Death Valley to Zion Canyon
As much as weâ€™d wanted to sleep in after a long day of traveling, we knew we had to set out early. Since Zion was forecasted to have heavy wind and rain, we opted to venture westward first to Death Valley, where we knew itâ€™d be warm and sunny. Nevermind the fact that itâ€™d tack on an extra five hours of driving to our trip â€“ weâ€™d just come from the gross monsoons of NYC and we wanted sun, dammit!
We had our pick of the Alamo economy rental cars, which mostly just differed in color and license plate (I think there were only two kinds of cars). We chose our red, Florida-licensed Kia Rio based on the fact that it was a hot color and a different type of car than what we had on our last roadtrip. These things matter, people! I donâ€™t know why they had a Florida car in Nevada, but alas.
Now, first thingâ€™s first: fuel. For our bodies, that is. I drove us straight to an I-HOP for brunch, and it would be literally the only stretch of driving Iâ€™d do the whole trip. A whole half-mile or so out of 1861 miles â€“ I know, ridiculous. But Lauren loves to drive, and I suck at it and donâ€™t really like it, so it was really for the best.
But oh, I forgot how glorious I-HOP is. As much as I abhor most chain restaurants (boy would I be out of luck on this trip!), I-HOP knows whatâ€™s up. We had â€œhealthyâ€ pancakes with all sorts of grains and blueberries and bananas, with scrambled eggs, potatoes, and surprisingly decent coffee. It was amazing. ANDâ€¦ the service was stellar. Itâ€™s very rare that Iâ€™m impressed by a waiter/waitress and I always begrudgingly leave the obligatory tip â€“ but this waiter EARNED his tip and I was more than happy to compensate. Itâ€™s just so stupid that in this country weâ€™re expected to tip for average service because when someone goes above and beyond and actually DESERVES the tip, itâ€™s not like I can afford to tip accordingly. If I give a 15% tip for mediocre service, a waiter who impresses me such as this one deserves like 3x that. Oh America. [/end rant]
Got dog poop? We scoop! $11/hr, call 555-POOP.
Adult Superstore: Last chance to get off! (of the highwayâ€¦?)
Call Dr. Reefer! (for medical marijuana)
The drive out through the desert was quite enjoyable. It was so refreshing to see wide-open land and sand and mountains. Itâ€™s like endless visual stimulation.
One of the few towns we drove through was (comically) called Pahrump (*cue the little drummer boy song*), home to as many absurdly-named establishments as Vegas has absurd billboards. Some of the more remarkable ones include: Pahrump Nugget Hotel, Phantom Fireworks, Terribleâ€™s Town Casino, Precious Slut Tattoo, Howlinâ€™ Dawg karaoke. They even had a brothel museum and signs advertising signed copies of Heidi Fleissâ€™ book for sale. Laur and I happen to live for Celebrity Rehab, so we knew Heidi Fleiss probably lived somewhere off the road where we were driving. Itâ€™s so weird to see vast stretches of desert land with random scatterings of trailers and shacks. To know that this former Hollywood madam lived in one of these houses in the middle of nowhere was a little surreal.
Death Valley sure was sunny, but we didnâ€™t expect there to be 30-40mph winds! It got to the point where we would literally have to stop walking and just sort of brace ourselves until the gust passed so that we wouldnâ€™t be blown away. Itâ€™s so uncomfortable! Iâ€™m not very good at dealing with the elements. I can handle all sorts of temperatures, but throw in some wind or precipitation and Iâ€™m a complete mess.
We made 3 stops while in the park. Death Valley is absolutely MASSIVE, so we only saw a tiny fraction of it. We stopped at a pretty lookout called Zabriskie Point first. Then, my favorite part: Artists Drive. Itâ€™s a loop road that winds around mountains and colorful rock formations. Another feast for the eyes (and camera). Seriously, so so gorgeous. And then our last stop was Badwater, aka the lowest point in the US at 282ft below sealevel. From afar it looks like there is snow in the valley, but itâ€™s really just the salt flats. More beautiful sights. More happy Lindsay â˜º
When we were getting into our car, about to leave Badwater, we noticed a 50ish-year-old woman taking a picture of her doll on the railing over the salt flats. HER DOLL. It was beyond hysterical, and took me an enormous amount of energy to do everything I could NOT to burst out laughing right next to her.
Oh, I need to include a gem of a quote from Lauren K. Wade: â€œDry heat: Natureâ€™s deodorantâ€. Love it!
It seems that the adventure-factor of our trip would skyrocket on the drive out of Death Valley. First, we were running extremely low on gas. Uh, thatâ€™s sort of a problem when youâ€™re in a desert with signs of life few and far between. We didnâ€™t know how widespread the gas stations would be, otherwise weâ€™d have filled up earlier. So we drove the car on E for a good long while until we reached Puhrump, where thankfully we made it to a gas station. I also had the privilege of using the bathroom at the Tumbleweed Tavern, which was occupied by a middle-aged female bartender and a 70-yr-old man at the bar. There were darts and a pool table in the back, and I think it would have been a hoot if weâ€™d stopped in for a bit. But the road was callingâ€¦
Now, who wouldnâ€™t speed on the open roads out west? Itâ€™s sort of a given that thatâ€™s what you do out there, right? Lauren broke triple digits a few times and that was fun and excitingâ€¦ until we got pulled over for going 20mph over the speed limit! It was a little scary, and I felt bad for Lauren. And the cop took SO INSANELY LONG to come back with her ticket.
But hey, nothing a stop at Del Taco canâ€™t cure! This chain is ubiquitous throughout the west, and I wasnâ€™t sure if it was their version of Taco Bell or what. Then I saw them both next to each other and figured maybe not. But I swear to god, the girl that took our order was the slowest person ever. EVER. I kept asking her what things were on the menu, and she seemed not to know or care when I repeatedly asked her what the difference was between the deluxe and ancho burritos. Seriously Del Taco, either post a menu translation or hire more competent workers. +1 on your stellar churro, though.
I find it a wee bit odd that we didnâ€™t see ONE grocery store on our drive today. I wanted to buy snacks for hiking, but we couldnâ€™t find anywhere to stop. So weird.
And back we went, past the ridiculous Vegas billboards, onto the dark wet roads of Nevada, Arizona, and finally Utah. A series of smaller roads would lead us to our nightâ€™s accommodation on the eastern side of Zion National Park. If only it were that easy!
Unfortunately, the weather gods had other plans. Once we entered the park, it began to rain. Then as we got deeper into the park, the rain turned to sleet and then snow. Before we knew it, everything had turned white and we were suddenly driving through a snowstorm on winding roads, without any concept of how far we were from the ranch or when weâ€™d be out of the parkâ€¦ or if weâ€™d even be able to make it there. It was scary. SO SCARY. I donâ€™t know how Lauren kept her cool while driving – I know I sure as hell would have turned around at the first sight of snow.
Well, we did finally exit the park at the east entrance and were meant to drive about two miles up the road before we turned off. The only problem was that we couldnâ€™t see a darned thing. All street signs were covered in snow, so we were left to guess as to where the turnoff was. And thank GOD we guessed right.
The ranch was about 5 miles up this last road, and we found our cabin keys in an envelope outside the main lodge (which was obviously closed after midnight). We tried to reconcile the map/directions with what we saw in the park but it was damn near impossible to distinguish the different paths in the snow. We drove on what we thought was the road to our cabin, but it led elsewhere. At this point, we were both so frustrated and the car was starting to slide around a bit in the snow and we still couldnâ€™t find our cabin. It was comforting though to see that someone in an RV seemed to be having similar problems. I even got out of the car in my flip flops and went to ask the driver if he knew where we were. â€œYour guess is as good as mine!â€, he told me. Grrrrrreat. He let us follow him on the road (my thought was that weâ€™d just drive in his tracks rather than risk getting stuck), yet somehow we both ended up back on the main road and outside of the ranch again. Once we re-entered and re-examined the map, I noticed an alternate route to our cabin (the RV driver did too) and we FINALLY FIND OUR CABIN!! I canâ€™t even tell you how relieved I felt at that point.
And oh, not only did we have a cabin â€“ we had a COWBOY CABIN! Amazing!