Death Valley

After an hour of paperwork hassle, I finally pulled out of the Avis parking lot around 4:20pm on Friday afternoon. Then after an hour in LA traffic I made it to the Santa Monica Hostel to pick up my travelling companion, a Belgian singer by the name of Elena.

Elena had reviewed the suggestions and chosen Death Valley. I’m happy to drive if somebody else is willing to make decisions. We plugged Death Valley National park into the GPS system and we were off. After 8 hours of almost continuous driving we finally rolled into Beatty and checked into Motel 6.

Saturday morning began with driving lessons. My travelling companion does not hold a driving license, so she drove slowly around the parking lot. Driving an automatic really is easy, it’s as easy as a go kart, albeit a bit bigger.

Then we were off to explore Death Valley. Our fist stop was a ghost town called Rhyolite. Rhyolite was a short lived gold rush town. Gold was found in 1904 and by 1910 there were only 611 residents left in the town, from a high of over 10’000. A real life example of American boom and bust history!

One of the talking points of the town is a house built from 32’000 bottles. The house was constructed in 1906 by Tom Kelly. He sold 400 raffle tickets at $5 each and raffled the house upon completion. Today the house is owned by a public body and volunteers give tours of the house and tell the stories of Rhyolite.

Enter Betty, the current tour guide at the bottle house. Betty met Fred some 55 years ago. She sent him out on dates with her girlfriends at the time because she had a boyfriend herself. 6 months later, her then boyfriend chose a poker game over a date with Betty. Betty sent word to Fred that he should call on her sometime. Two weeks and three dates later they were married. They’ve been married for 54 years and Betty says they’re still on their honeymoon!

Here’s Betty and Elena at the bottle house.

Betty and Elena at the bottle house

Elena got some more driving practice around Rhyolite.

Elena at the wheel

From the bottle house we set sail for Scotty’s Castle. En-route we spotted what I think is a salt flat. Naturally we took the car onto it.

Pontiac G6 on a salt flat

Driving practice continued out here. Elena got the car up to 101 mph according to the GPS.

Then followed some photographic tom foolery on the car. It’s not obvious from this picture but I’m standing on the boot (trunk) of the car.

Tom foolery on the car

Observant readers might notice that I’m sporting three new items in this photo. The t-shirt was a gift from Rob, our host in Lawrence, Kansas, thanks Rob. The hat and sleeping bag were purchases in preparation for my motorcycling adventure.

I took this shot just after we left the salt flat.

Looking back

We made it to Scotty’s Castle, a rather odd looking place in the Death Valley National Park. Here’s a shot from the top of a hill that I’m not sure if we were supposed to climb or not.

Scottys Castle

Just as we left we spotted this cheeky fella.


Then from Scotty’s Castle our next stop was Ubehebe Crater. This was unlike anything I have ever seen before.

Ubehebe crater

A sign said half a mile to the little crater. We trotted off up the hill.

Elena coming up to the little crater

The view was worth the hike.

From the top of the hill

Then we saw some people down in the crater. We had to check that out.

Looking down into the crater

The crater floor looked like chocolate flakes. I was tempted to taste it, but I was able to resist.

Cracking mud underfoot

It sure is one big hole.

Big hole

Climbing back up was considerably more work than getting down!

Getting out was the hard part

It was worth it. We were two tired bunnies that night. Then back to Los Angeles on Sunday night. A lot of driving, a great weekend. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *