The WeeStrom and Kawasexy
Death Valley, Amargosa, & Rhyolite
On Seeing Things for the First Time, Again
The next morning, sunrise beckoned as did a visit to see a man about a horse. That’s when we first heard a gawd-awful, shrill, please-put-the-beast-out-of-its-misery noise coming from the direction of the Scout camp. After about twelve bars I recognized:
I can’t get ’em up
I can’t get ’em up
I can’t get ’em up this morning;
I can’t get ’em up
I can’t get ’em up
I can’t get ’em up at all!
And tho’ the sun starts peeping,
And dawn has started creeping,
Those lazy bums keep sleeping,
They never hear my call!
Good morning Panamint Valley
Pete and I usually ride from point A to B to C and call it a day. On this tour we decided to spend two nights in Panamint Springs, using the extra day to refresh the sights and sounds around Death Valley we’ve grown to enjoy.
After the August 5, 2022 flash flood
Hopping back on to CA-190 we headed towards Stovepipe Wells over the highway that was previously closed due to the “1000 year monsoonal flood” back on August 5, 2022 (above). It appeared that any damage to the road had been repaired and evidence of the flooding had been cleared. I remember watching YouTube videos of travelers who were making their way out of the park over the damaged roads after the flash flood waters had receded. Death Valley is WRECKED @SufperfastMatt… Gnarly.
On this 2023 President’s Week holiday, the entrance to Death Valley National Park was crowded with vacationing travelers. Stovepipe Wells was teeming with activity as was Furnace Creek. Our plan was to make our way to Death Valley Junction to see if the Amargosa Hotel restaurant was open and perhaps check out Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View along the way. No way! Cars in the parking lot to Zabriskie Point spilled over to parking alongside CA-190. We figured Dante’s View would likely be the same. Maybe next time we’ll choose a non-holiday week.
Passing Dante’s View Rd I noticed some buildings on a mountainside that I had seen in the past figuring they were some sort of mining operation. I just learned, according to the Death Valley Conservancy, that the structures are from a mining operation, “begun as Lila in 1907 which produced colemanite for the Pacific Coast Borax Company. The town was named by its owner William Tell Coleman, after his daughter, Lila C. Coleman. Soon after its completion, the community of Lila C became known as “Ryan“, in honor of John Ryan (1849–1918), who was General Manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and a trusted employee of “Borax” Smith until his death in 1918. The Death Valley Conservancy writes: “Ryan was a luxurious mining camp by any standards of the day – with electricity, steam heat and refrigeration it also boasted a school, a hospital, post office, recreation hall/church (shipped down in sections from Rhyolite) and a general store.”
Ryan now (Wiki)
“After borax production had stopped in 1928, in an effort to increase revenues on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad which had carried the borax ore, Pacific Coast Borax converted the miners’ lodgings into tourist accommodations and gave tourists visiting Death Valley trips on the narrow gauge rail line into the mine. The Death Valley View Hotel operated full-time from 1927 until 1930, the year the Death Valley Railroad ceased to function. After 1930 the hotel was used as overflow accommodations for the Furnace Creek Ranch and Inn through the 1950s.”
Ryan, or Lila, then (Death Valley Conservancy)
While Ryan is closed to the general public for safety and historic preservation reasons, the Death Valley Conservancy offers occasional public tours. Tour participants can be selected by signing up on the Death Valley Conservancy’s website, https://www.dvconservancy.org/ryan-camp/.
Our next stop was the Amargosa Hotel and Opera House. I’ve shared previous stops on earlier posts about the history of the hotel. We were hoping to have lunch at the Amargosa Restaurant only to find it was a victim to Covid. According to the hostess, the hotel fills nightly and reservations are recommended.
Can’t quite read this sign from CA-127
The Amargosa Opera House under the fullness of sunlight
We met a couple of fellows on KTM thumpers who were touring the area following off-road trails on their navigation who were from San Diego. Apparently their tour was not for the faint of heart as the conditions of their ride can best be described as gnarly. They were hoping for a tour of The Opera House, which was made famous by Marta Becket, an eccentric American actress, dancer, choreographer and painter. She performed for more than four decades at her own theater, the Amargosa Opera House where in 1967, due to a flat tire, she discovered this theater in Death Valley Junction and decided to stay until her death in 2017.
Lobby of the Amargosa Hotel
The shady veranda of the Amargosa Hotel
Here’s a film by Poppy Walker, Dust Devil, that captures the essence of Marta Becket: Dust Devil (YouTube).
Opera House interior (The Desert Sun 2017)
From Wiki: When the town of Amargosa was booming due to the Borax mining business, and its position at the terminus of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, about 350 people lived in the town. The hotel served as a very nice place to stay for both company executives and visiting investors, who were met at the train with white-gloved valets after a long and hot train ride. In addition to the hotel rooms, the cafe and a restaurant within the hotel, other rooms were bunkhouses for workers, an infirmary, a general store and what is now the Opera House, which was mostly used for showing films. A large gas station and garage across from the cafe was the only location in the area for repairs of trucks hauling borax out of the mines, in addition to passenger car repairs. When the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad ceased to be economical in 1942, the tracks were torn up completely and sent to Egypt, where the railroad was set up again to aid the Allies military effort in Egypt. Once the railroad stopped, the Opera House, Hotel and about 250 acres of land changed hands many times, until Marta Becket arrived on the scene.
The Opera House Under a Fool Moon, 2019
The photo of the Opera House at night was from our October 2019, Riding Under a Fool Moon, tour began on Friday, October 13, from Merced to Mammoth. From Mammoth it was a frosty night ride after a late afternoon stop in Panamint Springs. The idea was to ride under the full moon to Beatty, NV and spend the night at the Atomic Inn. It’s doubtful that you’ll ever need reservations for the Atomic Inn, but I would recommend the Inn for your next stay in Beatty. From the website: Miss Cindy wants a sweet roll or carrot cake! Anyone stopping in Seligman, AZ at Westside Lilo’s bring her one, and receive a substantial discount!!
Andy in 2019, ailin’ not alien at the Atomic…
Worth a stop when next you’re in Beatty, NV
After a surprisingly appetizing grilled chicken Greek salad brunch at Mel’s, we headed west on NV-374 to Rhyolite, a ghost town that began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills. During an ensuing gold rush, thousands of gold-seekers, developers, miners and service providers flocked to the Bullfrog Mining District. Many settled in Rhyolite, which lay in a sheltered desert basin near the region’s biggest producer, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine.
You can learn all about Rhyolite in my very own YouTube video: Rhyolite, Nevada with Tom and Pete.
Some snaps of Rhyolite
Camp and Großes Biers Beckon
Home sweet home with an en suite…
Why do Pete and I enjoy these trips so much? It’s because we get out into the world on a vehicle that demands attention to the terrain, through which that attention demanding road runs. It’s that we get to see new places, meet new people, and enjoy an experience you just don’t get any other way. All of which contributes to that notion of a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about one’s self, others, nature, or a higher good through that experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, a pilgrimage, after which the pilgrim returns to his daily life of dirty laundry, household chores, YouTube motorcycle videos, and planning for the next, and possibly greatest, ride. Oh yeah, and the reunion with our enchanting families!
On this afternoon we struck up a deeper conversation with our neighbors, Mike and Marissa from Toronto. After obtaining that it was okay to address them Canucks even though they weren’t from Vancouver, we learned that Miike was a paramedic-firefighter and Marissa was a marketing consultant who were, like our encounter with the Montreal fellow in Three Rivers, escaping mid-winter Canadian temps for some early spring desert chill. Their camp setup was an incredibly swagged out Jeep Wrangler rental featuring a Roofnest pop-up rooftop tent and a custom-built trail kitchen that included a portable stove, a sink with 2-gallon water tank, a foldable countertop, an electric/powered cooler and a solar shower with a 2.5-gallon water capacity.
Mike and Marissa, Canucks to the core
They generously invited us to share their post dinner campfire and so after another fine appetizer of Simply Nature MultiGrain Tortilla Chips it was off to the Panamint Resort Restaurant for a breaded cod sandwich and großes bier, “bigga-beer”. After a delightful laugh-filled evening of conversation with our new Canadian friends where we shared stories of adventures and families that both entertained and informed us, we turned in.
Around midnight the first braying of feral donkeys near our campsite began. The group of spiritual women retreaters who were camped next to us awakened, startled at first, but after one of them suggested that the sound was that of an elephant, proceeded to giggle for the next hour or so presumably about their “wilderness” experience.
The next morning, reveille was sounded for the second morning, this time recognizable by around the eighth bar, after the first three bars of You gotta get up, You gotta get up, You gotta get up this morning. The leader of the scout troop from Chino camped in the adjacent group site later apologized for the novice buggler’s rendition. I thought it was full of character, not unlike the braying of the mules the night before…
After packing up we bid adieu to our new friends inviting them to check out sisyphusdw7.com and should they ever return to California to visit Yosemite, to message us so that we might host them on their journey, perhaps accompanied by the child they intended to have… Awww!