California 2021:
Day 14 - Death Valley National Park


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California 2021: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Route 66: IL] [Day 3 - Route 66: MO] [Day 4 - Route 66: OK] [Day 5 - Route 66: TX] [Day 6 - Route 66: NM] [Day 7 - Route 66: AZ] [Day 8 - Route 66: CA] [Day 9 - Route 66: CA] [Day 10 - Los Angeles] [Day 11 - Los Angeles] [Day 12 - Palm Springs] [Day 13 - Joshua Tree NP] [Day 14 - Death Valley NP] [Day 15 - Las Vegas] [Day 16 - Zion NP] [Day 17 - Grand Canyon North Rim] [Day 18 - Toroweap, Grand Canyon] [Day 19 - Page, AZ] [Day 20 - Durango, CO] [Day 21 - Great Bend, KS] [Day 22 - St. Louis, MO] [Day 23 - Heading Home]

Saturday, November 13, 2021: We left the hotel right at 8:00 AM and made our way to the Del Taco right across the street.
On our way out of town, these bicycles caught our eye. We realized that this was the Glass Outhouse Art Gallery that we had read about the previous day on Roadside America.
We headed straight east out of town, ...
... passing this interesting building that seemed to have no square sides, ...
... followed by this one a little further down the road.
We turned north and headed through the Mojave Trails National Monument for the second time this trip, ...
... toward the town of Amboy, California. We could see Amboy Crater ahead in the distance.
Roadside America let us know about these lines of dirt pyramids by the side of the road, left by the National Chloride Company of America. They extend across Bristol Dry Lake in multiple lines and look surreal.
We could see the entire town of Amboy as we approached.
We turned around on the road to recreate this sign from six days earlier.
We were back on Route 66, headed east this time.
We stopped to look at this large Buddha statue by the side of the road. We had passed it on our way west, but there were people stopped at it then and we drove on by. This time, there was no one there and we decided to check it out.
We stopped at Roy's Motel and Cafe to take a closer look. We had only briefly looked into the office area when we came by the previous week and wanted to see more of it.
The doors had been removed from some of the motel cabins in the front row, so ...
... we went inside one of the cabins and looked around. For the 1950s, this seems to be a pretty spacious room. There would have been room for a double bed or maybe a queen, a table and chairs, and maybe even a sofa.
It was all very distressed from years and years of neglect, but it was still intact and you could get a real feel for the place.
Behind the cabins there was a big fenced-in area where there were some vehicles parked, obviously in long-term storage judging by the state of the tires. It was very fitting that a Juan Pollo van was here, considering the owner of Juan Pollo, Albert Okura, owns Roy's Motel and Cafe and the entire town of Amboy.
There was also a vintage Packard Clipper in the fenced in area.
The Bundlings travel motto, Go Where the People Aren't, was working again today.
We walked over to the office to take a peek. There was a piano with various albums on it, a vintage typewriter, cash register, and other items from the Route 66 golden era on display. This portion of the property has been worked on since ownership changed hands.
Next door is the gas station/souvenir store, and we went in to do some shopping.
There was a large drink refrigerator with craft soda, lots of snacks, Roy's memorabilia, and Route 66 branded items.
We purchased a Route 66 license plate, a box of Cracker Jack, a Roy's Motel & Cafe pint glass, and a Pearson's Salted Nut Roll.
Back on the road, we headed east until we got to Kelbacker Road, and then we turned north, perfectly retracing our route from six days earlier. We passed through the Mojave Trails National Monument again south of I-40, ...
... followed by the Mojave National Preserve when we went north of I-40.
We could see I-15 in the distance, and the beautiful mountains beyond. We were going to be on this road for a long way.
We kept our eyes sharp for the one tortoise that this sign warned us about. Spoiler: we didn't see it.
There is a faint line going straight up the hills in the distance to the left. That's our road.
We passed the Kelso Dunes. Sand dunes are facinating to us. Just great big piles of sand, but only in this one area.
Just across the railroad tracks at Kelso stood the Kelso Depot Visitor Center. It must have been a majestic sight to arrive here by train.
There were craters and dark volcano-y looking mountains to the east of us that stood out from the rest of the desert.
In Baker, California, there was a unique looking building that caught our eye: Alien Fresh Jerky. We're sure it catches every eye.
There were people waiting in line at the Mad Greek Cafe, so it may deserve its title of "Best Gyros USA."
We were driving through huge tracts of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands. There were several signs like this one that just said "Your Public Lands," but most of them were named areas, like ...
... Soda Mountains Wilderness, ...
... Hollow Hills Wilderness, ...
... Old Spanish National Historic Trail (stupid antenna stealing the focus!), ...
... Kingston Range Wilderness, ...
... Salt Creek Hills, ...
... and Avawatz Mountains Wilderness.
We could see a campground in the distance, ...
... with quite a few campers and trailers gathered together, ...
... at the Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area.
The mountains were starting to get closer and display their colors, ...
... and there were features on the roadside other than sand and scrub.
We drove through the town of Shoshone, and continued to follow our navigation system north until we realized that it was bypassing Death Valley National Park, which we're sure would be faster, but isn't what we wanted.
We did a U-turn, and headed back south for a little ways until we found the road headed to Badwater, Highway 178.
We arrived in Death Valley National Park a few miles later. We thought that the sign for the park was one of the prettiest ones we'd seen.
It was followed shortly thereafter by a crossing sign for the most armored tortoise we had ever seen. Look at the shell ridges on this one!
We drove over the Jubilee Pass and headed down into the valley, ...
... getting a big reveal of Death Valley as we came down out of the pass.
There used to be a gold ore processing plan here in 1914, until the mine was sold to a Hungarian count. Really?! A Hungarian count? Were there no Nigerian princes who bid?
The hills had really interesting textures, with distinctive coloring at each of the layers of rock.
At this spot, it looked like there was rubble pouring out of that cleft in the rock.
The view from Mormon Point emphasizes the steep hills on either side of the enormous valley.
There were so many colors in the rocks on the hillside. It was much prettier than we had expected.
We saw occasional pools of water surrounded by rings of salt left behind when the water evaporates.
The salt basin at Badwater is visible long before you get there.
There is a display board at Badwater showing the places on Earth with the lowest elevations. Badwater is the lowest in the western hemisphere, at -282 feet. Interestingly enough, the Salton Sea, where we were two days earlier, is second lowest in the western hemisphere at -277 feet. The lowest elevation on Earth is the Dead Sea at -1360 feet, which we visited in 2014.
There was a walkway out on to the salt flats. Let's take a closer look!
There is a sign out on the boardwalk announcing that Badwater Basin is 282 feet/85.5 meters below sea level. Everyone who went out to the flats stopped here to have their picture taken. We waited for everyone to have their photoshoots and finally got our picture with no one around.
There was a pool of water at the end of one walkway, ...
... and the salt crystals sparkled in the sunlight.
This was the second salt flats we had been on this year. We had been at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in February.
The flats go on for quite a distance, and many people were walking all the way to the end.
Not us though. We got back in the car and headed north, ...
... taking the turnout for the scenic drive to Artists Palette.
The colors on this one-way drive were even more spectacular, ...
... with pinks and whites and reds and greens visible.
The road cut through some hills with short, steep drops and climbs, ...
... and was twisty and turny, hugging the hillside ...
... until we got to the Artists Palette itself, which almost looks like ice cream rather than mountains. It is easy to see how it got its name.
We met back up with the main road, and continued north, ...
... seeing an oasis of green in the distance, ...
... which turned out to be the Furnace Creek Inn, a resort at this end of the park.
Where the road from the south meets the road leading out of the park, it is back to sea level.
This crossroad is California 190, which is a scenic byway.
We headed  just a bit down the road to the west to Furnace Creek, ...
... where the elevation was 190 feet below sea level.
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center was our next stop, where the helpful display showed that it was currently 91 degrees. In mid-November. We can only imagine how hot it must get at the peak of summer.
We headed through the visitor center to the courtyard in the back, ...
... to the Stephen Mather plaque on the east wall. Every time we see one, we both are very moved by the final lines on the plaque: "There will never come an end to the good that he has done."
Inside the visitor center, there is a giant 3D map table of Death Valley, and we took a few minutes to view the route that we had driven.
We though about heading further up the road, but then decided against it. We turned around just past the Harmony Borax Works, a historic Borax mine and processing plant from the 1880s.
There was a gas station next to the visitor center, and we both were in shock at the prices. We had become numb to the $5/gallon that we had been paying in California, but this was something we had never seen before: $6.65/gal for regular, and $7.14/gal for premium. We were very glad to be driving our fuel-efficient minivan Septimus for this trip instead of our Class B RV that we sold two months earlier.
We left the visitor center behind, climbed to sea level, and then kept climbing upward out of the park.
We got a closer look at the palm trees and greenery around the Furnace Creek Inn, ...
... admired the rock formations, ...
... and colorful layers, ...
... and amazing textures on the rocks, ...
...  as we neared Zabriskie Point.
There was a colorful Escape Campervan in the parking lot, and Debbie got this shot as she tries to collect them all.
We hiked up the hill to the overlook, and were stunned by the valleys and formations nearby.
Tom tried to capture it in a panoramic photo, but there is no way to capture all of its beauty.
Speaking of beauty, we took a few minutes to try to recreate a photo of Debbie and Doug taken here when they were little.
We took one last look at the formations to the south, ...
... and then headed back down the hill to our van.
The white stripes on these hills almost look like glue marks where someone put the hills back togther.
By 3:30 PM, we were out of the park and headed south and east, ...
... passing Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction. The building was constructed in 1923 by the Pacific Borax Company as offices, dormitories, and a small hotel, entertaining their employees in the nearby company town.
We continued east, and the only clue that we had crossed over into Nevada was Google Maps welcoming us. Thanks, Google Maps!
We drove along the southern edge of the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, ...
... before being greeted in the outskirts of Pahrump, Nevada, by what we now considered to be very reasonable gas prices.
Seemoore's Ice Cream, or Seemoore's Polar Parlor as the sign says, was unfortunately closed by the time we got there. We're not sure if it was just closed early for the day, or closed for the season, but we sadly had to keep driving rather than get our long anticipated ice cream treat.
As we got closer to the center of town, we were reminded that Nevada has casinos.
We checked into our hotel for the evening, Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Pahrump, where we had a king suite reserved, but seemed to have gotten a double-queen room instead. Works for us!
We had a good view of the mountains from our room as sun went down, ...
... casting the mountains in shadow as the sun moved west, ...
... until all was in shadow.
Tom went to the El Jefe restaurant next door to pick up a take-out order of three chicken enchiladas in green sauce for Debbie, and three chicken enchiladas in mole sauce for Tom. We saved the chips and salsa and ate them for several days afterward.

Day 15 >


California 2021: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Route 66: IL] [Day 3 - Route 66: MO] [Day 4 - Route 66: OK] [Day 5 - Route 66: TX] [Day 6 - Route 66: NM] [Day 7 - Route 66: AZ] [Day 8 - Route 66: CA] [Day 9 - Route 66: CA] [Day 10 - Los Angeles] [Day 11 - Los Angeles] [Day 12 - Palm Springs] [Day 13 - Joshua Tree NP] [Day 14 - Death Valley NP] [Day 15 - Las Vegas] [Day 16 - Zion NP] [Day 17 - Grand Canyon North Rim] [Day 18 - Toroweap, Grand Canyon] [Day 19 - Page, AZ] [Day 20 - Durango, CO] [Day 21 - Great Bend, KS] [Day 22 - St. Louis, MO] [Day 23 - Heading Home]

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