Saturday, October 27, 2012

Death Valley Days

This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Death Valley lately. I've been working on a big writing project dealing with Death Valley in the early 20th Century. Actually it's a musical (working with Gary Mazzola) which I'm going to be working on for a while yet. And I've got another project I'm getting ready to start which will deal with a fictional event taking place in Death Valley in the 1930s. 

So I've done a bit of reading recently as research for these projects. Stories about early explorers and Death Valley Scotty of Scotty's Castle fame. So when my annual “kidnapping” took place this year, Sharon had me drive up north, and once we passed Ballarat there wasn't anywhere we could be going but Death Valley. In fact we made a day trip to Scotty's Castle and took one of the tours. There was a lot of good background for my projects.

And given how, when you're primed for it, you notice something a lot more, it's of no real surprise that information about Death Valley has been coming to my attention lately. Not too long ago the one temperature that had been in the record books that was hotter than the hottest from Death Valley (from Libya) was declared to be incorrect. So now Death Valley has the highest recorded temperature on Earth.

And I just learned that out in Death Valley on November 3rd and 4th they are having a big Grand Re-Opening of the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center, with a lot of special events. One of which will be a live 20 mule team with a big demonstration of handling such a large team.

And on the Saturday night (November 3rd) they are going to have a presentation about Stan Jones. He was a ranger that worked on the Death Valley Monument back in the 1940s. Now some of you might just recognize the name, but others are going, “Why would I have any interest in some old park ranger?” Well, it happens that while he was based at the Emigrant Ranger Station there in Death Valley he wrote the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. 

For my younger readers this was used in the soundtrack of the movie Ghost Rider with Nicholas Cage. The rest of us are probably familiar with the song, it's been covered millions of times. In fact, at one time there was an Internet radio station that had a regular half hour show that consisted only of different versions of the song. The show was called GritS (from the first letters in the title).

So if you decide to go, keep in mind that gasoline is much more expensive in Death Valley, so you should try to fuel up outside, like in Trona. But, I hear you say, given the cost of gas I can't afford the park entrance fee. Well, lucky for you, for that weekend, the fee is waived. That's right, the $20 fee won't be collected on November 3rd and 4th. So go out and enjoy the festivities, see the new and improved Visitor's Center, see a real live 20 mule team, listen to some good music, and learn something new.

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