Day Eighteen: Wednesday, June 6th, Through the Desert to Hurricane, UT


Up at the butt-crack of dawn and eager to get moving. From furnace to fire, but there is always hope that Utah’s in for an unexpected cold front.

How was the drive? Hot. Hotter than the fourth level of hell, where the AC is most definitely broken.

Fortunate turn of events though… In a wave of desperation, I turned on our AC somewhere in the middle of the Mojave. Flesh was dripping off of my bones.

Turns out that the AC that felt like bathwater on the northern tier of our trip feels an awful lot like the cold showers of Sequoia RV Ranch when it is 104 and the sun is bludgeoning you from every direction.

I can’t say that we stopped sweating, but my skin re-adhered to my body, and I will call that a win. Life was definitely looking up.

About the same time I was triggering a Freon miracle, we passed a curious sight to the west of I-15.

Have you seen Sahara? Matthew McConoughey? Penelope Cruz? Steve Zahn?

Well, you should.

What we were looking at out there in the California desert was a real-life replica of what looked an awful lot like the fictional solar detoxification plant from Sahara. There are some key differences, but to the eyes of four Wisconsin tourists stuck in the desert, all McConoughey fans, they might have been one and the same.

Spoiler Alert. In Sahara, you have a giant farm of mirrors, out in the flats of the Sahara desert, with a solar collection tower in the center. Within the tower, all that energy is being used to incinerate toxic waste, the leftovers of which are the integral poisoning of the movie’s plot.

Wait. Did I say fictional? Remember Umatilla? All those 12% of our nation’s chemical weapons were destroyed by high-temperature incineration. Leftovers? Probably, but no one talks about that. Maybe Sahara wasn’t so fictional afterall. Hmmm…

In California, it all looks about the same–only with three towers. But what is happening here–barring any Sahara-like conspiracy theories–is all those rays are focused in on boilers, and all that super-heated water is creating some serious energy. Pretty cool, if you ask me. Even though it looks a little sci-fi.

Can you see the wild haze around the boilers? Like umbrellas of light? Crazy stuff.

Verdict, as I crossed the border out of California? I am still not a fan. Maybe I haven’t seen the right parts. Yosemite was amazing, don’t get me wrong. But it is just not enough to make up for the waves of heat and humanity.

Also, Nevada is worse.

Hoover Dam. There was wind.

Took a little detour out of Vegas to cross Hoover Dam. It was still a cooker, and it was windy to boot. It was a fairly quick stop.

And while we were detouring, we hopped off the I-15 to drive the Vegas Strip. Obligatory? I dunno, but we did it. And then we followed Google back to the interstate via the scenic route (Google’s specialty). We got up close and personal with the lesser known Back Alley Strip, where they do justice to the name. I’ve never seen so many pervert shops in one place in my entire life.

Fun fact: Trump tower seems to me to be situated much more firmly on the backside strip than the frontal Vegas Strip. I guess either would be appropriate for his circus, but the backside seemed even more befitting.

Arizona… I don’t want to pass hasty judgment, as we barely touched the corner, but I’m on a roll. I’m pretty sure I don’t like it there either.

The older I get, the tinier my heat tolerance gets. Every year now, there is a marked difference. Is my skin getting thinner? My blood more viscous? My dwindling hormones confusing the sun with the devil? Whatever mechanics are at work, my body is very easy to shut down these days.

Possibly in the future we will be snowbirds, Scott and I. But rather than the usual kind who maintain their three-season residence in Wisconsin, and then winter in the south, we’ll be the ones summering in Canada. Iceland, maybe. Norway?

And on to Utah. Quail Creek State Park.

Aside: Let it be known that the Utah State Parks have the worst website known to man. Very pretty. Completely non-functional.

The first thrill of the evening came upon check-in at Quail Creek, where we learned that the whole area was under fire restrictions, and no wood nor charcoal would be allowed. So much for the three nights worth of meat and veggies we picked up at the Hurricane Walmart ten minutes earlier.

Next up? Our friendly ranger lady notified us that the park is closed from 9pm to 7am. Even the campground. Don’t be late. If you happen to wander in after 9, you can park up on the highway if you like and hike down to your site.

Well that sounds fun.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to sneak in the back way, by the boat landing. You can get out there afterhours, but you will not be getting back in. For it is a one way valve at night, replete with a neat lining of tire spikes to keep out the riff-raff.



Who in the name of Joseph Smith are they trying to keep out of the Utah campgrounds?

Camp at Quail Creek. You’ll note the BRAND NEW Intex airbed on the hood of the van. Because #1 bit it. And because Hurricane doesn’t carry Coleman anymore either. Grrr…

We’d passed plenty of signs over the past 5,000 miles warning: State Prison: Do not pick up hitchhikers.

(Not a problem actually.)

After the threat of skewered tires, I immediately began searching Google maps for nearby penitentiaries.

I dunno. Maybe the tire spikes are some way related to the prison two miles south of our campsite. Purgatory Correctional Facility. I’m not even kidding.

We setup camp, only slightly thrown by the house arrest and inability to cook our own food, and then headed back into Hurricane for dinner. Mexican. Sans dairy. Nice.

Careful to make it back into the compound by 9, the girls and I set off for the reservoir and showers before bed. It was getting dark, but it was still oppressively hot. Scott, slightly miffed at the whole Utah experience thus far, opted out of the swim. He’d come down and shower in a while.

Emily and Sarah in a very high water Quail Creek Reservoir

We had already seen the sign that said pay showers. That was OK. We were well-armed with quarters. The joke of a website said showers; it didn’t say free showers. We were, however, unprepared for the fact that the pay showers in question were actually just one single blue stack outside the bathrooms near the beach. You know, the kind they have to spray the sand off your feet at the upper echelon beaches? Yah. Only you pay for it. You pay a lot for it. And I suspect if you treated it like a real shower, you’d find yourself being hauled off to Purgatory Corrections.

We’re going to bed. We’re a little crabby, but we’re fed (even though our food is festering in our cooler), we’re clean (in a no-soap kind of way), and we’re tucked into bed (and hotter than purgatory itself).

Reality check, and credit where credit is due: Quail Creek is, despite its many faults, simply stunning. The reservoir is a deep aquamarine, competing with Crater Lake for kodachrome awards, and the sandstone desert around us glows with unearthly rusts and oranges. I would kill for just one tree, but the fancy shelter over our picnic table will have to do.

It’s a dry heat.

Love, from Purgatory Flats,

The Whole Enchilada:

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