Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Break

Finally, the long awaited spring break is here.
Paul and I decided to go for a short trip down to Death Valley. Neither of us had been there before. It was only 5 hours drive down to Southern California. We took 395. Since we had a late start on the day, the only place we stopped along the way was the town Bishop to get something to eat at the original Schat's Bakery.  They opened up one in Carson City coupla years ago, but I'd heard so much about the one in Bishop so we made sure to make a stop and got some sandwiches, bread, and candies.  Bishop, like many small towns in US, the highway runs right through the main street, and it takes about 3 minutes to drive from one end to the other. But surprisingly, it seems to have quite a few restaurants and bars.  It's a gateway town to go to Mammoth ski resort and other eastern Sierra Mountains for hiking.

Then we drove past Owens Lake, the waste lake resulted from LA Aqueduct combining with silver mining in the nearby mountains. The toxic, wasted Owen Lake/Valley is also the backdrop of the classic noir movie Chinatown. Interestingly, we just saw an exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art: Lauren Bon and the Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio. The team set up their photo lab at Owen Lake, taking photos of the lake using camera obscura, and they experimented with using chemicals found on the lake bed to develop the photos onsite. I found the photos to be very mesmerizing of how metallic they look, and the images haunting. One of the few really good shows I've seen at that museum (sorry,I'm just not a fan of the curating direction of that museum.) Unlike so many artless, and self-important political work that always feel more driven by the desire of being trendy,  these photos speak for themselves as art. The driving force was the environmental concern but not in your face preaching. The story of the project that accompanied the show can be seen on You-tube here and I really liked this documentary. 

dried up Owen Lake

We camped at Death Valley for 2 days.  Much to our surprise, the temperature, albeit a bit windy, was very pleasant.  We're shocked that we didn't feel like we'll die of heat and thirst like we'd imagined from watching all those western movies. We did the hiking in the early morning around Badland area. It was very interesting to walk along dry riverbeds.  

we also drove through artist drive and did some very short hikes as well.  It was neat to be at 200 ft below sea level and looking at the Telescope Peak that stands ~11,000 ft tall.

After Death Valley, we decided to go to Las Vegas. I'd been there a few times, but other than changing flights at the airport, Paul had never been to the city.  Since it was only 2 hour drive from Death Valley, we decided to head over there for coupla days before heading back home.  I have to admit, it felt so decadently luxurious to sleep on comfy kind size bed after our crappy sleeping pad during camping.  We totally spaced out and brought the old flattened foam pads instead of the nice self-inflated sleeping pads for the trip.

Of course we walked around the strip and stuffed ourselves silly with buffet, the quintessential Vegas experience.  Next day we drove to Red Rock Canyon just outside the city of Las Vegas.  Even with a lot of tourists (whereas Death Valley was really empty) we were able to go for a nice hike and scrambled among boulders. The crazy highlight of the hike was while we're hiking into the ice box canyon we saw a group of rock climbers.  Paul even commented on that it must be a guided group because of the bright color shirts they're all wearing. On our way out a helicopter flew over towards where that group was climbing and hovered for a long time.  Paul said he kinda had a weird feeling when we first saw them thinking they must be a group of very beginning rock climbing skills.  The hike to where they were climbing was not a lot of elevation change but the trail was very rocky. It would be hazardous for the EMT to carry out the injured person.  Eventually the person was pulled out by the helicopter, and dangled from the helicopter in midair.

The rescue helicopter next to the cliff

We did our token gambling and each gambled $3 with penny slots.  Not our thing, and not to mention we live in Nevada as well, there are casinos in our own town.

Even though Vegas wouldn't be Paul's choice of vacation spot, he and I both had fun walking the strip just to soak in all the weirdness of Vegas.

We drove back along 95. We nicknamed it Brothel Highway. There were so few residential areas along the way but they all have brothels, even places that has only 3 buildings, and one of them would be a brothel. Welcome to Nevada! It was a surreal drive, mostly desert, few brothels, few nearly empty abandoned towns, very poor, very little mobility for kids growing up in these towns. Native American Reservations along the way in the most uninhabitable lands. Also, military base of ammunition storage facility next to the beautiful Walker Lake. One can only imagined how polluted the Lake is. These are all realities I saw as postcard pictures along the way home, but when pulled into gas stations and saw the kids behind the counter, it became more real. I realized how much I have, not just things I own, but even if I'm not living a life I'd like to have, better job, more income, more traveling, at least I had a chance for some kind of aspiration when I was in my teens and my twenties.  I was privileged growing up middle class and that line of privilege was so thin. It just so happened I was born at one side of the line. The line is thin, but the gap is getting larger and larger between the rich and poor in this country as it became so evident along the way home. 

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