I have my thumb extended out as the sun dips below the mountains leaving in its place an orange pink streak in the sky. I am confident in front of these four people I haven’t known more than ten hours, although inside my heart is sinking.

My first steps to solve the dilemma I am involved in have proved fruitless. Mud Canyon, our pick up point for the day one bike ride and I am without keys to the White Ford 350 van bearing out company logo on the side and fully loaded with bikes on top. My co leader and I have been moving vehicles and I have been left without a set of keys to operate the van. I try the first construction truck I wave down. No cell phone coverage, no radios work. 

I offer the men all the money in my wallet to take these four people back to our hotel. The clock is ticking for a 6:45pm dinner.  The politely decline, as their trucks are full of construction tools. They wave to me as they speed away.

The four guests in my van are exceedingly patient as I explain the challenge and beg for their patience. I return to my new hitchhiking post as the dusk begins to settle into the Panamints. I calculate in my head the amount of time it would take for me to bike to the hotel, to get hold of a ranger. I am trying as hard as I can to send my co leader the mental message... you have the keys... please come back to Mud Canyon...

Another car pulls up and I am hopeful as I engage in a conversation with this man and his friend. They are Mormons who live in Beatty. I explain in brief the trouble I have and they agree to help. I load the two women into the car (the other two men declined to stay with me and wait for help), scribble instructions to the hotel (20 miles away) onto a piece of paper I have ripped out of my leaders notes. As the car speeds away I wonder if I could be fired for this.

 A half hour later Alex arrives in a flap, apologetic and we mutually cringe at the situation. Much later we would laugh at our mistake, and we were lucky to have a set of guests that found it as hysterical as we did. Fortunately, the women made it back to the hotel. Later they would share the conversations they had about marriage, divorce, life, and love with the mormons from Beatty.

As the car drove away, two women in tow, day one of my first trip of 2010 sinking in slowly the driver rolls down his window and yells back to me: "Good Luck Lady! God Bless You!" Ah, God. What a sense of humor... that finds me in these strange and curious places. 

Zabriskie point at sunrise...me and thirty other folks took it in. 
The artist as a young woman...presearching Harmony Borax works. 
The three photos above are courtesy of Michelle S., a fellow leader, videographer and photographer that came on trip with us. We dished out advice, got filmed biking up the same hill over and over, laughed a lot and talked about the most ridiculous situations that have happened on trip. Not to be outdone, we made sure we fowled up with the vans on day one, just to have a good story.