Death Valley provides not-so-cool respite from political wars
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, May 27, 2010

When I vacation, I vacate the political premises; I get as far "away from it all" as I comfortably can.

Once I flew to Australia, took a catamaran to an island in the Great Barrier Reef, put on my snorkel and dived.

Another time I flew to Albuquerque, drove with a friend to the Carlsbad Caverns, and took an elevator down into total darkness.

After the 2000 election, Chip Ford and I flew to Baja California, then drove in a rented jeep to an isolated Mexican village. After the 2008 election, I measured my globe to see how far I could get from Washington D.C. in actual miles; but I'm getting too old for those long airplane flights, so I started thinking about Death Valley, where it's less humid than New Guinea. A lot less humid.

So there I was two weeks ago, 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin on the edge of the salt flats that were once a large lake. Talk about climate change which, as nearly as I could tell from the travel brochure, happened before mankind started polluting the planet. The temperature in mid-May was 104 degrees. There was no cellphone service. Who knew that heaven is hot and dry?

At our cabin in the Panamint Mountains in Death Valley National Park, it was higher, and therefore cooler. Still no cell service, no telephone or television in the room, still died-and-gone-to-heaven perfect.

The water for the hot shower came from nearby Darwin Falls. Close enough to nature for me. It did occur to me that hell could be the same place without a full bath and a nice little restaurant. I'd still enjoy the dramatically extreme scenery though.

I'd been wanting to visit Death Valley since watching "Death Valley Days" on television in the '50s; and I remember Ronald Reagan hosting it later for a short time. When my son moved to Nevada I figured it was my time to visit the land of "20 Mule Team Borax," but didn't realize the distances involved in western travel. This year, with the 9-year-old twins also eager to go there, he and his wife planned a trip for the five of us.

  Getting far away from it all.
Dante's View, Death Valley, Nevada
Background Music:  Theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,
Ennio Morricone

It was a seven-hour drive each way. I had my Ennio Morricone spaghetti western themes wailing on the truck's CD player.

When I'd been planning the trip I'd been torn between wanting to see the desert in bloom with wild flowers which I'd read happens in late winter if there's been enough rain and visiting after the wildflower-seeking tourists left. Finally decided I'd prefer to experience the desolation away-from-it-all thing. I was told we had to go by mid-May in order not to experience the too-hot-to-bear thing. We arrived there on May 15.

It had rained the week before. Surprise wildflowers covered the Mojave Desert, the Panamints, and Death Valley itself purplemat, white pricklepoppy, orange globemallow, blue Mohave aster, red desert paintbrush, pink Desert Five-spot, the tall yellow Prince's Plume, and small Desert Gold sunflowers.

As a child I'd seen Disney's "The Painted Desert" and had always wanted to experience the blooming cactus. This was the year for that too, with prickly pear and beaver cactus flowering along with the oleander bush outside our cabin.

Another goal was to visit the place where one can see both the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, Badwater, and the highest mountain in the lower 48, Mt. Whitney, 76 miles away. This required a hot scramble up and down a narrow dirt path to Dante's View, where the ancient salty pool was clearly visible far below, but Mt. Whitney required a squinting imagination to place it in the western haze behind other mountains. Close enough.

The rest of my family vacation took place in northern Nevada, where it was snowing in the mountains (more climate change). I started easing back into politics when I saw a sign on a house in a working-class neighborhood: "Still glad you voted for Obama?" and another that said, "Vote for anyone but Harry Reid." Not many signs, though, considering there's a June 8 primary election.

A few signs favored some of the nine Republicans who are competing to run against Senate Majority Leader Reid if he survives his own primary, which he probably will as two opponents split the Democratic anti-Reid vote. I'd bet he'll lose in November, though.

I sent a contribution last year to Sharon Angle, with whom I shared a forum at a National Taxpayers Union meeting.

She is backed by the Tea Party and is moving up against the other Republican woman, Sue Lowden, "who has stumbled after suggesting that patients should barter for health care with chickens," according to an article in the Nevada Appeal.

As I left the state, a headline told us a judge has ordered that no chicken costumes be allowed in the polling places.

I'd still be laughing, but got home to learn that Scott Brown has been working on financial legislation with Barney "Nothing Wrong with Fannie Mae" Frank.

How long can it take to fly to New Guinea, anyhow?

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.

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