Monday, December 26, 2011

Death Valley Birthday/Getaway Trip

Pat and I had a great trip to Death Valley.  Supposedly the trip was to celebrate my upcoming 60th birthday but the real reason was for us to get away from the computers and the telephone.  I spend entirely too much time on line and many days we both sit on the computers without really talking.  This gave us a chance to just get away without all of the electronic distractions.  Plus we really enjoy road trips in van...our second home.

I had a hard time deciding on this birthday trip.   At first I was thinking of hiking the trails of the Napali coast in Kauai...we did a short day hike there years ago and it was beautiful.  Bareboat sailing the BVI's is always a great trip also. But I was dreading the long air travel to those places.  Plus it's hard for me to leave our Tucson desert home since this is like being on vacation every day.  So we decided on a quick trip to Death Valley via an over night stay in Las Vegas.

Our first stop on the way to Vegas was the Hoover Dam.  Am amazing feat building that dam.  We went on the full tour ($30 each) that lasted about an hour.  It was interesting but a little over-priced since a lot of the tour is just walking from Point A to Point B.  Also the high price probably kept the crowds down as it was pretty crowded anyway.  We still had about 40 people in our group. We were glad we did it.

Then we spent the night in Las Vegas and just ate dinner and saw the sights.  The water fountain show at the Belagio was pretty amazing.  What really sticks in my mind is the city lights as we topped the hill then drove down into LV.  The place is lit up like a huge Christmas tree.  Pat and I try to be conscious of our water and electricity use on a daily basis but when I saw all of the lights and water usage in Vegas I figured our efforts are pretty useless.  We ate dinner, seated outside, across from the Belagio and watched the show.

The next morning we were off on a 3-hour drive to Death Valley.  The mountain range we crossed was snow-covered and slightly icy.  Made for an interesting trip.


The desert is an amazing place.  So desolate but so beautiful at the same time.  The views from Zambriski Point are breathtaking.

From there we were on to the Furnace Creek Ranch where we had a room booked for 2 days. We did some exploring around the area and then played a few sets of tennis...of course Pat beat me as always.

The next day we rented mountain bikes and rode the West Side Road which is a gravel road cut through the bottom of Death Valley.  Our route was around 25 miles and winded through the salt flats past Shorty's grave and ended at the abandoned Eagle Borax Mine works.

The only restaurants at Furnace Creek are at the Ranch and the FC Inn. The Inn is a 5-star hotel with all of the amenities.  The Ranch is more basic but great accomodations and the restaurant was good.  There is also a grill at the FC golf course.  We had the best hamburger cooked by Justin on the second day. Perfecto!

The next day we did a 14 mile bike ride around Artist's Drive which is a one-way scenic drive up into the mountains on the road to Badwater.  We didn't think it would be as strenuous as it was.  The first 4 miles was a steady uphill climb against a 15 mph wind.  We both struggled to get up there to the top.  I'm not sure what the elevation change is but it is very steep.  Coming down the mountain was a lot of fun though...and fast.

After our ride we set out for Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the USA at 282 feet below sea level.  The salt flats look like snow.  Hard packed and you can easily walk on it.  Lots of foreigners here...Asians and Dutch.

We wanted to make some headway getting home so we drove the rest of the day only stopping at Shoshone, CA to eat at this great little kind of place.  Gas was $5.00+ at the small gas station!  Luckily we had plenty.  Later on we drove through 1,000's of Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert Preserve.

We spent the night sleeping in the van at a roadside stop.  Comfortable but cold...had to be in the mid 30's!   Pat wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to put her sleeping bag (with her in it) inside my sleeping bag.  Needless to say I didn't sleep that well but she was snug as a bug in a rug.

The next day we drove home and the only memorable thing that happened that day was meeting Richard Radstone and his family at a rest stop.  I guess a link to his blog will suffice to explain.

1 comment:

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