we go via the highest point in the USA to the lowest, in the space of 100 miles
03.05.2014 - 05.05.2014 33 °C
Monday 5th May: Room 2205, Golden Nugget Las Vegas
We have 4 days here in "Vegas" so time to catch up, and slow down and win some money. At our stop last night (Back of Beyond) Bob won $30 without trying. A good omen, no doubt.
Leaving Culver City on a Saturday we thought the freeways out of LA would be clear. Wrong! But, there was only one holdup of about 5 minutes getting on to the Santa Monica Freeway. Then fairly easy driving out of the mayhem. It's all a bit like a theme park ride driving here. Close your eyes, hold on tight, and hope for the best.
At last we get onto our target, US Highway 395. It's now 395 all the way to Canada, with a couple of sidetrips on the way.
We do turn off the road for Ransburg "Ghost Town". So often there are specially created tourist traps but this was pretty genuine. A town fallen on hard times and trying to make a few bucks out of it. We liked it. We were going to stop for a soda but were beaten to it by a load of scramblers who had brought there bikes and trucks up to the desert for a bit of dust swallowin'. So we moseyed on...
Much of this high desert is given over to a Naval Weapons site, just the other side of dried-up Owens Lake.
From the high Mojave desert, we can now see on the left the Sierra Nevada. We learned from the LA Weatherman that the snow cover on the Sierras is nothing close to normal. They should have a thick covering of snow at this time of year, which is what we expected, but they only have a light dusting. They rely on snow melt in the Spring to provide a lot of water. Not going to happen this year.
We finally arrive at "Nowhere in Particular" aka Lone Pine. Now this place we visited in 1981. The Frontier Best Western motel is just as we remember it, and they still have not bought new towels.
We had a room that from the front, looked like a punishment cell,
but we had a view from the back of the room toward the Sierras as well as the bustling Lone Pine Airport. Each time the aircon came on we thought a plane was taking off, but we saw no movement whatsoever.
In town, we found a Mexican restaurant and gave it a try.
Inside we were greeted by a local lad who must have been on his first night waiting as his whole extended family were outide laughing at him in his nice new white shirt. Aaaah!
Bob had pork taquitos with beans, rice and SPICEY guacamole.
John had wet burritos. Although there is a picutre of this, we thought it too upsetting for anyone viewing this Blog who is of a delicate and nervous disposition.
Maybe this is why they have this notice on the pool?
Sunday we are up fairly early in time to cope with the motel "free" breakfast. Not something for the faint hearted either. Bloggers may remember John wrote up the hazards that exist in the modern hotel bedroom for the eldery and/or mentally confused.
In some ways, the modern motel breakfast holds has many pitfalls and hazards in store. Watch this space for a full description of the horrors involved. Meanwhile, take in this innocent picture which belies the horrors occurring within the breakfast room.
Soon we are packed and on the way to Death Valley. Somehow we have avoided visiting this national monument and are not quite sure why. We both had a fairly clear image in our head and maybe did not want this spoiled.
We leave behind the Sierra Nevadas...
and are soon back in the desert, climbing and descending, climbing and descending...
There we are, Death Valley, wow!
No, false alarm. We're not there yet....
Now we're getting closer, another 282 ft to go!
Made it, down Badwater Road, to the bed of the ancient sea that now forms Death Valley. Given it was a Sunday, we were pleasantly surprised at how few tourists there were. Bizarly, whether they came by car, van or motorbike, most of those that were there, seemed to be French-Canadians. Odd, very odd. There were also Japanese, Russians and the odd Brits (some might say, very odd Brits) and very few Americans.
Very unusually, we both felt is was not far off how we had imagined it, though it was more downright gob-smackingly awesome than we could possibly imagine.
We then moved on to Zabriskie Point. It's something from the 60s that you could never imagine that you would visit one day. And here we are! The story of this National Park goes back to the mining of Borax. This mineral was dragged out of here by teams of 20 mules down 80 miles where it could be shipped out by rail. The owner realised that Borax mining had had its day and he persuaded Theo Roosevelt to make the area a National Park so he could then make money out of the tourists. And here we are! We did feel sorry for those poor mules. No animal rights then!
We then took our own 20 mule-power V8 GMC Yukon XL for a bit of off-road driving through 20-Mule Canyon. A bit hairy at times and we blessedly had it all to ourselves.
Finally we drive up to Dantes View, which is some 3,500' above Badwater where we had walked on the salt at the lowest point of the USA.
On the way out of the park we spot a disused Borax mine...
...and after an easy drive, we are at our stop for the night: Longstreet Inn & Casino, just over the border in Nevada.
This really is the back of beyond. Extremely odd, too. Probably the oddest place we have ever stayed at. Built in 1997 by a guy whose ambition was to own a gambling hall on the Nevada border. It was not an outstanding success. The place seemed to have only us and some French Canadians as guests and there was no one gambling in the casino. It had certainly seen better days but we liked it.
Here is the "dining room"
where we had a Swiss Mushroom Burger (John, his one burger a trip) and Bob the very good pork chop special at $7.95.
OK, now in Vegas, of course. An uneventful drive here (apart from TomTom suddenly stopping working at a critical point) but we made it via a really really good diner in a non-place called Pahrump, Nevada.
Amongst the customers, two officers of the Nevada Highway Patrol as well as a very well armed detective from the local Sheriff's Dept. Incidentally, we saw many posters for the forthcoming elections. Amonst them was Eric Marshall for Sheriff. Could cause confusion with the Marshall's Office. "High, this is Marshall the Sheriff. Could I speak to the Marshall, Sheriff". Not that Frank Sheriff was standing for Marshall, as far as we are aware.
Our ridiculous room in the Golden Nugget...
Now a little secret. I really should not be telling you this to save Arthur's blushes. He thought he was being clever when he heard we were coming to Death Valley, some 282' below sea level he packed his mask and snorkel. Ahem. Here we come, Vegas......