This weekend was supposed to be a weekend of warm weather and epic surf. While the weather lived up to the hype the swell did not. Overhead surf turned out to be more like waist to chest with maybe a head high set here and there. I finally had the opportunity to get out and shoot just plain old surfing from the water. Typically I shoot windsurfing and kitesurfing; rarely surfing since I don’t know too many pro surfers on the west coast. I was pretty stoked with a few of the shots I took but wish I had spent more time in the water. Bigger surf also would have been good but the smaller surf gave me a good opportunity to work on my placement in the lineup and timing with some good surfers. All in all it was a gorgeous weekend for hanging out in the ocean and taking photos. The morning/afternoon photos were taken at Cardiff Reef down near San Diego and the sunset photos were taken at a break called Pipes which is just a few hundred yards North of Cardiff Reef.
My Beautiful Fiance Lindsay was also out on the beach taking photos. I set her up with a 400mm f/2.8, 2X Teleconverter and my Nikon D3 for some super telephoto fun from the beach. By the end of the weekend she was really getting into and and was taking some really incredible and professional photographs. She was able to capture a lot of stuff going on in the water and on the beach. Some of Lindsay’s shots are my favorite shots of the weekend. Pretty soon it will be her name in the magazines.
I know I posted a lot of writing and a lot of photos that were of adventures so I wanted to recap with the best landscape photos from the trip. The few great landscapes I captured were well worth the hardships of the trip.
Our third day in Death Valley National Park started with a great sunrise out on Racetrack Playa. Unlike the previous evening’s sunset we were the only people on the playa for sunrise. It was so nice to be the only two people for miles and miles. Our plan after sunrise was to go back to camp, pack up and then head to the south end of the park to see Zabriskie Point, Stovepipe Wells Sand Dunes, Badwater Salt Flats etc. We got back to camp, had a quick breakfast and got on the road. We started driving the 27 mile washboard road back to the paved road and about 5 miles into the drive we came across a truck coming the other direction on one of the more narrow sections of road. I pulled over as far as I could and slightly up the gravel embankment and the other car did the same on the opposite side. I thought nothing of this kind of move; after all, I have a lifted jeep, big tires and plenty of ground clearance. We let the other car pass and I came down off the gravel and immediately after we started moving forward again Lindsay says to me, “It sounds like there is a tree or something stuck under the car”. I stopped the car and got out, not knowing what to expect (there aren’t many trees in the desert). When I looked under the front of my Jeep my heart sank. Hanging down from the underside of my Jeep was the front steering tie rod. This rod connects the two tires so that they steer together. The drivers side tie rod end had stripped its threads and pulled completely out of the tie rod. This actually explained quite a few other weird problems I had been having on the washboard road with my steering seeming a little loose. Normally I would be pretty upset or angry about the situation. But when you are in the middle of nowhere around solid 70 miles from the nearest service station there is no time at all to be angry. My only response to the problem was “well I guess I need to figure out how to fix this”.
With Lindsay’s help I was able to get the tie rod end back into the tie rod but not tightened up. The threads had been stripped completely off so I had to come up with a way to connect the two pieces together. My first and best and only idea for the moment was……..you guessed it…..Duct Tape! (with a side order of electrical tape). Normally I carry a full roll of duct tape in the car with me but due to some household repairs the full roll was several hundred miles away in Pasadena. All I had with me was a 5 foot piece of folded up duct tape that I keep in my backpacking survival kit for this very reason. I also happened to have an entire roll of electrical tape; which, while not the strongest tape on the planet helped beef up the repair a lot. I got my tape and laid out my sleeping pad under the car and got to work. I eyeballed the tire alignment and got to work strategically wrapping my five feet of duct tape in a figure eight pattern between the tie rod and tie rod end. The entire time I was praying that the fix would be just enough to get us to a paved road. Turns out it was more than enough. We very slowly made our way up 25 more miles of the worst washboard road on the planet and to a paved road with no problems. The paved road felt great to drive on after two days of nothing but dirt and gravel.
Upon arriving at the ranger station at the north entrance to the park we asked how long it would take to get a tow truck to come pick us up. The park ranger said a minimum of 6 hours to get a tow truck. I quickly did the math: 6 hours to get here, 1 hour to get the truck loaded, 6 hours to get out, 3 hours to find a rental car….in the middle of nowhere, 6 hours to get back to LA, grand total somewhere around another full day of dealing with problems. After pondering the thought of another 12 hours in Death Valley with a broken car for about 10 seconds we kindly thanked the ranger, paid for our park fee and decided to try and drive another 40 miles to Stovepipe Wells Service Station where there was a gas station and supplies, namely a full roll of duct tape. Amazingly enough the car was driving pretty good; better aligned tires than before. Every 10-20 minutes or so I pulled over the car and checked on my repair job. The tape didnt tear, stretch, bend or fall apart the entire time. Lindsay and I made it to the service station, doing the speed limit, with no problems. While I checked on the repair job at the service station Lindsay went in and bought some ice cold sodas and a full roll of duct tape. I got right to work beefing up my repair job for the next leg of our adventure. After a short discussion of our options we decided to try to make it to Lone Pine. Lone Pine was only 70 miles away and would take a little over an hour to get there. Once there we would have cell phone reception and access to tow trucks at a moments notice. It made a lot more since to try and drive an hour and a half to the tow truck instead of wait 6 hours for the tow truck to get to us.
With fresh duct tape on the car and some caffiene and in blood we set off for Panamint Valley and then Lone Pine: another 70 miles. We both agreed that we were a little crazy in attempting to drive town to town all the way back to LA but in the end it would save us hundredsif not thousands of dollars. Luckily we found comfort in knowing that our friend Marc Allen was on his way home heading south on 395 just a few hours north of us and could help us if something happened and also our friend Josh Grahm down in Lancaster could have helped us. Our plan in fact was to make it to Lancaster and if we couldnt go any farther try to get Josh to drive us the rest of the way home, which would have only been an hour and a half. In the end we had no problems. The car drove wonderfully at highway speeds, we stopped often enough to make sure the repair was holding up, drove in the slow lane, tried our best not to make any sudden direction changes and took any and all turns really wide. We made it back to Pasadena safe and sound in less time than it would have taken a tow truck to even get to us in the Valley. The drive home on 395 was one of the quietest most intense drives of my life; no music, no talking. My ears were tuned into the car and my hands were locked on the steering wheel feeling every bump on the road. It was an epic end to an epic adventure. I can’t wait for the next one.
Trip to Death Valley: Finished