Into the Valley of Death....

Trip Start Mar 28, 2012
Trip End May 24, 2012

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Where I stayed
Exchange Club Motel Beatty
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
Death Valley

Flag of United States  , Nevada
Friday, May 4, 2012

After a well-deserved good night's rest we set off in search of .... Starbucks to kick-start the day. Then it was out into the endless desert. It was weird driving to Ridgecrest. The sun had set leaving us the Edenic Tuscan hills and we drove on for more than three hours in the darkness over numerous passes on less than express-ways and finally arrived in Ridgecrest. In the morning we awake to find ourselves in the middle of the desert - it was odd not observing the transition.

The first via point was Trona - not a lot happening here so we kept on going and drove down into the Panamint Valley heading north on 178. Mile after mile of endless scrub - little vegetation and only the odd bird and more rare, odd other vehicle for company. The sun was getting hot and the temperature was climbing up through the 70s˚F. In the car it is very hot - even with air-con on but as soon as you stop and get out of the car the very strong wind masks the heat of the sun and it feels cool. As I sit typing this I can feel the skin on face tightening as it reacts to today's sun. As we were trundling steadily north we spied what we thought to be a bird low on the horizon, then we thought we were seeing a drone and then we realised it was an F16 at about 100' heading straight down the road towards us. It screamed overhead and went into a steep climb. this whole area is surrounded by military ranges and we were often to hear the sound of military jets throughout the day.

We continued north until we hit 190 where we turned east towards the Death Valley National Park. We stopped at Stovepipe Wells to buy lunch and check in at the Visitor Centre to pay our park entry - already worth the $20! It was closed for lunch but the vending machine offered us a permit in lieu of human interaction. I felt like saying, 'sorry, my wallet is closed for lunch"!

We continued the short distance to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes where I promptly attacked by a large black flying bug of some kind that seemed determined to have a part of me. I dealt it several blows before it went for some other poor unsuspecting woman and then it returned to have another go at me. Ugh! We marched into the dunes - thankfully the bug didn't do sand.

The advice for photographers was to head towards the east as there less footprints in the dunes here - advice which proved to accurate. However, after about 20 minutes of paddling about in the pleasant sand it was so hot my feet were burning - wrong day to wear sandals. I then found I had managed to walk at least half-a-mile into the dunes and it was a long, hot and very painful retreat tot he car park. The air temperature in the shade was now at 89˚F.

From there we drove east and then south entering Death Valley properly and stopped at the aptly named Furnace Creek visitor center where the temperature had climbed to 94˚F. After taking on more liquids at the Furnace Creek Ranch, we set off for Zabriskie Point. This viewing point affords stunning views of the eroded landscape cut into steep V-shaped valleys that dramatically intersect each other. The area is rich in Borate minerals and is actively mined today.

With the attractive prospect of getting out of the sun and heading for our Motel, we set the sat-nav for Exchange Club Motel in Beatty, Nevada. It was a joy to arrive at about 4:15 pm and luxuriate into our lavish room with the conventional twin Queen-sized beds, fridge, TV, WiFi etc, etc. I used the opportunity of a break in the hectic schedule to bring my blogs and photos up to date before we headed across one of the two streets in this 'town' to enjoy a wonderful Aberdeen Angus steak, onion rings and of course the ubiquitous French fries. We then tried to find a bar but were disappointed to discover that Nevada either permit smoking inside, or doesn't police the ban. Rather than sit in something that could pass for an opium den, we sat outside one 'rustic' establishment (on the other street in Beatty) and enjoyed a drink but felt distinctly chilly as we watched the moon rise above the local hills. We could actually see the moon move as though it were motorised - propelled by some cosmic jet pack across the sky. So, it's back to the Motel to listen to chicadas calling outside and some awful karaoke from a local bar. the singing is thankfully broken up from time-to-time as 18 wheel rigs and fleets of Harleys come grinding through this town that feels more frontier than cosmopolitan. I do hope we will get some sleep tonight before we hed back into Death Valley tomorrow.
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