Thursday, 17 December 2015

Death Valley was Dead Good - USA Road Trip Part 4

24 hours is never enough time to spend in Vegas but we comforted ourselves with the fact that it was au revoir rather than goodbye. The trip was brief but the memories were made and we had far more of the USA to get on the road to see.

After my fav (indulgent) Las Vegas meal - Panda Express Orange Chicken and Maccy D's fries - we packed up and hit the road. The next part of our road trip took us through Death Valley. The things we'd read, pictures we'd seen and guidebooks we'd checked out had said that Death Valley could be the hottest place on Earth. The sources talked about temperatures rising 10 degrees from the time you drove into the area to the time you reached Dante's peak. And yet when we arrived it rained. Well it rained on and off. There was no overwhelming heat. It did get warmer the further in we drove but the highlights were the views and the rainbows rather than the experience of the heat.

We saw scorpions cross the road and drove round the tightest corners on our way across the area. We ascended to Dante's peak to be greeted with a breath taking view - or maybe my breath was taken from the scary as hell road we had to take to get up there. But the longer we stood and admired the view the more amazing it was and I can honestly say it ranked up there with the spectacular sights of New Zealand and Australia. The time we spent standing on the edge will stay with me forever.

From Dante's Peak it was a whistle stop tour to see the other sights before sunset - the moon like dunes and rocky mountains made for a drive that was out of this world. When we weren't twisting and turning it was clear straight road all to ourselves, perfect driving conditions.

The only challenge we had was getting food. Turns out Death Valley is exactly prime location for fast food restaurants of shops. The road trip from Vegas to our destination of Mammoth Lakes was just over 5 hours but as night dawned we found ourselves in need of substance and thought an 11pm arrival time might mean we'd miss room service. We thought we were in luck when we saw signs for Tea Kettle Junction, except it was just a junction, the same with Death Valley Junction - sad times. Panamint Springs sounded hopeful but had nothing, then Swansea and Aberdeen - places that are big cities in the UK but were tiny drive through places with nothing of note here. Then Lone Pine appeared. A big town by Death Valley standards and it had a Carl's Jr. Dinner sorted. As we ate the place went from empty to full and we really felt like we'd be lost on the road for days. The people that appeared were talking of their woes and travel issues and we couldn't help but worry when we heard one group talking about the fires in Yosemite - not far from our next stop!

Fueled with food we finished the drive in endless darkness on, at times, terrifying roads. We drove up steep curvy roads and down windy narrow turns. It was like an arcade game only the terrifying realisation that the car wanted to do 80mph even with all my weight on the brake pedal kept me firmly in reality.

On arrival at Mammoth Lakes we found our hotel and I parked while Laura checked in. Before I could head in to meet her she came out to the car park with words that still make me smile. 'STOP, we have to clear out the car.....all of it, the hotel say bears come looking for food and will rip into cars for any scraps!' I smiled for 2 reasons 1) after 6 hours on the road (and as not the tidiest of people) cleaning out the car was no easy feat and 2) our proximity to actual bears was kinda exhilarating.

Some 20 minutes later with bags of rubbish we reached our room and passed out. Turns out driving a racing car is tiring! Plus we wanted to fresh faced and bushy tailed for our day in Yosemite the next day.

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