Don't get lost here!
03.08.2012 33 °C
The road trip continues on to the California border and Death Valley: First stop, the vaguely Dr. Seussesquely named Pahrump, on the Nevada/California border. We then drove into Death Valley and stopped in and around the Furnace Creek Visitor's Centre. The drive in and out of Death Valley is a fascinating exercise in watching your car's thermometer rise and fall really quickly. The mid-Summer temperatures are of course legendarily furnace-like, but we merely had to survive around 33 degrees celsius. The Yukon boys still had strong opinion about that rarely experienced level of warmth, but it was no 45 to 50 degrees, that is for sure.
Even in the spring, you appreciate what a bad draw some of the westward bound pioneers had when they stumbled into this beautiful, but very inhospitable land. Although there is limited vegetation, the preponderant image is of varying shades of desert brown, brackish pools of undrinkable water, dirt devils, convection oven dangerous heat, and daunting climbs and descents into yet another very much less than "how green was my valley", valley.
One thing that I could point out to future travellers to this area is that there are two full descents and climbs between the beginning of Death Valley on the East and the point at Lone Pines, California where you come out at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas in the West. By that I mean that you go from more than 5000 feet to minus 200 feet back up to more than 5000 feet and back down....again. By the end of this part of the voyage, the brakes on the old wagon were screaming and searing hot - that was with using as much engine braking as possible. As well, there are signs to turn your A/C off in order not to strain your engine too much. This was an easy guideline for me to follow as we have a rock hole in the A/C condenser, and A/C no workie. Fine in the Yukon, not so fine in the summer in Arizona and Central Southern California I am guessing.
On our final climb out of the aptly named area, we passed a chap who was walking across Death Valley. He looked like an older Forrest Gump, after Mr. Gump had been running non-stop for a year. Lots of facial hair and very deeply tanned. I stopped and asked him if he wanted something to drink. He said "I would not ask you for anything, but I would accept any kind offering from you." I gave him a bottle of Gatorade(TM), our general fluid replenisher of the Clarke expedition. He appeared to be on a bit of a voyage of self-discovery, and was totally pleasant to talk to, but he certainly looked very nomadic and biblical!
We popped out from the lowest point of the United States at the base of the majestic Sierra Nevadas which have the highest peaks in the contiguous United States, and our voyage continued.