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My mental images of Death Valley were juvenile at best, formed from cartoons, ghost towns & the scary-sounding name. I always wanted one of those bleached oxen skulls with the horns. Then there was an old Ronald Reagan hosted B&W television show, “Death Valley Days.” Normally, I wouldn’t have watched it but there was nothing much else was on Sundays, and the fact that they were supposedly true stories grabbed my youthful imagination. I also remember a common detergent commercial made from borax mined in Death Valley and hauled out on 20-mule team wagons; that was exciting to a kid. Plus, I learned that the lowest point in the U.S. is in the Salt Flats there
The reality of Death Valley pretty much matched my youthful expectations. Mid-July is the slow season; no staff at the entrance but the Ranger Station is open. My wife, Gwynne, incredulously asked me why we were going to Death Valley in the summer; it had never dawned on me to go at any other time? It was just like I pictured it in my mind, the sand, the eroded valleys, the heat; 121 degrees to be exact. There were signs cautioning drivers not to leave their cars for more than ten minutes. Our air conditioner could only get the inside temperature down to a balmy 100 degrees.
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