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.
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.
Beyond that, it was more desert – and some major salt flats along the Trona Valley Road.
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!
Just before the turn onto highway 190, we entered Death Valley National Park:
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…
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!
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.
We even stopped and got out at Zabrisky Point for a photo op:
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.