Day 1: Sunday
Mountains overlooking the Mojave Desert.
This trip I flew from Tallahassee to Atlanta, then directly into Las Vegas. While waiting for the cab to take me to Tally airport the sweat was pouring down my face from the humidity, though the temperature was only in the low eighties. Remember that. It’s important later on. There were a bunch of ladies on the plane from Tally heading for Vegas and a health care conference. I saw several of them on the flight to Vegas. Watched Logan on the way, and really wished I had seen it in the theater. Much better than I thought it would be. We flew over the Grand Canyon and were treated to a fantastic view. Or we would have been, if the windows weren’t so filthy. Something the airlines need to look into, remembering that people fly during the day to view the sights. In Vegas I went to the Enterprise desk, which entails riding a shuttle bus for almost ten minutes from the air terminal (and don’t ask me what the people who planned this airport were thinking.) I was offered a number of economy cars, but chose the one with Texas plates for reasons.
Rainbow over the Desert at Bonnie Springs.
After I got my car I drove south into the Mojave for a couple of hours, eating at the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings. Then to the nearest Wal-Mart to pick up a fan, distilled water for my CPAP, and a case of bottled water, always a good idea in that climate. One thing I will mention about the Mojave. Remember the remark about the sweat in Tallahassee. It was 111 degrees, and not a bit of sweat. I realized that was the danger of the desert for the untutored. You would dehydrate in the heat without noticing until you fell over. I tried to enter the Bonnie Springs Motel, where I would be staying the first two nights, in my GPS, and came up with nothing. I called them and found that the address was not Las Vegas, but a little village, Blue Diamond. She gave me directions that led me right to them. The Motel had a nearby restaurant and several attractions, including a horse riding stable, a Wild West town and a petting zoo. It was right in the Red Rock Canyon area, and some enormously beautiful rock formations backed the motel complex. Joshua trees grew in the nearby desert, and there were spectacular mountains everywhere I looked.
Horses at Bonnie Springs Ranch.
I actually like the smell of horses, and I could take in their scent while I was outside while the peacocks were singing their haunting call. I had dinner that night at the local restaurant, which overlooked a pond full of ducks and turtles. Peacocks wandered the grounds, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of peace in this environment. Anni was my waitress, a woman originally from Yugoslavia, whose husband was an aspiring writer. I gave her some tips, ate, then fell into bed to sleep the sleep of the dead. Bonnie Springs will be one of the settings in the yet unnamed post apocalyptic series I’m developing. It was isolated and had its own water supply. What more would you want in a refuge from the apocalypse.
Day 2: Monday
Turtles at the Bonnie Springs Ranch Restaurant.
The next day I awoke, ate breakfast while watching the ducks and turtles, then started out. First target was an overlook in the Spring Mountains I had found on Google Earth. Beautiful drive, great rock formations the entire way, and desert gave way to sparse pine forest. Not enough turnoffs for pictures, a constant complaint. I turned off onto one of the mountains, aiming for that overlook that was supposed to give a view of the Vegas flatlands. I got up there, and was disappointed that the overlook was on private property with no trespassing signs posted all over the entrance. I drove on a little ways, got up to just under 9,000 feet, and turned around to head for my second target of the day, Death Valley. From high to low.
Spring Mountains west of Las Vegas
I headed up US 95, a four lane road about a third of the way, then two lane, until I hit the turnoff to Death Valley in Beatty. A family of wild burros was crossing the road at one point. Beautiful animals, feral, but not so wild that they avoided humans. One thing I wish Nevada would do is put more pull offs on their highways (I say again). Every couple of miles there was another spectacular mountain range across a wide flat valley, and nowhere to pull off to get a picture. This was the basin and range territory, arid desert leading up to bare rock mountains. What the young man in me who had studied geology wanted to see. From Beatty I took Highway 384, which became Daylight Pass Road in the park.
The Barren Grandure of Death Valley.
The temperature was about 113 most of the way, but didn’t feel that bad the little bit of time I was out in it. That was soon to change. More great formations into the National Park, and a couple of miles later the valley was revealed in all its stark splendor. Spectacular mountains surrounding the flat section that was hell on Earth. I passed the Borax works that had been the major industry of the valley, recalling the TV series Death Valley Days, which had featured an advertisement for Twenty Mule Team Borax. Hard to believe that people actually worked out in this hell in the pre-air-conditioned days. How in the hell did they sleep at night?
The Depths of Hell.
I drove down to Furnace Creek, on Beatty Rd from Hell’s Gate, all well named, where the visitors center was located. My GPS was set for elevation, and I looked in wonder as it went into negative numbers. And the deeper it went into the negative the hotter it got. At one hundred feet below sea level it was at 120. At one fifty below it hit 122. Eventually I got down to just under two hundred, and the temp was 125. Furnace Creek was at 198 feet below, and the temp was 123. Wasn’t sweating, but the heat was enervating in the extreme. Someone had compared it to sticking your head in an oven. Good comparison. Continued driving south after stopping at the visitor’s center, angling out of the park and back into Nevada. I stopped at the town of Pahrump, Nevada, and mentioned to the cashier of the convenience store I had stopped at as to how hot Death Valley had been. She said that Pahrump was the gates of hell, and Death Valley was hell. Meanwhile the radio was blaring that it was storming in Vegas, with heavy hail, something I wanted to avoid. Drove the back way, Nevada 180, that led me to Red Rock Canyon and to the motel, and saw another family of burros crossing the road. I ate an Elk burger at the restaurant and slept through another night, ready for the big adventure the next day. I really enjoyed the Bonnie Springs Ranch Motel, and will probably stay there again when I visit this area. Friendly people, comfortable accommodations, beautiful scenery. The next day I was leaving, heading into the Grand Canyon.