We hit the heart of Death Valley, Stovepipe Junction, at noon in June. It's 110F at sea level. We stop at the general store, and between the parking lot and the doorway I fear the soles of my shoes will melt.
Then we get back in the car and drive fast, 70, 80, 90 mph, air conditioning off and windows open so the car won't overheat. The road descends below sea level to an ancient ocean bed, it shimmers in mirages like liquid metal. ("Like the unicorn blood in the first Harry Potter movie," Annie says.) We drink water from our bottles, sipping almost continuously to keep ourselves hydrated.
As we cross the sand flats, the car thermometer reads the outside air -- 115 degrees.
And then we see him. He's all in white head-to-toe, wearing a Lawrence of Arabia turban. He's carrying a weight in each hand and he's running along the side of the road. We don't know where he's running from, we don't know where he's running to... and then we're past him, not sure if he was a mirage.