Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lucky rock

This morning we headed into Death Valley from Pahrump, NV, near Las Vegas.

On the way is Ash Meadows National wildlife refuge, and Devil's Hole. The area is home of the famously endangered pupfish, at least one talkative old codger, and this lucky rock.

The direction we were coming from involved a few miles of gravel road. A little way in, a guy in a pickup with two big German shepherds flagged us down. The bigger dog jumped out and came about halfway into my open window. Not exactly friendly, but I'm not bleeding so that's fortunate.

The guy yelled at his dog and pulled him away. He said I'm lucky I don't have a beard, he doesn't like men with beards. He looks a little closer and says 'oh you do have a little (stubble) there, maybe that's why he jumped out.'

He goes on to explain that the road is bad washboardy all the way, we should turn around and go the other way. (Other way is 30 miles extra on paved, and 2 miles gravel). He seemed grumpy about the road not getting graded often, and said to turn around there at the welcome sign to the refuge. I half felt I'd better turn around or he'd pull a gun.

So he drove on out without incident, that's fortunate too. We went up to the welcome sign, and watched him tie the big dog up in the bed and head on. And of course we kept on going, we need to go see this pupfish, we're not giving up now. Gravel roads are usually washboardy, we'll just go slow.

About another mile on, I came across my lucky rock. I didn't see it at first, I only noticed when there was a sudden hissing. Uh huh, I think I know what that is. Open the door and I could see the rear tire blowing away the road dust each time around.

I put a jack under it and Elliot got the plug kit out of the camper. (Note to Mr Lucky: store the plug kit in the truck not the camper.....). We started plugging the hole, reamed it out and let all the air out. Wait... There's still hissing... What is that? Wow! It's the front tire too!

So put some blocks under that one too. At this point I went back about 50 feet and found my lucky rock. Still sitting there ready for more. It's good the trailer tires are offset from the truck, otherwise we'd have been fixing 4 tires...

So I finished plugging the rear tire, and hooked up the air compressor.

Probably I should get one of those no-complaint models that runs on 12 volts. Seriously, the kids had a good time pumping, a really long good time, and no complaints at all. Annie & I pumped a bit too.

About the time the front tire was plugged, the guy in the truck showed up again. I thought I was really in for it now, so I smiled and profusely admitted that he told me. We spent more time talking than it took to fix and pump up the tires.

He turned out to be a nice guy. He lives just a mile or two off the road within the refuge, so that's why he was complaining about the lack of road grading. He drove back to his house and got an air tank to finish inflating the tires.

We decided it would be best to turn around, what with all the advice and only two more tire plugs left. As we were turning around, our friend waved us over again. About 20 yards ahead, there was a puddle in the road where it crosses a wash. There were two pupfish in it.

The rest of the day, we drove on into Death Valley. There are a lot of wildflowers blooming, like a yellow haze on the desert in some areas. We checked out the opera house and hotel in Amargosa / Death Valley Junction, stopped for a couple short hikes or overlooks, and camped at Stovepipe Well. (The original water hole here was marked with a piece of old tin stove pipe.)

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What do you think, where should we go next?