Daring death in Death Valley

Death Valley Travel Blog

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Internet at last!  I've uploaded blogs from 9/17 to date.  Will try to get some pics up soon.

Today was a driving day from Sequoia National Park, ALLLLLL the way around to Death Valley NP.  We were going to take a "shortcut" across the Sierra Nevada mountain range, but a sign at the beginning stopped us in our tracks:  "Chains required at all times!"  Now, if mountains go so high as to require snow chains on the tires in September, those are not the mountains for us!  Besides, we have no chains.  So we took the good roads all the way through Bakersville and up 395 toward the western entrance of Death Valley.


Our next little issue was gasoline.  I'd filled up, passed a station at 3/4 tank, and explained to Lia that there was one station closer to the park indicated on the GPS where I was going to top it off, just in case.  Of course that station was closed!  We headed on the lonely, long road into the park.

Death Valley and the western road leading into it look like the moon.  It is like being in the twilight zone and hardly any other inhabitants are around.  I was getting mighty worried and at half a tank knew that we could not make it Las Vegas, even with our 3 gallons spare that we carry.  Another RV'er, coming from the East, kindly pulled out the park map at a vista overlook and showed me where to buy gas within the park.  Whew!  We gladly filled the tank, even at $5/gallon, which is still far less than in Canada.

So we were happy now, ohhing and ahhing over the magnificent cliffs and rock formations, taking pictures, singing loudly and then... another problem and it was STRESSFUL. 

Smoking brakes!  I thought that was just a saying, but I'm hear to tell you that I saw smoke coming from both front brakes!  We had already gone down curvy hills from about 5,000 feet, then up again from the dried canyon floor, then we were coming back down when I smelled the brakes and decided to stop and check them out.  It took a lot of effort to brake to a halt on the 9% grade and I was not going fast.

Now, the surprising thing in all this, besides the fact that the brakes are about 3 days old, is that I had been *downshifting* and *rarely* using the brakes.  I think the grade being straight down, rather than curvy, and a constant 9% makes it much easier to gain speed quickly.

  We also had the weight of full gas and full 50-gallons of water in the rig.  Regardless, the fact that they heated up so quickly was shocking to me.  I suppose driving all day with temperatures in the high 80's contributed. 

We still had 3,000 more feet to go down and it was getting dark.  The hubcaps were hot.  I fretted, prayed, and got the fire extinguisher ready.  Jazy made hot dogs for dinner camp, we moved to a more level spot a few feet down and the emergency brake was stuck on, finally releasing on the third try.  So we let it rest on the transmission in Park and I fretted about it getting stuck.

Finally I decided the brakes were cool enough to attempt the final 3000 feet (about 9 miles) -we went in 1st gear for a long while and the grade was 6%, so the gearing down held our speed.  At 4% grade, I switched to 2nd gear - we all breathed a sigh of relief at sea level! 

Also, we knew from our book that our campground was in the Village, so we stopped to inquire of its location, only to learn it had closed because the dry camping weather was too hot.  However, FULL hookups were available behind the General Store and for $28, we have electric, water, and sewer!  The lap of luxury!  I thought Jazy was going to swoon with delight! Haha!  We have all our laptops, batteries, camera, etc charging now.  There is another gray Lazy Daze there too- we must meet them tomorrow.

Other than the nice people we've met here already, the other delightful discovery was the pool that I'm sitting beside right now.  It is almost 11 pm and I just sent the kids across the street to the RV.  We all enjoyed a refreshing dip in the pool and they found kids to talk to tonight.  So alls well that ends well!

Tomorrow we explore Death Valley and I will tell you all about this magical place.  The stars right now are simply incredible and it is balmy and tropical feeling.  I'm keeping an eye out for tarantulas, scorpians, and rattlesnakes though!

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Death Valley
photo by: Margarita