For as long as I’ve been investigating van life, I’ve heard stories of people camping out on the beach. This is unheard of in the northeast where I come from, where every millimeter of beachfront property is owned, developed, and costs a few gazillion dollars. But here I am, doing it myself out in the Nevada desert.
Two days ago was a wash. The wind reached not only Quartzsite levels, it rocked my van as much as the literal hurricane I sat through in Massachusetts. The great thing about not being on a real schedule, though, is that this didn’t ruin my plans. It just pushed them out an extra day. I wrote off Monday to sitting inside, waiting out the wind, and getting a bit of extra work done.
Yesterday there was little wind, so I unloaded the bike and did a bit of exploring. I went a bunch of places that are supposed to be far below the water line, but with Lake Mead so low they’re far above it. I found some spectacular views, and some campsites that would be wonderful for a more off-road capable vehicle than mine. It’s OK — I still get to visit them on the bike.
I’d also been in touch with my friends I met at the Lit Cactus. They invited me to join them down on the beach they’d found. Since I was out on the bike anyway I rode down there first. I wanted to scout the area before driving my home down there. Beaches are often made of sand, which makes it easy for a big heavy vehicle to get stuck. Here, though, where the road ends the sand is extremely firm, thanks to the weight of all the water above it crushing it down during the decades it was underwater. (I now have a much better understanding of how sedimentary rock is formed than I ever got in school.) If their skoolie and shuttle bus could make it down there, my van would have no problem. So I rode back, loaded up, and took a short drive.
With the exception of one very minor scrape of the motorcycle carrier, I made it down to the beach just fine. The road has some soft spots and quite a washboard, so I took a page out of the off-roading book and let some air out of my tires as soon as I left pavement. This smoothed out the ride significantly. Since I’m driving quite slowly, the low air isn’t a safety concern, as long as I pump the tires back up to what Ford recommends before I hit pavement again. My all-terrain tires are made for this, and I tested my new compressor before airing down to make sure I could air back up. Once again, the motorcycle was extremely useful for scouting ahead so that I knew exactly what I was taking the van into, and that I would make it in and out safely. I would’ve been a lot more hesitant driving down here blindly.
It’s very quiet here, with only a couple of campers besides our group scattered around the cove. Where we’re parked would be under more than 100 feet of water if Lake Mead was as full as it’s supposed to be. But at only 35% of capacity, areas like this have opened up. It’s very strange to be driving on what was the bottom of a lake less than 20 years ago.
Here’s a frame of reference for you. The light colored area is what many refer to as the “bathtub ring.” That’s exactly what it is. While Lake Mead was full for many years, the water discolored the ground below it, making it this lighter color. That tiny dark strip at the top is all that’s supposed to be above the water line. That Jeep camped out on the rocky outcropping (he’s my hero, by the way) gives you some perspective on just how low the water is. Although it’s towering above us, even the Jeep should be underwater. Yet here we are, low and dry.
The company here is good, too. We’re all pretty laid back and friendly people. Everyone has critters, too, though Lister is the only cat among a few dogs. They’re all fairly well behaved, though, so there haven’t been any conflicts. Between the beach, the people, and the strategic location between civilization and Valley of Fire State Park, I’m going to call this my home base for at least a few days while I do some exploring. I’m going to have to do laundry sometime soon, which will be what drags me back into town. I’ll pick up groceries and a few other things while I’m at it, since this close to Las Vegas I can find pretty much anything I want.
After that, I’m not sure whether I’ll continue on toward Pahrump, or come back here for a little while longer. Unlike last year’s travel, I’m not on a schedule to hit any events, I’m not on a mission like traveling Route 66, and I’m not convoying with anyone else, so I can do pretty much whatever I want. I have to keep breaking myself out of the mindset of go, go, go, because I don’t have to anymore. My only constraint is the weather, getting out of the desert before it gets too hot, and after it warms up where I’m going. The 10-day forecast looks manageable, so I don’t need to leave right away, unless I decide I want to.