I want to go to Death Valley. Yes, I know there aren’t five people on this planet who have ever uttered those words, but I am now joining that elite group. To be precise, it isn’t Death Valley per se, but its neighbor, Trona, where all the action is.
Next month, after the 120-degree heat breaks, they are having their annual Gem-o-Rama, which my son, Richie, tells me is not to be missed. He is president of the American Institute of Professional Geologists at UC Davis, so he ought to know. Apparently they shoot gemstones out of the ground in a geyser, and all you have to do is catch them to become an instant millionaire.
At least that’s how I heard him tell it; I’m not always the best listener. The way I understand this event, is that perfectly cut emeralds, diamonds, and rubies go flying up into the air, and all a mother of four need do is to show up with a suitcase, open it, and let them land inside.
Richie says I am not listening, but what does he know? He’s a student! He says the gems are mostly halite salt crystals, not precious gems exactly. Then why is it called GEM-o-rama? It isn’t gravel-o-rama, now is it?
He also says they come shooting up a blow hole with a good amount of accompanying mud.
But I like my version better. You stand there in clean clothes, hold out a handbag or a suitcase or something, and it fills with shimmering jewels, ready to be set in any number of rings and necklaces. Right? Better than Trick or Treating any day. So how do they know when this sparkling geyser of dreams will erupt?
Richie says they set explosives underground beforehand, then use water to pump out the minerals. Whaat? It’s noisy AND dirty? That can’t be right. But, remember, this is the son who wanted to make a death ray out of my television set, which you’ve read about here. I ask him if he’s taking a hard hat because it sounds more than a little foolhardy to stand under a shower of rocks. There is a long silence on the phone, and then he says you stay back until they’ve all landed.
He also claims that you have to camp. And not just camp, but camp, which means pitching a tent and digging a hole when nature calls. How can this be right? Surely there are hotels or motels in Trona, right? I decide to look it up. There are places to stay in both Trona and Ridgecrest for under fifty bucks! One of them says $29! You can’t even get a pedicure for that. Bob looks over the top of his reading glasses at me, and doesn’t say anything.
Richie says you also have to bring tools, which explains his coming over to borrow our 5-foot iron fence post spike. Apparently this list includes brine, and a 3-tined cultivator. There are cultivators with various numbers of tines? What is a cultivator, anyway? It sounds heavy. And who travels with brine—isn’t that a liquid? Won’t it be even heavier than the cultivator?
I check out the website, and it says you have to dig Hanksite and Borax crystals out of very fine, sticky, black mud. You mean the kind they charge you a hundred bucks for, if you want it smeared over your back in a spa? And this event is FREE!
Whether you find any gems or not, this mud bath sounds like the fountain of youth. I picture myself relaxing in the blow hole with a lemonade, growing younger by the minute. Although I’m a little bit leery of the photo showing a pair of jeans someone left behind, which are still standing up on their own.
I keep reading. Apparently you wash yourself off with brackish water. Sounds like a middle step, not a final step to me. But then, get this: They have a big warning in capital letters, telling you not to wash your minerals off in water, or they will disappear. Yes, that’s right—DISAPPEAR. Like a really bad magic act. They claim this is why you need brine, because it’s already saturated with the salt that composes these alleged gems. If you wash salt crystals off in water, they vanish. Then riddle me this, you rock hound braniacs—how do they survive being blasted in a gigantic stream of water through a blow hole? This HOLE thing is beginning to sound fishy to me. Like disappearing ink and pick-pocketed wallets.
I am not about to drive out to a spot halfway between Bakersfied and Las Vegas (a.k.a. The Gobi Desert) to have hunks of salt pummel my head and then decide to sue but not be able to find any evidence because it has vanished into thin air. Or thin water. I’m staying home and going to pedicure-o-rama.
Curl up with a good book, you guys. It’s so much safer. Might I recommend one of the fabulous reads on the left side of this home page? Furthermore, you can get my three Kindle novels in hard versions, as well, from Createspace.com. And not one of them will give you a concussion.