Thursday, 26 July 2012

Up Hill and Down Dale

Well, in a manner of speaking anyway! We left our hotel at 8.30am and made our way back into Yosemite to get onto the Tioga Pass Road out of the park. This road was spectacular. We ended up at 9945 feet.

The sun was out, the air was so clear and thin! As we drove along we saw many lovely sights, my two favourite being these:

The second photo was taken at Tenaya Lake. I just could not get over how beautiful it was there and so quiet too. There were very few people using the road, so there was little traffic noise and when we stopped there was no one else at this spot either. I could have spent the day there, only 1) we were being bitten by mossies and 2) we needed to get on to Death Valley!

There were several ‘pull outs’ where we were able to stop and look back at Yosemite Valley from up high.

Of course, what goes up has to go down, and soon we were descending a steep and winding road. Our little car did like going down hill, we could imagine it smiling!!

However, what we didn’t realise was that the journey to Death Valley was going to involve going up and down many mountains! Each time we went up the car seemed to sigh and cry! We were only really concerned once, when the sign at the side of the road warned you to turn off your air conditioning as the road was so long and steep using air conditioning could contribute to the engine over heating!

We entered the Death Valley National Park area and got our first glimpse of the valley.
The heat was intense and became more so the lower and lower we went!

We stopped at the Mesquite Flat Dunes near Stovepipe Wells - boy was it hot there! We climbed the closest dune and took some photos.
As we walked back to the car I was flicking sand onto the top of one foot with the other (not on purpose!) and it was burning the top of my foot! We gladly got back into the car and air conditioning.

After driving for about 7 hours we arrived at our hotel for the night, Furnace Creek Ranch. We were given a lovely room on the second floor of a block furthest away from the entrance overlooking the golf course. Yes, in the middle of Death Valley they have a very green golf course! Our first stop then was the swimming pool. It is a hot spring fed pool at a steady 82F. We thought that this might not feel refreshing; however, as the thermometer in the shade at the pool showed 119F it felt very cool! We spent a good half hour swimming and it was really refreshing and relaxing.
Having showered and feeling refreshed we walked up to the 49’ers cafe to have something to eat, via the Borax Museum. We did the outside exhibits first, which were quite interesting for me and very interesting for Hugh – see below!

 We then went into the small museum, which was crammed with artefacts and information and actually really very interesting. Having spent a happy, cool half hour in there we ambled over to the cafe and ordered a lovely meal – the water waiter kept us well hydrated, topping our glasses up after every sip it seemed!

Walking back into the blistering heat, we made our way back to our car and set off to see the sun set over the mountains on the Artists Drive, first visiting Badwater, the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere.
We had been told by a receptionist that the colours on the mountains around Artists Drive at sunset were spectacular and so were looking forward to seeing them and we weren’t disappointed.

We entered the one way loop of Artists Drive and we were the only car in sight. We drove slowly along enjoying the view and stopped at one point to take it all in. By now the sun was rapidly setting and it was beginning to get dark.
Hugh though decided to look for wildlife – what he would have done if he had spotted a snake I don’t know!!

Getting back into the car we pulled away and I happened to glance at the fuel gauge.

Me: ‘Err, Hugh? Do you know that the fuel gauge is flashing ‘E’?’

Hugh: ‘No! We had two bars left when we set off.’

Me: ‘So have we got enough to get us back to the hotel?’

Hugh: ‘I don’t know.’

Silence then reigned in the car, with both of us holding our breath as we raced along the road to get back to the main road (because of course going faster means you won’t run out of petrol as quickly!). We put the satnav on, but our car was ‘floating’ as the road we were on didn’t even show up! 
The one way road, with no other cars!
Once we reached the main road we breathed a little easier as at least if we ran out of petrol here there was the occasional car going past (although, of course, in my mind if we stopped a car it would probably contain a murderer because it always does in CSI!). There were mile markers along the road on the way back to the hotel and once we reached the 2 mile marker we both started talking again as we both knew that at least we could walk 2 miles to get a can of petrol! When we saw the one mile we actually started to become jolly again and when the hotel and petrol station came into view we were ecstatic!
photo courtesy of 'Hotel Chatter'
We drove into the petrol station and swiped the credit card, put the nozzle into the car and started to fill. Ping! It stopped at 89 cents! What was going on! There was no one on the forecourt although in the window it stated that it was manned until 10.30pm and it was only 9pm. Perhaps the pump was faulty. We drove the car forward to the next pump. Swiped the credit card, put the nozzle in ..... nothing at all! We pressed the cancel button. Nothing. We swiped the card and tried again. Nothing!
We pressed the help button – nothing! We pressed the cancel button! Nothing! We didn’t like to just drive back to the hotel as we were not sure if our credit card was still ‘live’ on the pump and we didn’t want someone to be able to come along and fill up on our card. We had just decided that I would go back to the hotel and see if they could help when Hugh went for one more walk around the forecourt and banged on the workshop door. A bloke appeared.

Hugh: ‘We’re having trouble with the pump’
Bloke: ‘I know, you’ve pressed the help button enough times’
Me: (thinking, but not saying out loud) ‘So why didn’t you come out and help?!’

It turned out that there was a spring on the nozzle that had to be pushed in really hard in order for it to work! Once we found that out we were able to tank the car up.

We then drove back into the hotel, walked into the bar, ordered two cold beers and collapsed with relief!

And so ended our day in Death Valley – if you ever go, make sure you fill up with petrol before you set out on a trip!!


scrappyjacky said...

Sounds like a VERY interesting day!!

Sian said...

What a story! and what a place for it to have happened! You built up the tension there - I didn't know how iot was going to turn out

Maria Ontiveros said...

What a well told story!!! I've never been to Death Valley. You two really are packing in the whole of the state. Is that a train I see????

alexa said...

Golly, what a day that was! I can't believe how scarily the last bit might have turned out and so glad the ending was happy. Furnace Creek says it all in its nsme!

Karen said...

I remember being nervous just driving into Death Valley in the summer because of the heat. We turned the air off for as long as we could tolerate it. I'd love to go back during a cooler season. I was holding my breath with you as you raced for the gas station!

Deb @ Paper Turtle said...

Now you have experienced the heat that we deal with all summer in Arizona! I'm shocked to see the price of gas where you were! Yikes - pricey!!!

Missus Wookie said...

oooh what a story - glad you made it and your comment 'you go faster and don't run out of petrol as quick' made me smile :)

Anonymous said...

What great pictures you got but I was really nervous for you and getting some gas. Glad you made it safely to the gas station and got filled up. Bet that's a day to remember.