We survived ‘Death Valley”!

Lone Pine: Death Valley, CA

Thursday 27 June

We woke to another beautiful but scorching day with clear blue skies.

Mark and I headed to the gym before we checked out from our Las Vegas Hotel. I noted that we were ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ and hoped that we were going to fare better than Nicolas Cage did in the movie of the same name.

Mark wanted to call in to the Las Vegas Shopping Outlet store to look for some shoes. That was at 10 am. I’m writing this note now at 2pm as we’ve only just left the Mall! Both Mark and Tom did very well out of today. Ali ordered two tops which we found here as well.

We pulled into a petrol station and Mark was at the bowser trying to work out how to buy petrol. It mustn’t have been very straightforward as I heard some guy telling him ‘well…… this is the mid west’.

We had a 4 hr drive ahead of us before getting to Death Valley/ Lone Pine. This is roughly half way to Yosemite so it seemed like a logical place to bunk in over night. We met up with some Kiwis at the Mall whilst shopping who we had also seen yesterday at the Grand Canyon. They assured us that there wasn’t too much at Lone Pine. So, it probably wouldn’t matter that we would be getting in there later than we had originally scheduled. The Kiwi family are regular visitors to LV appparently. The mum noted that they have seen the Celine Dione show 4 times and that she is fantastic. I was only thinking to myself this morning, as we left LV and saw billboards for Celine Dion at Caesars Palace, that I would have liked just another night to see the Celine show. So, I can put that on our ‘to do’ list if we ever do return to LV.

We made it on to the highway heading to Death Valley and the landscape kind of matched: dirt, cactus and a very lunar- like landscape. I kept thinking of Nicolas Cage! There were few other cars on the road and it was just mile after mile of nothingness and without any road signs to reassure us we were still on the right track or, even, still on Earth. It was a bit daunting actually. There were hardly any signs of life. This was supposed to be the summer holiday break here yet there were no cars out this way at all. Sighting another car became a major discussion point for the 3 of us. The car spotting game, ‘punch buggy’, would be a very slow one out here indeed! Mark was actually driving on the wrong side of the road for a period, after one photo stop, before even realising his error!

We needed to stop after a couple of hours to check that the GPS was sending us along the correct route. There was a ‘one horse town’ kind of place called ‘Beatty’ where we pulled into to get more petrol and check directions. The two, rather odd looking, ladies were most irritated by my questions about whether our GPS was on track and about the best way to Lone Pine. I found this strange as they weren’t busy at all. Also odd was the row of poker machines alongside the shop entry. This was one weird place and I couldn’t get back in the car fast enough. It wasn’t long, though, until we found our first road sign noting the distance to ‘Lone Pine’. I could relax just a little bit now. We were still on our 70s radio station though so the whole experience of barren and foreign landscape, with no mobile reception and with the Carpenters happily singing ‘We’ve only just begun’ was making for one surreal experience.

We made it through Death Valley eventually …. alive…. and into Lone Pine by about 6.30 pm. We were staying at the Best Western Frontier Morel which, whilst humble, was totally adequate for our one night stay.  http://bestwesterncalifornia.com/hotels /best-western-plus-frontier-motel

There isn’t much to Lone Pine but it does have one set of traffic lights. That was where the restaurant was located that we were heading to for dinner; ‘Seasons’ of Lone Pine’. ‘Seasons’ had a good wine list and menu but the most noteworthy point was one of the staff. Those of you old enough to remember ‘Fawlty Towers’ will recall ‘Manuel’. Well, he was alive and well and working at ‘Seasons’ tonight. Same appearance and same manic manner. This step-back in time, following on from our 70s music journey across Death Valley, was almost too much for one day. We then had to enlighten Tom about the whole Monty Python and John Cleese culture which made for quite an entertaining evening. We were exhausted enough after our road trip but watching Manuel work the tables tipped us over the edge. I wondered if he was being ‘paid per Calorie’ because the poor guy went like ‘greased lightning’ all night. He’d be a great role model for much of the lazier folk living on this planet!

Our meals at Seasons were delicious. Who’d have thought, after our drive today, that we’d be eating as well as this? We had kind of envisioned baked beans ‘Blazing Saddles’ style. I chose Scampi & Pasta and, believe it or not, it was the best seafood pasta I’ve ever had! We’ve had a few ‘firsts’ this trip. Not bad for our age!

We head to Yosemite tomorrow. Another big day of driving.


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