Charge of the Light (minivan) Brigade

“Into the valley of death rode the 600.”  That’s not my writing for sure (the blog title should point to the original source).  It does seem to somewhat fit based on where we went today.  I have heard about Death Valley most of my life.  Part of the reason for this trip was to visit the lowest place in the US.  We made it today.

The day started with breakfast at the Pahrump Nugget.  The food here was reasonably priced and really good.  It was a much better choice than the “Golden Arches” restaurant across the parking lot.  Staying on our food program is going to be a problem on this trip.

In preparation for heading into the desert we went looking for water and a “disaster” cooler.  (A disaster cooler is one of those Styrofoam things that all you need to do is load it up with ice and your favorite beverages then try to pick it up – results = disaster.)  Just down the street we spotted a Walgreens.  Walgreens wasn’t the first choice for shopping but we weren’t sure what else might be in Pahrump, Nevada (although I did see a sign for a famous brothel).  No disaster coolers were present but we scored a good bargain on an insulated bag-style cooler.  We also found a sale on cases of bottled water for $2.99 per.  I’m old fashioned enough to want a paper map so I grabbed one of those too (bad decision — it really is a crummy map).  Jana had “borrowed” a big plastic bag full of ice from the Nugget.  We were ready to take on Death Valley.  How tough could it be.

We followed the GPS to Highway 190 and headed for Furnace Creek.  The visitor’s center at Furnace Creek had the hat pin that I really needed and a t-shirt which I didn’t (but bought it anyway).  It was a cool 111 degrees at Furnace Creek.  That old line about being a “dry heat” although accurate is really misleading.  It’s hot hot – dry or not.  The wind feels like someone has turned on a giant hair dryer and it’s blowing in your face – that’s a dry heat too.

There’s not much to say about Death Valley.  It’s a place you have to experience for yourself.  How could anyone survive walking, riding a horse, driving a covered wagon, or any other open conveyance across this area?  It is so far beyond brutal conditions that I can’t describe it.  I’m glad the minivan has a good A/C.

There are a few pictures below but no way could they accurately represent the area.  Even the crazy Scotty’s Castle and it’s history need to be experienced first hand.

After we left Death Valley we headed toward our destination for day 2 – Mesquite, NV.  It was a long haul but out here a 2 lane road has either a 70 or 75 MPH speed limit.  The interstates have the same limits.  You can cover a lot of miles.  We drove through Indian Springs – home of the US Air Force Thunderbirds.

I’m not sure of the official name of the mini-cyclones that create funnels of swirling dust here in the west – “dust devils” is something I picked up somewhere but that may not be right.  Anyway we drove our silver Queen Mary sized machine right through one of these today.  I swear it moved the van over about 3 feet and sucked air out of our vehicle hard enough to squall around the weatherstripping.  That would have been scary on a motorcycle.

We made it to our own oasis – Holiday Inn Express, Mesquite, Nevada – in fine shape.  We unpacked and started to look for a place for dinner.  Jana wanted a steak but the only available ones were located inside casinos which allow smoking.  We can be around smokers but I much prefer not to experience that when I’m eating.  We punched up a restaurant on the GPS and headed in that direction.  We got sidetracked when we saw a sports bar that had pizza.  It is after all opening night for the NFL season and the place was packed with Patriot and Steeler fans.  It was so loud in there we couldn’t hear the server.  Somehow we managed to get pizza and salads ordered and delivered to our table.  It looked like another win for the Patriots was inevitable so we headed out after the third quarter.  I have to focus on eating the right stuff tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’re starting out for Area 51 so there will be no blog if we actually get abducted.


No way to capture this place in pictures.

No way to capture this place in pictures.

A friendly couple from Pennsylvania took our picture at Zabriskie Point.

A friendly couple from Pennsylvania took our picture at Zabriskie Point.

Reminders of how hard this area can be.

Reminders of how hard this area can be.

Yep - my GPS can read negative elevation.

Yep – my GPS can read negative elevation.

You have to be a certain age to remember the "20 mule team" logo but this is where they actually worked hauling borax from the mines.

You have to be a certain age to remember the “20 mule team” logo but this is where they actually worked hauling borax from the mines.

Scotty's Castle was never finished.

Scotty’s Castle was never finished.

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