Death Valley National Park: The Hottest, Driest, Lowest Place in North America As Well As The Largest Park

5/25/15 Monday in Pahrump, NV (Preferred RV Resort-ROD)

Leaving the coach at 7:50, we arrived at Badwater Basin by 9. It was already 86 degrees there at that time. Because it’s the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (-282 feet below sea level), it’s also the hottest place. That’s why we went there first thing.

Badwater Basin: This region lies on major fault lines. It’s spreading apart, fracturing the earth’s crust along parallel fault lines. Huge blocks of land tilt like seesaws as the dropping continues.

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Artists Drive

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Golden Canyon

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Furnace Creek Ranch  Furnace Creek Ranch, a lovely green village near the Visitor Center, where we ate our lunch.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center  Furnace Creek Visitor Center which is where the official temperature is noted for Death Valley. This is the reading when we were there.

Harmony Borax Works (1883-1888): Of all the minerals mined in the Valley, only these provided wealth: gold, borax and talc. They refined the borax (separating the mineral from unwanted mud and salts) here, by dumping it into boiling tanks, adding carbonated soda. The borax dissolved and the lime and mud settled out. They drew off the borax liquid into cooling vats where it crystallized on hanging metal rods. Since it wouldn’t crystallize over 120 degrees, they didn’t work in the summer. The 20 (or so) mule team pulled caskets of borax and a large tank of water out of the valley.

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Zabriskie Point

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Dantes View (of Death Valley), from left to right.  The last image is of Badwater Basin from this vantage point.

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Amargosa Opera House, where Marta Becket repaired and painted sets, then performed from the late 1960’s until 2012.  It’s open every day, at the Junction to Death Valley.

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Got to town around 3, stopping at Home Depot for more hose parts. Yesterday we had a knock on our door. Maintenance letting us know that they’d had a call- our hose had come apart and created quite the lake. Oops. Guess the other parts didn’t quite do the trick, until John did a better job of installing them today. While John worked on the hose, I got the stairs ready for the paint, Rustoleum’s Semi gloss enamel. He helped with the drop cloth while I got to spray. It looks very nice.

To celebrate our big Death Valley Day and Memorial Day, we cashed in our coupons at the Pahrump Nugget Casino. I got the free T shirt, John got extra slot play. I lost all my free slot play dollars while John “made” over $12 with his. Fair enough. We enjoyed a lovely buffet meal for only $9 total. They were having a Memorial Day special ($6.99 each) and John had a $5 coupon for food. We ate too much, but it was worth it.

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Rust Off Steps

5/24/15 Sunday in Pahrump, NV (Preferred RV Resort-ROD)

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This was a pueblo style church. Great look and a perfect fit for this locale’s weather. On our way home we shopped for parts for our hose. Yesterday a neighbor noted that it was leaking. After lunch John worked on fixing that hose while I started my “rust” project, to get the rest spots off our steps. First I applied gobs of naval jelly to the affected places, letting it set for awhile, then rinsing it off with water. It didn’t take long to dry (hot day), then I scrubbed those areas with coarse steel wool, wiping off the remains. Now the fun part, spraying on Rustoleum’s “Rust Reformer”. We used a drop cloth (John helped hold it) to protect the rig from overspray. That needed 24 hours to “cure”, so that was all for today.

We treated ourselves to reading and TV after our little projects were completed, even managing a walk after supper.

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Clean Headlights

5/23/15 Saturday in Pahrump, NV (Preferred RV Resort-ROD)

Quiet morning of the usual, with lots of time spent on the blog. In the afternoon I cleaned Miss Journey’s headlights by brushing them with toothpaste, rinsing that off, then applying a car wax, to help them get shiny. Then I made macaroni salad to have easy little heat meals with the coming weather predicted to be HOT. I enjoyed a fun book outdoors. I bet you know what John did all this time…watched TV while figuring things on his computer. Supper was a fun one: hamburgers with our macaroni salad, then a walk to make a complete evening.

Scenes from Death Valley

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Death Valley National Park: Scotty’s Castle, Ubehebe Crater, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

5/22/15 Friday in Pahrump, NV (Preferred RV Resort-ROD)

Up early and on our way to the Park by 7:30. We took the long route via Hwy 95. We did see wild burros and cattle near Beatty on that road, but it still wasn’t worth the drive. The better way is within the Park (from Pahrump) via Bell Vista/State Line Road, Hwy 190/Scotty’s Castle Road. We returned on that path and it is beautiful, with no commercial traffic allowed, besides being shorter!

Rain was predicted so that’s why we chose to visit Scotty’s Castle this day. Would you believe, it rained as were just getting into the Park! We saw these lovely Angel Trumpet flowers along the road.  Would you believe, the average rainfall in the Valley is 2 inches per YEAR.  Hard to believe we hit a day when some fell.

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At Scotty’s castle we lucked out and got into the next tour, at 10, without making reservations beforehand. Entry into the Park is free with our Senior Pass. The cost of the guided tour is half for each person who has a Senior Pass, so it really paid off to each have our own: $7.50 each with Senior Pass.

Scotty’s Castle. First a little back story. This Spanish style castle was actually built and owned by a multimillionaire couple, Albert and Bessie Johnson. Albert made his first millions in zinc mining (Bessie had a religious radio program), then they found out Albert’s back was broken in 3 places when he was in a train accident. He would die in about 3 months. He quit his stressful job and went into insurance (making more millions and working 80 hour weeks). As for Scotty, he ran away from home at 11, eventually joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild Wild West Show. When he arrived a week late for work in New York, Buffalo Bill fired him. So he proceeded to tell investors (he loved telling stories) that he found a huge gold mine in California, would they invest in him. Albert was among his investors, eventually coming to California to see how his investment was going. No one had received any profit/return from Scotty yet because it was all a lie and he’d spent their money. So when Albert met Scotty, Scotty had arranged for his friends to pretend that they were robbing Albert, to scare him away. Unfortunately for Scotty, the friends ended up shooting Scotty’s brother and Albert figured out what was going on. Fortunately for Scotty, Albert fell in love with the serene beauty of Death Valley and the fun personality of Scotty. Thus began a long and profitable friendship for these two opposite personalities. With Scotty, Albert found joy and adventure. In return Scotty got to regale all visitors with his stories of all the gold below the “castle” that Albert built and was forever financially secure thanks to Albert and Bessie. They called their winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) home Death Valley Ranch, using labor from the local tribe (Timbisha Shoshone) and out-of-work miners (the mines had played out by now). It was built in the early 20’s and didn’t get finished because of the Crash. Everyone called it Scotty’s Castle because that’s how the stories went and Albert was fine with that. After the Depression Albert rented rooms out for income. This place was completely self sufficient, using the abundant natural spring water on the property and huge Edison batteries for power. He also used solar power for his water and had gas trucked in. The railroads closed because the mining had ended so he bought all their railroad ties to burn in his 17 fireplaces. The castle was built of concrete, using sand from the desert and some cement-excellent for insulated walls.

Highlights from our tour:

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 Death Valley Ranch written above door

Death Valley Ranch written above door

The clock chimed every 15 minutes.

The clock chimed every 15 minutes.

Grand Room inside door. Fireplace on one side.

Grand Room inside door. Fireplace on one side.

Waterfall over rocks on other side for cooling.

Waterfall over rocks on other side for cooling.

Second waterfall for cooling in sunroom.

Second waterfall for cooling in sunroom.

Sunroom with windows facing south and west.

Sunroom with windows facing south and west.

Scotty's bedroom next to Grand Room.  Cowboy Scotty actually stayed in cabin without power or water.  The hole is his story that he'd put a gun through to fend off gold hunters.

Scotty’s bedroom next to Grand Room. Cowboy Scotty actually stayed in cabin without power or water. The hole is his story that he’d put a gun through to fend off gold hunters.

On the other side of the hole, a bullet splitter that would send bullets both directions to kill thieves.

On the other side of the hole, a bullet splitter that would send bullets both directions to kill thieves.

Dining Room

Dining Room

 Scotty's chair in dining room.  His preference.

Scotty’s chair in dining room. His preference.

Personalized dishes.  DVR for Death Valley Ranch. J for Johnson, S for Scotty

Personalized dishes. DVR for Death Valley Ranch. J for Johnson, S for Scotty

 Scotty loved to cook on this gas stove.

Scotty loved to cook on this gas stove.

 Bessie's bed where she prepared her radio sermons.

Bessie’s bed where she prepared her radio sermons.

Player piano. Cylinders of music kept to right.

Player piano. Cylinders of music kept to right.

Scotty's grave

Scotty’s grave

Not far from the Castle is the Ubehehe (YOU be he be) Crater and Little Ubehebe Crater. This was a Marr Volcano, “created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the depths reached ground water. The intense heat flashed the water into steam which expanded until the pressure was released as a tremendous explosion….Cinders from these explosions cover much of the surrounding area.” Walking to Uehebe from the parking lot is a cinch. Walking to Little Uhebehe is not so much. It’s VERY windy there, but we appreciated it’s cooling effect as we walked.

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 Little Ubehebe Crater

Little Ubehebe Crater

Scenes on our way to the sand dunes.

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

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Scenes on our way home.

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That was a big day. We were so grateful for the cool, rainy weather, although it didn’t help with photos. You can’t have everything!

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Golf Game For John

5/21/15 Thursday in Pahrump, NV (Preferred RV Resort-ROD)

While I stayed home with laundry and computer work, John got to play golf. It’s been a really long time since his last game, so I was really glad for him. He had a great game, considering he hadn’t golfed since January. We had a quiet afternoon, napping, reading, watching old TV shows.

I went for a campground walk after supper and saw 6 little rabbits. All gray, a perfect camouflage with the desert ground.

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Moving on – to Pahrump, NV

5/20/15 Wednesday in Pahrump, NV (Preferred RV Resort-ROD)

On our way by 9, but not without an adventure right off the bat. I’d finished going through my pre trip routine getting our car ready for towing. As I stood on the street to watch John try to move Miss Journey forward I saw things were locking up and realized I had left the car in Park. I’m supposed to let it run in Neutral for 3 minutes, but this time I was thinking I could keep my foot off the brake if I put it in Park. Our brake system went crazy and wouldn’t let the car brake loose for a while, but then it released. I then got the car back into Neutral, then got in the coach. As we were approaching the highway I mentioned that I’d left it in Park those 3 minutes and did it need to be in Neutral for the transmission fluid to be appropriately distributed. John spotted a pull out and stopped so I could let it run for 3 minutes in Neutral. That was a close one! As I got out of the car I saw a Road Runner watching us from a little bank just 3 yards away. Sweet. It was an omen, because the rest of the trip was smooth.

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 Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Nevada has great roads, from what we’ve seen! We took Hwy 163, US 95/I-515, I-215W, I-15S, Hwy 163 (Blue Memorial Hwy) to Pahrump. Thick traffic while on the edge of Las Vegas (the Interstates), but still very nice roads and signage. Hwy 163 was a good climb and Hwy 160 was even harder, we were in 3rd gear traveling in the 40’s. At least they have passing lanes.

Preferred RV Resort (ROD) is great. I love how you just turn right off Hwy 160 onto Hwy 372 and it’s right there, with a long wide space at the side of the road to park for registration. We got coupons towards the slots, food, a t-shirt, bingo, and bowling at the nearby casinos. They assign your site, which are all level, most are pull through, with some trees. We have great TV reception, cell phone (they offer free WiFi), FHU with free 50 amps. Good electricity. It was heaven to just roll onto a great site, set up, and eat lunch all within an hour. Later in the day a gentleman knocked at our door. He was the host for the campground, there to give us info on things to see and do, even places to eat. We talked for some time with him about Death Valley ideas and others that he recommended. He said if we had any questions, just look him up at his campsite. THAT was priceless!! Making one feel welcome and giving personal information. The bathrooms are pristine. They have a beautiful, large, warm pool and several water features. There’s a hot tub inside somewhere that we haven’t found yet. The weather is so much more pleasant here than at Bullhead City. The highs for today there were predicted at 91 degrees. Here it got to 79 degrees. Little wind. You can walk to the casinos and grocery store (Smith’s).

We took a walk around in the afternoon, then another in the evening. We walked to the nearest casino, catching sight of a beautiful sunset. Lovely end to a great travel day.

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Visiting Day

5/19/15 Tuesday in Bullhead City, AZ (Ridgeview RV-ROD)

Pre travel day, so we took it easy. We did manage a couple projects in the morning. I put plumber’s grease on our toilet seal. The pedal seems to have a sticky/squeaky issue too and I couldn’t get to where the parts seem to rub there, but the ball moves more smoothly now. We discovered that whenever you press the pedal some water leaks from above it. Strange. John’s thinking we might get a new one in Spokane. We’ll see. Meanwhile he started to take down a window valence, to get the “stuck” MCD shade out. Well we need a long screwdriver for that, so that will wait until Spokane too. Then we got visiting with our neighbors, Harold and Patty. That’s how we spent our day, except for a break for lunch.

We actually cooked up a recipe, Chicken Stroganoff, for supper, then relaxed with the DWTS Finale. Yay!!! I’m so glad Rumor won. She was so amazing to watch. Those final three were just phenomenal. Perfect ending for the 20th season.

This cactus was in Oatman. Tomorrow we head for Nevada, through desert to camp in more desert. I’ve never been a sun lover and I’m finding I’m not that crazy about life in the windy, hot, dry desert. It’s hard to fathom how the early people, Indians and settlers managed.

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