In Which We Climb A Steep Desert Hill And I Almost Kill Myself.

The morning after that first night at the Atomic Inn, I asked Renee if she slept OK. Then I asked if I had slept OK. "I didn't do anything inappropriate or disgusting in my sleep, did I? Try to sleep-blow myself or wipe a booger on the headboard?" I can't imagine me doing these things, but I've been a bachelor my whole life and haven't had shared sleeping quarters with too many people.

"You snore, Dude," she said and laughed.
"Yeah, I know… Not too bad I hope?"
"No, it's pretty loud. But I put my earbuds in and that helped."

Crap, I thought. Four, five more nights of this, and I can't afford separate rooms.

The night after our Vegas/Radiant Inc/Singapore Sling jaunt, we returned to the desert and stayed at Stovepipe Wells, a very nice resort-type place squack-dab in the middle of Death Valley. Arrival was late, room was nice. I crashed out pretty quickly.

I kick my legs rhythmically while I sleep, so I'm used to a rocking sensation. That night, around 4 AM, I felt a strong rock-back-and-forth and stirred slightly. Thought, 'That's good rocking. I should remember to sleep like this more often.' Then it happened again and I realized it was coming from an outside force. I rolled over and Renee had her butt perched on the edge of her bed and her foot on the edge of mine, just about to release another flurry of kick/pushes.

"Dude, you gotta roll over, I can't even sleep with my earbuds in."

I awoke the next morning early and went to the front desk. "I know checkout is 11, but can we get another couple hours? That poor girl has just been working herself to a frazzle and yadda yadda." I sold it, and got RR an extra hour of sleep. Meantime, I headed to the dining room to find me some breakfast buffet. There's something about corn flakes from one of those cereal dispensers topped with milk poured from a small ceramic carafe that just says, 'Vacation breakfast' to me.

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This was on the wall. Parts of Jedi were filmed in Death Valley. (Hint: Not the Endor stuff.) Not commonly known, but the film was titled 'Revenge of the Jedi' in most of its promotional material up until just a short while before it released.

Renee awoke and we grabbed a lunch for the road. The intention was to get it to go, but the laid-back feel of the dining room seemed to convey the sense that eating in would somehow be quicker. Often you can tell by how hard it is to get anyone's attention.

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She's cute first thing in the morning.

We headed Southeast toward the Salt Flats - we were both eager to see this amazing natural phenomenon. After a few minutes, Renee said, "The awareness of being in *Death Valley* is really hitting me now."

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We stopped here on the way, small nature hike, can't remember what it was called. "No way I'll be able to nude ya up here, RR. Wayyyy too many people. And they don't let you leave the trails."

From there, we took the Artists Drive, and looked for shooting locations. Finally, we saw a steep high incline which lead to a rocky outcrop, conveniently located next to a turnout. It was after this climb that I had to come to terms that I'm A) not young anymore, B) In really bad physical shape and C) I'd been way too ambitious in my choice of locations. From here on out, I had to accept, we'd be doing the easier hikes and climbs.

Renee, fortunately, was in terrific shape and as soon as we got situated, she was ready to shoot.

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For this shot, I aimed for the 'late-60s-low-budg-biker-flick-shot-at-the-Spahn-ranch' feel. Seemed to work.

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And they're real.

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Five minutes later, RR was dressed and cheerfully shooting landscapes. :)

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I'd had to climb up on a pretty precarious perch to get the shooting position I wanted, and climbing down saddled with two cameras, two camera bags and my shooting vest, it didn't take me too long to lose my footing. "I'm fine!" I cried as I skidded down a rocky slope prepared to sacrifice flesh and bone so long as no damage came to the equipment. "It's OK, all good, I'm fine!" And I was. Bruised, bleeding a little, coughing up dirt and rashed down my back and leg. But the cameras were fine and that's what was important.

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"Found the lens hood that came flying off whilst you were doing your rocky mountainside ass luge!" - not a quote.

We descended and continued with our day.

The salt flats were crawling with tourists - some of whom were kids - so we decided again not to get too daring, clothing-wise, but we took some snaps cuz holy shit.

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Let it never be said that photographers take themselves too seriously.

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Vertical sweep panorama from the Sony RX100. 

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Groovy yap pucky.

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From here, we set out for Zabriskie Point.

Zabriskie blew us away, but it was too late and we were too wiped for any shooting. One of those, "We gotta get back here some day moments."

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As we went back to the Jeep, I asked for a minute by myself. I sat and waited until no one could hear me and did this speech:

Because I'm forty-one and if I want to do the Riddle of Steel speech to myself at Zabriskie Point, that ain't no one's bidness but mine.

From here we had a long drive to Panamint Springs, where we planned to turn in early, so we could get up early the next morning and go take waterfall pictures. But that's another story. Meantime, here's RR having a burger.

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I wonder what I'll order… ?

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Mmm, burger...

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