Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Portugal - California 2004

Into Death Valley - and another wildlife encounter!

The pattern was broken. Despite being in a lovely new hotel, in a comfortable king bed and without a care in the world, I had a restless, and not very pleasant, first half of the night. I only really started to get settled when some people would already be thinking about getting up. I was in no particular hurry, however, and enjoyed a lie-in until 0830. I had breakfast in the hotel and then, by the time I had another shot on their WiFi network and packed away all those freshly laundered clothes, it was fast approaching the check-out time of 1100. Formalities were minimal and I drove the car a few hundred yards to the parking lot of some fashion outlets that I had spotted the previous evening. A profitable (is that really the right word? ) visit was made to the Van Heusen outlet, which was offering an additional 30% off all marked prices

Nevertheless, I was soon on the main US 395 highway heading south. As Bruce had promised in an earlier e-mail, it was a stunningly beautiful drive, with the Sierra Nevada on one side and the Panamints rising on the other. Such were the tempting views to both left and right that it took considerable self-discipline to keep my eyes on the road! I passed through Bishop, Independence and Lone Pine and almost missed my turning onto the Death Valley road. The drive into Death Valley National Park was amazing. The views were quite incredible and I fear that my photos don't do them justice. Perhaps if I had one of those panoramic cameras, it might come closer. I made numerous stops along the way, trying to capture something of the essence of the experience. I suspect, however, that it can only truly be captured by being there. It was interesting to note how the temperature varied with altitude : from a relatively fresh (!) 87F at around 3000ft to 107F at -200ft, according to my ever-helpful car.

I made a brief stop at Stovepipe Wells to pay my National Park fee, and it was there that I learned the full extent of the road closures due to the recent flash floods. The ranger told me to be sure to visit the museum at Furnace Creek, which had a special display about the damage. I could tell right away that a considerable diversion would be required on Monday in order to reach Las Vegas. Even worse news was that the road to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, where you're meant to go to watch the sun rise, appeared to be closed. As I said to the ranger, I would just have to come back

Between Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek, I had another wildlife encounter. This time, a coyote decided to cross the road but, unlike the previous escapade at Sequoia, I was bearing down on him at 60mph! I had to brake, obviously, and decided to come to a full stop and have a closer look. I managed another photo, this time from the safety of the car.

Soon enough, I found my way to the Furnace Creek resort and checked in. I was pleased to note the range of facilities on offer, as I had brought very little with me. By 6pm I was desperate for dinner, having had very little for lunch, and decided not to wait for the steakhouse opening half an hour later. Instead I went to the cafe, where I had a very nice steak dinner, probably cooked by the same chef! I was intrigued to note, as I had at Stovepipe Wells, that the whole place seemed to be full of Brits.

On Highway 395

Driving into Death Valley

Saturday 25 Sep

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