in
America, dreams do become true -- including your worst nightmares.
From San Luis Obispo, I continue my trek south. My next stop is a little piece of
Denmark in the middle of the Californian countryside. It's called Solvang and
it's complete with Danish restaurants, Danish import stores, and of course, a
pseudo-Danish wind mill. Walking through the town is very strange. There are many familiar
pieces from my part of the world here, but they are strangely mixed with some very
American touches. All in all, it feels more like Disneyland or Epcot center than actual
Denmark. Oh well, it's nice in any case.
Monday, April 10, 1995
This is the first real day of my vacation and I'm still late! It's 10:49 and I haven't
yet left Santa Barbara. I arrived here last night just as the sun was setting over the
Pacific. Not knowing much about the town, I turned to my trusty AAA guide that had an
enlarged map of the port area with quite a few motels in the neighborhood. I selected
myself a moderately expensive one for $75/night, but including a Jacuzzi and swimming pool
which I quickly perused in that order. Unfortunately, that also made me late for dinner
and this being close to eleven on a Sunday night meant that the only two dining
establishments within walking distance already had closed. After some tracking back and
forth around downtown, I finally found a Mexican diner that was open till midnight. And,
due to general confusion or lack of resources, that is how long it took before anything to
eat appeared on my table. Other patrons came and left while I was sitting there and my
good mode disappeared with them. Oh well, at least the beer was fairly inexpensive. On my
way back to the car I came across another (closed) place that I want to come back to. It
was called Roy's and featured "gourmet American food." Although I'm
usually not that crazy about the nouvelle Californian cuisine, this one did look
very enticing. It'll have to be next time, though. Right now I have to get on the road.
I'm going to Universal Studios for some consumer entertainment and I'd like to get there
before it gets too late.
Universal City, Los Angeles.
Well, here I am. It's been 10 years since I last visited Universal Studios and a lot
has changed. For example, there is now a streak called City Walk with lots of restaurants
and shops leading to the theme park. The latter has expanded quite a lot too -- all I
remember from last time was the backlot tram tour and a studio visit that showed the
principle behind some of the special effects for 2001. Now, there are joy rides like Back
to The Future, The Ride and whole Studio City complex located at the base of the cliff
below the rest of the park.
I spent the better part of the day at Universal and ended up having dinner at one of
the restaurants at the City Walk before rounding off the day with a visit to their movie
house (Bad Boys, 3+). It was already 23:30 before I was back out on the freeway
again with the intention of trying to get as far towards Palm Springs as possible. I had
this idea of going to see the Joshua Tree National Monument the next day, time permitting,
but I was already late and when I passed by an IKEA store by the freeway, my Swedish heart
took an extra leap and I knew that I had to come back in the morning. Surely it won't take
long for a quick visit? Yah, right.
Tuesday, April 11, 1995
The IKEA parking lot was completely vacant when I arrived around 10:30. Oh no, I
thought, are they closed today? No worries, I was just too early, so I hung around outside
in the blazing sun with a few other eager customers for a while. At ten to eleven, an IKEA
coworker (as they're called here) took pity on us and let us hang around inside the
entrance with a cup of Löfbergs Lila to comfort us. Ahh, real coffee! At the
stroke of 11 we were finally let into the labyrinth of Swedish furniture design and
inexpensive accessories mostly manufactured in south east Asia. All this waiting had made
me hungry, so I headed straight for the restaurant and downed a traditional open faced
shrimp sandwich (mmm) while browsing through their catalog.
I needed a desk chair to replace my other old IKEA chair that I had had since I was 12
years old, but it was hard to decide from just looking in the catalog, so I headed over to
the office furniture area for some serious testsitting. After about half an hour of
posterior ponderings I finally decided for one called Gerton for $159. Strangely enough, I
couldn't find it in the catalog and when I got to the pick-up area at the exit, they were
out of stock. The clerk told me that one of the other IKEA places only 30 minutes away --
east -- had one, but the thought of delaying my already late departure from L.A. with
another hour+ didn't make me feel any good. What to do, what to do? Maybe they would sell
me the display copy instead? Sure, he says and proceeds to give me a great mark down: $79
-- what a bargain! I have to disassemble it myself, though. No problem. A greasy half hour
later and I'm on the road again, fully stocked with Swedish candy and other tidbits from
Victorville on US15 with a very hot engine.
I decided to skip Joshua Tree since I was so late, so I set course for the San
Bernardino mountains on route 15 to Death Valley instead. On the way over the pass, I saw
signs telling motorists to turn off their air conditioning for the next 20 miles. So, I
did. Soon thereafter, I came across a long row of stranded motorists by the road side with
their hoods open. Suckers, I thought. A little while later, the road became less steep, so
I turned on the A/C on again. Oh-oh, big mistake! At first the engine temperature was fine
so I drove on. But wait, what's this? It's now 25% higher than it was a little while ago,
but it looks steady so it's probably nothing to worry about. Or perhaps it is? Whoa, it
just struck the red area and it keeps rising! OK, time to find a place to stop -- except
I'm on the freeway. Doesn't matter, I have to stop! Here we go... open the hood... ouch,
it's boiling! Well, I guess I'm stuck here for a while.
Some ten minutes later, the temperature is out of the red area. I top the radiator up
with water I had brought with me for exactly this purpose (good thing that) and then
somewhat anxiously steer back out on the freeway again. OK, it's doing fine. Up to 50 mph,
60, 70... Still OK. No, it started climbing again! Argh, gotta stop. Back out on the
roadside and wait yet a while. At least now, there is no incline in the road anymore so
maybe the engine will keep cool. A few more minutes and I'm back on the road again. But
no, this was not meant to be. Less than a mile down the road and it's back up in the red
again. Sigh! A small town has appeared next to the freeway, so I stop in a parking lot,
open the hood, and go get myself a haircut instead. And yes, that did it. About an hour
later I'm finally on my way again and this time the engine stays within spec. (And I stay
off the A/C for most of the rest of the trip.)
Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction.
After a whirlwind drive through a mostly deserted countryside, I arrive at Death Valley
Junction around 21:00. As I turned around the corner of the village's only building, I was
suddenly overcome by an intense feeling of déjà vu: I had seen this place before.
It took me a few seconds before I could figure out where, but then it dawned on me: Delusion!
I had rented this movie only a few weeks earlier, and a lot of the story happened at
this very hotel. Wild! Unfortunately, they had a sign up in the window saying that they
were full, so I continued until I found myself at the actual junction leading into the
park. There, by some strange fluke, my cellular phone managed to pick a base station from
who knows where, so I called in to Furnace Creek Ranch at the center of the valley to see
if they had any rooms available. "Tonight?" the man on the phone asked and
almost laughed out loud as he let me know that they had nothing available and neither had
any of the other resorts in the park. Camping? No, he didn't know anything about that;
that was run by the park service. Drats, I thought. I wonder if there is any chance that
they have any cancellations at the nearby hotel... Well, I might as well ask. So, I turned
the car around and drove back.
When I entered the building, I found myself in a barren lobby with a group of people
sitting in a half-circle around a TV fed off a satellite dish. I guess there is just no
way to escape civilization, especially not when there is an important basketball game
going on! At the reception, the manageress was talking to a British couple who wanted to
know where they might get something to eat. "Well, there are some frozen pizza in the
freezer over there. If you want something more elaborate, the nearest town is only 15
miles away." Oh, the joys of desert dining, I thought.
To make a long story short, it turned out that they had exactly one spare room left,
but while I was waiting in line, a pair of German girls came in also looking for a place
to stay. I offered to share the room with them, but when they hesitated, I decided to just
give it to them instead. The manageress had offered to let me take my sleeping bag and
spend the night in the lobby. That was fine with me, especially since she would let me do
it for a fraction of what a room would have cost. So, the girls got the room and went to
unpack. A few minutes later they were back. They hadn't realized that the room had two
beds, and so had come back to offer me one. Sweet, but I decided that I'd rather save the
money. (And no, I don't think they had anything else in mind. )
I spent the rest of the evening chatting with locals and guests alike and shared a
couple of bottles of my Black Cat Ale homebrew with my newly found friends. They returned
the favor by bringing their beer, wine coolers, and whiskey to the stash. Before soon, a
merry party was in full swing accompanied by many a piece of personally sized frozen
Wednesday, April 12, 1995
Not completely unexpectantly, I overslept and didn't wake up until 10. After a quick
courtesy coffee, I was ready to leave but as I was about to drive off, the manageress'
husband came over and wondered if I would like to see the Opera House before I left.
"Sure!" The story that followed was quite remarkable.
It turns out that the Amargosa Hotel was owned by an aging ballerina, Martha
Beckett, who fell in love with the place when she was traveling through the area in
the late '60s. Although originally from the big city of New York, she decided that this
was her true home and simply bought the place. She had no intention to give up her
profession, however, so she created the Amargosa Opera House and started giving weekly
performances. Attendance at the first few shows were pretty good, but then the numbers
started dwindling as her neighbors got their initial curiosity satisfied.
It was then that she got her idea: If the audience didn't come to her of their own
initiative, maybe she would have to take the situation into her own hands! Thus she
started a seven year long project to paint an audience in the theater. The result
is absolutely astounding! The side and back walls have been completely covered with oil
paintings of a royal court from somewhere in the middle ages. At the back of the room
reside a king and his queen, flanking them is the nobility, and on both sides are groups
of commoners, nuns, jesters, and even a dancing bear.
Lo and behold! As the news about her feat got spread, the crowds started gathering once
again. And this time, it wasn't just the locals that came -- no, people started arriving
from all over the country just to see this woman and her work. From then on, she never had
a problem filling her seats again.
Martha still performs once or twice a week even though she now is in her 70s. If you
are traveling through that neck of the woods, uh, desert, do stop by and visit her. It's
an experience well worth haven.
After I left the hotel, I steered left towards the heart of Death Valley on highway
190. It was getting close to noon and the heat was, eh, on. Actually, it wasn't too
bad -- I had the top down on my car to enjoy the scenery better, and as long as I kept
moving, the speed draft kept the heat in check. Although Death Valley has the US heat
record, today was a comparatively mild day with probably no more than 90-95 °F. My first
stop would have been Dante's View with a panoramic view of the valley, but as luck
would have it, the road to the peak was temporarily closed for repairs. So I made a stop
at Zabriskie Point instead for an almost as impressive treat of rolling rocky hills
of burned amber leading down to the salty waters at the floor of the valley. Very pretty.
I later bought a black and white photo poster of that same scene, but taken under a full
moon in the middle of the night. Very nice.
I also made a little detour into 20 Mule Team Canyon, which is a small dirt road
that wiggles its way around rocks and boulders in a moonlike landscape by the main road.
It was a lot of fun, especially when you come over a corner and don't see anything but
empty air and sandy stone far below. Yee-haa!
Back out on US route 190, the road kept going downhill until I finally came to the sign
that marked sealevel.
Blubb! I'm going under water at one of the driest places on earth! Actually, there is
quite a lot of water down in the south center of the valley, but it's saturated with salt.
The place I headed to first is called Devil's Golf Course and is a vast stretch of
glisteningly white salt covered rock. In the winter, this area turns into a salt lake, but
as the water evaporates, only the salt crystals themselves are left behind. The result is
breathtakingly beautiful and very eerie -- it's like taking a step into a winter
wonderland with a furnace breathing down your neck.
Onwards and inwards. From the golf course it is a short drive to another dirt road
called Artist's Drive because it takes you by a series of blue, green, red, and
yellow cliffs. The color shifts are caused by their high content of metal oxides, e.g.
copper giving the green color and iron the red one. Very pretty.
Back on the main road I stop by Mushroom Rock, which is a large black mushroom
shaped piece of hardened lava. All of these attractions were described in a little leaflet
that is available at the highway 190 junction for 50¢.
At the center of Death Valley is a large oasis called Furnace Creek Ranch with a
restaurant, souvenir store, gas station, post office, and a museum dedicated to the
discovery and excavation of borax. I had lunch at the restaurant, bought some memorabilia
at the store, visited the museum, but stayed the hell away from the gas station because of
their outrageous price for gas: $1.89 per gallon! Luckily, I had filled up my car up just
before I left the Las Vegas freeway, so I was in good shape.
The museum was interesting. You got to learn about how they valley was deemed worthless
until the struck "white gold" (borax), and all the endeavors they then had
shipping it back to civilization. A little further down the road, I found another museum
run by the national park authority. They too had borax exhibits, and also a presentation
on the flora and fauna of the valley. It's surprisingly lively for being in such a hostile
place. Since the museum was run by the park rangers, I asked them about overnighting
regulations in the wild. They told me that the general rule was no camping outside the
designated camp sites (expensive & full), not unless I were to hike several miles away
from the nearest road. Ugh. However, there was one catch: The rules only applied within
the park boundaries, so the moment I left the park's limits, I was free to spend the night
anywhere I wanted. Cool! It so happened that I was planning on doing Titus Canyon the next
morning, which starts just outside the park's border in Nevada.
Sounds good to me. In the afternoon, I drove north to explore the sandy dunes near
Stovepipe Wells Rd.
Then, when the twilight started descending, I set my course east and didn't stop until
I had reached the junction to the dirt road leading into Titus. Although a sign
strongly recommended using only 4 wheel drive vehicles with high clearance, I drove my
trusty Toyota Supra onwards and finally set camp halfway back into the park.
When the engine had been turned off, silence descended in all her majesty. I was in the
middle of a great plain with no trees or even bushes for as far as I could see. Here, in
the middle of nowhere (literally), I laid out my sleeping mat, opened a beer, and enjoyed
the desert wilderness. Ahh, such bliss! Still, being kind of a techno-geek at heart, I
couldn't help bringing out my cellular phone just to see if it was possible to still use
it. Sure enough, it had picked up the faint signal of a base station somewhere over in
Nevada, so I just had to call a friend back home to share the moment with. Apart from
that, though, it was a true wilderness experience with only me and the stars above my head
Thursday, April 13, 1995
This morning I quite literally got up before the crack of dawn. I don't remember
exactly what time it was, but it must have been around 05:30. All I remember is how
bitterly cold it had become!
Even though I was using a down sleeping bag certified for sub-freezing temperatures, I
was practically shivering when I woke up. A leftover half sandwich from the day before
helped a little to warm me up, but it wasn't until I was in the car with the heater on
full and wearing an extra sweatshirt that I started thawing up.
After the mandatory pictures of the desert dawn had been taken, I quickly packed the
few things I had brought out and set course back towards the park.
The sun had barely crept over the distant hills and was producing shadows that
stretched on forever. By the time I reentered the park it was barely 07:00, but someone
else had already passed through. Apart from him, though, I was alone.
Although I was enjoying myself, I could tell that my car was less than happy. As with
many of the dirt roads in this area, the surface has become riveted by too many nature
lovers causing the car to continuously vibrate to such a degree that I was just waiting to
see a trail of nuts and bolts behind me any time.
Exploring Deserted Mines Near Leadfield.
The road twisted and turned and a few moments later, a magnificent landscape of
majestic hills and dramatic cliffs had appeared.
Up and down it went until I found myself in the deserted ghost town of Leadfield.
Back in the early 1900's, this had been a booming mining town, mostly fueled by clever
advertising and exaggerated reports of precious minerals. They even had a post office here
for a while, but within a few years, everyone had moved out and all that remained now was
a few ruins and deserted mine shafts. At one place near some "Danger" signs, I
parked my car and went on exploration.
Unfortunately, the mine shafts didn't go very far -- after only a few tens of yards,
they ended and I had to go back out again. A sleepy bat I found, but alas, no gold.
It's Dead, Jim. Stuck at Emigrant Junction, Death Valley.
The desert is tough, especially for automobiles. I'm currently at a small rest stop
called Emigrant Junction and I'm probably going to stay here for a while. My car, which
has been doing so well (modulo a few overheatings which arguably were my own fault)
refuses to start. I was turning back out on the highway when the engine just died. Not
fun. Fortunately, the upgrade allowed me to gently roll back in to the parking lot, so I
was lucky in a way. So now I'm sitting here, waiting for the nice man from AAA to tow me
back to Furnace Creak in the heart of the valley. It's jeopardizing my plans to get to
Mammoth by the evening, but c'est la vie. Actually, it's kind of nice to sit here
and have nothing to do except watch the traffic go by -- and perhaps read one of the far
too many books that I brought. I think of it as kind of a vacation in the vacation, so to
Alas, the mechanics at Furnace Creek Garage can't help me. They're more used to simple
things, like people running out of gas or overheating their radiators and they don't
really know what to do with a complicated sports car like mine that plain just won't run.
Instead, they have offered to tow me an additional 100 miles back into Pahrump in Nevada
where a better equipped garage can be found. 100 miles! Yikes, this will take
forever... and it'll be expensive too since the AAA doesn't cover further towing. But I
guess there is nothing else to do. Sigh.
We arrive at All Auto in Pahrump late in the afternoon. After a quick check, they find
that the timing belt is gone, ripped to pieces. They don't carry any parts themselves, so
they have to order replacements from the nearest Toyota center. How long will that take?
Oh, it probably won't take long; it'll probably be here by tomorrow. Tomorrow! Sigh
again, but there really is nothing else to do. A guy at the garage drives me to the Saddle
West Saloon, a tacky Nevadan gambling house and motel (in that order).
The reception is well hidden deep behind the slot machines and black jack tables.
Fortunately, their rooms are fairly inexpensive. I accept the inevitable and retire to my
room, armed with a video of the Lion King and another of the slightly kinkier kind.
Friday, April 14, 1995
It's close to noon and I've just been told that the garage got the wrong part for my
car and that it will be another 4-5 hours before they can get it done -- if at all today!
So, I'm stuck in this casino hotel in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to go and nothing
to do except waste my money on gambling. Well, I've spent my customary $20 and I don't
really feel like loosing more, so right now I'm sitting in their backyard playing with
this Psion portable notepad (or whatever you want to call it). It's either that or trying
to find another TV that can show me more of the OJ Simpson saga, uh, I mean trial. I was
flipping through the channels this morning before checking out and there it was on both
Court-TV and E! I who almost had forgotten all about it. It's amazing the things you're
spared from because you go to work all day long.
So, I saw the Lion King last night. After all the great press it had gotten, I was
ready for something sensational, and sure, it was "nice," but then again, Barbie
is "nice" too but I don't hear anyone raving about her and Ken anymore. So what
is the Lion King about, then? Well, as far as I can tell, nothing or at least nothing new
or original. Take one part Jungle Book, add a bit of Richard III, mix with some native
religion, finish off with a pound or two of sugar, stir (but don't shake) and voìla
-- a recipe for success, apparently. Most importantly, don't try to waver from the tried
and true path. That might make the kids think for a moment, and we don't want that now, do
we? Nah, too risky. Just think of all the merchandise that we have stocked up. Can't risk
not being able to sell that. That wouldn't be fair to the stock holders. I mean, after all
that's what Disney and the rest of the movie industry is all about, isn't it?
It's late in the day when I finally make it back through Death Valley and onwards
towards the mountains. On the way, I pass by those gorgeous sandy dunes again and stop for
a Kodak moment.
Then, it's hey, hey, hey, and away! Although I've only been here for a couple of days,
it's almost a bit sentimental to leave Death Valley. Maybe it's because it was my
destination -- anything from here on while be on my way home.
I might be formally returning, but there is still a lot to see! As I cross the Panamint
Range, I'm awarded with an amazing view of Mount Whitney in the distance. Magnificent! If
my car wouldn't have broken down, I would have loved to stop and explore a bit more, but
this one I have to save for next time. That's OK. It's always good to have something to
look forward to.
|Saturday, April 15, 1995
Skiing at Mammoth.
Can you say b-l-i-z-z-a-r-d? I knew you co(u)ld. There was light snow mixed rain
coming down as I turned off US395 at the Mammoth Lakes exit last night. By this morning it
had all cleared up, however, and the sun was once again shining from a clear blue sky.
Except... it wasn't quite clear. While I was watching, a cloud appeared and then
another one, and another... Still, I had come here to ski, so ski I did. However...
By mid day, the upper part of the mountain was enclosed in a whirling white shroud of
snow. Wet, icy snow that hit every exposed part of your body. And the wind! It kept
thrusting and pounding and pushing and shoving. Sometimes, it was hard to even get
downhill because the force of the wind was so strong. The lower areas were mostly OK, but
higher up, the snow and the wind turned everything into a big white void so thick that you
hardly could see your own skis much less any landmarks around you. There certainly were
times when I wondered what the hell I was doing before throwing myself into oblivion.
By 14:30, I had covered pretty much every part of the mountain that was open and my
stomach was telling me that I was late for lunch. Down at the main lodge, I got myself the
traditional American skier's lunch (= cheese burger + coke) and sat down for a
well-deserved rest. What did I then see at the other end of the cafeteria if not the ski
mogul Warren Miller signing his latest book! So this is what he looks like in real life.
Fat and baldy, he certainly didn't look like someone who had been on skis for quite a
while. But perhaps the appearance is deceptive. After lunch I strolled over to his table
and started looking through his books. They looked pretty entertaining. What the heck, I
thought, I might as well buy one. So now I own On Film, In Print by W. Miller with
the inscription "Lennart -- Great skiing with you at Mammoth." What an old
Sunday, April 16, 1995
I left Mammoth at 10:00 this morning after a fulfilling blueberry-and-strawberry waffle
breakfast at Blondie's. The road conditions were pretty slippery with all the fresh snow
that had fallen, but not bad enough for chains. Still, it wasn't until I got down into the
lowlands that I could start breathing again. I hate driving on wintry roads with summer
With the clear road came a beautiful view of the plains, lightly shrouded in a delicate
white powder. Then further down appeared Mono Lake out of nowhere, stretching out into the
distance under a veil stormy clouds. I was back; I had returned from the mountains.
The rest of the trip back was pretty uneventful. I stopped for lunch just south of Lake
Tahoe and arrived back in Palo Alto just after dusk with a very loaded car.
It was a good trip, the first big road trip I had done in the US. I think I have to do
it again soon. There is much more to explore out there.
Copyright © 1995, Lennart Lövstrand. All rights reserved.