Nine years ago, my friend JPC and I took a cross-country odyssey in a 1982 Honda Civic. Remember the car that Butch drives when he runs over Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction? Same car. The trip took us a month during one of those end-times heat spells that croaks old timers left and right.
We were on our way to Pahrump, Nevada, from the San Francisco Bay when we pulled into Baker, California, the doorstep of Death Valley and the home of the world's largest thermometer, which read 118 degrees at midnight. We sped through the desert with the windows down and the heat full blast to keep the 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine from overheating. Our heads we poked out the window to keep cool but only felt the steamy blast from death's blown kiss.
That's the Death Valley I remember. But the name earned a new meaning this summer when Martini and I tacked on two miles to our home running path. Death Valley is the name he gave this mile-long out-and-back stretch through a residential area with no trees and no reprieve from the summer sun. The wind is either eerily still our in your face no matter which way you're headed. It's two miles that can sap your energy quick after the hilly trail that precedes it.
However, Death Valley lost its teeth last night. My knee still felt balky. I was not well hydrated. My pace was slow. I could've used something to eat. Eight miles felt like death, but Death Valley had nothing to do with it. Martini and I reached the turnaround point, and he came to a revelation.
"Isn't the Winking Lizard right up there?" he said, referring to a local bar. "Fuck. All this time we could've taken a beer break before heading back."
It's Labor Day this weekend. Don't work too hard. Unless it's on a six-pack.