Darwin to China Garden (Oct 28th)

We set out around eleven in the morning, aiming ourselves toward Keeler. Pete and Nip wanted me to meet a local artist named Craig. He was quite eccentric, but seemed to have a good sense of humor.


Craig had carpeted his property with various assemblage sculpture. Some of which had a fairly obvious message…

… while some were a bit more vague.

He was also the proud owner of this bike, which I’d noticed at the Halloween party. The DIY square tubing sidehack with a plank for a seat must be interesting to ride on. And by interesting I mean terrifying.

The tank bore a Banksy stencil of Mona Lisa wielding a bazooka.

It was also decked out with other little touches, like this fringe and skull beads. Kinda ratty overall, but I like bikes with style, even if it isn’t a style that I would go for personally.

I thought this old car was pretty classy too, it’s a shame it isn’t properly restored yet, but maybe that’s a future project? Gotta have something to do if you live in Keeler!

Eventually Pete and Nip grew tired of Craig talking their ears off and gently goaded me along to leave. We headed southeast towards our next landmark, Darwin! The landscape seemed to go on forever.

I didn’t know much about Darwin, except that it’s even more of a ghost town than Keeler, and is in the middle of nowhere. Several people had mentioned a “music camp” in passing. Once a year, folks gather in Darwin for a jam session, to see who they fit with musically.

There was a documentary made about this town. I’d like to see it, the trailer expresses some of the beauty of the area far better than I could hope to.

We passed lots of buildings which looked abandoned or nearly so, rusted-out shells of broken vehicles, and the occasional sign of life.

This is probably the most photographed post office in the county. It’s amazing to me that people manage to live in places like this, where there aren’t any jobs, no stores, schools, churches, nothing to occupy your time but what you cultivate for yourself. It has a certain kind of monastic appeal: go to the end of the road, renounce your attachments, and live in relative isolation, unburdened by the demands of the world at large. Of course, the folks who chose to settle here did so for any number of reasons, and with working vehicles, fast food and entertainment are less than an hour away, but it must be interesting to live in a place where you have to work to seek them out.

On our way out of town, we spoke to some ladies (including Canyon!) who were tending a garden on the side of the road. They had heard that the road to Panamint was washed out from the recent storms and was impassable. Well, we’d see. We told them that we were going to go for it anyways and they seemed surprised.

The road was gentle at first, a bit sandy but not bad, and we were able to keep up a decent pace. As the road grew more sandy, we stopped to air down our tires.

Not long after, we came across some old abandoned buildings. These were remnants of the mining industry which, like most of the other small towns in this area, created Darwin originally.

Inside one of the buildings, there were still the remains of an old machine, which I believe was used to help pump water. The wires had been scavenged from the control boxes, but it was nice to see something intact.

The geology in the cliffs was fascinating. All sorts of multicolored rock formations, constantly changing as we went along.

The cliffs absolutely dwarfed us.

The road degraded into a sandy, rocky wash. It was difficult at times to see where the actual road was. Pete frequently took the high road and blazed his own trail across crunchy, undisturbed terrain. I tried this from time to time when the ‘road’ got really bad, but I didn’t enjoy the occasional surprise when I would be faced with an impassable rut or a row of large rocks blocking my path. For the most part, I stayed in the wash and fought with the sand.

Eventually we reached China Garden, and I had to take a ‘victory shot’ of the bike and the canyon we’d just come down. I was more than ready for a break!

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