- Well, I intelligently picked up a 89 Dodge Raider from someone on the forums on a dare, and took it to the treacherous (for noobz like me) trails of Death Valley. Sounds like a good beginning of an epic adventure. The rest, they say, is history.
The plan was to spend 4 days in the desert exploring 4x4 back roads. We (tried to) tackle Goler wash early on, and braved the heat. It was generally uneventful as we explored the different (abandoned) ranches along the route, and hiked to the source of a well-spring. We eventually made our way out to the Eureka sand dunes, and made friends with a fist sized desert kangaroo rat.
Coming down through Steel Pass, we were soaking up in the Warm Springs hot spring camp, when I realized that there might be something wrong with the Raider. There was a steady drip of oil coming from the axle. After meeting Desert Dave at the host grounds, he hooked me up with some JB weld to "patch up" the leak. We also met a friendly burro who fell in love with the dog.
We spent the rest of the day soaking in the hot springs like it's our business, and pondered the golden glow of the sunset while storm clouds brewed across a desert mountain. We knew there was no chance it would come close, based on our perceived expertise on wind trajectory. Besides, this place gets less than 2 inches of rain a year. We didn't think we'd be so lucky.
As the night descended, we hastily put the tents together in a deep section beside the road, and huddled inside while the wind howled and the rain progressively got from mild to fierce. Then we saw small white pebbles dropping from the sky. It was actually HAIL. In. The. Desert.
I closely observed the ground outside our tent, which was slowly getting saturated and beginning to pool water. We quickly made the smart decision to bail out of our tents and seek shelter in the car, with the looming possibility of a flash flood. Hell yeah!!!
Eventually the clouds parted from the sky, and life went on as scheduled. At night, the rainclouds still hovered across the desert plains, and treated me with the most spectacular lightning storm I could ever wish for. Curtains of lightning crawled in a split second across the sky, at least every 20 seconds. I remember asking myself if taking pictures was in my best interest, against getting struck by lightning and going down in flames. The fear didn't last long and I kept taking pictures since I knew this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The next morning, we tried to head out. At some point, I checked the axle if the JB weld held the oil in. And what I saw, was a half inch gap between welds with oil pouring out. It wasn't good. We trudged on for a bit, but the differential eventually parted out, and I lost torque. We tried to pull the truck up a few meters by towing it with Basso's Monstero, but a funny smell and weird vibrations made it clear that we weren't going anywhere. I won't type out the lengthy ordeal it took us to get a trailer, the important thing (as my wise girlfriend pointed out) was that we were all safe and unhurt.
And so let me see:
1. Soak in hot tub watching the sunset - check
2. Get stuck in a rainstorm and almost get your tent flash flooded away - check
3. Take pictures of a crazy lightning storm hoping you don't get zapped to death - check
4. Completely destroy your truck by managing to split the axle in half - check
I want to go back. Soon. Fucking greatest adventure ever, except for #4.
Death Valley, I love you.