A complete silence in Death Valley

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
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Trip End Jan 24, 2009


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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Along the road to Death Valley, as we were a bit hungry (how is that possible in America??), we thought would look for somewhere to eat -  first suggestion was an industrial town called Trona. 

This idea was quickly canned after we filled up with petrol in Trona.

Personally, I think I would have felt better if I was chewing gum, swinging a gun and wearing a cowboy hat - not that it's a cowboy town, it's just a tough, rough and hardy-working industrial town.  Trona has a railway and refining plant.  We passed a school, a supermarket and some houses.  What more do you need?
There are no theme-playing cafes here; it's just not a place for strangers to visit.

Plus there was thin veil of white dust floating through the air - this initially, made for interesting breathing if you were not use to it.
They mine borax (used in detergents, cosmetics and even nuclear reactors!) potash (used in gun powder, glass) and trona.

We opted out on our second option for lunch as well.  This decision was a bit lazy.  It was made at the signpost to Ballarat (named after a gold mining town in Victoria, Australia but definitely not as successful - it's marked as a ghost town on one of our many maps). Honestly, we stood there at the signpost, peering down the road leading into Ballarat and all we could see was a rustic-looking building that could have been a lopsided caravan with a satellite dish, with a few tents pitched near it.  It didn't look like lunch to us.
Even Charles Manson's old Dodge pickup wasn't enough to attempt us to drive down the road.

So lunch was going to be our destination for the night - Stovepipe Wells Village inside Death Valley. 
So inwards and upwards we drove into Death Valley.

There are 4 main ways into Death Valley so we choice the least-used access road (it made sense to us) and the road was tiny, rough and weaved up the mountain range.  We were driving from the Panamint Range into the highest peak access road in Death Valley - we gave our car an awesome workout (much apologies to the car rental place) but the guy on the racing motorbike in front of us was the one that really deserved our sympathy.  The poor guy bounced and crawled up that road but to his credit, he held on.  At the first turn off, he stopped & shook his head; we clapped and passed him.  

Once in the heart of Death Valley, we pulled over and waited for a car to pass, once that had disappeared, there was complete silence no white noise, no animals.  It was nothing but silence.  An incredible experience.

Death Valley's peak session should be winter (now) as the
temperatures are hot but not unbearable like summer but luckily for us 'peak session'
in Death Valley is that much of a peak.

After a casual lunch at Stovepipe Wells, AD retired to bed and I, the pool with a book (it's been sooooo long since I had experienced warm weather and possible wasn't ready for it, being a bit pale and fluffy).  I was disrupted some time later by a polite American and his buddies with a request to allow them to play some music.  Really nice of them to ask, absolute shame about the music.  It wasn't quite country but it wasn't quite easy listening or gentle rock... 

Anyhow, the American came back later to chat to me, in which we had a huge discussion comprising of philosophy, politics (both American and Australian), global financial crisis and what he would like to do with his life (be a author) - I honestly, don't think either of us quite understood what each other was talking about.  I know I missed many of his points and I think I messed up my American to Australian politics comparison but we had an awesome chat.  I think I'll stick to weather in the future. 
     
AD, after a good nap, wandered out by the pool so we decided to visit the valley during sunset.   First, the sand dunes, a swing by Golden Canyon followed by Zabriskie Point.  All very, very cool.

That night we partied with the fellow visitors (all 6 of them & this is peak visitor time???) in the Badwater saloon followed by dinner in the Toll Road restaurant (both are a part of the Stovepipe Village resort where we were staying)
Mind you, we were not the brightest little bunnies there, in working out how to get to the restaurant from the pub.  We actually walked outside of the saloon and around to the front of the restaurant, where we entered.  When arrived, we were told there was a wait and we shown back to the pub by a door that interconnected the pub and restaurant.  Still the Waiter was funny that night at dinner and he well deserved the tip we left behind.

The next morning due to our 'out of sync' sleeping patterns, we were back on the road just before 6am.  In time to watch the sun rise over the sand dunes.  Unfortunately, the patch of sand next to us, was occupied by a couple with a CB who insisted on discussing every little useless bit of information with another party further in on the sand dunes.  Voices echo out there.  With minimum effect, they could have shouted at each other.
Still we managed a bit of silence so AD could film the sand dunes.  Also, the planes flying overhead were leaving awesome trails in the sky.

We drove onto Artist's Drive - a one way twisting loop road and popped on Pink Floyd  (Shine on you crazy diamond...) and drove through the road - it was pure magic - the rocks, the view, the music.

We had made a decision to follow the 'Most Scenic Route' to Las Vegas which involved driving pass Badwater - an unpalatable pool of water, loaded with chloride and sulphates.  It was also 282ft below sea level (how cool is that? and for an extra bit of trivial - the lowest point in the Western  Hemisphere).

We drove out to Shoshone for breakfast where we were treated with the usual enormous American-style breakfast.  Always good but this time I was really struggling to get through it.

We then followed the Old Spanish trail (an awesome road but it kept us on our toes as we were not absolutely certain we were on the right track at first.  There is a magical view when you pop out of the mountain range and look down at the very straight road leading to Las Vegas).

Viva Las Vegas next!
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