Monday, 11 December 2017

USA Road Trip: Part 3

It’s me again…..Hiiiiiiiiii!!! 

I don’t know if you remember (I wouldn't blame you if you can’t) but one of the last times we spoke I told you all about my time in Napa Valley, sampling the wines that the Castello di Amoroso had to offer, and how I enjoyed the guided tour of a magnificent castle (you can remind yourself about that right here, and if you’d like to read about my 24 hours in San Fran just hop on over to here).

So, after making sure I was very reserved with how much wine passed my lips in the tasting session, I hopped into the driver’s seat, did a head count to make sure none of my party had snuck back into one of the 95 wine rooms, and waved goodbye to the castle and all that lovely, lovely wine! Lake Tahoe; we were officially on our way.

The drive was about 4 hours, give or take comfort-breaks and photo-ops, and it was so nice to be able to take in the changing landscape. One minute I was looking out of the window at rolling fields and grape vines, and the next snow-capped mountains were visible as far as the eye could see. What I wasn’t so keen on were the windy roads, the snow flurries that whipped up every so often, and the high winds that I was convinced would blow the car right off the edge of the mountain road! But we made it in one piece and I have never been so glad to get a drive over and done with. 
We arrived at our destination just as the sun was beginning to set, taking with it the last of the day’s warmth. The trade-off between the warmth, for the stunning colours the setting sun cast overhead was definitely worth it. 
Now I can’t tell you much about what there is to do, the best places to eat etc….at Lake Tahoe as we were only there for an overnight stay to break up what would have been an even longer drive to Vegas. But what I can tell you is where we stayed….. The Cottage Inn, which is on the west shore of the lake. Price-wise it hit the spot. Setting-wise we absolutely lucked out. I loved this place.
This place – both the destination and our digs for the night - was gorgeous; think log cabins snuggled safe and sound under fresh snowfall, a blanket of perfectly fallen, unspoiled snow rolled out before you in every direction until it meets the lapping shores of the lake, houses that had all but disappeared underneath the most perfect of white coverings....
Determined to make the most of our limited time here we donned as many clothes as was humanly possible, wrapped as many scarves around our necks as we could manage, stuffed our hands into cashmere-lines gloves and headed out to explore our snowy backdrop, the cold taking our breath away the second we stepped outside.

Upon our return to the Inn’s communal gathering area I sprinted (waddled like the Michelin Man probably, what with all the layers I was wearing!) to the open, roaring fire, made myself comfortable on the closest seat available, stretched my legs out, generally made myself at home, and had every intention of staying there for the rest of the evening, sipping on the mulled wine and munching on the complimentary snacks that the owners were happy to provide for us. 

After a while of chatting, relaxing and talking about the holiday so far, each of us sharing what our “best bit” had been so far, we all decided that food was in order and we made our way to a nearby restaurant that the owners recommended. Please don’t ask me for the name as it totally escapes me. By this point I was tired, cold and hungry (what a cracking combination!!) and all I wanted was to go to bed. I don’t think I was very good company that night!! 
The following day dawned bright, clear and crisp. We hauled our belongings into the boot of our car, trying as hard as we could to stay upright and not let the ice under foot and gravity collude to make us look stupid!!
And so we were officially en-route to Vegas via Death Valley. 
It was going to be a loooong day.
There was a lot of “nothingness” as we drove and we were on the same road, the US395-S, for about 6 hours!! It was eerily quiet and we passed hardly any other vehicles……at one point we drove 80-odd miles without seeing another living soul. 
I didn’t know what to expect from Death Valley, all I knew was that I made sure we had enough fuel, water and provisions before embarking on a trip through the hottest place on earth. 
It’s tiring sitting in a car doing nothing and we would often find ourselves staring out of the window, committing to memory the stunning landscapes and scenery we were lucky enough to be witness to. But despite not wanting to miss nature’s feast for the eyes, sleep would get the better of each of the passengers and heads would eventually bob up and down, or gently rest against windows; sure signs that the driver had only themselves for company. But the sleeping beauties were brought out of their respective reveries by the loudest growling, grumbling, thunderous sound imaginable. I was in the driving seat at this point and had absolutely no idea what was going on. My grip on the steering wheel tightened, all of my senses on red-alert, I was ready for….well I’m not really sure what I was ready for/to do, but that noise was scaring me……it turns out the noise was from the engines of some fighter jets that had been taken out for a spin and scaring the living daylights out of tourists in the process 😉
As we rounded a bend we could see a large group of people gathered at the edge of one of the canyons. We parked up and made our way to the group. As we neared we could see that they hadn’t just stopped off for a glimpse of the planes on the way through as we had just done; these guys were here on a “fighter jet spotting holiday” (who knew those sort of holidays even existed?!?). There were tripods, cameras and lenses of all shapes and sizes going on. 
These guys were going to capture some fantastic shots; much better than the ones I was hoping to snap on my phone!!! Fun fact: We got chatting to a guy there and it turns out he was from the next town to where we used to live in Essex!! 
For a plane geek like me, this was definitely a highlight of the day, and possibly of the whole trip!! 
Death Valley was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The sheer expanse of nothingness makes you feel like you’re the only person the whole world. And the colours of the canyons, and the different layers of rocks was just breath-taking.
Prior to embarking on our trip we (I say “we”, but what I really mean is our friends!!) did some research and found that Badwater Basin was, relatively speaking, in our neck of the woods and so we decided to make a de-tour for a visit.  
Badwater Basin is famous for being the lowest point in North America; 282 feet (58.5 meters) below sea level to be precise. You might think “that’s no biggie” but when you walk out on the plains, look back at the rock face and see the sign that marks “Sea level”, the magnitude of being that far below sea level begins to sink in. 
And here's a zoomed in, albeit, blurry close up of the sign... 
At Badwater Basin, significant rainstorms flood the valley bottom periodically, covering the salt pan with a thin sheet of standing water. Newly formed lakes do not last long though, because the 1.9 in (48 mm) of average rainfall is overwhelmed by a 150 in (3,800 mm) annual evaporation rate. This is the greatest evaporation potential in the United States, meaning that a 12 ft (3.8 m) lake could dry up in a single year. (Thanks Wikipedia)



Death Valley also offers Sand Dunes and some funky trees to lark about in and have an impromptu photoshoot at. And if I didn't look so awful and tired in the pictures I'd let you see the ones with me in them, but as it is you just get the nature ones instead.....
After a few more diver-swaps the desert gave way to civilisation once again and the bight lights of Vegas could be seen twinkling on the horizon, calling us, beckoning us to get a move on and delve into and enjoy the entertainment it had to offer us. 
That’s all for now. Buckle up for the next instalment….probably in another six months’ time 😉

1 comment:

  1. So many experiences on this trip. It seems like a good time was had by all. BTW 282 feet is 85.5 metres.