Saturday, 23 May 2015

Road Trip Diary: Death Valley > Bakersfield > Fresno

13. Las Vegas to Death Valley
Saturday 16th May 2015

After an amazing wedding on Thursday and a day nursing our hangovers by wandering the strip and napping on Friday, we were off to Death Valley. We had visited Death Valley in 2011 so we knew what to expect from the lowest point in North America and were really looking forward to the heat, the silence and some quality swimming pool action- they have a spring fed pool which is so much better than a chlorinated one.

Thanks to our obsession with The Weather Channel we also heard that there was a severe cold front hitting the Sierra Nevada area over the weekend and following week. We checked on Friday and the weather for Yosemite (which we were due to drive to after Death Valley) looked particularly miserable. Rain, temperatures in single figures and warnings of dangerous driving conditions were not what we had packed for. We were meant to be staying in a canvas tent and so sadly, we made the tough call to remove Yosemite and Lake Tahoe from the itinerary. We had to re-route from Bridgeport>Yosemite>Lake Tahoe to Bakersfiefld>Fresno>Sutter Creek>Grass Valley>Redding to allow us to arrive for our pre-booked motel in Bend, Oregon on Sunday 24th May.

We shared a coffee with the newly weds and their family before leaving Las Vegas for good. It would be 67 days before we would see a familiar face again other than our own mugs!
Moving from the garish sights and loud noise of Vegas to the moonscape of the desert for 2 days was the perfect tonic for some sore heads.

Ellie spotted the Amargosa Opera House so we pulled over to take some photos. If you don't know the weird history behind it, have a read here.

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Once we arrived at the Furnace Creek Ranch we quickly got changed, applied the sun cream for the 30+ degree heat and decamped to the pool. The ranch has everything you would need on site: three restaurants, a saloon bar and general store plus lots of other amenities.  It is needed though as there is nothing close by that remotely resembles civilisation but this also means everything comes at a premium- the groceries are a lot more expensive, as are the restaurants, but for a couple of nights we didn't mind forking out a bit more.

We were staying in a little cabin which comes with it's own porch and rocking chairs which we took advantage of, playing cards and drinking some ice cold beers. It was lovely to sit outside and enjoy the heat. It was the first time it genuinely felt like a summer holiday as up until now the weather hadn't been as hot as we had expected.

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14. Death Valley
Sunday 17th May 2015

This was our lazy day. We woke early, got down to the pool before the heat got too high, put some laundry on (two weeks of dirty clothing!) and went back to video call my parents. We ate at the little saloon bar, drank beer and margaritas and then I suggested it was time for a couple of tequila shots, a decision I instantly regretted.
We were sat outside the bar, being merry and playing rummy when suddenly the weather changed and a crazy wind picked up. It kicked up the sand and we had to scamper back to our cabin, trying now to get grit in our eyes. It was very weird to see it raining in Death Valley, where the hottest temperature on earth was recorded so we sat out in it for a few minutes, just to see what it was like.

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15. Death Valley to Bakersfield
Monday 18th May 2015

We begun the new route to the north by making the four hour drive to Bakersfield. We hadn't done a huge amount of research into this journey so didn't know what to expect on the road. Leaving the long and winding road through the mountains that enclose Death Valley took longer than expected and once we reached highway 395, we had expected to find some towns en route to grab some lunch. However, mile after mile flew by and it became clear that there was nothing to see or anywhere to stop for food. Not to put down the views, but there is only so many times that the desert and hills that pepper this environment can impress.

It was driving over one of these hills on highway 14 to Bakersfield, that something that we hoped wouldnt happen, happened. A lorry speeding in the opposite direction kicked up a large stone which hit our windscreen with a loud bang. It made a star shaped crack and shook us up a bit.
We finally spotted the Jawbone Canyon store and pulled in for a sugar hit and contacted our road assistance people who sorted it for us to swap the car in Bakersfield, which we did relatively smoothly.

We finally got to the motel later on, stopped by the pool for a bit and grabbed a couple of beers to chill out on the terrace. Three coach loads of French tourists then turned up and livened up the place a bit, all jumping in the pool in the dark and generally having a jolly old time.

16. Bakersfield to Fresno
Tuesday 19th May 2015

Travelling north to Fresno we noticed the land changing. There were massive cattle farms, huge fruit producing fields and orchards and the flat landscape was very different to what we had been used to seeing.
We grabbed an iced coffee and made our way to the hotel. On the way Ellie spotted a sign for a vintage furniture store. We made a quick turn off the road and stumbled upon New Vision. It was full of mid-century furniture and cute little knick knacks. After meeting the owners and having a friendly chat about London and our trip, we all took a few photos and a photo of us looking very British made it onto their Instagram feed.

Piccadilly Inn Shaw in Fresno was our next hotel.  Greeted by a lovely big room, the pool was calling us and we spent a good couple of hours laying by it before grabbing a Domino's ($5.99 for a medium pizza here!) and retiring to bed.
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