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Why don’t people talk like Shakespeare anymore?

This is not rhetorical, it is a serious question.

Perhaps it is my recent foray back into the world of the famous Bard of Avon, however, I find myself tiring more each day of the laziness of the modern English language. Setting aside, if you’ll give me leave to, the most officious examples of text speak and abbreviations which shorten not only single words but even phrases into meaningless, mismatched letters, you are still left with a laziness in popular culture which turns my stomach at times.

I am not going to go into a lengthy diatribe here. I am sure my readers will agree with me in any case. However, I would like to give a few examples below, taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and ask you to let me know which you would rather read and/or hear.

The following is taken from The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2:

Original Text:

FERDINAND

So they are.

My spirits, as in a dream, are all bound up.

My father’s loss, the weakness which I feel,

The wrack of all my friends, nor this man’s threats,

To whom I am subdued, are but light to me,

Might I but through my prison once a day

Behold this maid. All corners else o’ th’ earth

Let liberty make use of. Space enough

Have I in such a prison.

Modern Text:

FERDINAND

That’s true, they are. My strength is all gone, as if in a dream. The death of my father, my physical weakness, the loss of all my friends, the threats of this man who’s taken me prisoner – all that would be easy for me to take, if only I could look through my prison windows once a day and see this girl. I don’t need any more freedom than that. A prison like that would give me enough liberty. (1)

Now, please, be honest with me. Who in their right mind wouldn’t swoon to hear their beloved say “All corners else o’ th’ earth let liberty make use of. Space enough have I in such a prison.”? Certainly Ferdinand’s meaning is better portrayed through Shakespeare’s language than our own modern tongue.

I do not think I need to look far to find others who agree that, regarding the language of love, Shakespeare comes top of the class.

However, looking to the other end of the spectrum, even Shakespeare’s insults are far superior. Again, this is not something which only I have noticed. There’s an entire website dedicated to the lost art of Elizabethan insults. He does have a certain knack for coarse language.

Take the following, from The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 1:

Original Text:

SEBASTIAN

A pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!

Modern Text:

SEBASTIAN

Oh, go to hell, you loud-mouthed bastard! (3)

The above, I am happy to admit, is one of my favourite ever of Shakespeare’s insults. Please tell me whether you’d rather hear the original or the modern text. I mean to say – think of the imagination involved! It’s so much better than just telling someone to go to hell. We’ve lost all imagination in our modern insults, which is very sad. If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to double the value of your insults, use language and phrasing which your enemy is bound to misunderstand, thereby insulting their intelligence as well.

And for my final example, please find one of the most well-known scenes from The Tempest, from Act 4, Scene 1:

Original Text:

PROSPERO

(to FERDINAND)

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,

As if you were dismayed. Be cheerful, sir.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air.

And like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself—

Yea, all which it inherit—shall dissolve,

And like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vexed.

Bear with my weakness. My old brain is troubled.

Be not disturbed with my infirmity.

If you be pleased, retire into my cell

And there repose. A turn or two I’ll walk

To still my beating mind.

Modern Text:

PROSPERO

(to FERDINAND)

You look like something’s bothering you. Cheer up. Our music-and-dance spectacle is over. These actors were all spirits, as I told you, and they’ve all melted into thin air. And just like the whole empty and ungrounded vision you’ve seen, with its towers topped with clouds, its gorgeous palaces, solemn temples, the world itself—and everyone living in it—which will dissolve just as this illusory pageant has dissolved, leaving not even a wisp of cloud behind. We are all made of dreams, and our life stretches from sleep before birth to sleep after death. Sir, I’m upset. Please put up with my weakness. My old brain is troubled. Don’t be disturbed by my illness. If you like, you can rest a while in my room. I’ll go for a short walk to calm down my feverish mind. (4) 

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Oh, the desperate realisation that life is too short has never sounded quite so beautiful. Such poetry relives the starkness of the epiphany and brings comfort to the listener. It loses all of its poetry and much of its kindness in a modern telling.

So, what is the verdict? Do you agree with me that there is something lost with the passing of well-phrased English both in written and spoken word? We’ll have a vote in the comments, shall we? Original Vs Modern.

I hope not to bore you too thoroughly over the next few days with all of my Shakespeare posts, but I make no guarantees. If you haven’t dusted off your Complete Works recently, do yourself a favour and get stuck in. If it’s  been since your school years since you’ve attempted to read Shakespeare then give it another chance, it is infinitely more enjoyable when you can enjoy the works without a teacher or a professor shoving their particular interpretation down your throat.

However, and this is a point I cannot stress strongly enough, forget about reading Shakespeare entirely. Go and SEE Shakespeare. Immediately. Although, I do feel I should warn you, a poor performance can put you off for life. Avoid too modern tellings, as discussed above, they detract immeasurably from the intent.

Refrences:

(1) No Fear Shakespeare – The Tempest, Page 56

(2) Shakespearean Insults Generator

(3) No Fear Shakespeare – The Tempest, Page 6

(4) No Fear Shakespeare – The Tempest, Page 158

(5) The post title is from The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2 as spoken by Ariel. Although you may know them from T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland.

lana’s story

I have been rather quiet lately and I know that’s rather unfair of me. Although I have many reasons I shall not go into them at the moment. To be honest I’m not much up to writing anything these days, but I came on to post this very special video for a very special reason.

My friend Natalie has a brilliant, beautiful, incredibly strong daughter who, very sadly, suffers with the same neurological condition that I was diagnosed with a year and a half ago. Her daughter, Lana, was only 5 years old when she was diagnosed. The following is in Natalie’s words:

 “Since that day she has endured over 100 hospital admissions, 36 General Anaesthetics including 19 Lumbar Punctures, 3 ICP bolts, and multiple shunt surgeries on her spine, abdomen and brain.

She developed a Chiari Malformation, lost peripheral vision, has an acquired brain injury, uses a wheelchair and attends school part time. She has lost 4 years of her childhood to pain and debilitating symptoms.

Lana is now 9 years old and still smiling. She has an amazing outlook on life, never feels sorry for herself and believes that her Grandfather (IIH UK Chair), myself and the rest of the IIH UK team will work endlessly to help IIH sufferers across the UK, maybe one day the world.”

Natalie made the above video before Lana’s brain surgery and I wanted to share it with you. What I have been through is not dissimilar to what little Lana has struggled with though, thankfully (so far), less severe. Plus, I’m an adult which, I think, makes it easier somehow.

IIH UK is a registered charity in the UK and they work tirelessly to raise awareness of this debilitating condition – including raising awareness among doctors and surgeons as the condition is rare enough that it is often misdiagnosed or missed completely. Hopefully raising the profile of this rare condition will lead to better treatments, faster diagnoses and, perhaps one day, even a cure.

As you may or may not know I am currently recovering from a major operation where they inserted a lumbar-peritoneal shunt into my spine to automatically drain the excess fluid from my brain. This is not a cure for my IIH, this is only a treatment. We can hope that it works well for me – far too often that is not the case and further operations are required.

I, like little Lana, try to put a smile on even on my worst days. It is not easy having an invisible condition, but I made my decision a long time ago that I would not let this condition change who I am. So I smile. As I often joke with my ophthalmologists, neurologists and neurosurgeon – Yes, I know there are far worse things to have, but I’d just as soon not have IIH either, if it’s all the same.

Anyway, I wanted to share Natalie & Lana’s story with you, share the video which is heart-breaking and hopeful at the same time. Please take the time to watch Lana’s story and, if you can, take the time to visit the IIH UK Website to learn more about this rare and terrible condition.

Oh, and if you’re feeling terribly generous, you can go to my Just Giving page – I’m not fundraising for any specific event at the moment as I am recovering from surgery, but once I am well enough I hope to do everything I can to raise funds for IIH UK.

Thanks.

xo

A

The hotel we stayed at in Flagstaff, AZ was directly across from a very busy train line and therefore the thing I remember most about it was the NOISE. It was utterly utilitarian, and that is the best thing I can say. It reminded me of somewhere Llewelyn Moss might have hidden out from Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.

Regardless, we slept there just fine. The 25th of May was our day of adventure in Arizona. We woke late and meandered our way south of Flagstaff to Sedona where we were meeting up with our river guide from Sedona Adventures for our two-hour long kayak trip on The Verde River. The sun was high in the cloudless sky and it felt like about 100 degrees in the sun. I maintain that the Arizona sun is hotter than the sun anywhere else. I know this cannot possibly be true, but I feel like it should be.

By some manner of chance or coincidence, the morning tour down the river had about 13 people on it, but ours was just the two of us. Our guide’s name was Geoff (he never spelled it for me, but he seemed like Geoff rather than a Jeff) and he was … surprising. He might be the cheeriest stranger we met while on holiday. He was certainly enthusiastic about his job, that is for sure. Although neither S nor I had ever kayaked in inflatable kayaks before (or any other type of kayak, to be perfectly honest), Geoff was patient with us and a very concise instructor. He even told us, very enthusiastically and in the car on the way to the launch site, to “POUND THAT WATER!” so we wouldn’t dehydrate on our journey.

What can I say about the actual kayak trip? We LOVED it. It was so quiet and peaceful and serene and…perfect. And, I didn’t fall out of the kayak even once. There was a blue heron which followed us on our path down the river, which I found very comforting. I mentioned that in some depictions of Egyptian mythology the Heron brought the first sunrise to Earth and Geoff liked that very much.

Heron

The water of the river was a chalky-green white colour (hence the name – green river). In places the water ran fast over mini-rapids and at other times it snaked out over larger expanses and slowed to a crawl.

Kayaking

At one section we passed by a cliff face encrusted with swallows’ nests. There weren’t many birds visible, but it was a lovely place. Because there were only the two of us and Geoff didn’t have anything else to do that day, he let us take our time and ask as many questions as we wanted. He was very knowledgeable – and not just about kayaks. We talked books, too. Not TV, though, Geoff didn’t own a TV. He’s exactly the type of person you’d expect to not own a TV.

This kayak trip down the Verde River was my favourite “thing” we did on the whole holiday. I could have spent days there just floating. It was a beautiful place and a beautiful time.

River Verde

If you’re going to Arizona, and spending any time in the middle of the state, go see Sedona Adventures and look what they have to offer – if you have time then do the kayak trip – it really was incredible.

In the evening of 25th May we went to a wild west show at the Blazin M Ranch. This was tourism cheesiness at its best and brightest. The replica old west village was like something out of an amusement park – that over the top… The dinner show was predictable but enjoyable also. The dinner was fun. There were baked beans and biscuits – if you wanted a second biscuit then they’d throw it at you. Very funny!

Blazin M Ranch

They asked where everyone was from and, for some reason, S saying he was Scottish earned him nearly a standing ovation from the audience. Everyone wanted to talk to him or shake his hand. People from England or Ireland weren’t as well received, for some reason. S did not like this. He’s not the spotlight type.  :)

We’d signed up for cheesy tourism and the Balzin M Ranch delivered. If that is the sort of place you’re looking for then that’s exactly the place you should go.

Afterwards we drove back to Flagstaff for our last night in Arizona. We needed our rest. the next day we were driving all the way to south-west Kansas (a LONG WAY!).

So, tomorrow – out of the Arizona desert and into the wheat fields of the midwest.

For now, sleep.

xo

A

We woke super early on 24th May and hit the roulette wheel at Gamblin’ Bills one last time before leaving Vegas to fade into the dust in our rear-view mirror. In a very typical A & S moment, our last stop in Sin City was:

Welcome indeed!

From Las Vegas we headed north-east towards southern Utah. Our destination? Zion National Park. We had originally wanted to see both Zion and Bryce Canyon, but there was never going be enough time, so S cast the deciding vote and we went only to Zion. We were not disappointed. After what felt like an endless drive through seemingly featureless landscapes (although we did pas a rather large sand dune at one point, I think…) we finally reached our destination.

Having researched the park only enough to make our decision to visit, we weren’t really sure what to expect. Well, I can tell you one thing for certain – Zion National Park is a wonderful, beautiful place. The road that winds through the valley is no longer accessible by private vehicle, but the park runs an excellent bus which circles the route very frequently. It stops often which gives you a chance to hop-on-hop-off and explore the surrounding areas. An outdoorsy person would be seriously spoilt for choice at Zion. The hiking and rock -climbing opportunities are endless. We, well, we stayed on the bus until it reached its terminus and only then did we get off.

Zion National Park

I wasn’t too pleased with the idea of the bus at first – however, I now have to say that it is very, very good. There was a constant commentary explaining about the discovery of the canyons and the history behind the area. They explained some of the names of the individual features and why they’re called what they’re called. If I was able to remember any of it, I would share it with you now, but I don’t. (Thrilling story, right?)

Cliffs across the river.

At the end of the bus line there’s an extremely accessible and peaceful mile-long walk along the green waters of the Virgin River. We took our time wandering the path, which was quite crowded considering the early hour. For reasons known only to themselves there was a group of older tourists there who were obsessed with taking pictures of squirrels. Honestly. Here you are in a canyon of absolutely stunning natural beauty and you’re taking pictures of the…squirrels? Yeah, ok….

Beautiful, beautiful, wish you were here!

It really was phenomenally beautiful. Quiet and peaceful, despite the fact that it was quite busy. Again, it’s interesting to imagine the very first person who ever encountered these canyons…it would certainly fuel belief in a higher power, that’s all I’m saying.

When we returned to our car we headed straight back onto the road. This was one of the longest driving days of the entire trip – but there was no way I was going to come to Southern Utah and not go to Monument Valley. I mean, really, who does that?

So we drove and we drove and we drove. The scenery does not change much in this part of the world, I’m afraid. The view from the window was either the backside of an 18-wheeler (if I was driving) or the horizon stretched out interminably (if S was driving). It was the very essence of a Road Trip – and I enjoyed every single mile of the journey.

The Road.

Our plan was to arrive in Monument Valley in time to wander the monoliths in the settling dusk, then spend the night camped nearby. However, I am sorry to report that the only camping in the area was certainly not suitable for us. There was no running water or toilet facilities, no place to cook or anywhere to make a fire. If you add onto this the fact that there was a very, very strong wind that evening, you have all the information which fuelled our decision to power on through to Flagstaff, AZ after our brief, but no less wondrous visit.

Like I said, it was one of the heaviest driving days of the entire three week journey.

However, having said that, it was entirely worth every extra mile and every cent spent on the gasoline which took us there.

If there is only one place to ever see in the Southwest of America, I recommend this above all else that I have seen:

Monument Valley

It is a hushed, silent and scared place. Totally awe-inspiring. Iconic and unforgettable. We stayed for a very long time just looking.

Along the roadside.

Unfortunately, due to the reasons I mentioned above, we did not have long to linger. So we looked our fill and then headed back onto the road. The drive to Flagstaff was long and tiring, we did not arrive until early morning. Luckly, the 25th of May was a quieter day (more later), so we were able to sleep in a bit and get out from behind the wheel of the car. Although, with views like this:

In the mirror.

…it’s certainly easy to drive…

xo

A

What can I tell you about our Sunday in Vegas? Well, nothing much that I’d like to admit to, that’s for sure. I was…well, hmmm… I was…incredibly hungover. Spectacularly hungover. Not much at all took place during the day except I stayed in bed and drank a lot of water.

So, yeah. Avoid alcohol, kids, it’s BAD FOR YOU!!

:)

Sunday night, however, we had tickets booked to go and see The Rat Pack is Back – dinner and a show! I have nothing bad to say about this excursion. Except the whole Marilyn Monroe thing was a little over the top. But the atmosphere was light-hearted and fun, the steak dinner was delicious (being the only thing I ate that day…again – alcohol is bad for you!), and the music was fantastic. I have to say, in my opinion, the guy playing Dean Martin was the best, although they all had their parts down pat. It was funny and irreverent and nostalgic and we really enjoyed ourselves.

After that we did an in-and-out tour of a lot of the casinos. Why? Well, we wanted to say we’d seen them, we wanted to scope out where we’d like to stay if we ever went back and (I can’t stress this enough) so that I could get a free pen from as many casinos as possible. It was a good laugh. We did not stay to gamble in any of the casinos, just wandered around briefly then moved on to the next one on the list.

When we did gamble we played the Roulette. We did not win big money but we did end up profiting overall. Take that, casino conglomerate people! HA! We played early in the morning and kept to the quieter casinos so that the limits were low. I know, we’re such risk-takers, right?

Twice I was overcome by a strange feeling that I should bet heavily on Red 14. Twice I won “big” (big for us, which is, in reality, rather small!). Hence the name: Red14Photography  of the shop where I sell my pictures. So, yeah, there’s that.

Two further notes on Vegas: 1) I was offended by the guys handing out photographic business cards for call girls on the street corners. They are very incessant. I was starting to get really irritated by it and starting to plan routes so I could avoid them all (impossible) until Sarah (see previous post) mentioned that she’d seen two college-age guys playing Top Trumps with the cards. This made me laugh A LOT and after that, I wasn’t quite as offended. 2) The fountain at the Bellagio is phenomenal. I could have stayed there and watched it all weekend. In fact, I did spend quite a lot of time begging S to take me back there to see it again (and again, and again). More than just the music and the lights and the water show, I liked how the fountain sounded. If you’re in Vegas, don’t miss it. Especially at night.

Arizona. It’s hot here.

On Monday morning we left quite early and headed East into the desert. En route to the Hoover Dam we stopped in Boulder City for breakfast at The World Famous Coffee Cup. This was the first of a few Diners Drive-Ins and Dives restaurants I’d found along our route. It was delicious, charming and everything you would expect from somewhere that gets a thumbs-up from Guy Fieri.

We then continued on to the Hoover Dam. What can I say? It’s an engineering masterpiece. Totally stunning in both scope and execution. Plus, it’s HUGE. Don’t forget that part. Really, seriously gigantic.

Hoover Dam

Also, it’s a pretty scary place for someone (me) who is terrified of things that are underwater (including all types of pumps, generators, intake valves, etc). I know I wasn’t close enough to anything to really be afraid – but that didn’t stop me being frightened. I may not have been able to see the inner workings of the dam, but I knew they were there….

Lake Mead

(Also, if someone could please, PLEASE, explain to me the mystery of why the rocks below the waterline are completely white?, that would be a huge help. Thanks!)

The view of the new road bridge was also quite wonderful. Although it only served to emphasise jut how high up we were…

The new bridge and the river

After seeing the Hoover Dam we drove over the new road bridge (where, sadly, it is almost impossible to see the dam!) and headed further east and further still into the desert. Our destination was the Grand Canyon, but the drive was well worth it. We had debated, before we left, booking one of those day-tripper things where you spend the day on a bus – – I am SO glad we did not do that! It gave us a chance to explore Arizona ourselves. It gave us a chance to drive some sections of Route 66 (swoon) as well, which I was desperate to do!

Of course the Grand Canyon was amazing. How could it not be?! I mean, there isn’t much I can tell you except it’s something you really need to see for yourself. In real life. It’s an experience not to be missed.

Having said that, looking back over your own photos of the event is kind of anti-climatic. The drama and majesty of the place simply does not come alive through photographs.

Having said THAT, have a look at some of the ones we took!!:

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The view from every single overlook is completely different – it seems as though if you blink the scene before your eyes changes. I know there are sections where the rock face opposite is so far in the distance that your brain can’t process the images as 3D, and that is incredibly cool. The fact that it was partly cloudy also helped to bathe the canyon meandering patches of darkness and light which enhanced the drama of the place.

It was an amazing day. There was a funny incident which involved a small rock (higher vantage point) from which I wanted to take pictures. I was about to clamber to the top when a Japanese tourist jumped in front of me and right to the top of the rock, which was only big enough for one person. He then proceeded to take panoramic photos. With six different cameras. Which took forever, but I waited. When he started over with the first of his six cameras and started taking panoramic video I gave the rock up as a bad job and moved on. When S and I left the viewing platform nearly fifteen minutes later the man was still on top of the rock taking videos. I am sure I would have found it impressive if I hadn’t been so annoyed.

Also, if you’re like S and I and are playing the License Plate game during your road trip, definitely go to the Grand Canyon. Cars from every state. And Canada. And Mexico. And Europe. It’s like a great, big watering hole in the middle of the Arizona desert – everyone is there.

We drove back to Las Vegas after our day at the Grand Canyon. On our cross-country trip we would eventually cross the Arizona state line 10 times. More than any other state. There is a LOT to see in Arizona and, if you can handle the heat, you should definitely go there. It really is very impressive. Grand, really.

xo

A

We woke early on the 21st of May and packed up our camping gear. It had been a lovely night and, to be honest with you, I was a little sad to be leaving our peaceful, quiet spot in the Valley of Fire and heading towards the bright, busy city. However, we sort of eased into Vegas, so it wasn’t too much culture shock.

The first thing we did was get breakfast at Jamm’s Restaurant which was, according to the fifteen billion reviews I’d read online, the best place in Vegas for breakfast. Well, I am sorry to say it was a bit disappointing. Sure, it was quaint. Sure, it was off the beaten path (nowhere near The Strip, I mean), but it wasn’t all that special. It was a restaurant that served breakfast. They seemed to be a bit too busy to function efficiently, and the food was only so-so. Still, it gave us a place to go, so it wasn’t a waste. I had waffles.

After that we went to a coin-operated laundry and washed our clothes. I know, how hard-core are we, right?

After that we drove up and down the strip once or twice, just to get a feel for the place, before we pulled into the parking garage at the hotel we’d booked – Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon. It’s small, but central – just what we needed. Although, when we arrived at the desk to check in they told us that they were overbooked and we’d been upgraded to The Flamingo. OK. Sure!

We reported to the VIP desk at the Flamingo as we’d been instructed, and, I have to admit, it made me feel quite special walking through the glass doors into the cool quiet of the VIP area. Pretty swanky. It was quite funny, to be honest with you. While we were waiting I happened to say to S that it was far too hot outside to be dragging our luggage from one hotel to the other and, all of a sudden and totally out of nowhere, there were two bottles of ice-cold water sitting on the desk in front of us! !!! As if by MAGIC!! So, I thought I’d try my luck and said, sort of under my breath, “Gee, it sure would be nice to have a huge wad of cash!” to see if any would appear…. Sadly, no… none did. Just the magic water. Which suited me just fine as it was very, very hot and humid.

After we were shown to our room (overlooking Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and, across the street, The Bellagio) we took some time to freshen up and then headed straight out. Frivolity ensued. :) We went to Paris and I got a strawberry daiquiri inside a plastic Eiffel Tower – 32oz I think. I did not finish it, thank goodness, or I think I’d have curled up for a sleep in one of the shadowy corners of Paris casino. I have to say, as an aside, that of all the casinos we went into (most of them), I liked the interior of Paris the best. It’s pretty.

Paris – See? Pretty!

As a lucky coincidence, a good friend of S’s from work was over in Vegas at the same time as us – and he’d just been married on the 18th! – so we met up with the newly-weds in the early afternoon. And spent the rest of the day drinking. Honestly. No, honestly. We started out with pitchers of beer at Bally’s then graduated to $1 bottles of Bud at Hooters (yes, Hooters – but only because of the $1 bottles of Bud… I hope!), and finally rounded off the evening with free shots of something pink from the promo girls at one of the bars at the MGM Grand. It really was a lot of fun. It was great to be able to be a small part of Tommy & Sarah’s celebration week, as well, although I did start feeling bad for Sarah (who doesn’t drink alcohol) sometime when we were still at Bally’s. Sorry, Sarah!

View from the Hotel

There are quite a few out-of-focus pictures of S and I standing in front of various famous Vegas landmarks as we tottered home from the MGM in the wee hours of the morning of the 22nd. I am not going to share any of them with you because, well, it’s kind of embarrassing! Y’all know I’m not a drinker!! This was one of those What Happens in Vegas… moments. And I’m glad I got to have one! I’d have been quite sad if I’d gone to Vegas and done nothing out-of-character! :)

So, this is where I will leave the story for tonight. Tomorrow – more Vegas.

xo

A

On the morning of the 19th of May we drove out of The City by the Bay headed towards Sacramento where we met up with my Uncle Jack & Aunt Diane for a late brunch. Needless to say, we had a wonderful time. They are two of my favourite people in the entire world and I hadn’t seen them in quite a few years.

After brunch we stopped and bought some supplies we were going to need for the next few weeks. We planned to spend a few nights camping out so we needed to buy… well, everything. It’s not as if we’d flown over with a tent in our luggage!! After we stocked-up we headed back on the road.

The plan was to drive south a bit and then into Yosemite National Park. However, due to an overnight snowfall of 19 inches, a lot of the passes were closed, so we had to amend our itinerary. This was not a total loss – although we were very saddened to miss out on all Yosemite had to offer. And S is still quite upset that we never got to see the giant redwoods. I am surprisingly OK with this, because it means we have even more reasons to return to California in the future!

Driving south through California was a gorgeous journey. We stopped at a fruit stand located…somewhere… and bought the biggest, sweetest strawberries either of us had ever eaten.

Fruit Stand

Seriously, the strawberries were the size of your palm. I know that isn’t particularly significant – but it is a detail that has stuck with me. I wish we had more carefully documented exactly where we were, but I honestly have no idea of the route we took, the towns we passed or the roads we drove. For instance:

Unnamed Town

I have no idea where this picture was taken, but I do know that we turned around there at some point.

The most exciting part of the evening of the 19th was our dinner, but that is a story for another time. Suffice it to say it was quite a hilarious evening. :)

We were just entering Death Valley as the sun rose on the 20th of May. It was an utterly silent, desolate place. But the sunrise was beautiful – cresting the hills in the distance, burnishing everything with the golden gleam of morning.

Sunrise, Death Valley

Death Valley was all you would expect it to be – hot. Although it was bigger than I imagined, somehow. We were only there for a few hours, and I suppose we saw everything we were able to see. I would have liked to have seen the Sailing Stones, but we weren’t near enough to journey that way.

We saw the natural stone arch:

Natural Stone Arch

And, of course, we saw Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America:

Badwater Basin

It was very salty, which I never knew. There was also water there, which came as a surprise, considering what I know of Death Valley.

Salt Water

The fuel prices were exorbitantly high – over $5.00 a gallon! Which isn’t yet as high as we pay here in Scotland, but it’s high enough, thank you very much! Sadly, we did have to refuel there, although we were smart enough to only get what we absolutely needed to see us through.

We left on the Nevada side of Death Valley, and on the way past we stopped at an old abandoned mining town called Rhyolite. Settled in 1905 and heavily populated during the ensuing gold rush, at its peak in 1908 the town housed around 4,000 people. By 1920, however, the mine was exhausted and the population of Rhyolite drooped to nearly zero.

It is a haunting, eerie place. The first ever ghost town I’ve seen. There was a small museum of sorts at the entrance of the town, and there were pallets there with artefacts which had been unearthed in the area, as well as from the buildings themselves. I liked it there, although there wasn’t much to see except dust.

Pickaxes

The old mercantile store was setting there on blocks, which was kind of surreal.

Mercantile Store

Some of the other buildings were still standing as well, a few walls of the jail and the school moulder in the scorching sun. The train station was mostly intact. It is a beautiful building which highlights the fact that, although they may be ghost towns now, in their heyday these mining towns held an awful lot of money and importance. Hence, the expense laid out for schools, banks and, as below, railway stations.

Rhyolite Train Station

The era of the American gold rush is an interesting phenomenon. The amount of ghosts towns dotting the south west of America is staggering. Rhyolite is of little importance now, but if you had been there at its peak it probably would have astonished you.

Old Truck

The rest of the day we spent driving across Nevada. We weren’t sure where we wanted to stay for the night, but we had had an early start so we pressed on past Las Vegas and into the Valley of Fire where we set up camp for the night.

Camping, Vallye of Fire State Park

This was one of my favourite nights of our vacation. S and I spent the evening relaxing and watching the sun go down behind the fiery-red sandstone, eating hamburgers off the BBQ and toasting marshmallows over the open fire. It truly was spectacular. The Valley of fire is breath-taking. The weather we had while there was splendid. Camping out in nice weather in the warmth of early summer is an experience to be envied.

The evening of 20th May this time last year was a welcome, relaxing break before we woke on the 21st and headed into the neon of the Las Vegas strip. Over the past two days we had driven a very, very long way and seen quite a lot of magnificent sights. The prevailing image I have from the 19th and 20th May, 2011 is the image I will end this post on. One which can’t be experienced here in the UK, because there simply isn’t the space here for a road so incredibly straight and long:

The Road

If you look close enough, you can still see the road straight ahead at the very base of the hills. Impressive, isn’t it? Just looking back at that photo makes my fingers itch to be curled around a steering wheel.

So tomorrow it’s onwards into Vegas. Wish us luck!

xo

A

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