The Goldwell Open Air Museum sits just outside of the northeastern entrance of Death Valley and at the edge of the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada. I’d seen photos of the sculptures that grace the grounds many times online. But, seeing the ghostly shapes of Albert Szukalski’s pieces in person caused a visceral reaction – somewhere deep inside, things felt off kilter. The figures possess a powerful and strange voodoo.
The Last Supper – Albert Szukalski
I find this figure to be particularly haunting.
What an incredible gift to have, to be able to make people feel something with your art.
On New Year’s Day, I awoke in Las Vegas. The rest of the world was still asleep after a long night of reveling. As I rode down the strip towards old Las Vegas and the Freemont Street area, a less-than-glamorous film stuck to everything. Once outside of the fantasy bubble of a bazillion-dollar casino hotel, the empty streets seemed gritty. After visiting a few sights scattered about town, I hit the road towards Death Valley. After two nights with a million of my closest friends in Sin City, it was time to get back to nothing.
My ride into Death Valley wasn’t without company, however. I met a car full of young women who also stopped to take photos at the park sign. They didn’t speak very much English, but they were able to convey that they were excited to see me alone on my motorcycle. I guess some things are universal. Women who ride motorcycles kick ass in any language.
I also met these two wily beggars. They were hovering around the roadway, waiting for cars to come along. As a car slowed, they’d move in closer. They must get a lot of food that way. I didn’t feed them but I enjoyed watching what they were up to. Seeing animals, especially ones not typically in your environment, is a simple pleasure.
After the hustle of Las Vegas, being nowhere felt wonderful. It was a perfect way to welcome 2017.
On the morning of December 31st, 2016, when I awoke it was still dark. I was in Las Vegas. I hadn’t planned on being there for New Year’s Eve, it was just the way that my trip unfolded. Though it was a holiday, it was an easy place to get a room and I ended up staying for two nights.
It felt as if I’d personally brought rain to the desert. I arrived among the shimmering signs and the bustle of Vegas in the pouring rain on New Year’s Eve-eve. By morning, there was still dampness pressing down but at least the rain had stopped.
Because of pre-celebration preparations, the strip was scheduled to close to traffic on the afternoon of the 31st. Being an early riser on east coast time worked to my advantage. I was able to head out at 0’dark-thirty, see some stuff and get back before anything shut down. My destination for the day? Valley of Fire State Park.
At first, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see the luminescent colors of the rocks in the sunshine. But, that disappointment faded when I saw that the fog brought its own special drama to the landscape. Nothing is perfect and plans deviate from your daydreams. You just have to learn to see beauty in new ways.
Snapshots from Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park