Our trip started in part because I believe that where we live and work has a tremendous effect on how we live and work. I was born and grew up in small towns all across Canada, but in my adulthood I have lived in cities all across the U.S. – Phoenix, D.C., Dallas, Miami, Baltimore, etc. I romanticized this trip out of all proportion for several months before starting it, but I continue to be amazed at how gorgeous and varied the big country is.
A short break in the interviews I have scheduled for a book I’m working on allows us some time to wander, so we decide to take a couple of days in the remote and beautiful Death Valley National Park. We arrive at Stovepipe Wells at midday, the temperature a polite and friendly 65 degrees. Stovepipe Wells is a little outpost in the middle of the big valley. There are about 50 RV spaces in the National Park area – no electricity or water. And there are 14 spots with power and water right alongside the desolate and barely traveled Highway 190.
At night the place is dead silent. About every hour or so a car might headlight through, headed either to Los Angeles or Nevada. At night we sit out under the stars and a three-quarter moon and just soak in the quiet. The desert gives up its heat easily out here at night, and the lows are in the mid 30s.
In the mornings we sit outside again in our coats and watch the sun poke up over the Funeral Mountains and light the desert floor all over again. We don’t talk about it. We just let it bathe us, warm us. Sometimes my wife will get up and wander away, through part of the desert. A quarter mile away and I can still actually hear her shoes scuff the desert floor. I watch some kind of hardy spider work out from beneath a rock and then head out on his own path.
Out there, I think we both feel it. The cares and worries of our old life, the working life, the city life, have disappeared. This is not a vacation. It was a breaking of one life and the opening of a new one.