Thro the lack of population or lack of belief, we have not decided, but we were not aware of lots of people attending church in this state like they do down in the Bible belt but we still saw churches in remote areas and wonder where the population came from to build the church.
Were still seeing lots of American flags flying on houses and buildings and on this trip with notice the American flag flying in many cemeteries…….. Interesting!
Today we left our delightful spot on the side of the lake carrying on West over the endless steppes all the time thinking of the early pioneers and the distances they had travelled to get where we were either place names that we passed through of Paisley, Hinsdale, Ashfield, Malta, Harlem, Dobson and onto Zürich where we are camped in the Park bearing the same name. All the way that we have travelled we have seen massive grain storage, sometimes up to three different models from early to today as interesting to see the difference in construction.
The Montana steppes are quite dry, a little bit like Canterbury, and occasionally we see an irrigation system like we have at home but they are a rarity. Most of the extremely green areas are quite close to one of the many rivers flowing through the state.
On across the endless plains towards the Glacier National Park passing through all the European names of the towns like Burnham, Kremlin, Guildford, Hingham, Rudyard, Inverness, Joplin, Chester, Shelby, Sundance, Merryweather and Browning.
As we passed through one of the first towns by the name of Chinook, hardly a European name, but as we had time we stopped by a museum in that town and one of its claims to fame was information about the last battle between the Indians and the cavalry, even had an audiovisual on it but we decided just to look through the museum and they were lucky enough to have the negative files of a local professional photographer had been in business for at least 50 years and had recorded so much of the history and its people and they had selected some of his negatives for enlarging far beyond what the photographer or his clients would have selected probably on the basis that bigger is better but they were very interesting spite of this concept.
We spent an pleasant evening in Browning and set up this morning to the Glacier National Park and we made easily to the entrance at the St Mary’s visitor centre but that was as far as we were allowed to go as we were too long, the maximum length being 21 feet, so we had to go into the visitors centre park our vehicle and use one of the many buses to go up to the Logan pass and from there catch one of the many smaller buses to take you to the other scenic spots.
I have never been great on buses and all the standing round that one has to do so I let Luda go by herself and early on in the trip she spoke to a girl whose backpack was being invaded by a Chipmunk the girl looked at her and immediately said do you speak Russian? So that the next two hours or so Russian was the only language spoken, the girl was from Keiv in the Ukraine and was doing a university course on aerodynamics and with Luda’s strong invitation to her is quite possible we will see her in New Zealand. It is interesting to me that in spite of the Ukraine insisting that Ukrainian language be the national language Russian is still spoken by the majority of the people and particularly when they are overseas.
What all this excitement was happening up in the Park I received a knock on the motorhome door and a Swiss couple in their 50s had just parked in front of me with their European Hymer and want to chat about driving to China and all of its problems, they been on the road for two years, had rented their house on Lake Geneva and went back to Switzerland once every two years, they had just been to Alaska where on one of the rough roads all the plastic pipes underneath their motorhome were destroyed so they had replaced all of those… the next country on their agenda is South America probably with New Zealand following next. We spent probably a couple of hours chatting exchanging cards as we parted.
Luda returned on the second to last bus from the pass so we headed back to our parking spot in Browning but took another route probably two miles longer but with no roadworks whatsoever.
This morning we left the land of glaciers, formerly 150 glaciers now down to 26 which all will have disappeared by 2030. We headed south towards the East Glacier Park then South passing Flathead Lake stopping in the village of Ronan and a campground for the night
This morning we decided to take the scenic route south and drove a lot of the time along the salmon river all the time seeing suggestions for fishing spots and stopping at Lake Como one we discovered that you needed a state permit to enter the forest along with a fishing permit, so we carried on South stopping a little while later at a town to fill up the petrol tank and whilst the petrol was pouring in I noticed a bicycle across the road with the union Jack in one corner and some stars so I yelled out how you are Kiwi or an Aussie? On the second yelling he picked up the flag and showed it was a New Zealand flag and explained to me that the New Zealand flag had four stars, I agreed with him and pointed to the Kiwi and the words New Zealand on the driver’s door of our RV and he gave me the thumbs up!
We stopped for the night in a state forest just outside Sula for an extremely quiet peaceful night.
Today back on the scenic route again travelling south passing a lot of historical points most of them referring to the late 1800s or early 1900s and considering that a lot of the churches we have photographed in Europe often a dated back to 700 A.D. I recall the comment made by an English aristocrat who commented that his lawn was older than some of the things he’d seen in America!
Early today we flashed by the two Kiwi’s we saw yesterday on bicycles, giving them a toot, and we saw a lot of signs about winter game crossing the road with lots of reminders as we went, but the best we saw were some horned goats on the other side of the river and a small Doe disappearing into the forest, we were warned about horned sheep but there were no sign of anything like that. Lots of photographs around every corner of misty mountains beautiful river scenes and all the time we are travelling around 5000 to 5100 feet in elevation.
It’s always interesting when we stop talking to the locals finding out what they experience during the winter in their current location and the guy at the supermarket had recently shifted here from Oregon and last winter and said the snow later around almost all winter about 4 feet high and down to -40, makes Ashburton seem quite tropical!
After stopping in Charllis for petrol (the most expensive with had on this trip at $2.79 a gallon) and for a laundromat we carried on South for about 5 miles and founded delightful roadside recreational area beside the river where we have camped for the night and just hope that the river that is 2 m from our back door does not decide it needs to imitate the Mississippi.
Today we had a ghost town on our route called Bonanza and 2 miles away Custer, well and truly ghost towns now with just a few shacks left and a lot of of goldmining hardware lined up for the tourists there was a shingle road for the majority of the drive in to the mountains which took is up to 6700 feet in the river that all the activity was on flowed into the salmon river which we had been following more or less for the last two days.
The volunteer person that was in the Museum said we should look through the gold dredge that was a couple of miles away, it had operated from 1942 in 1952 and when I told them I’d seen the dredges in New Zealand he came up with the bright piece of information that this dredge was a copy of one of the New Zealand ones. After looking through it I think it was a pretty “good story” and it was certainly a massive piece of equipment and left behind a moon like landscape with their tailings of course that was all before the environment was of concern.
Back out to the main road and carrying on South we found all the campground’s full of course for the weekend, we stopped by Redfish Lake which had a very nice write up on the guidebook, but that of course assumed you went to the right spot.
There’s one thing of Idaho there are plenty campgrounds and we kept on passing them for quite some time, and then we started climbing and was obvious that we are going to go over the mountain range in front of us and we kept on climbing until we got two 8700 feet, and then we were notified by a sign that for the next 8 miles there is an 8% downgrade, we are very glad we had our current motorhome and not our first American motorhome because I’m not sure it would have handled this.
We ended up round 6000 feet and carried on South occasionally seeing campgrounds but most of them full and finally we stopped in a recreational area in the Saw Tooth National Forest parked in a gap between two trees and we’d hear the water in the river running in the background and we spent peaceful night along with other monstrous motorhomes and 5th Wheelers.
We carried on South following the salmon river and quite soon we came upon an area that was the extreme American dream, beautiful houses in beautiful settings with beautiful forests – lawns and the question about each of the houses would be how many millions. Yesterday at the campground I spoke to a Texan and he was talking about an area that had a lot of Hollywood people had invaded and looking at these houses it could quite well have been these, the beautiful towns that were associated with these houses was Ketchum and Hailey both of these towns were bucking the trend that we have seen elsewhere in smalltown America but nevertheless we did see one or two shops including a car dealership that had close their doors.
Moving on we decided we would visit the “Craters of the Moon” and on the way there we passed massive irrigation systems spraying water onto the paddocks making the dry grass green, we saw massive haystacks of large bales of hay obviously as reserves and the amount of water that we saw being sprayed onto the fields was massive.
Little bit further on we were met by black lava on either side of the road covering everything sometimes quite high. This carried on for at least 20 miles and covered a area of 350,000 acres and we looked around for a volcano but found none and later discovered the lava came from a fissure in the ground, the ground was split open and I guess it could have been for a distance of 10 to 20 miles and a Lava just flowed out of that fissure the last being as recent as 2000 years ago and they suggest more is possible!
At the destination there were many walks that the energetic could take over the lava fields to see different ways the lava has randomly finished up and possibly after a couple of million years this may end up as being grassland unless more lava is produced.
With stopped tonight in a rest area and let’s hope we get what the name implies.
As we drive south we drive through miles of lava covered ground where as yesterday it was violent and black today is more to the brown colour and sometimes we drive past high walls of lava rock and then we come to Shoshone falls in the waterfall goes down into a deep valley which is supposedly one of the deepest in the country, the massive granite walls the that surround the valley by themselves are impressive. We passed by a historical site which told of the lava flows interrupting rivers and the rivers changing their course to go around the lava flow substantially. Occasionally the lava flow was soft and the water carved out its stream and we were left to look at a massive wall of rock with holes that water was pouring out of which gave it the name of 1000 springs.
There was extremely interesting that after driving through barren landscapes of lava to suddenly come across some green grass being irrigated and then of course when we were downwind we recognised when we are coming to the feedlots with lots of cows in behind pipe fences with massive stacks of massive bales of hay and then in the next field beautiful green grass and a few cows munching their way through their feed. It was certainly a comparison of the wheels of commerce in maximising your returns per acre.
We found a nice parking spot in Twin Falls where we spent the night.
Tuesday 29th of August
Yesterday we spent most of the day and a campground trying to get our last newsletter dispatched, as sat on my outbox for half a day and no matter what I did nothing seemed to work then all of a sudden bang, it was gone. For problems like this I’ve often said I should have a five-year-old with me to sort these things out but then I realise that the side-effects and implications main not be worthwhile.
Our next stop was south to Wells which puts us onto Interstate 80 to take us across Nevada. In Wells we found a nice quiet little campground where we stopped for the night.
Wednesday 30th August
Today we left Wells continuing on Highway 82 we got to Eiko where we took a side trip down a no exit road into Ruby mountains this top is up over 8000 feet and above 9000 feet there were several lakes which you had to walk to see, is quite a large number of people parking their cars at this walking trail and it’s about a three hour walk climbing all the time of course and lots of wonderful photographs at the top and on the way.
Once that was done we went back down the road to where we thought that was a motorcamp and it turned out to be a day camp so back up the road for 5 miles were found in expensive day camp where we spent the night
All along our route from Minneapolis we have been given snippets of the early pioneers that crossed this country by wagon and have seen much of the country that that had to cross an aside comment when you watching the Hollywood version of the Trail West disregard completely the family sitting on the wagon father mother and two children, that never happened, everybody walked and apart from supplies in the wagon costing over $550 1850 dollars a lot never made it, it was said there was a grave every 10 miles of the Trail, near the end of the period where the trek West was happening there was supposed to be a continual line of wagons from one side of the country to the other.
Today we stopped at the California Trail Centre where our curiosity could be satisfied about the pioneers that crossed this country, it is a must stop and see for anybody that gets to Highway 80 a roundabout the town of Carlin, this is quite close to a 6000 foot pass called Emigrant Pass.
Just passed this pass after crossing several other passes we came to Battle Mountain and we took Highway 305 S. to Highway 50 which has got the interesting title of the Loneliness Road in America, it might have been once but now having given it that name everybody wants to travel it so Highway 305 was quite busy and we stopped in a rest area in the middle of nowhere for the night and had traffic passing us most of the night.
This land through Nevada is quite barren with nothing much growing anywhere but occasionally we see some enterprising person has managed to find some water and has irrigated this worthless land and has got marvellous green crops of all sorts. We very much reminded of Central Otago when we look at this land and are pleased we are not doing this trip 150 years ago.
Friday, 1 September
Today we finished on Route 305 and got to Highway 50 entered the Loneliness Road in America in a country town called Austin which was down to 2 petrol stations and a gift shop with everything else being closed in spite of a continual stream of traffic going both ways through the town it would seem to me that there are many opportunities being missed, of course as I am convinced of my thinking there are plenty of shops available in Austin for me to rent or to buy.
We started off down this lonely road and met a continual stream of traffic going both ways all the way passing through dry desolate country with perhaps less than 1% of the land being irrigated.
About 30 miles down the road we came to a whistlestop called Cold Springs, Highway 50 is one of the original routes that the wagon trains took to California and is also the one of the original pony express routes, so in the middle of nowhere this place called Cold Springs had a shop, restaurant, and RV Park, being Labour weekend the RV Park was booked out but we are welcome to pay $10 and park anywhere on the property away from the park so we opted for this giving a fraction more security to our evening stopover.
Saturday 2nd September
Carrying on our westward path through basically desert with land that is not much use for anything except perhaps as a air force rocket range, as we were warned to watch out for lowflying aircraft, but not today, carrying on just passed Sand Springs Pass we came across a road leading in to a white sand hill of considerable height, naturally there was a ticket office with an entrance fee of $40 but if we are only going in and out within the hour we were their guest. There was a massive collection of pickups and RVs all carrying varying sizes of four-wheel drives farm bikes (I would call them) and they were tearing up the sand to the top of the hill and then coming down at 2 to 3 times the speed, wonderful fun.
Then we saw a small four-wheel drive doing a circuit on the flat and the driver would have been hardly five years of age but he was still giving it hell!
We carried on into Fallon and decided we are going to eat out and we chose a restaurant attached to a casino, but we got a feeling that the steak they served us was had been used poker chips so were sort glad we did it have looked for this every night. We found a peaceful spot a camping for the night, and while we were there guy came up and looked at our for sale sign and started a debate on the economic’s buying our motor home with such a high milage, but then he was talking for the sake of hearing his voice, he asked us what brought us to this part of the country and want to know if we were here for the “Burning Man “ we had no idea what he was talking about and told him so and he explained it was up in the desert about three hours drive with about 70,000 people attending and it sounded a little bit like a Woodstock all hang out event, but no we told we were weren’t going there.
Sunday the 3rd
This morning we were looking for a dump station and were filling up with petrol and one of the dirtiest people movers with a caravan attached that I’ve ever seen pulled in, and I made the comment to him that my driving from Amsterdam to China and back I did not get as dirty, his comment was welcome to Nevada.
We carried on our drive up towards Pyramid Lake and just after we had got started we saw a large sign on the side of the road stating that unless one had an entry ticket you would not be admitted, didn’t say what or why, but at the same time we saw a continual stream of vehicles coming towards us that must have all been friends of the guide the petrol station and there was every sort of vehicle from simple four-wheel drives through to 50 foot RVs that should be sparkling bright but were totally dirty. There were some very old RVs in the procession and we got the impression that anything can be used.
The road we are on was running through an Indian reservation and they were out in force offering vehicle washing services but for the next two days we saw so many that had not seen the washing signs that perhaps they were wearing the dust as a badge of honour.
We decided it was time to turn round and carry on the other side of the lake, so I pulled into a pull off that an Indian family has set up shop in our offering cleaning, rubbish disposal, and receiving depot for unwanted accessories.
Whilst were there a Cruise America Rental pulled in, the driver was from London and said that his passenger was from Nelson New Zealand, but he never showed himself, perhaps there was a wanted poster back at home. He said had come out several times for the burning man show and on this occasion had to get back to return the RV after he had cleaned it, the inside looked as dirty as the outside so I hope he had plenty of time before his plane left.
We returned to Nixon and then drove up the other side lake pulling in too Pelican point which was a rather nice camping area and we stopped there to have lunch then I asked one of the campers beside where we were how one stayed there the night and I was told we had to go back to the Marina and purchase a permit.
We thought about this and decided to drive on the end of the road and as we were leaving we saw another RV pull and and thought nothing of it and we carried on for 10 to 20 miles and then the Tarseal ran out so we turned around and went back and found there was a dumping station at the Marina so we pulled in to check this out and then decided to spend the $11 for a permit for the campsite at Pelican point and as we were leaving I noticed the RV that I saw driving in as we left organising a permit, so back to the point, drove into our lunch site and about five minutes later our other RV drove past so they obviously had their eye on the wonderful site we had lunch at that overlooked the whole lake which incidentally is the remainder of a massive inland sea when the world was young.
Today we set off for Reno about 40 miles away and on our arrival we had our first telephone signal for several days so we made contact with our friends making arrangements to see them the following day.
Following our GPS to a supposed RV campground we found it was full, we then went on to the casino campground and no if we did not have a reservation there was no room so we were left wandering around the city a little and I turned in to an empty road to reset the GPS and discovered that it was the parking area for the National automobile Museum which housed the Harrah collection, from what I understand the “Harrah casino” is one of the largest and obviously the owner was a car fanatic and this impressive collection from the earliest days of motoring has beautiful examples of all the various models of American engineering with just the occasional sampling of Europe or England. All the cars have been restored to what I would call as new condition and there are many cars in the collection that are probably the only ones in existence.
One of the interesting cars was the Thomas Flyer in 1909 it and five other cars set off from New York to race to Paris via Russia with it winning after many major mechanical repairs and the roads across Russia, back then, were non-existent and they are fractionally better today however reading about some of the mud that they were trapped in and seeing the condition of road to Magadan within the last 10 years they were in a class that you do not see today.
We decided we want to do some work on our RV so we headed off back to Pyramid Lake, booked in to the campground at the Marina, connected up to the electricity and the water supply and had a peaceful night.
We packed up and found when we disconnected the mains hose and switched the pump on we were putting a water supply from our tank onto the ground, obviously the valve that was to prevent this from happening was past its use by date so driving back into Reno to visit with Richard and Judith did a side trip to an RV shop, purchased a replacement part, decided I needed another spanner to do the installation and after that purchase from Walmart it was a simple replacement which allowed us to keep all of our water with the pump turned on. It was quite interesting at Walmart seeing a group of five 18 to 20-year-old guys walking around the grocery section looking slightly lost having a good Yack as they were going, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like that in New Zealand.
We had a wonderful time catching up with Richard and Judith’s travels on what they find and get done each year, what they would like to do next and they need to have around the world air ticket which of course flying from New Zealand to Europe that’s what you end up with anyhow but they seem to end up into some fascinating places which we all use enjoy hearing the details. We can recommend Reno for lunch and dinner as both of the locations we went to we enjoyed very much.
This morning we said goodbye to Richard and Judith and carried on our route heading in the vague direction of Arizona, but today we visited Virginia city, to get to the Virginia City you first must climb up to about 7000 feet over a very windy indeed steep road you eventually get to a delightful old town that has been maintained in its gold rush era (1859) and now it is just tourists that tread the board walks shopping for trinkets to take home from their holidays. It was then on to Carson City over another winding road with every corner having a suggested speed of 25 miles an hour, once there we replenished our supplies and went on to the campground at Washoe State Park.
We set out this morning back about a mile towards Carson City to get some petrol that appeared to be cheaper than the other stations that we had passed and then we headed up north along the winding road that went through the forest on the edge of Lake Washoe until we met the junction of highway 421 and then we were heading south towards Lake Tahoe and that again took us through swish back roads that meandered along the edge of the lake with naturally some extremely beautiful homes enjoying their million-dollar views.
Eventually we left the lake travelling on highway 89 and after we passed through the village of Woodfords we found a parking spot for the night.
We carried on highway 89 intending to take highway 4 towards the Park but when we reached the intersection were agreed with the sign of 24% slopes on this road so we carried on 89 until it reached 395 which would eventually take us to the other entrance but all the way today the road has been up and down and seeming to take us in circles that eventually we got on to highway 120 and followed it to within a few miles of the park entrance and we found a very nice parking spot beside the river in a state forest.
We left the campground at Inyo National Forest and headed towards the entrance of Yosemite National Park, first we had to go through Tioga Pass and that took us on a sloping road leading us forever upwards through these massive granite mountains of them covered in snow and of course beautiful waterfalls to keep the camera busy. And the first surprise that I had was that the entrance to the Park was at about 9500 feet in elevation with lots of lakes almost everywhere we looked, so we paid our $30 and started winding our way through the densely forest that was either side of the road.
We were very quickly overtaken by about 20 Austin Healey sports cars all with Australian registrations and either a AUS or a kangaroo in a prominent place on the back. We saw them again the following day and is loomed it was the Austin Healey club of Australia on a tour of America.
There was plenty of opportunities to stop on the road and take hikes to various scenic points, but the roads were extremely busy and many of the car parks were overflowing and a lot of the parking around these overflowing car parks protruded out on the road and made driving extremely difficult.
Naturally with the high elevation many of the roads had drop off’s straight down into the valleys below which made driving the overweight American motorhome quite difficult for me.
When we are almost through the park I made a decision that this type of driving with this amount of traffic on the road was not for me so we left the park and started looking for a campground, we found a petrol station and general store that also had an RV Park, we drove on there and saw instructions to drive to the bottom of the hill, which we did must been almost ¾ of a mile to the bottom, nice clean looking place, went into the reception area and the three ladies their eager to serve me, I asked how much for the night, one said it Saturday so that is $82. I told her that is the most expensive camping site we have ever experienced all the way round the world, she wasn’t impressed the gave me a map with three others that cost less, so back up the hill we went back onto the road, incidentally the petrol around this area was $4.69 a gallon which is probably still cheap by our standards but the most expensive with seen in this country. We drove on a little bit and found a camping ground and one of the national forest just outside the entrance to the park at a cost of $14.
Today we made a decision not to go back through the Yosemite Park on the basis that with all the traffic on a Sunday and distress in driving it yesterday and leave probably better to go back to the main road the long way on highways 120 and 108, 108 we knew was going to be hilly and windy and just how much we found out later in the day.
These last few days driving around the areas that we have done more or less all in the Sierra Nevada’s the mountain range that separates California from Nevada etc and was the last obstacle that the people travelling west on the wagon train had to cross I’m sure they must have found simpler crossings than we have with most of hours going over passes that were usually 9000 feet high and observing them from the modern road would be hard not to walk across these areas than to drive bullocks pulling a wagon anywhere near them, I’m sure it I had been driving one I do probably stayed in Nevada, gone to Las Vegas, and set up a casino!
Eventually on 108 we got to the large yellow sign with red writing at the entrance to Sonora Pass warning us that we had 26° slopes and of us for the next 15 miles. Fortunately they were not all that steep but the pass did go up to 9500 feet in elevation and along with it being quite narrow was down to first gear for some of the slopes. In hindsight it may have been better to have taken the road through the park but then the Sunday traffic….. Who knows?
We eventually got back on to highway 395 and made our way past Mono Lake, a very large lake that has become one of the reservoirs for Los Angeles, had its origin from a volcanic eruption some time ago.
The whole road today was extremely scenic with beautiful views around each corner which is usually the case when you’re travelling through a mountain range particularly at the height of 8 to 9000 feet.
We left the delightful campground in the forest and took the rough shingle road back on to the main road and out to 395 which we stayed on until we got to the road that would take us around the back of June lake, a magnificent drive around a very beautiful Lake set high up in the mountains.
The next possible turn off we saw was to Mammoth Lake and were here we thought we are in for something as good but I’m sure the name is the name of a ski resort and whatever lake was there as well and truly disappeared. Was definitely is resort town and all the shops were quite Resort-ie and did not want to tarnish their village with large signs showing a supermarket so we had to move on to find this which we did in the next town which had no pretences about it.
We found a campground that had a lot of all farm machinery scattered around the place, we booked turn they gave us a site, we went to the site and it was a water sprinkler giving it a good dousing so we went back and got one to sites away from the sprinkler, and then of course it started raining!
We left the campground on the outskirts of Bishop and headed South driving along side the Sierra Nevada’s and today’s drive of the whole range was like what we saw today nobody would ever got to California, even today there was no passes over the Sierra’s so it is a long drive to get around them to get to Los Angeles if that is where you felt you should be.
Around the village of Lone Pine we did a right-hand turn up Whitney Portal Road and once we were clear of the town we had a wonderful view of the highest mountain in the range at over 14,000 feet and once we’ve done that it was back onto the 395 heading south until we got to Diaz Lake a rather beautiful Lake sitting between the road and the mountains and we could see on the other side some RVs so we pulled in, worked with the computerised ticket machine and got a pass for the night, drove round the lake and selected one of probably several hundred camping sites, we selected one under a tree which gave us a little bit of shade which helped.
We left the delightful campground of Diaz Lake and drove towards the next town which was Carthago, yes the same name as our European motorhome, it had a very small population and even a smaller number of shops, none of which we could see were open.
It is very easy to find the road to Death Valley, as it was well signposted so we set off down the quite straight roads travelling at a good 50 to 55 miles an hour, letting the cars passed us as they wished, I noticed a motorhome a little similar to ours just in behind and I was expecting them to pass at any moment and then all of a sudden there was a loud noise which sounded as if the motorhome was being ripped in half but only lasted for probably a matter of seconds because in front appeared in twin engine jet fighter that had just flown over the top of us at almost less than 100 feet, when we saw him he was pulling up into the sky and disappeared I guessed having a good laugh. I’m not sure that the motorhome behind us was laughing as when I looked in the rear vision mirror he had stopped on the road probably where it happened and we’d really didn’t see him again for the rest of the day. Luda had very good reaction as she managed to get a photo of the jet as he was pulling away.
After that little bit of excitement we drove on towards death Valley going downhill through very winding roads until we got down to about 1500 feet and the road cut across a bit of desert, this was the lowest point on this little bit of the road and a lot of cars and motorbikes pulled up so we stopped and looked at a couple of coyotes entertaining the crowd we fed them a little bit of bread but they didn’t look that interested, the primary expecting some pork chops or something of the like.
Then the road started going up the mountain again on the other side of the first Valley and we went on up to about 4000 feet and then back down the other side and this time it was the real deal because we are in Death Valley proper, this time the GPS recorded that we went down to about -230 feet, and when we stopped at the visitors centre they had a temperature gauge outside which showed the temperature being 104°F, I’m not sure whether that qualified for in the shade or just normal.
Little bit further on just opposite what looked like an expensive hotel in the middle of an oasis we did a right turn towards the Golden Canyon parking area, now this point it was probably mid day and Luda never wants to miss out on anything, so off she goes to the entrance, stops and looks at the distance, which was 2.6 miles, each way, decides that’s a piece of cake, and off she goes with her trustee Canon D60 and an empty card so she can take plenty of photographs, and leaves me to wait.
I watch people leaving and I watch people coming back I watch them drinking water, and I saw people that left after Luda arriving back and driving away and then after about an hour of all this, that is hour after people had returned Luda appears around the bend so I drive the parking spot so she has less distance to walk, she manages to get into the RV and hardly has enough energy left to talk. It was then a matter of changing all of her clothes that by this time were soaking wet and no she did not want to drive on further to see the lowest point in the Valley, I’m still trying to work out why!
Is quite interesting observing the mountains either side of the road and looking at the different layers that makes up the mountain and you realise that originally all of that mass was flat and a lot of the colours that make up the mountain today are the result of active volcanoes sometime in the past and then the tectonic plates crashing into each other giving is the mountains we see today. There is certainly a lot of volcanic activity we have observed all the way down from Idaho and we think back and we realise we’ve seen no volcanic activity like we have seen in America anywhere in Europe except perhaps a little bit round Mount Etna.
So we drove on out of Death Valley pass the Death Valley Junction through the village of Shoshone and about the whistlestop of Tecopa Hot Springs we found a campground that was waiting for the winter, which was obviously their busiest time of the year where we are happy for the night.
We left the hot Springs, not that we saw them, headed back to the main road with Baker as our destination, took the turn towards Las Vegas and the minute we crossed over into Nevada we found casinos, being a little bit tired in the drive we pulled off and found an enormous car park attached to one of the casinos so we parked in the shade had lunch and thought we might as well complete the drive in to Las Vegas so reprogrammed the GPS and it put us onto a local road which took us right through the centre of the city going past all of the casinos and the middle part of the city at a casino in the old part of town we found a car park for RVs that was attached to the casino at extremely reasonable rate of course the intention was to get you inside the casino, which you had to do to pay for the parking.
While we were there paying we decided to have dinner there at the buffet , we first looked at the sports bar but the volume of noise was such that speaking was an impossibility.
We got off to a good start this morning heading up towards the Hoover Dam along with everyone else there were several good viewing points on the drive up and then there was a parking area just before the dam that you could walk up to the top of a hill from which there was a viewing Bridge where you can see every aspect of the dam, wonderful point for taking photographs.
We had the option of driving down across the dam but what we saw from the viewing point convinced us to leave it for another day.
Was then across the city to Red Rock Canyon another canyon owed its existence being on the bottom of the then sea and when the sea retreated the formation we saw was left exposed to the sunshine making the viewpoint that we experienced as we drove round the one-way road.
Just north of the canyon we found the red canyon camping ground that we stay that for the night. We were very lucky from our selected campsite to see a full grown Hawk sitting on a post having his dinner and Luda got a wonderful series of photographs as sharp as a razor.
We left the camping ground with the GPS programmed to Mesquite and to only use the freeway is to get away our current destination, very good in theory but with the freeways crossing each other on a regular basis and having to switch from one freeway to another and with the traffic flowing at 70+ miles per hour we ended up back in the centre of Las Vegas after two wrong turns, learning from that sitting at the traffic lights, I reprogrammed the GPS to avoid freeways and after a couple of turns at the local street level we were on a road that took is out of town for the next 19 miles.
Driving at a local street level you see everything that is happening and in the north of Las Vegas we passed a building that was labelled with the Catholic charity and out the front there were about six people obviously waiting for a handout plus across the intersection four tents that looked like there were equipped for daily living and I’m sure there was no American dream in these peoples horizon.
We got off the motorway to check out a lost city Museum, not knowing what that was and found out it was a Indian civilisation village archaeological site that was being swamped by the formation of Lake Mead and the Museum was the result of the archaeological findings from that site before the lake swamped it. It cost five dollars each to get in and I must admit is not high on my must see list of events.
Onto Mesquite and we got off the freeway at a location of an RV Park that was advertised further back, found the RV Park had to be paid for at a different casino so it was two and half miles away to sort that out and we ended up staying at the car park of the casino.
We left the car park and headed towards the Zion National Park realising very early that today was Sunday at the park was sure to be busy and this was very quickly confirmed as we are getting close with all of the traffic and near the entrance there is no parking spaces left on the road and lots of people everywhere sides of the coward’s way out and did U turn and went back down the road about 15 miles to where we had observed a parking area and we parked up there for the night and were very quickly joined by three other RVs and in the morning we found we had about five overnighters around our spot.
Early we headed off back to the Park and all the spots that were full of parking were now all vacant into the park we went, paid the entrance fee, went into the RV Park was about three others, Luda went off to catch the shuttlebus to start doing her full day of walking some of the walks that were available within the park.
I on the other hand, went into the visitors centre, looked at all of the books that were available and purchased one of the with the title Manifest Destines which covered America’s westward expansion and the road towards the civil war. It was 360 pages of very interesting information of the early in America which I for one was vaguely aware of this filled in all of the spaces that in hindsight were blank.
Luda arrived back about lunchtime having almost walked her feet off had a quick lunch and then went back to finish the job off and I carried on absorbing the information contained within the book.
About 5:30 PM Luda staggered back to the RV and we left the Park going back to last night camping spot and joined the other three RVs already parked up for the night.
Well yesterday’s Park almost finished more the total number of national Park throughout America and I think possibly there are two that we have not visited and I’m happy to call it quits at that. When our heading towards Visalia in California the location of the couple that have placed an offer on our RV, it is substantially less than what we wanted but the old saying of a bird in the hand is relevant because selling it from New Zealand presents more problems than I am prepared to consider.
Today is the day we part with our RV, the lady buying it works for a California government department so she is aware of all of the red tape and has all of the papers to handle it so after signing numerous papers numerous times and having the signature witnessed by a notary was time for me to count the pile of hundred dollar bills and place them carefully into my pocket, put all of our suitcases into the rental car and start heading towards LAX, as we left the campground I looked in the rear vision mirror and saw the RV going in the opposite direction to what we were and there ends our American wanderings.
Luda was flying to Russia on Monday the 25th and I booked a ticket back to New Zealand for the same day and realised the vast difference in price booking your ticket months in advance compared to 3 days in advance but what can you do?
We drove back via the scenic route spending Saturday night in Palmdale driving Sunday into LAX via the route on the GPS which took us on some interesting roads first the Angeles Forest Highway then the Angeles Crest Highway the first of these roads for about 20 miles were often the only car visible and certainly not with we were expecting so close to LA, the next road was one that the joyriders did on a Sunday, like the other road very hilly and winding but this being closer to the city was used by what we observed the sports car clubs and motorbike enthusiasts both making it obvious that the posted speed signs were just for the tourists and not for the locals. Eventually we got on to one of the LA freeways and there all doubt was removed as too the volume of traffic one should expect close to this Californian city.
Was then a matter of leaving all of our suitcases at the hotel, returning the rental car, spending a noisy night so close to the airport, checking out with all of the suitcases, finding Luda’s Aeroflot flight, then my five-hour wait to check and my luggage, go through security and finding that they have increased the procedure for progress through the security now taking probably twice as long which confirms my thinking this is now becoming a country to avoid so it was just a matter of one sleeping pill on the plane and I was back in Auckland going through New Zealand Security, it was a joy to be home.