Into the valley of death rode Max and Paddy

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sun. 24th Sept.

Fancied a little exercise so started out on a walk along a river looking for wildlife. It was a very short walk as the wildlife found us, midges! So retreated to a local county park lake, where at least we saw a heron. Gathered info on where we could and couldn't go in the R.V. Lots of interesting trails and drives that took you up into the mountains to look at film locations over the years. Many movies have been filmed in this area with the Sierra Nevadas giving a backdrop to the smaller but colourful Alabama hills. Famous names include Tom Mix (who!) Fatty Arbuckle (again, who?) Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne (yes you have heard of him). He used to stay at the local motel when filming. Famous films include the Yellow Sky (well its famous here!) High Sierra and Hazel's favourite, Bad Day at Black Rock (remember Spencer Tracy with one arm). Also Gunga Din, and the Charge of the Light Brigade. A drive along movie road showed location spots but we couldn't do them but could do a loop drive called picture rock circle, going off into the slightly lower Alabama hills. These granite rocks are eroded into weird and wonderful shapes, some of which resemble things like an eagle head or an elephant. Couldn't identify many that were marked on the guide but the scenery was stunning. On a small walk saw a big speckled lizards and some California quail.
Whilst sat outside "blogging" later that evening Hazel went inside and screamed as she felt something tickling her neck and brushed off a Preying Mantis which was over two inches long. She thought it was cute once over the shock!, moving its head from side to side wondering what the fuss was all about. Brian transferred it outside where it sat on the top of the computer screen.

Mon. 25th Sept.

Visited the movie museum in town not yet officially open. Treated to the first showing of the introduction video about the connection that Lone Pine had with the movie industry. One of the audience of six was the 80 year old daughter of the local rancher who provided support for the filming eg horses, materials for sets etc. A privilege and a pleasure to have attended the world premier of a movie about the movies. Never now be able to watch another western without trying to spot if it was made here.
We have enjoyed this trip to California more than expected.

Tue 26th Sept

Treated to a close view of a Road Runner. So cute as they raise their crests and tails to run on spindly legs - Beep beep.
So now off to Death Valley. Had to cross a mountain range to get in. Climbed continuously to 4500ft and warned to switch off air con so not to overheat engine. Had windows open instead, and as we descended into the valley, the air got hotter and hotter. It felt as hot as a 2 kw fan heater, so soon put the AC back on again. When we got out at Stovepipe Wells, aptly named, the heat was incredibly brutal, and we took shelter as it was even in 106 F in the shade. The whole RV was so hot that the cold water tank was running hot. Hazel wondered if she'd made a good choice wanting to come here, as she heads for shade at Blackpool on a balmy summers day. We were later told that it was unseasonably hot for this time of year in Death Valley. Typical !!
We decided to head for Furnace Creek 25 miles further as there it had electric hook up which we desperately needed for the roof AC. On the way we managed a very short walk on some famous sand dunes. Saw tracks of critters, inc a Kangaroo Rat and a Sidewinder Rattlesnake. We thought we would be risking life and limb to stay in this valley, but this camp was on the site of a vacation resort with swimming pool, tennis courts, two restaurants and a store. Enjoyed a posh meal at the better restaurant. It was still 88 F when we retired to air con sleep. God, we know how to camp rough.

Wed 27th Sept

Walked to Visitor Centre about a quarter mile, but red hot even at 10.00 am. Outside we met a tame Roadrunner called George. After checking out where we could and couldn't go in the RV (plus the places Hazel could and couldn't go, due to heat or distance) we didn't have many options so decided to visit them in one day, and move on. First stop, Badlands salt flats, the lowest point in the western hemisphere at 282 ft below sea level.

HAZEL - You can walk out on a boardwalk to view them. Well you can, but I didn't get far, too bloody hot, so I sent my trusty scout ahead to take photos.

Then on to Zabriskie Point, a high overlook, a favourite spot to watch the sunrise paint the hills multicolours, and a good view down to the valley.

HAZEL - Of course in order to look down, you have to be up, and another walk I didn't do. Remind me again why I was so keen to visit Death Valley.

Then went on a wasted 50mile detour to leave Death Valley via a recommended trip to visit a ghost town. Not much there and too new to be interesting. Remember the name to avoid, Rhyolite !
Camped at Pahrump, a fore runner to Vegas as it has a casino on site, cheap food, all you can eat buffet for $6 dollars, but not very good, however it didn't stop some people from loading several plates with enough food to feed a good proportion of the third world. One couple had 6 full plates intended to take back as doggy bags. The cheek of some people! We took our free bottle of wine and headed for the casino. Mainly all slot machines which were a bit confusing, even with the help of an assistant and a passing regular we were still baffled. However only lost $3 dollars in 2 hours. We got on best with the "poker " type games on machines.

Thurs. 28th Sept.

Chore day, plus Hazel plucked up courage and went to a "foreign" hairdresser, now looking better than something the cat dragged in! Swim and BBQ in this still hot weather. (high 80's)

Friday 29th Sept.

Big posh rigs here, spotted several with large t.v's in the side for watching outdoors!
At night headed off for the casino to lose some more money. Well!, after getting bored with the slot machines Brian plucked up courage and decided to play the tables, Blackjack (pontoon to you Brits) minimum $3 dollar bet. Some fancy hand signals involved for indicating what you want. Free drinks when you are sat at the table, so after several red wines Hazel leapt in. Imagine two Yorkshire folks betting 3 pounds a hand. Good job Hazel played as Brian was on a losing streak.
HAZEL - I'm a natural !
We only lost $10 dollars over an hours play. Good fun.
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