St. George, Utah (Sep 18/14) – After much discussion, it was decided to forgo driving through Death Valley and drive the route north of the National Park. The elevation gains (climb 5000’ in 13 miles) & the intense heat were too daunting of a task for Hobbes. As it turned out the alternate route was quite a climb, but it was incredible. Bristlecone pine trees (some as old as 4000 years old), look gnarley & distorted among the rocky white desert. The winding road to the top was very steep, the canyons narrow (at one point the highway was 1 lane only through a gap in the rock). Traveling down the east slope was a roller-coaster, with dips & dives. As we descended to the plateau floor, the image of a desert road, dead straight for miles was captivating. It was here that cactus trees started appearing, single occurrences dotting the horizon.
click on pic to enlarge – right/left arrow to scroll thru the gallery
The heat was intense (Hobbes’ air-conditioner was working hard), so a stop in Beatty, Nevada was in order… The Sourdough Saloon. The minute the door opened a hand waving in the air motions N&J over to the bar welcoming with promises of cold beer… a one bar stop with characters out of a western movie. The chap who waved us in is the Mayor of the town & the owner of the bar. His partner sitting beside N used to be a Madame at the local brothel called Bikinis (yes!!! this is Nevada). Settling upon bar stools amongst the signed dollar bills stapled to the walls & ceiling from fellow travelers, the juke box playing country music in the corner, and the smell of stale cigarettes; the beer was refreshing and cold. An offer to stay in their parking lot was graciously declined, we opted to stay near the casino at the north end of town.
It was there in a gravel lot near the dried out riverbank that a chorus of ‘HeeHaws’ could be heard from the local donkey herd… all night!!! Dreaming of donkeys and J thinking N was especially amorous nuzzling his ear… N&J awoke next morning to find a path of ‘donkey dung’ up to the side door on the Hobbes (they slept with door open due to the heat). Apparently the donkeys had checked us out while we slept.
Next day the drive through Las Vegas was hot (J has never felt heat like this). The scheduled Vegas visit (a planned birthday party) is not until the last week of September, so Lake Mead National Park is the destination. Looking forward to a refreshing dip in the lake was underwhelming. The lake is warm, really warm… too warm!!! Muddy water conditions made for a less than rewarding experience. Lake Mead is under attack from the ensuing drought. It must be 60-80 feet below it’s peak. And it is getting worse. The night at the campground was hot, thankfully an active electrical storm nearby provided entertainment for the evening until the air cooled around 3 am.
Checked out Hoover Dam. Quite an enterprise this project, so many years ago (1930’s). It is an engineering marvel, a real feast for the eyes. The low water levels are very apparent when you see the distinguishing marks on the canyon walls. Security to cross the dam is intense, an indication that national security is paramount. N&J had to open up everything for inspection (including removing the bikes from the trailer to permit access). Normal highway traffic now crosses the new bridge built just south of the dam which opened in 2010… this too is was no small feat.
Our day ended at St. George, Utah… where Hobbes needed some attention to an oil leak & badly wearing tires. Turned out the oil leak is a main seal (a sealant was added to remedy- fingers crossed); a wheel alignment identified a problem that caused severe tire wear on the inside of the front tires (new tires had to be purchased… not a planned expense!) Making dinner & staying in the local Walmart parking lot would suffice for the night. Thankfully a hose spigot permitted a bath for Hobbes… and a soak down of J (N was in charge of the hose and laughed maniacally). Already soaked they proceeded to lather up and get clean… afterwards looking up to notice the security cameras peering down. YouTube, anyone???
UPDATE: Humans are creatures of habit and always return to the ‘scene of the crime’…. returning to Walmart parking area for a repeat performance on our way back to Vegas, brightly coloured orange signs now adorn the parking lot: ’NO Truck or RV Parking’
WHAAAAT!!! …Those security cameras aren’t fake ???