Travel

USA Sept 2010 – Losing a friend in Death Valley…

It’s time to leave the bright lights of Vegas behind us and head off to California. But not before we pick up supplies from Walgreens (at Palazzo) including a fantastic cooler for $15. We became very attached to our cooler and did everything we could to fit this in our suitcase at the end of the trip…

8:30am, and we’re on the road. The Fletchemobile is not aware of what we’re going to put it through today! We connect Mr Fletche’s MP3 with the newly purchased cable – a bit of Beatles to remind us of LOVE – and we’re leaving Vegas behind once more.

On the road to Death ValleyWe head into Death Valley. We decide to enter from the South so there will be less backtracking to do once we hit the National Park itself. We are amazed by the change of scenery happening before our very eyes, and we notice on the car display that the temperature is slowly creeping up over 100 degrees.  I record the 103 degree temperature on camera, not realising that this is certainly not the highest temperature we’ll see today…

Our first stop is Ashford Mills, and it is here we realise how hot it is outside our wonderfully air-conditioned Fletchemobile. There’s not a lot left to see here; Mr Fletche checks out the ruins, while I check out the restroom. A hole in the ground can hardly be described as luxurious but it served its function…

Ashford Mill Ruins, Death Valley

Back in the Fletchemobile, the temperature cranks up to 111 degrees. This is officially the hottest I’ve ever been in my life… Our next stop is Badwater Basin. Now this is quite amazing, being at the lowest point below sea level in the Western Hemisphere.

Despite being so hot, we cannot believe how windy it is. The only way to describe it is to take a hairdryer. Put it on its hottest setting. Put it on full power. And then blow it into your face. Mr Fletche and I could barely speak to each other and it’s too much effort to walk too far down the boardwalk over the salt flats. Now, this was where the first casualty of the holiday fell.

My beloved pink baseball hat, a “genuine” Ralph Lauren, purchased on our first holiday together. That hat is possibly now still nestling on the salt flats at Badwater, causing people to exclaim “What’s that? Is it a unique plant growing here at Badwater? Is it some kind of animal, never identified before?”

Badwater Basin, Death Valley

Last known sighting of the pink baseball cap before it flew off into the salt flats, never to be seen again....
Last known sighting of the pink baseball cap before it flew off into the salt flats, never to be seen again….

I sadly left my hat behind, hoping it had not suffered and had moved on to a better place…

The temperature gauge in the Fletchemobile is now telling us its 126 degrees outside… It’s starting to protest slightly at all this heat. We treat it to a detour onto Artist’s Drive.

This is so so beautiful, and I can’t even begin to describe all the colours displayed in the rocks. The road was quite challenging, twisty and very narrow – luckily it’s a one-way loop – good practice for what would face the Fletchemobile at Yosemite!

We make a quick stop at Golden Canyon – the temperature has stabilised at a comfortable 113 degrees – before carrying on to Zabriskie Point.

There are some spectacular views from Zabriskie Point, and it’s well worth the short steep hike from the car park; however at this point, we’re running out of bottled water, and the battery on both my camera and my mobile phone have given up the ghost. We decided to carry on and take a rest stop at Furnace Creek Ranch.

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

We were originally scheduled to stay at Furnace Creek, but we decided to plan our overnight a little bit further along the route to keep up more time on the 395 up to Yosemite. I’m glad we did, as the heat even at Furnace Creek was still overpowering, and we probably would have done little more than wilt in our room. However, we were glad of the stop for refreshments – a nice chilled Bud Light went down very nicely thank you very much (not for Mr Fletche I’m afraid, alcoholic beverages banned for the driver!).

The exit road from Death Valley onto the 395 must be one of the most scenic on our roadtrip – the dramatic change from flat barren land to seeing the Alabama Hills in the distance, with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. Shame I have no camera at this point to record the stunning scenery…We arrived in Lone Pine at around 5:45pm; Mr Fletche wants to buy a horse, a stetson and move to this lovely little town…

After our two luxurious hotels in Vegas, and our rustic lodge at Grand Canyon, the Dow Villa was another example of the different accommodation this wonderful country can provide. A traditional motel, with an even more traditional hotel attached; you immediately sense the movie history attached to this area.

The Dow Villa Motel

Lone Pine

A change of clothes and a tantrum because my camera won’t charge later, and we’re off to discover the delights of Lone Pine. It doesn’t take long. Not because it’s not delightful – it is – but because you can walk from one end to the other in less than 10 minutes. And back.

We’re starving hungry, and the bright lights of the Mount Whitney restaurant almost right opposite the Dow Villa are calling us in. It’s a popular place – every table is occupied – but we’re seated within about ten minutes. Although we’re almost forced to wrestle with another English couple behind us in the queue for the only available booth… they concede defeat with good grace (“It’s mine I tell you!”).

Two huge burgers with fries & onion rings, and 4 Bud Lights later (between us. Not each) and we’re completely satisfied. This is a fantastic restaurant; the service was fantastic, the atmosphere was fantastic and the food was fantastic. We even began to understand the rules of baseball… almost.

After a couple of late party nights in Vegas, we welcome the chance to grab an early night…

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