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Death Valley National Park Road Trip

I wanted to make this video for two reasons. One: to share my Death Valley experience with friends, family, and you. And two: for it to serve as a guide for those who might be planning their own Death Valley trip- a very loose guide, but a guide nonetheless. Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth in the summer months temperatures range anywhere from around 100 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit -or more. So as summer approaches, my friend Bobby and I decided to squeeze in a short trip before it gets too hot. I’m at Bobby’s and I think he slept through his alarm, which is funny because the last trip we went on he also slept through his alarm.

I was waiting for you to come out so I could record you and then your neighbor came out the other door and I wasn’t paying attention and I was just recording her. From Los Angeles, Death Valley is about a four-hour drive. It doesn’t actually feel that long though because the landscape constantly changes you’ve got green mountains, red rocks, farmland, small towns, deserts, and that kind of cycles until you get there.

The plan for us was to make it a simple two-day trip: drive out Monday, spend the night in a motel, spend all day Tuesday exploring and then drive home in the late afternoon. I had already researched all the places we wanted to see so fitting it in would just be a matter of timing and managing any random adventures we wanted to take. Our first stop would be father Crowley Vista. Bobby’s choice.

It’s where you can see military jets fly through the canyon. Bobby loves planes. Any time we drive past an airport he wants to stop or at least look so watching jets fly through Death Valley was a must for him. We read online that they fly pretty much every day. Some days you get quite a show and others it’s pretty quiet.

We had no idea what we were going to get. So we found a nice spot on the edge of the canyon and waited and waited and then As ready as we were, it happened so fast. It came out of nowhere. There’s really no warning. As soon as we heard the jet and pointed our cameras at it, it was gone.

At this point we were technically in the park but not down in the valley. That’s where most of the sightseeing is… and the heat. Bobby are you ready to feel uncomfortable for the next 36 hours? oh it’s hot 110. This is also where we ran into our first bit of trouble the air-conditioning in my car started blowing out hot air. Not good.

We still had a day and a half left and ninety percent of it was down here. Death Valley is really just a lot of rocks, sand, and dirt, and heat but it’s also got character and that’s what makes it worth exploring. For example we found this ghost town on the very east side of Death Valley called Rhyolite. It was once a prosperous mining town in the early 1900’s.

Now it’s just abandoned homes, a bank, and a very weird art museum. and then there’s the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Probably one of my favorite stops of the whole trip.

When you come down the mountains and see them in the distance, they look tiny, minuscule, but when you get up close to them they’re pretty massive. And you can just walk out as far as you want. We spent the night in a little town called Beatty. There’s really not much there: a few motels, a couple restaurants, and a Denny’s with the casino attached to it. In the morning we got coffee at a little diner and then headed back into the valley.

Do you think it’s gonna work? I do not think it’s gonna work as well as it should. Does it feel cold? No. Wait, wait, wait. Yes it does.

It feels mediocre. Bobby. No, that’s better. Yeah that’s working. Success.

Day two was starting off strong. Badwater Basin was number one on my places-to-see list. It’s a giant salt flat, nearly 200 square miles.

It’s also the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. For reference, there’s Bobby and there’s a sign for sea level. Bobby and I just walked out as far as we could.

We’re still walking. The path is getting a little less traveled, a little rockier. Bobby is leading the way. We went early in the morning to avoid the extreme heat, but it was already pretty bad. Bobby heard that the salt here basically tastes like pink Himalayan sea salt so he wants to test that theory out.

No good? That’s the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted. I I’d put that on some steamed vegetables.

Okay. Alright, so Bobby and I have gone as far as we’re probably going to go. It’s getting a lot hotter, a lot more nothing around here. We’re gonna take a few pictures and then probably head back.

The plan for day two was the started Badwater Basin and then drive back up, hitting all the major stops as we made our way out the park. For the sake of time, I’ll just show you the highlights. Oh and my air conditioning stopped working again after Badwater. Our final stop was Dante’s view. You drive 20 miles up the mountain and you’re greeted with a beautiful view of the entire Valley. It’s cool, it’s relaxing, and as a nice wrap up to the day we could see our entire trip in the valley below.

So it makes sense that I would end the video here, too, right? Well, I can’t. Because that’s not where this trip ended.

As we were leaving, my car stalled out here. We waited a few minute, started to back up again and then it stalled out again here, in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know much more about cars other than how to change a tire, but I do know being stranded in Death Valley is one of the last places you want to be. There’s no cell service, no relief from the sun, and ranger patrol can be few and far between.

There are a lot of details to this story but I want to keep it as short as possible, so here we go: Basically, we were able to stall out again in front of a restaurant that had the worst wifi ever. Here. I was able to get one text message through to my family in Michigan. My dad’s a car guy and would likely know something. He was able to call the restaurant and talk me through some possible scenarios. Since the car was still driveable, Bobby and I were going to make our way out of the park until we had cell service and were near some type of town so we wouldn’t be completely stranded.

And somehow we made it. Just as we were getting off the highway in Lone Pine the car stalled again, the serpentine belt broke, and I was able to pull directly into a Comfort Inn. Side note: this is Mt Whitney.

One of those is Mt Whitney. One of these. It’s the highest point in the contiguous US. It’s kind of cool that we got to see the lowest and highest points in the same day. Anyway, with shops being closed we rented a room, called the tow truck in the morning, and were towed to Ridgecrest 70-something miles away.

Unfortunately the fix wasn’t a simple belt replacement and the total repair cost was 750 dollars. With all that said I did have a good time. It was a rough ending but we did get to see everything we wanted to and we didn’t get stranded in Death Valley. I’ll take that.