Sunday, August 9, 2009


Las Vegas Boy Dies After Getting Stranded in Death Valley

It all started as a fun camping trip 1 August for a mother and her young son, an adventure in the desert. The warning signs came early, a flat tire, but they changed it and continued to drive on - not considering they now had no spare - they also had no maps, compasses, or signalling devices (no cell phone coverage way out there in Death Valley). After the second breakdown, 24 16-oz. bottles of water, Pop Tarts and cheese sandwiches didn't last too long.

The average summer temperature in Death Valley National Park, a vast and desolate area along the California-Nevada border that is considered one of the hottest places on Earth, is well over 100 degrees.

The Desert will kill you with boring regularity, if you let it. They recovered the mother last Thursday, the 5th. She told them her son had died the day before.

I've been to the Mojave Desert just on the edge of Death Valley; the place is called that for a reason. I've also soldiered down on the Mexican border. The Sonora Desert of Arizona and New Mexico kills at least one person a day; immigrants trying to make their way across on foot.

Out in the Sahara, and over to Sinai and Kuwait, I've recorded temperatures as high as 120 degrees in the cab of the truck. In the desert, I always considered the survival kit to include the truck, and part of that included not one but at the very least TWO spare tires. Plus a double load of fuel, in five gallon cans. Plus a double load of water, in five gallon cans. Signaling is a challenge; it goes without saying that cell phones don't work that far away from the repeater towers.

One of the scariest times I had in North Africa was the time I took a wrong turn and strayed off track; by the time I did a map check, we were over a hundred miles from the track. If you break down on track, no problem - someone will roll by sooner or later. If you break down OFF track, now you are in a survival situation. I knew it was serious when Muhammed my guide started saying his prayers, as we rolled along at one mile-an-hour, with tires deflated to make it through the powder-like moon dust.

Mother Nature is the Boss.

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