We hit the road out of Grand Canyon around 4 PM local time, but our progress was hampered by a new trick Chewie was inventing. He was absolutely desperate to join us in the passenger area, rather than riding in the cargo area like a dog. He pushed and bent and warped the barrier, squeezing his whole body through impossibly small gaps. I had to dismantle the barrier to pull him out of the situation above. Every time we got him untangled and got back on the road, his head would appear through/over/under the barrier like some kind of inexorable force of nature. We must have stopped six or seven times before I finally put a leash on him and secured it to the side of the vehicle.
We pushed on into the night through Utah again and into Nevada. There was a decent-sounding state campground in a park called Valley of Fire that was 18 miles off the interstate. So at the appropriate exit, we turned off and drove into the dark and the sand.
We got glimpses of mountains on the horizon and sand and shrubs and jackrabbits darting about, but we couldn’t see much. The temperature through the entire ride hovered around 100 degrees, even though it was well after dark.
After what seemed like an impossibly long time for just 18 miles we arrived at the campground. It is the nicest campground we’ve used yet, with nice pull-through sites and hookups and clean bathrooms with real flush toilets. With relief, we parked the trailer and began shifting into the trailer. I hiked over to the ranger station to pay our fee. It was longer than I expected, and I suddenly realized I was alone in the hot darkness with the scorpions, rattle snakes, jackrabbits, serial killers, and whatnot. I couldn’t wait to get back to the trailer which I expected would already be cooling down from the air conditioning.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I found it just as hot and stuffy as the outdoors. Brent had plugged it in, and something went BZZZT! and there was no electricity.
I begin to feel like my life has turned into an episode of Stargate: Universe. We are a million miles from home, and every episode involves fixing something that has broken or never worked in our vehicle. We took turns scrutinizing the owner’s manual and repair manual to figure out where the circuit breaker was.
“What do you think the ancients meant by ‘rear roadside wardrobe?'” I asked. We could not decode the mysterious writings of the 1973 era.
We finally found the circuit breaker, flipped it, and with immense relief collapsed into our beds. I don’t know what time it was, because we had traveled back and forth between mountain and pacific and I was terminally confused. It was bed time. That was enough.
In the morning, as I had thought, we woke to the breathtaking vistas of the Valley of Fire. The Valley is named for huge fiery red rock formations. As we got ready to go, we each spent some time exploring the area around the campsite. We were thrilled to discover a prickly pear cactus. I puzzled over some small holes in the sand, and hoped aloud that they were not scorpion holes. (Later, I saw a chipmunk and was relieved.)
I have been trying to be aware of dangerous wildlife like rattlesnakes and scorpions. As I walked back from the bathroom, I noted some large red ants. Ants, ants…there was something I was supposed to remember about ants. Something important….no, it’s gone. Oh, well.
Later, Brent mentioned that there were killer bees flying around the water hookup area and the bathrooms. I am not usually worried about bees, so I had ignored them. I also ignored the huge, yellow sign posted right on the mirrors in every bathroom saying that there are killer bees in the park, that they will be hanging around the water, and to let the rangers know if you find a hive. So I was belatedly alarmed when I finally read the sign and realized those weren’t ordinary bees. Every time I used the drinking fountain, a killer bee would fly out of it and dive bomb my face. We were not, however, killed by the killer bees.
And right. It’s fire ants! Remember not to get bitten by fire ants! It’s unpleasant.
I’m glad we stayed in the Valley of Fire overnight, but it’s no place to hang out during the day. We packed up and left, enjoying the glory of the scenery. We headed west once more, taking a detour for a driving tour of the Las Vegas strip, and were welcomed to California by produce inspectors who confiscated our corn and cherries and inspected the undercarriage of our trailer for gypsy moth eggs. We are all looking forward to getting out of the desert. Very pretty, but not habitable for humans.