Death Valley RVing February 2014

A Winter Visit to Death Valley!

February 19 – 23, 2014

Wednesday, Day 1, Home to Bakersfield, CA via SR99, SR58: 222 miles

We and our friends and neighbors, Lew and Shelley Young, had planned a trip to Death Valley a month or two ago, and after a couple of delays, we finally got the trip underway. The latest delay was a dust storm in Mojave on this date, and we’d have been caught in it had we left the day before as planned. But we figured it would be best to wait a day and by doing so we avoided winds to 50 MPH on the Mojave Desert. The winds for Day 2 of this trip, when we’ll be in the Mojave Desert, were predicted to be calm to 10 MPH. It was worth the wait!

We pulled out of our gated community about 1000 and headed south for Bakersfield. We had a wonderfully uneventful drive. We stopped in Kingsburg for a quick MickeyD lunch, then continued our drive ‘til we arrived at the Orange Grove RV Park east of Bakersfield on SR58.
2014-2-19a Orange Grove RV Park BakersfieldThe Young’s rig, left, and ours at Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield for the first night. This was a well run and clean park with only one real flaw: they offered free donuts all day long.

All went well until the Young’s Dodge pickup’s door locks quit working. After trying to fix it, Lew called on some help from a company in Bakersfield. They said a fella could drop by the RV park en route home, and, sure enough he did – and he knew what he was doing! He had the solenoids replaced in under an hour and the doors were working again. Without the repair, the back doors would not open and the front ones would quit intermittently. We all felt very fortunate that we could find a repairman so far from home and so late in the day.

We ate dinner in the coach that first evening. Waiting for our expert repairman required we stay put. But we ate well and visited in one another’s coach after the repair was done. We bid our good-nights around 2000, and retired to our coaches.

I showered, and we both kept busy. I began this travelogue and Lavonne played her word games. I downed a couple of my Collins drinks and watched more WWII documentary on the TV. We hit the sack around 2200.

Day 2, Thursday, Bakersfield to Stovepipe Wells campground in Death Valley via SR58, SR14, SR178, SR190 and I likely forgot one or two highways: 202 miles

We began the new day a bit after 0500. After the morning chores and computer time in the coach, Lavonne and I walked to the RV park office. They offered a wide array of donuts and big, fattening rolls for free. We each grabbed one, poured some coffee, and sat at one of their tables to enjoy a few moments of the morning. It wasn’t long before Lew joined us, and soon after Shelley joined us also. We talked a bit about the day’s route to Death Valley. I mapped out what I thought was a pretty good route and everyone just went along.

2014-2-20a sheep and ag along SR58 heading to the TehachapisSheep and desert hills in the background as we streaked along SR58 towards the Mojave Desert and on to Death Valley.

Our day was spent driving through the boonies. We trucked up the Tehachapis where we stopped at a Denny’s in the city of Tehachapi. After breakfast we continued along the various highways mentioned above. The majority of SR178 was not a state highway, but called Trona something road. Then it became Panamint something road.
2014-2-20b along SR178 I think.The landscape looked nearly sterile as we cruised along the Mojave towards Ridgecrest and on to Death Valley.

2014-2-20d approaching Trona along SR178. In the 70s I hauled chems from here.Approaching Trona, CA near Ridgecrest where chemicals are processed and shipped far and wide. In the 70s I hauled chemicals from one of the Trona plants and fondly remember those days.

1MuleTeamNetA photo from the 70s that I took of the rig I hauled lime from Trona to various Spreckles Sugar plants in California. I loved that old Freightliner and I loved driving trucks.

2014-2-20e rest area in Trona. This area is hell in the summertime.We stopped at a rest area in Trona for lunch in the rigs. Trona was a scruffy little town with little to recommend it, but it sure is a productive place. That brass sign (above) is shown up close below.

2014-2-20g why Trona exists. Nothing else could reccommend it!It’s worth the effort to read the sign above. The area is a said to be the world’s richest chemical storehouse.

At one point for a few miles we were on a gravel road. Using our little walkie-talkies, furnished by the Youngs, we expressed our concern about what we had gotten ourselves into. We had no idea what road conditions awaited us once we were on the gravel. Fortunately the gravel lasted probably five miles, certainly no more than 10, and I forgot to take a photo of it. But when we got back on paved road, it was rather good the rest of the drive to Death Valley Park. Actually it was only about 25 miles beyond the gravel when we entered the park. We chose to head east on SR190 to Stovepipe Wells, another 28 miles through the park.

2014-2-20j more dropping into the first valleyJudging by appearances, we may have arrived on Mars!

2014-2-20k more dropping into the first valleyDown and down and down…

2014-2-20L no longer a state hiway. For sure.We certainly were no longer on a state highway.

2014-2-20n dropping down the long, steep, up to 8 percent grade to Stovepipe Wells.Still downward to below sea level.

The highway climbed to over 4000’ and then dropped to some 40’ below sea level. We had grades to 8% that we drove up and down – mostly down. We finally arrived at Stovepipe Wells at 1500 hours, found the campground and pulled in for the night.

A very modern “iron ranger” awaited us at the gate. It accepted our credit cards for the $6 camp fees, and in fact it took only credit cards. We picked our dry campsites and set up for our stay. The place was mostly empty and we settled in with plenty of space between us and other campers. After setting up for the night, we sat outdoors visiting.
2014-2-20p set up and at rest before heading to dinner.Sitting around an imaginary campfire on the floor of Death Valley for the second night of our adventure. We were all relaxed after the long drive and it had been a long day.

Around 1700 we climbed into the Young’s pickup and drove the short distance to the nearby restaurant and bar. The restaurant wouldn’t open ‘til 1730, so we went into the bar for some treats. The gals had root beer floats, Lew had an O’Douls, and I had the real stuff. The prices were outrageous, but recognizing that not another bar and restaurant was within perhaps 50 miles, we couldn’t complain too loudly.

Dinner was also very pricy and, due to a broken down bus in the area and that whole group at the restaurant, the service was awful. The food was pretty good and other than the slow service we were happy with our only choice.

We were back in the campground a bit before 1900, said our good-nights, and retired to the coaches. I edited photos and updated this travelogue; Lavonne played her hand held electronic poker game and computer Scrabble.

It had been a long day. We planned to drive to Scotty’s Castle the next day, and then head for home. The route home wasn’t set yet, but we’d decide in the morning.

Day 3, Friday, Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley to Beatty, NV via SR374: 105 miles

We slept very well out in the desert that second night of the trip. The campground had a 7 to 7 generator rule and we didn’t hear a sound all night ‘til Lavonne fired up our generator a few minutes after 0700 for her morning coffee.

We were up and around a few minutes after 0600, and set about the morning chores. We were dry camping on only our batteries. They powered the inverter for the TV and VCR during the evening, and all the lights, the water pump, heater fan, etc. required for an overnight stay for the two of us. In the morning the lights were as bright as the night before and all was well.

2014-2-21a sunrise on the desert floor, actually 40' below sea level 2014-2-21c sunrise on the desert floor, actually 40' below sea levelA couple photos of the gorgeous desert sunrise over the Amargosa Range to the east of our campground, including another absolutely unnecessary selfie. 

2014-2-21f neighbor shooting photos too.Another camper had the same idea, and climbed to his roof for a shot of the early morning pink glow of the sun upon the Panamint Range to the west of us.

2014-2-21g brazen raven

2014-2-21h brazen raven 2014-2-21i brazen raven

This character was more entertaining than a clown. I believe he was a young and mischievous raven who was used to picking food from campsites. I used the telephoto for these shots, but he showed little fear around humans. I had a grand time watching his antics. And he was big!

I was out shooting photos early enough to catch a late sunrise. The mountains in the west seemed to glow under the early light of the sunrise. It was too bad those photos turned out blurry. Still, I took several good photos that made the cut. The most entertaining photos were of a brazen raven that was trying to raid the table of some other campers. He was a character.

Awhile later Lew and Shelley joined us in our coach for a cup of coffee. They had no generator to fire their coffee maker, and we were happy to share. I was ready to hear Shelley tell us that she’d done a night off the grid and that was enough for her. But no, she was her usual happy self and said they got along fine. She rightly stated that I thought they would wimp out, but they sure didn’t.

We had a good visit, and soon began readying the coaches for the day’s trip. Around 0915 we pulled out of the campground and headed toward Scotty’s Castle. Had we known what was ahead of us, we likely would not have done so…

The drive was incredibly scenic, and I shot waaaay too many photos as usual. At one point of interest we pulled over and took photos of the beautiful landscape and even of ourselves. And we continued.

2014-2-21L elevation Death ValleyNote our elevation of 71′ below sea level in Death Valley.

2014-2-21m Lavonne's shotMore of the vastness and emptiness of Death Valley.

2014-2-21o viewing rock apronStanding on and viewing an alluvial fan, or apron of rock, formed by water flow. 

2014-2-21p viewing rock apronOk, y’all, turn around for a better picture.

2014-2-21r const road in and out of Scottys 3 mi each way. ugh.Some of the three miles of gravel road due to construction that we encountered near Scotty’s Castle. 

2014-2-21s approaching Scottys in distanceA tower of Scotty’s Castle appears in the distance as we drove along the washboard gravel road.

2014-2-21t ScottysScotty’s Castle in Death Valley. Read all about it here .

About 35 miles into the trip, we came upon road construction. We were delayed about 20 minutes, then were led with many others up a dirt road that ended three miles later at Scotty’s Castle. To add insult to injury, the road was closed beyond Scotty’s, the route we planned to continue for the day.

We waited around the grounds for our noon tour, having paid a hefty admission. When the tour started, I chose to wait at the coach as my feet were just not up to the tour.

When we left we had to retrace our route for miles and miles because the drive from Scotty’s Castle to US95 was closed for construction. Instead of five or ten miles to SR95 in Nevada, we had to drive about 60 miles to Beatty, NV. Much of that drive was through Death Valley we had already seen.
2014-2-21u long pull out of the valley to Beatty, NV
It was a long pull out of the valley towards Beatty, NV and we drove from below sea level to over 4000 feet in about twelve miles…

2014-2-21v long pull out of the valley to Beatty, NV…and it was a beautiful but barren drive.

2014-2-21w Nevada lineFinally out of the park, we entered Nevada and were nearly to the scruffy, little desert town of Beatty.

2014-2-21x wild burro warningYep! There were wild burrow about, but I saw only a couple and wasn’t quick enough for a photo of them. The manager of the RV park in Beatty said they have friendly visits from burros regularly, and that if you don’t watch ’em they’ll walk right into your RV!

2014-2-21y stair steps of the godsStairsteps of the Gods en route to Beatty. I don’t know what this formation was called but that’s the name I gave it.

2014-2-21z dinosaur spineAnd this formation could be named Stegosaurus Ridge. 

2014-2-21z3 entering Beatty, NVWe entered Beatty with one thought in mind: Food!

It was a lovely drive out of the park, and a very long, steep climb out of the valley. But we made it, and it was a beautiful, relaxing drive. We averaged about 50 MPH over the drive, but much slower on the long, steep pull. In about 12 miles we climbed from below sea level to over 4000 feet!

It was around 1530 when we rolled into Beatty, NV. Having been out of touch for a day and a half, we all caught up on our phone calls, texts, emails, etc. Death Valley was remote in more ways than just distance; there was absolutely no coverage for our Verizon and AT&T phones. We were really out of touch while we were there.
2014-2-21z4 arrived at Denny's in Beatty, NVParked across from Denny’s in Beatty. We were mighty pleased to find a familiar place so far from anywhere.

We parked across from Denny’s Restaurant in Beatty, and were mighty pleased to be back in civilization. We had a good lunch and relaxed, knowing that we were done with the day’s drive. We were more tired at the end of our drive than usual, and I think the dirt road and the visit to Scotty’s Castle wore us out.
2014-2-22a  DV RV Park Beatty, NVAt rest for the night in beautiful Beatty, NV. It was nothing fancy, but it was a full service RV park and it was quiet. It was everything we needed.

We drove over to Death Valley RV Park which advertised on large signs that they were new and even billed themselves as a resort. When we pulled in and saw an old motor home that was the office and home of the managers, we took pause. Other than that, it did look new, so we signed in and pulled into our assigned spaces. The facilities worked fine, it was quiet, and we were pleased with the place.

We set up, then gathered in our coach to visit and plan the evening and the coming day. We chose to eat in the coaches, and after a long visit, we said our good nights and called it a day. It had been a long one.

Saturday, Day 4, Beatty, NV to Bakersfield, CA via US95, SR127, I-15, SR58: 339 miles

After a good night’s sleep, we were up and about around 0600. Beatty was cool and we had the heater set low all night long and almost ‘til the time we left. After morning chores, and my first walk in several days, we all got together again to plan the day. We decided to drive back to Denny’s for a good breakfast, and then to head south on US95 towards home. The shorter distance would have been back through Death Valley, but we’d had our fill of detours, delays, and gravel roads.

After breakfast we climbed aboard the rigs and headed north on US58 as if we knew what we were doing. I was certain we were heading home, and the GPS navigator encouraged me onward. About 10 miles later, I called the Youngs on the walkie talkie and asked if they thought we were going in the right direction, thinking I had missed US95. We assured each other that all was fine, but a minute later Shelley asked if I was heading north. Yep. I was. Why? I didn’t know. Whatever the reason for such a foolish mixup, we turned around and headed south, back through town, by the RV lot we had stayed in and finally were heading south on US95. We had driven a 20 mile loop for nothing. Why do they let us oldsters loose on these highways alone?

2014-2-22c heading home the wrong way!Heading for home on US95 out of Beatty, NV. oops… wrong way!

2014-2-22d arriving back at Beatty after wasting 20 miles of drivingHeading back to Beatty to try again…

2014-2-22e finally... heading south on US95Finally! Heading the right way on US95 for home.

The drive south on US95 and SR127 was a gorgeous one. It rivaled the beauty of Death Valley without the gravel roads and construction. After miles and miles of two lane road left mostly to just us, we arrived at Baker, CA. – home of the somewhat famous giant thermometer that reaches skyward for  134′. We pulled into town and looked for a place for lunch and enough parking for the two rigs. We decided on the Valero Station which housed a Quiznos sandwich shop. After buying our sandwiches we returned to our coach and had a very good and healthy lunch. I fired up the generator and air conditioner, pushed out the slide and we were very comfortable. Eating in the coach is a good thing; no public to put up with, no music that some third party thinks we want to listen to, and no squalling kids.

2014-2-22f scenes of the day's travel down the various highways to Bakersfield. 
2014-2-22g scenes of the day's travel down the various highways to Bakersfield. 2014-2-22h scenes of the day's travel down the various highways to Bakersfield. 2014-2-22j scenes of the day's travel down the various highways to Bakersfield. 2014-2-22k scenes of the day's travel down the various highways to Bakersfield.
Views (above) of the drive from Beatty down US95 and SR127 to I-15.

2014-2-22l semi-famous thermometer in Baker, CAAt Baker and I-15, a shot of the high-rise thermometer that has been a tourist attraction for years – but this one looked newer than I remembered.

(The “World’s Tallest Thermometer” has an interesting history and was featured on Fox Business News’ Strange Inheritance in February of 2015. Read about it here.) 

The ride to Bakersfield from Baker began at I-15 which is the main artery between Las Vegas and LALA Land. We made the trip just fine, but it was tiring and we put up with a lot of traffic. The two lane stretch along SR58 just after we turned off of I-15 was tedious but we were, after all, back in civilization.

We finally arrived at Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield around 1700. I pulled into my space only to discover the coach next to me had three yappy dogs in a pen outside their coach. The dogs would bark, the idiot owners would holler at ‘em and it seemed like we’d found a low-life neighborhood. I talked to the office by phone to complain about the low-lifes and ask for a better, quieter space. The took awhile checking out what they could do, and soon I moved a few spaces away. I can’t imagine why they’d allow RVers with three dogs, but they did.

2014-2-23a Sunday morning at Orange Grove

Back at Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield for the night en route home.

After we settled in, we all climbed aboard our coach and headed down to the nearest Denny’s for dinner. It must have been kids night or something at Denny’s as we were overrun with ‘em. We enjoyed a good meal anyway, and returned home around 0700. We called it a day and retired to our RVs for the night. We were bushed.

I was tired and weary and jumped into the shower as soon as I could to get refreshed. I then got busy on this travelogue for about an hour as Lavonne played her electronic Poker game. When I finished updating this travelogue and checking out the photos of the day, I poured a couple of Collins drinks and kicked back on the couch to watch some more WWII documentary. Lavonne caught up on her computer stuff. By 2200 we crawled into our comfy queen bed for a good night’s rest. It had been another long day.

Sunday, Day 5, Bakersfield to home via SR58, SR99: 223 miles

We were up and around by 0600 as usual. After morning chores, I took my first walk in several days. I also did my light weight lifting arm and shoulder exercises to keep my shoulders from hurting. Lavonne did her usual morning routines, too, and around 0730 we met up with the Youngs and headed to the RV park office for free donuts. Walking and exercising followed by an old fashioned donut didn’t make much sense, but I loved the donut anyway.

Just as we walked up to the coach from the office, my neighbor on the other side of me from the Youngs spilled sewage all over the dump area by his coach. His blue language and the stench made for a bad send off, but off we went, and none too soon. Phew!

We met up with the Youngs at the Flying J north of Bakersfield and gassed up for the trip home. The price for regular was $3.70 and after paying $3.30 in Nevada, it was yet another rude awakening to the foolishness of living in Kalifornistan where our rotten roads do not compare to the baby-bottom smoothness of the Nevada highways we just traveled. But Wifey won’t move.

2014-2-23f maybe this is why we pay so much more for gas in Kalifornistan 2014-2-23g more hi-tax Kalifornistan cow trail 2014-2-23h these hi-tax Kalifornistan cow trails are everywhereHow is it that in Kalifornistan we pay the highest gas taxes and have the worst roads in the country? Above are three examples and it’s a crime!

2014-2-23c stopped for gas in Bakersfield, this fella has a message but it was lost in the blizzard of messages

2014-2-23c2 more blizzard of messagesThis fella had a message for the world I suppose, but it seems to have gotten lost in his blizzard of other messages.

2014-2-23d stopped for gas in Bakersfield with my cute traveling buddy

Gassed up at Bakersfield Flying J and ready for the final push toward home.

We had the excitement of a real live police chase as we were driving north on SR99. A nearly new looking Chevy midsize sedan blew by us with a CHP car in hot pursuit at probably 95 MPH. At first we thought the offender was just oblivious to the cop behind him, but as they continued way past us and out of sight, we figured it was a chase. A few miles down the road at the foot of an onramp, the bad guy’s car was upside-down as the cop walked toward it. That’s all we saw and all we knew. Hopefully such a nut case as we saw will never drive again.

We all joined up at a Mickey D’s in Chowchilla, CA for lunch. I try to avoid such fare these days, but I do love those $1 chicken sandwiches and the $1 cheddar and grilled onion burger. Mmmmmm. And the coffee and teensy-weensy McFlurry were mighty good as I continued the drive north.

We arrived home around 1330 with no further excitement, and we like our trips to be uneventful. All was well as we pulled into our lovely community and began unpacking. A few moments later the Youngs pulled in and drove by toward their home. It had been a pleasant trip.
2014-2-23i pulling into our senior communityPulling into our little senior community and we were back home! As the saying on our refrigerator door says, No matter where you may roam, the best part is  coming home. Amen to that.

About FishWisher

Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.
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