Day 8 A day of extremes

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Lowest to Highest  & Hottest to Coldest

We woke up to this view. I love driving in to a hotel at night and seeing how beautiful it’s surrounding area is in the morning.


Today’s Stats


At Death Valley we say “The desert is calling and I must go” a refined rewording of the old John Muir quote.

I have to say that is not the way I felt. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

We drove from Las Vagas to Death Valley National Park and headed straight to the salt flats called Badwater Basin.

Named as such when one of the early frontier explorers noticed their Mule would not drink the water.  Interestingly enough the water is not poisoned just really salty. It is also the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

We got out of the truck and at 110 degrees the heat was oppressive.  On top of that it was really windy. So it was like walking into a convection oven with the blower on.  We really only stayed 10 minutes there to get the pictures and get back to the truck, where we left Riley in the AC.


From there we decided to head to Yosemite but we had to get out of Death Valley first.  It was up and over some mountains and across a dry lake where the sand storm kicked up throwing sand across the road.

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As we were leaving the park we both agreed “been there, done that, don’t need to do it again.”  The desert is so bleak and colorless, definitely not our favorite part of the trip but we are glad we can say we did it.

As we drove down the road out of the desert we could see Mt Whitney in front of us. It is the highest point in California at 14,505 feet and is only 85 miles from the lowest point.

Oh yeah we made it to California!  But there was no sign to welcome us.  As we started our drive north we had never been so excited to see trees.  Big beautiful pine tress that we wanted to get out and hug.

We found out the road to Yosemite National Park was closed and also the next mountain road was closed.  We ended up taking 89 to State Road 4.  It started out beautiful as we slowly wound our way up the side of a mountain.

As we went up we saw snow on the side of the road.  So of course we had to stop and play in the snow in flip flops and shorts.

Then we saw this sign.  However we were already committed at this point and past the point of no return.

IMG_2127This is what Wiki has to say about our route.

The route runs through the 8,050 ft (2,450 m). Pacific Grade Summit on its way up to the 8,730 ft (2,660 m) Ebbetts Pass and ends at State Route 89 ten miles (16 km) west of Topaz Lake, on the California–Nevada border. The portion from Arnold to its terminus is designated the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway, which is eventually one lane.

Through the mountains, SR 4 is not suitable for large trucks, buses, or RVs, as it becomes very steep and narrow, with no center dividing line shortly after the Mount Reba Turnoff to Bear Valley Ski area, with tight switchbacks. The pass is not plowed for snow, and thus closes during the winter months often from November through as late as May.

So in the black of night we are going through this mountain pass in a vehicle that was way too long and heavy for the road.  It was so windy with hair pin turns and switch backs. At one point the tires spun when we went up hill around a sharp curve.  We had to watch for oncoming cars and there was barely enough room for them to get by.  Needless to say it was about 2 hours of white knuckled, sweaty palms driving.

The snow was piled up 4 feet and the temperature got down to 38 degrees.Travis did an amazing job navigating that road.

It was midnight by the time we got back to civilization and found a hotel with vacancy that took dogs. Phew what a long day!  But we ended up an hour from our final destination so we could sleep in the next day.


Day 7 Zion National Park

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Woke up to get some coffee and take Riley for a walk.  Discovered this hidden gem behind the motel.

Today’s Stats:

IMG_1995After breakfast and a quick meeting we were off to Zion.  Luckily Travis talked to a guy that told him about the drive was not an easy one especially pulling a trailer.  So he drove.

Funny this trip… I am a planner by nature but lately I have been trying to plan less and just go, see what happens. So I stopped over researching, googling everything and really knew nothing about the place I had planned.  I simple went on the app Roadtrippers and added placed that were in a 30 mile radius of our route.

So I had no idea what to expect of Zion National Park.  It was amazing but more of a drive through with scenic vistas.  Where the Grand Canyon we were on top looking down this one we drove through the canyon carved out by Virgin River.  The Mormons first settled the area and called it Zion for the bountiful land that the river fed.

In the 1920’s they built a tunnel. Cars were a lot narrower back then. So the wider ones require a tunnel traffic control.  Luckily we were just under that maximum width. What a crazy experience going through the mountain for 1.1 miles.  Felt a little bit of anxiety and Closter phobic.  Luckily they had 3 or 4 “windows” that opened up to let in light and let us view the canyon walls.

The scenic road took us down several switch backs to the bottom.  Where we exited on the other side.

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Then parked the truck and walked to the visitor center.

IMG_2024Riley was only allowed on one trail.  So we went for a walk.

It was so hot I decided to let him go in the river.  He is such a water dog went right in and laid down. 

Just before we turned around we let him in again.  This time off leash.  He went right in and started getting pushed by the current!  He went over a small rapid and tried to get out about 5 feet downstream from us.  We ran for him as he was struggling to get a grip hold to get out.  I asked Travis to take my hand them put one foot in the water and went down sneaker and all to my thigh.   I grabbed Riley by the scruff and collar and after a small yelp from him handed him to Travis.  Then with Riley safely on solid ground I looked at him and said you’re going to have to pull me out.  Wow what an adrenaline rush.  My heart was pounding after that one.  And Riley is just a happy as can be wagging his tail and shaking off the water. We walked back with one wet sneaker and one dry one.

Got back to the visitor center and sat on a bench to figure out the rest of the trip.  We have a couple of days left and not enough things planned.  I decided that since I bought the national park’s annual pass we should hit as many parks as we can.  So change of plans Hoover dam then on to the National Parks of California.

We started driving and it is getting hotter, in the upper 90’s.  It is feeling like the AC is not working in the truck.  So I found a Ford Dealership in St George, Utah.  They were able to take care of us right away.  So we enjoyed some down time and I got to write yesterday’s blog post.  They were so nice there.  I took up a table, plugged in and use the internet.  Riley was allowed to join us in the waiting room.  He was so good just laid on the cool tiles and accepted love from everyone who stopped to say hi to him.

IMG_2025Just over an hour later we are loving life with cold air coming out of the vents.

One more stop before heading toward Vegas.  Black Bear Diner, one of Travis’ favorites of the western US.  We found a shady spot and parked the truck so Riley wouldn’t get over heated. We asked the hostess if we could sit by the window so we could keep an eye on the truck with the window open.  We told her Riley was in it. After confirming with her manager, she said we could bring him in.  He was so good! Laid under the table and slept while we ate.


Then posed for pictures on our way out.

Back to driving.  Oh look there is Arizona again.

IMG_2032Now Nevada


Passed right through Vegas. Yes that is the space needle on the right.

IMG_2037We drove right past the exit for the Hoover Dam and crossed the Colorado River.  Oh look we are in Arizona again. Off at the first exit and back across the bridge and we are back in Nevada.

IMG_2041We find the exit and head to a security check point where they tell us that we can’t cross the dam because they need to inspect the trailer.  Since it is packed tight they would have to take everything out. So we went to a look out point that overlooked Lake Mead hoping to catch a glimpse of the dam.  No such luck.

Then we decided to cross back into Arizona again and see if we could access the dam from the other side.  The road is closed!  So we go back over the bridge and I am looking out the dam.  Hope to see it but again no can’t see it from the bridge.

Back in Nevada we notice a beautiful sunset and head to the lookout point again quick snap of a photo and back in the truck.

Still on the mission to see the dam we head in to the state park towards the lake again.  But you can’t see it from there either.  Ok we give up, find a hotel to crash for the night.  This one has a hot tub and pool.  So we spent the early part of the night soaking in the hot top looking at the moon through the palm trees.  Seriously you can’t beat this with a stick.