Death Valley

I've always admired those who lead nomadic lifestyles. It's a life that I've romanticized in my mind since I was young, and for a weekend, we got an ephemeral taste of life on the road. 

We hightailed it to the desert in Victor and Lisa's RV. The hula dancer and maneki-neko on the dashboard caught my eye as we were bouncing down the freeway. I thought about all the different backdrops these dashboard dancers had stood in front of over the years and how they'd been to more states than many Americans themselves. Victor and Lisa are the creatives behind Greetings Tour and have spent the past three years traveling from city to city across the US. They have painted 24 "greetings" murals in 14 different states across the US. 

Victor sat behind the wheel of the big rig and Lisa sat co-pilot and navigated us Northeast to Death Valley. Anthony and I kicked back on the couch and traced every inch of the RV with our eyes. We admired the banner above the door from Yosemite, the collection of polaroids that documented their murals on the fridge, and the railroad calendar from 1990 that matched the dates of a 2018 calendar. 

It was a relief to be in the presence of people who pointed and pulled over at anything that looked intriguing, like we do constantly.

About halfway to Death Valley we found ourselves on a two-lane road in the middle of the desert. In the distance, we saw the sand lifting into the air and swirling into beautiful shapes. We pulled over and jumped out of the RV, anxious to gallop in the sandstorm that had formed. We ran with the wind and tested our weight against it too. It was a relief to be in the presence of people who pointed and pulled over at anything that looked intriguing, like we do constantly.

Around dusk, we pulled into Furnace Creek Campground and pitched our tent next the RV. I've never thought pitching a tent was a chore, but seeing how Victor and Lisa put the RV in park and called it done made me think about how this notion was a turn of a key for them. As the sun dove under the horizon line, we struck up a fire. The firewood popped beneath the flames as we enjoyed our baked salmon and rice. One of the perks of an RV...having a refrigeratorand oven. Feeding yourself is definitely more convenient when you have miniature conventional appliances at your disposal. The wind began to pick up and we decided to call it a night. Victor and Lisa climbed into the RV asking us, “are you sure you don’t want to crash in the RV tonight?” Determined to camp in the desert, we laid our heads down with only a thin layer of polyester separating the earth from our bodies. We zipped into our sleeping bags awaiting the windy night ahead of us. 

By morning we found out the winds blew 20 miles an hour. It was definitely the windiest night of camping that I had ever endured. The side of the tent blew flat over our bodies with the weight of what felt like another human collapsing on top of us. Victor and Lisa already had the coffee brewing and the park map pulled out. We made a rough plan for the day and set off in the RV. 

We hiked under the Natural bridge and in the crevice of sharp rock formations. There was no sign of any wildlife which wasn't surprising. What could possibly survive in those harsh conditions? For a while it seemed as though we were the only souls around for miles. We couldn't hear anything except for the crunching of rocks under our boots with every step we took. It felt like we were attempting to make wine out of marbles. We took in all the shades of the red rock that surrounded us and headed back to the RV in search of our next wonder. 

To be standing in the middle of the desert, some several hundred feet below sea level, looking out at a blanket of white was surreal.

I had never seen salt flats in person before. To be standing in the middle of the desert, some several hundred feet below sea level, looking out at a blanket of white was surreal. It reminded me of seeing snow on the beach for the very first time. The salt was moist and spread like chunky peanut butter between my fingers. We walked about a half mile out and gawked at the horizon where the white salt met the purple mountains. When we looked back over our shoulders, the mighty RV looked nothing more than a white speck along the road side. 

Next up on the queue was Artist's Palette. We drove up to a point that overlooked mountains tainted with minerals of green and purple and blue. They looked like massive mounds of play-dough planted around each other. Some of the colors bled into the neighboring slopes and suddenly I felt like I was on the game board of candy land. Browns bled into maroons, as maroons turned to beige, and as soon as we thought the beige had finished it turned into an earthy mixture of all three. 

The afternoon crept up on us and we had time to catch the sunset at Zabriskie Point. We hiked up the winding road to the peak and on the other side was a scene out of the Lion King. To the right was a huge rock that perched out and conquered over all the other rocks. Views of muted brown and yellow and off white colors flooded our eyes.

The sun shone bright behind the peak in the distance. There we waited until the warmth of the sun left our cheeks.

The sun shone bright behind the peak in the distance. There we waited until the warmth of the sun left our cheeks. The warm colors fell to a hue of blue and with more firewood to burn, we headed back to the campsite and reunited with our tent. Another night under the stars and the fire burning at our feet, we recounted all the wonders that we had seen all day. 

We hit the road back to Los Angeles the next morning. I still hadn't had enough of the RV. We'd spent several hours driving, and I wondered how it might have changed over the years; how nic-nacs and souvenirs made their way in and out. Very seldom are we ever able to experience “life on the road” with our friends first hand. On this trip we were blessed with delicious food and delightful music, and enjoyable conversation. As I sit here writing I can still feel the grit of the sand between my teeth, the sun at my back, and the dry breeze against my cheeks. 

Thank you Victor and Lisa for this unforgettable trip!

Photos +Video: True O'Neill, Anthony Garito

Words: True O'Neill

* Keep up with Victor and Lisa @greetingstour

 

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