I pushed on through the heat, cresting "mountains" of four or five thousand feet whose summits offered a slight reprieve from the heat, only to be dropped into the next valley, a sweltering abyss. By the time I reached California, I was finally out of the desert states and into more agreeable weather.
The locals must get really bored out here.
I finally finished the day in Mammoth Lakes, California, an upscale ski town with sufficient hiking and biking opportunities to see it through the rest of the year. The town had already had its 4th of July festivities in the afternoon, but fireworks would be provided at nearby Crowley Lake.
And so I joined thousands of Californians and their happy families, sitting on the side of a lake with the Milky Way above us, "America the Beautiful" playing on speakers behind us, and a spectacular fireworks display over the lake in front of us.
After Las Vegas and the shenanigans that abounded there, the patriotic fervor of my fellow Americans and the cool mountain air felt redemptive, to say the least.