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Sunday 6 Oct 2013
Death Valley, USA

Yea, though I drive through the Valley of the Shadow of Death...

After the last few days of long drives, Verity and I were both looking forward to a lie in this morning, but it seemed the staff of Furnace Creek had other ideas for us.  At 8am, the housemaid started banging on every door, calling ‘Room Service’ loudly.  We were at the far end of the long echoing corridor and were wide awake by the time she reached our door – which she didn’t knock on due to our ‘do not disturb’ sign.  How kind of her.  Half an hour later, one of the maintenance guys walked in with his walkie-talkie blaring at top volume.  I’d had enough and yanked the door asking him to consider that people were still sleeping, only to be told to be quiet as he was trying to listen to his radio!  I pointed out most of the corridor could hear his radio but he just walked off.  Not the lie in we had hoped for.

After a lazy morning we had brunch and sent our postcards from the Death Valley post office. We had stopped to admire a group of beautiful shiny Harley Davidsons when one of the owners walked up.  It was a group of five lady bikers from Las Vegas on a weekend ride.  I am not a fan of motorbikes in general, having spent the past 8 years helping to patch up riders that have come off them, but even I can appreciate how great Harleys are and what it must be like to ride through the amazing scenery America has shown us so far.  Watching them ride off in a line made us both quite envious.

We were disappointed to miss some of the sights, such as Dante’s View, Rainbow Canyon and Badwater Basin, but the drive across Death Valley still took us past the shifting golden sand dunes and vast saltpans.  We crossed the lowest point on the road, 270m below sea level, and followed the classic straight roads to the horizon.  The dashboard registered 97°F but it felt considerably hotter when we got out to take photos.  We obeyed the signs instructing us to turn off our air-con for one of the long slow climbs through a mountain pass and were very pleased when we could turn it back on again.  By the time we reached Father Crowley’s Viewpoint, we had climbed a long way up and it was hard to believe that such a vast inhospitable terrain lay just around the corner.

It took us three hours to reach Lone Pine at the foot of the Sierra Nevada range.  Mount Whitney may be only 84.6 miles from Badwater Basin, but at 4421m (14,505’) it is the highest point on the contiguous United States, compared to the latter’s 282m below sea level! The last 40 minutes of the drive to Lone Pine were spent with a large Toyota pickup and a U-haul van breathing down our neck.  I would have pulled over to let them past, had they not been so close behind me that I couldn’t do so safely.  At Lone Pine, all three of us pulled into the gas station and Verity and I watched as a woman jumped out of the pickup and dashed uncomfortably across the forecourt in an all-too-familiar manner.  We were just walking in as she came back out and asked if we’d been in the red car.  She apologized for ‘riding our asses’ but had been desperate to reach the restroom.  We’ve all been there at some point!  The guy in the U-haul van was following her so she hadn’t wanted to overtake and lose him. 

The last stretch of our drive took us north alongside the mighty Sierra Nevada to the ski resort of Mammoth Lakes.  Once again we turned off the air-con to prevent the car overheating on the long climb to our final elevation of the day: 7,880’. We may not have reached Mount Whitney’s giddy heights, but we climbed over two kilometres in altitude and our little Corolla performed admirably.


Mileage: 2259

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #1 America

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