Death Valley day…


Saturday’s plan was to drive from Bakersfield, CA to Las Vegas – a fairly long drive, as it turned out because of HOW I wanted to get there. Through Death Valley…

Setting out for Starbucks as a first stop, I noticed a car wash on the way. After getting my morning jolt and sugar fix, we took our dusty, bug-spattered Tumbleweed through a great car wash in Bakersfield. He came out the other end shiny, squeaky clean. If cars could smile, his would have been a big happy grin. I know I was happy, and I was only on the inside!

We left town, heading east on Highway 178. I knew it was going through the mountains, but wasn’t quite prepared for what we encountered on the first leg…

A winding, narrow, two lane road, with no shoulder on the rocky right side, and a sheer drop to the Kern River on the left side. There were sections where I wished I had one of those little Italian rental cars – the road felt that narrow to me.

Heading east for the pass through the mountains from Bakersfield.


This waterfall was spilling from an aqueduct in the mountain into an irrigation canal below.


When I stopped to take a picture of the waterfall, I noticed this roadside shrine to a 21-year-old who lost her life in a car accident.


We made it through to the other side, passing by Lake Isabella, on down through Walker Pass (Elevation: 5,245 ft.) through a cute little one-horse town name of Inyokern into Ridgecrest near China Lake Naval Air Station.

The Sunshine Capital of America is no more than a wide spot in the road – with three little restaurants, and some shops.


Beyond that, it was more desert – and some major salt flats along the Trona Valley Road.

This may look like snow, but it’s not. More calcium chloride deposits being mined by a huge operation.


We stopped here on the Trona Valley Road for a late lunch for me. It was the only place to eat for miles, and actually quite good! They made me a real strawberry milkshake on one of those old-style milkshake machines.


All the while, I’m thinking “I’m driving through desert to get to more desert? What’s wrong with this picture??” Of course, I had no choice by then. It was the only logical way through to the other side!

I stopped in Lake Isabella to gas up and saw these signs – which cracked me up with their ironic proximity to one another! (Bowling Cocktails and Christian Assembly???)

The whole drive was achingly beautiful – in spite of my sounding like I’m complaining about more desert. The soundtrack for the drive was Teddy Thompson’s Up Front and Down Low, music from the film Crazy Heart, and Madelyn Peyroux’s Dreamland. I was enjoying Teddy Thompson so much that I played it twice!

The road goes on forever…


Just before the turn onto highway 190, we entered Death Valley National Park:

I loved how these mountains were layered in the colors of the different rock formations.


We still had a ways to go before we were really in the valley, however. About 27 miles of mountain pass to be exact! It was a steep climb up out of the valley, with signs telling the elevation as we went; 2,000, 3,000, 4,000…

Top of the hill! On the down side? Death Valley.


These signs, located at the top of high, steep mountain passes, warn drivers to check their brakes before descending the other side.


The descent was 17 miles, with grades varying from 4% to as much as 8.5% – pretty steep. As we were making our way down, I saw two bicyclists pedaling UP. I gave them each a thumbs up for their efforts and was rewarded with beaming smiles. That would have been a long hot walk for me if I was biking… On the other hand, I probably would have known my limits, and not attempted it!

At Stovepipe Wells, I decided to fill the gas tank (just in case…) and paid the highest I’ve paid yet – $4.46/gallon! On the other side of Death Valley, at Furnace Creek the gas was $5.32/gallon. Shocking!

Sea Level at Stovepipe Wells – and going down from here…


I expected that we might be the only tumbleweeds on the road through Death Valley. WHY I don’t know… I guess because of all those stories about not driving through without lots of water and a full tank of gas. Not to worry. There were lots of folks out doing the same thing we were doing.

Sea Level in the midst of Death Valley.


Here we are 100 feet below sea level and not a snorkel to be seen!


We even stopped and got out at Zabrisky Point for a photo op:

OK, I’m a little hot. Can we please go back to the car?


Zabrisky Point was every bit as beautiful as I expected…




After Zabrisky Point, it was full tilt for Vegas. It was starting to get late, and we still had an hour or so to go. Max had been a patient fella all day – in and out of the car at various stops, but no big runs or play time. Plus, I was a little tired of driving… We left Bakersfield around 10 AM, and we didn’t get to Vegas til almost 6 PM.

The home stretch – Vegas here we come!


Glitz and glitter of Las Vegas at dusk. Traffic was intense and slow so we got to appreciate some of the lights on the way to our hotel.



Which bed do you want?!


Grainy, low light photo taken with the iPhone in our hotel in Las Vegas… Looks like Max is trying to tell me how to take the pic.

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About Maureen Farr

I am a graphic and web designer – and the publisher of the print version of Arts Guide, a free guide highlighting the arts, dining, events, and more on the coast of Maine. In addition, I am a visual artist working in mixed media and encaustic, as well as creating found object jewelry. I am currently at work revising a short novel that I wrote as a participant in the 32nd Annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
This entry was posted in California, California desert, Death Valley, Eating out on a road trip, Las Vegas, National Parks, Nevada, On the Road, Traveling with a dog, Traveling wth a poodle, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Death Valley day…

  1. Buzz Masters says:

    So great, Maureen! Have fun in Vegas! Like living in a theatre set.

  2. “you’re not holding the camera right, momo!” Max said.

    Good post! How cool to have seen Death Valley AND Las Vegas! Loved the comment about not a snorkel in sight!

    So where are you headed next? Xoxo cin

    • Maureen Farr says:

      Cin, can you read doggy lips now?? Next? I think we’re going to retrace our trip through Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff today. This time going north through the canyon. I’m thinking of I-40 east to the coast…

  3. hank says:

    “At Stovepipe Wells, I decided to fill the gas tank (just in case…) and paid the highest I’ve paid yet – $4.46/gallon! On the other side of Death Valley, at Furnace Creek the gas was $5.32/gallon.”

    holy shit. that’s only cause it’s so remote, right? or is this where we’re headed this summer?

    • Maureen Farr says:

      Both. It’s remote. CA gas was high everywhere but the highest I had seen (and paid) prior was $4.04. when I was in OR, they ahd the 5th highest gas prices in the nation…

  4. A note from your friendly spell checker says:

    When I saw your photos of Zabriskey Point it brought to mind the Antonioni film which I realized I remembered as “ie” so I Googled it and this is what I found:

    Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
    An illustrated guide to Death Valley National Park, California – Zabriskie Point.
    http://www.americansouthwest.net/…/death_valley/zabriskie_point.html – Cached – Similar

    Oh, well, Tumbleweed doesn’t have room for a bookshelf or a dictionary on it . . .

    You missed the last sauna of the winter (though you were teleported there through our thoughts) eight peoples (three of whom waded/slid/strided through up to three feet of wet cornsnow down the hill to prostrate themselves in the engorged-with-snowmelt-stream to cool off) and two hounds. Debrae brought Jillie, her Jack Russell pup, to meet Hogan and the two got along with great aplomb. You can just imagine the eight pounds of wiggly, waggly, 36-inch pronking, tail-wagging-like- hummingbird-wings of Jillie subjecting the 80 pounds of Hogan to lip- and ear-licking, back-walking, confounding his every move by using chair, table, and people legs to block, elude, and otherwise confuse the chase issue. Dave Markle couldn’t believe that Hogie was ten given his energetic response to Jillie.

    • Maureen Farr says:

      Hendrik, thanks for the correction. I was too tired last night to check it or realize… and when I proofread the post on wordpress, my version of Zabrisky was undelined meaning I should see what they suggest. But I didn’t cause I figured they didn’t know the word! Last sauna sounds like a humdinger!

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