Death Valley and the Duke
Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
39Trip End Oct 26, 2010
Nancy's memory of Death Valley is a summer trip in the 1950’s (before cars had air conditioning). Her family was moving from New York to Sacramento. As a child it seemed to take days to cross and even with the windows open the hot air burned her nose and throat. She was not looking forward to revisiting.
We were surprised by the ups and downs, crossing three 4,000-foot passes and dipping below sea level. It was not jaw dropping scenery we have become accustomed to but there were expansive vistas the dark skies created a dramatic backdrop.
It was a North long, long day of driving to reach the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We were hoping to stop for the evening in the first town, Olancha; however, the little town with a population of 39 had no lodging available. The next town, Lone Pine was 25 miles and we stopped at the very first motel – no vacancy – a corvette rally had taken over the motel. We drove on, no vacancy at the next motel and we were getting a bit discouraged, not wanting to drive another hour to Bishop.
Finally we found a room at the Dow Villa Motel. As you enter the lobby it looks like a step back in time, large couches, a roll top desk, felt topped poker table, and western movie memorabilia, photos of all the old western movie stars. Photos of "The Duke" were everywhere. The Dow Hotel was built in the early 1920s. Hollywood was looking for movie locations where there was a variety of scenery and chose Owens Valley, with its snow-capped Sierra and ancient Alabama Hills, deserts, mountain lakes and streams. When they came on location, they needed lodging. Mr. Walter Dow, a Lone Pine resident, could see ahead and knew what it could mean to the valley to have the big movie business, so he built the Dow Hotel. It was a funky place with a comfortable lobby and quite an array of movie memorabilia.
Not far down the street we found a steak house and indulged in a really good steak dinner for Nancy and BBQ ribs for George. We and slept well knowing that the Duke was watching over us.