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Monthly Archives: September 2015

One of the pleasures of a road trip without a fixed plan is surprise. We crossed over the California/Nevada border late yesterday afternoon and ended up stopping in another gateway town to Death Valley.

Beatty, Nevada, has a great Mexican restaurant where we enjoyed sitting outside at cable reels for tables as the day’s heat abated.

Beatty NV 1

The town has seen more prosperous days, as indicated by this amazing sign opposite a now defunct casino/hotel.

Beatty NV 2

Still, no-one need go thirsty in this town.

Beatty NV 3

We had breakfast at Mel’s Diner before heading north towards the east side of Yosemite National Park, our day-trip destination for tomorrow. We’re lodging in a very cute and well equipped cabin at June’s Lake on the outside of the park for the next couple of nights.

Beatty NV 4Joshua TreeSierra NevadasLake Crowley, CA

Today in Death Valley there were highs and lows. The low point was Badwater Basin where we were 86 metres below sea level. The high? Dante’s View at 1669 metres with a view down the valley to end a hot and dry feast of desert scenery.

We saw very little wildlife as sensible creatures were hiding away from the heat. One Road Runner did cross our path though.

Our visit to the Trona Pinnacles was one for all the senses. First it was the smell of sulphur from the chemical plant in the town of Trona where the sodium based mineral (trona) is processed; and then, the sound of weapons testing going on at the nearby China Lake Naval facility.

Trona Pinnacles 1

Here are the highlights of our drive through the valley.

Mesquite Flat Dunes

Mesquite Flat Dunes 1

Artist’s Palette

Artist's Palette - Artist Drive - Death Valley Ca

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin - Death Valley

Manley Beacon 

Zabriskie Point - Manley BeaconZabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point - 1

Death Valley from Dante’s View

Death Valley from Dante's View

It was a gorgeous autumn afternoon in Morro Bay and we took a stroll around town before having a meal with sunset views.

Board walk sunset - Morro Bay CA

This memorial seat is pretty impressive. Nick must have been a rev-head extraordinaire to warrant a bench like this.

Memorial bench - Morro Bay CA - %22Thanks Nick%22

This morning, we faced towards the east and took (roughly) the direction of Route 58 to Mojave before heading north on 14 towards Ridgecrest where we’re staying the night before going to Death Valley tomorrow.

Today was solar farms and squirrels and even drier landscape than yesterday. We passed by place names like Pumpkin Center and Weed Patch Highway and saw our first Joshua Trees. Where irrigation is possible during the drought, we saw dairy cattle, grapevines and peach trees. Wind turbines are working well in these wide open spaces.

We stopped off near Mojave to eat some lunch and watched this long freight train pass through. Behind us was the Mojave graveyard of 747 planes.

Freight train near Mojave CA

Red Rock Canyon gave us a taste of what we might see tomorrow as we venture north and further inland.

Morro Bay to Ridgecrest - Red Rock Canyon area

We’re cruising around for a week with no fixed plans until next Wednesday when I lob into Asilomar, near Monterey, for a few days. After a late arrival into Oakland last night, we set off in a rental car to motor down the spectacular coastline that includes the legendary Big Sur.

You’re nobody unless you’re driving a Mustang convertible along this route. I was playing Ford Focus Sally with the wind from the car vents blowing through my hair. It was a magnificent experience, despite the lack of an apparently compulsory rented Mustang.

Pigface plants and the invasive pampas grass seemingly hold the coastal cliffs together (that, and wire netting to prevent rocks sliding onto the road).  California has been in drought for the past 4 years and the landscape is showing it. Many trees are in severe stress and the grasslands are very dry.

On the wildlife front, we caught sight of a number of Stellar’s Jays as well as a hummingbird. Much of the coastline is protected and many pelicans and elephant seals call this stretch home.

California Central Coast 1

California Central Coast 2

Elephant seals 3Elephant seals 1