Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, I fear no evil because you are with me.

Since Ralph and I drove into Vegas in the dark (and my eyeballs were resting in the glove box in protest of the absurd conditions) we didn’t get to see much of the landscape, so driving out of town was interesting. So much flat, brown, lifeless ground. So many roads and highways. So many off-ramps and so few on-ramps.

Is this how America was settled?

Highways were built with only off-ramps so people who thought they were detouring for fuel, snacks or another double gallon of sugar water were actually stuck in the small soul-less towns without any way to continue their journey so they settled and slowly built up a town big enough to house a council who would raise the funds to build an on-ramp so they could all get the hell out of there and into the next town which has a Burger King, a Seven-Eleven and running water?

Probably not, but that’s what was going through my mind as I took the off ramp into town 42B on the 95 Free way to get some supplies for the desert.

They sure do things different over here. Slot machines in the supermarket make shopper dockets look childish. You can buy M&M’s in kilo bags, the meat section is bigger than the fruit and veg, the trolley was bigger than my van. I felt inadequate, bought my oversized orange and bottles of water and tried not to look the pokies in the eye as i left.

Music has played a big part in getting me through the long drives here. The Pixies’ “Motorway to Roswell” was playing as I passed Area 51 and I had the Indiana Jones theme in my head when I passed the Nevada Atomic Test Site, for those who have seen the latest movie. There was even an old fridge by the road side! No. I made that up. Would have been cool though.

As we toured the old mining ghost town of Rhyolite I think the Pet Shop Boys was playing. Ipod was on shuffle. Can’t be helped.

It really was a ghost town…

When we headed in to Death Valley and the temperature started to rise a whole degree for every hundred meters we descended, Suzanne Vega’s “99.9 Fahrenheit degrees” came on. It got much hotter than 99.9 let me tell you! 114 degrees Fahrenheit at one point. Which is 45 in the real language.

Death Valley is an amazing place. So brutal and beautiful at the same time.

Just like me.

It’s a vast plain held between 2 large mountain ranges that just seem to be trying their hardest to get away from each other. Everything is worn and eroded.

The lakes look full but it’s just the sun reflecting off the salt that remains after the water dried up.

So many colours, earthy reds and yellows and unnatural greens and purples. Not a cloud to be seen and still there is life around the edges and in places you would not think anything could survive.

The salt lake called Badwater is actually 30m below sea level.

It’s been described as a geological wonderland and it’s not wrong. All kinds of features are placed next to each other so that it seems almost as if they are parts of an amusement park or museum. A salt lake will have impossibly high cliffs whilst a rugged, rock strewn flat will be butted up against a handful of sand dunes. Green palms next to sulphur deposits.

And the irony of it all, an overpriced hotel with a natural hot spring pool. In the desert. THAT’S your pool? Heated? Where do i sign!

I sign on the bottom of the credit card slip apparently as I need somewhere to sleep and they have me over a barrel. A dry, burning, dusty barrel. Filled with hot things. And Junk.

Anyway, two days of figurine melting heat and we headed to the relative coolness of the Sierra Mountains.