On Friday of last week (the 28th of November), Nadia and I loaded up my car and, three uneventful hours later, Beatty, Nevada. There we checked into our motel, dropped off our bags, and climbed back into the car for another drive to Death Valley.
Our first stop in Death Valley was the Information Booth at Hells Gate. Payed the $20 park fee, and admired the view for a while. Then we headed on down to… Um… Someplace that started with an S, I think. Checked out the shop there, filled up the tank for a reasonable 2.10 a gallon, and saw some ravens.
Now, I’ve talked about the Test Site Crows before, how monstrously huge they are. How they look at you, as if sizing you up… The fact that they can be seen flying away with rabbits, desert tortoises and the occasional small child. Think Deep Crow from Penny Arcade, and you’re close. Well, Nadia had heard the stories, but thought I was exaggerating on the size.
Then she saw a Death Valley Raven. All foot and a half tall of it.
And she knew every word I spoke was truth.
We, quickly, disagreed on just how cute (or ugly) they were – I happen to think they are pretty creatures, cute as a button and just so very interesting. She, however, disagreed: Thought they were rather creepy, kind of homely, and was ready to get away from them as soon as she could.
So, we got back into the car, and began the long drive to Scottys Castle. Which is neither Socttys, nor a Castle. It’s a Spanish style ranch house that was owned by… Some other rich fellow, but Scotty bragged about… Honestly? Go on the tour. It’s worth it – they tell the story better than I could ever do, and you also get to see leather drapes.
Yes, drapes made out of leather. How awesome is that?
We also checked out the adjoining clock tower, which was just way cool – standing outside of it and listening to it tick was… Well, relaxing and almost magical. I love clocks, I love time, and things that tick fascinate me no end. It’s like the steady heartbeat of the universe, or something.
It was quite cool.
By this time, it was starting to get dark… So, we did the only sensible thing: We drove further out into the desert to check out the giant crater of a dormant volcano. Once there, we were fairly quickly struck by the beauty of the place, and more quickly struck by just how damn cold it was getting, and how quickly it was growing dark. I kind of wanted to check out the bottom of the crater, but Nadia wisely pointed out that it was dark, it was cold, and only a fool would go down there without a flashlight or something.
Her point was pretty perfectly illustrated with three young German tourists, carrying a card-board mariachi, wandered down to the bottom to yodel.
I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
Since the place was quickly getting colder, darker and filled with crazy yodeling tourists, we did what any smart people would do: Climbed a very steep hill composed entirely of gravel so that we could see another, smaller, crater.
There are no pictures of that crater, as it was very dark and I was very out of breath. So, we went back to the car.
For a long time.
We stopped once, after it was really dark – and the visibility was near nil thanks to fog and dust – and checked out the stars. There were so many of them, so many more than we see in the City. It was something special, just being there in the blackness, looking up and seeing so many tiny, twinkling points of light. Everywhere you looked was black with dark, and shiny with tiny, tiny stars.
It was wonderful, until we started getting cold. So, once again, into the car, back to civilization.
Then we got lost.
We dug out the map, backtracked, found the right road, and forged onward to get to our motel… Which we stayed in for all of ten minutes before we headed across the parking lot to the only place to eat in town.
I shall spare you the details, but suffice to say: If you ever visit Beatty, Nevada, bring your own food. Seriously.
We woke up fairly early (for us, 8:30), packed up the car, checked out and hit the road. First stop: Ryholite Ghost Town… It was neat, but very windy and very, very cold. Nadia didn’t have too much fun, mostly because of the wind and the cold, so we didn’t spend too very long there. Which is fine, there wasn’t too much too see – and what was there to be seen was blocked off for our “safety”. Bah!
We did also check out the Open Air Museum, which consisted of some creepy death shroud statues (including and all death Last Supper), a giant metal miner and penguin, and a giant cinder block naked lady made in the art style of an Atari 2600 game.
It was… Something. Odd, I think is the term.
On the way out, I saw a golden tarantula. Lived in this state nearly nine years, and that was the first time I’d seen a giant fuzzy spider in the wild (The less said about the time I found one in my cubical, the better). It was very cool, and very furry. In person, in the wild? Not actually that scary.
The cool thing: It was attempting to cross the road when I saw it, so I got out and took pictures… Which caused a carload of German tourists (Not the crater ones, a different carload) to stop, take even more pictures – then attempt to help the little guy across the road.
After this, drove, for ages, to… Flattop? Flintlock? Firetree? Not sure, to be honest. I know it started with an F. We drove there, looked at the Visitor Center (Pro Tip: Nadia + Road Trip = Stopping at Visitor Centers) to check out the museum, and maybe get some water.
No water, so we drove onwards to a neat little hotel/restaurant at the top of a hill… Which is accessed by a neat little elevator at the end of a neat little tunnel filled with spiders.
Little, creepy spiders.
I was not very happy, but the food was good, so that kind of made up for it. I pretty much ran out the tunnel after lunch. My pride meant less to me than being away from the damn spiders.
Funny how I can handle a giant bugger covered in fur, but a little one? Not so much.
We then ventured forth to Bad Water, famous for it’s bad water and giant salt plains. Oh, and being 282 feet below sea level. It was neat, if a bit hot… real easy to breathe, too. I enjoyed it quite a bit, poking about, seeing the crystals, playing with the water we found.
Then the drive through Artists Drive (the view was meh, but the driving? So fun!), and then home.
The drive home was fairly uneventful too – Nadia fell asleep, I took a different route back and had myself a good time going down the lesser traveled roads in the state. It was a long drive, though, and I was very happy to see the lights of Vegas again.
So, all in all, a fun trip. I’m looking forward to spending another weekend in Death Valley someday, maybe with camping gear or something.