Dirt-road mishap

Things don’t always go as planned.. but that’s usually the best part!

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My last post was sent from the side of the end of the paved road that juts off of Interstate 15 northwards into the Kingston Range Wilderness.  That was Saturday, 4/13, day 1 of a two week trip to Death Valley, the eastern Sierras, and Red Rocks.  Any one of these places could be explored for weeks, if not years.  We had penciled in about 3-5 days for each.

As a quick summary from my last post: The plan for Day 1 was to get to Death Valley and camp near Stovepipe Wells in order to start up Marble Canyon on a 3-day backpacking loop Sunday morning.  Instead, we got sidetracked in Shoshone on our way into Death Valley where we got a recommendation to check out the Kingston Range just a bit South.

We drove a big loop South through Baker across I-15, into the Mojave Wilderness to see cinder cones and a forest of Joshua Trees, and by late afternoon found ourselves headed back towards Shoshone through the Kingston Range Wilderness.

The scenery was breathtaking.  One of the selling points that the nice lady in the Shoshone museum  had offered was a rare form of Yucca plant that, to her knowledge, only exists in the Kingston Range.  These things were rad!  Taller than other yuccas I’ve seen, these guys were almost halfway between a yucca plant and a Joshua Tree!

AND THEY WERE IN BLOOM!  Due to the wildness of the area, I think it’s safe to say that not too many people get to see these guys in bloom.

Old abandoned mines dot the slopes of the Kingston Range.  Iron was mined there in the 1970s and into the ’80s.  Lead, silver, and zinc were found, but the remoteness of the area made the mining of these resources a very low-profit venture.  Talc (talcum powder) mining represents most of the area’s mining history.

But, those are not the only things the wildness of the Kingston Range had to share with us.  Looking at the map of the area, I had noted that the unpaved roads we would be traveling that evening might get a bit hairy.  They ended up being steep and a little rocky, but definitely not worse than what we had driven through earlier that day.

Nonetheless, as the road flattened out onto the gently sloping hillside into the vast valley below us, I heard a hissing coming from outside my door just as the low tire pressure light illuminated.  I quickly hopped out to look at the damage and found not one, but TWO tires with punctured sidewalls.  Both on the driver’s side.

One was deflating faster than the other.  The rear tire was only very slowly deflating, and I could actually keep it from losing air by applying pressure with my finger.  I knew it was a long shot, but I had Emily grab me the sleeping pad repair kit with some hefty glue in it.  I desperately attempted to patch the hole so that we might be able to salvage the situation and at least get to pavement.  The glue was not enough.


Two flat tires.

I had checked earlier that day to make sure that we had a spare.  But, uh, two flats with 8 miles of dirt road to go?  That’s no fair.

We called AAA with less than 1 bar of service, and magically were put through.  I let the lady who took my call know where we were and the nature of the road.  She assured me that someone would be dispatched shortly, and we hung up.

While I was on the phone, a nice couple (Kylie and Jackson) drove by and told us that they were staying at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort about 17 miles away.  They let us know that if we could get a tow to their resort, they would drive us into Pahrump.  Just across the border into Nevada, Pahrump was the nearest town (at about 45 miles from us) and had a Walmart where we planned to get the tires changed out.  We thanked them for the offer (and the few swigs of Tequila they had shared), and sat down in the darkness.

We waited about 90 minutes before we got a phone call from the CHP (California Highway Patrol).  The dispatcher who called me checked to make sure that we were safe before quickly letting me know that AAA had called them and let them know that they would not be able to tow us out due to the fact that we were off the paved roads of civilization.


She made a few calls and was able to find someone willing to tow us to Pahrump for $700.  I politely let her know that I did not want to spend that kind of money on a tow, and she suggested that she could send an officer out to pick us up the next morning.  I told her that would work, as we had water and food and sleeping bags, and ended the call.

At least we had a beautiful place to call home that night.

We called the CHP at 9 AM Sunday morning per request to let them know that we were still there and still in need of the ride.  She dispatched an officer from Death Valley to head out and pick us up.  ETA 11 AM.

Around 10 AM, two very well-equipped off-road vehicles pulled up to us and stopped.  Out hopped Mike and Richard, brothers-in-law from San Bernardino.  After some jestful chastisement, they agreed to give us a ride to the nearby resort where we found Kylie and Jackson!  We called off the officer as we departed.

The friendly pair had been up late the previous night, so our arrival ended up waking them.  They weren’t too upset, as it was just past 11.  We waited patiently as they packed up their car, and then the four of us headed into Pahrump with the wheel we had replaced with the spare.

They needed to go into Pahrump to resupply and get some things fixed anyways, so our plan was to get the first tire fixed at the Walmart in town.  Then they had graciously offered to drive us back out to our car, which was a little over an hour outside of Pahrump and about 40 minutes past their resort.

Getting the tire replaced took only about 30 minutes, but we played the Catan dice game (which we highly recommend) we had picked up the previous day for a few hours as we waited for Kylie and Jackson to finish up their errands.

We then headed to the restaurant attached to the Best Western in town.  Kylie and Jackson spoke highly of their Indian food (who’d have thought), so we figured we’d give it a try.

They were so right.

The hotel also had miniature bowling lanes and gambling. Quite the Best Western. Well done, Pahrump.

We bought them dinner and then headed to the Dollar Store for one last stop after dinner.  Finally, we were on our way back out into the desert wilderness.  An hour or so later, we arrived at the car, once again in darkness.  They waited as we changed the other tire our for the new one, leaving the spare on as the front wheel.

After a successful start of the car, they departed and we started slowly rolling back towards paved roads, being extra careful with a donut still mounted.  We camped on BLM land that night outside of Pahrump and headed into town at first light to catch the auto center at Walmart as they opened at 7 AM Monday morning.

After a couple more quick games of Catan (the nugget finally beat me!) in what we lovingly called “the Walmart dungeon waiting room” and some more resupply shopping, we headed out of town on our way, once and for all, to Death Valley.

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