Monday, March 7, 2011

Return to Death Valley

Furnace Creek Inn from

We are at the Furnace Creek Campground (map) in Death Valley National Park, some 200 feet below sea level. It is good to be back after an absence of two years. We actually arrived at the campground around mid-day Thursday after a lovely drive from our digs at the Wal-Mart in Pahrump, Nevada (map), where we found ourselves Wednesday night. We needed plenty of supplies for our customary campground cookout here, and we found them between the Wal-Mart and the Albertsons grocery next door; we walked across the street to El Cancun restaurant Wednesday evening for dinner.

Long-time readers may know that we try to come to Death Valley every year around this time, and in the past it has always been over Presidents' Day weekend. That was a choice driven by folks' work schedules, the fact that it often coincided or came close to the birthdays of two of our party, and the fact that it was also the date of the annual Airheads BMW motorcycle club rally here at this very campground. The consequences of that decision, however, have been difficulty in getting campground (for us) or cabin (for most of our group) reservations, and getting seated together at the three restaurants here in Furnace Creek. That weekend is one of the busiest, if not the busiest, of the season here, and the park is "crowded" (if that term can ever apply to Death Valley).

This year we collectively decided (using, of all things, a community spreadsheet on Google Docs) to postpone the get-together until this weekend. That worked much better with our schedule, as it would have been a mad dash to get here from Trawler Fest even if we did not get called up for Red Cross assignments. But it also gave us all nicer weather, everyone who wanted them got cabins, we had no trouble getting a primo spot in the campground, and we even managed to snag a last-minute spot for another couple in the group who came down in their 22' class-C. And, while not empty, the park is blissfully uncrowded -- we've had no trouble getting seated in the restaurants, and the traffic is almost non-existent. Even the Airheads have moved their rally off the logistically challenging holiday weekend. The consensus of the group seems to be to move the event into March next year as well.

While we've seen most of these friends more than once over the last couple years, it was good to be together with everyone here in one of our favorite places, even if we don't have the option of participating in long motorcycle rides with them while we are here. Last year we had to miss the gathering due to a Red Cross leadership summit in Tucson, and the year before we were already committed at our friends' wedding in Hawaii. Our longest term readers may remember our visits here, though, in 2005, 2007, and 2008, and we'd been coming by motorcycle from well before Odyssey became our home.

After we got settled in here Thursday we had a romantic dinner at the Furnace Creek Inn, where we used to stay on those motorcycle jaunts. It is one of our special places and we wanted to have dinner together before the gang arrived on Friday. We again dined there with the entire group last night, after taking in the sunset from the very lovely patio over a round of cocktails.

Friday we went as a group to the Steakhouse at the Furnace Creek Ranch, which was where the difference between the holiday and non-holiday crowd was the most striking. And, of course, Saturday we had our cookout, which has grown from ten participants back in 05 to 17 this year. It's probably a good thing we can't do the rides, because we spent a good part of Saturday prepping and cooking, and most of Sunday cleaning up. Next time I think we need to do something a bit less labor-intensive. On the plus side, one of our group works at Anchor Brewing and we had all the Anchor Steam, Anchor Porter, Anchor Bock, and Liberty Ale that we could drink. We'll end up with whatever is left after the gang leaves tomorrow.

Most of the group left this morning, some before dawn to make it back in one day. There were 11 of us at breakfast, but only six will be here tonight. We are thinking about stopping with them in Bakersfield tomorrow night, which will put us in the bay area on Thursday or Friday. If we forego the Bakersfield meet-up, we'll take yet an extra day.

Photo by Old Shoe Woman, used under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

  1. I've been a follower since day 1. Saw "Odyssey' at Death Valley a couple different years as we were there on our "Airheads" for the MC Rally. We nearly stopped to say "Hi" one year but you appeared busy and we didn't feel the time was right for internet "stalkers" to show up. I've also met you on the road in our motorhome twice(going the opposite direction). Small world..we'll cross paths when the time is right....take care, D.Smith


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