Death Valley…Once Again…

We are still in the process chronicling our travels during 2016-2017.  This chapter of our blog covers the 3 months we spent as Camp Ground Hosts for the National Park Service at the Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley National Park from November 1, 2016 to about January 25, 2017.  You won’t read much about the actual time we spent working (4 days on, 4 days off, usually, and we worked hard.)  Rather, this post covers all the great things we saw during our off time.  This installment is a l-o-n-g one, so crack open a beer, kick back and take your time.  We hope you enjoy the read and the pics.

Our Host campsite at the NPS Furnace Creek campground. Lots of tamarisk (non-native) trees for shade. This was our home from November 1, 2016 to January 25, 2017.

This cluster of dead salt cedars was directly across from us in the Furnace Creek campground. Woooooooooooooo…spooky..

The first beers (with many to follow over succeeding weeks…) at the Corkscrew Saloon in Furnace Creek. One of our favorite haunts – always a delight!

We have been going to the Corkscrew Saloon, in Furnace Creek, for beers since the 1970’s. Alas, by the time you read this post it may already be gone forever…a victim of ‘progress’ as it is being demolished as part of a massive remodeling project (by Xantera Corp., not the NPS.)

Near Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, part of Death Valley NP, but not in Death Valley proper.  Located outside of the Park, on the way to Pahrump, Nevada.  It is operated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Extensive fencing to protect the rare Pupfish from human intrusion, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.  Click to learn more.

A small herd of Mountain Sheep (all bucks) we spotted at the abandoned White Point talc mine on Warm Springs Road, at the extreme south end of Death Valley National Park. The white substance you see are talc spoils from the mine…not snow.

A portion of The Grandstand, a rock formation at The Racetrack Playa.  Twenty five miles of rough road to get here; multiple flat tires are not uncommon.  No country for Honda Accords…

Another view of The Grandstand, in The Racetrack Playa.

The Racetrack Playa…pristine and undisturbed, as it should be.  Click here to learn more.

The Racetrack Playa, violated by jerks who think it’s cool and macho to wreck the place for others. Driving on this Playa is a Federal offense, punishable by huge fines and prison time. Because this area is so remote, it’s hard to catch these idiots in the act. However, these guys WERE caught, thanks to advanced GPS techniques and good investigation by the NPS. And, after several years of these destructive activities, the NPS is finally creating a volunteer watchdog/educational position to be a presence at the site.

Dee Dee and the famous moving rocks, The Racetrack Playa.

More moving rocks at The Racetrack Playa.

Teakettle Junction, about 20 miles down the dirt road to The Racetrack Playa. This is one seasons’ worth, left by travelers down this road. The NPS removes all of them every year, to make room for new ones. Sadly, they are disposed of; volunteers have offered to collect, catalog and store them, but the wheels of Government approval grind at a snails pace…

Our friend Bob McNamara (aka, “Texas Bob), who knows virtually every square inch of Death Valley. He guided us to many new and exciting places during the 3 months that we were there this stint. Bob is a retired commercial photographer from Minnesota. He was a fellow Campground Host who worked the Texas Springs Campground (hence the name “Texas Bob.”) While there, he developed a bad case of shingles that, luckily, healed rapidly. This pic shows some of the scabs that developed. (Pretty gross, huh?)

Thanksgiving Day found us heading back to Marble Canyon, about 20 miles of rough road from Stove Pipe Wells, off of the Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Entering Marble Canyon slot canyon. Some of the most magnificent geological formations in all of Death Valley.  Their beauty will take your breath away.


Texas Bob demonstrating one of the narrowest points in Marble Canyon. Before the Stop Rock blocked the entrance years ago, you could drive to this point. Only small 4WD vehicles could make it through.

Back on the Cottonwood Canyon Road, after leaving Marble Canyon. What a magnificent way to spend Thanksgiving Day!

Aguereberry Point, arguably with a better and more expansive view than the popular Dante’s View, which is located on the eastern side of the Death Valley.  Dirt road for the last 10 miles, the last 1/2 mile of which is not for the faint of heart.  Look off in the distance and you can see the salt pan on the Valley floor.  Click here for more information about this place.

Texas Bob and I heading over Hunter Mountain. Yes, this is still in Death Valley, on the extreme western side. We made an elevation gain to over 5,500 feet. We encountered snow and ice, in some place treacherous (we almost slid into a bank on a bad curve.) The day after this pic was made, the road was closed due to heavy snow. Incredible country.

Coming down Hunter Mountain. The road is MUCH steeper than it looks.

Visiting an old mining camp, off of Hunter Mountain Road.

Inside the shack, pictured above. Many visitors pick up artifacts, but leave them here, as they should, so that other can enjoy seeing them.

Waiting at The Rio in Las Vegas to see Penn and Teller. Great show. And, we had great seats…4th row center.

This is Teller, of Penn and Teller. He is the one who never speaks while on stage. This was taken during one of their great magic tricks. And he DID talk to that fellow, who was sitting right behind us.

One of the advantages of an NPS Volunteer is that you get the opportunity to go to places in the park that are closed to the general public. The following 3 pics were taken on a trip back to the Keane Wonder Mine, that has been closed for several years due to safety concerns. By the time you read this, the NPS will have completed restoration work and it should be re-opened to the public. Get more information about the Keane Wonder Mine by clicking here.

Keane Wonder Mine. Dee Dee is bringing up the rear of the line as this guided group hikes to the platform you see pictured below.

Keane Wonder mine structure. The tramway you see at the top of the hill, behind, extends another 3,000 feet up the mountain.

We make another quick trip over to Las Vegas to ride the giant ferris wheel. We had tickets to the special “all-you-can-drink-in-30-minutes” car. It had a full bar and held about 10 of us. It was all we could do to down 2 drinks and a shot. In our younger daze, it would have been a different story… The wheel never stops moving, so you board on a long platform, and have to pace your entry with the car’s movement. Easy getting on, not so easy getting off after the drinks…

Us after getting off the ferris wheel. The drinks were still apparent. And yes, that is a full moon.

Dee Dee had to stop to barf.  Enough said. We did not take the opportunity to go into this store (he is always the opportunist, eh?), but odds are that most of the stuff in there was made in China. (Or Russia.)

At The Artist’s Palette with our good friends Mike and Gloria Hardcastle-Taylor, who we knew from our time living in Dan Diego. We spend a great 3 days with them and took them to see lots of stuff. Great time!

Scotty’s Castle, at the north end of Death Valley, was closed in October, 2015, due to catastrophic flash flood damage to Grapevine Road and portions of the Castle itself. The NPS has already allocated over $50 million for repairs, mainly for the road.  As we told you above, because we were NPS volunteers, we were given access to the area, through this locked gate. For more information on the Scotty’s Castle closure, click here.

Entering Grapevine Canyon, going to visit Scotty’s Castle.

Grapevine Canyon Road, or what’s not left of it. The flash flood damage was horrific. Look carefully and you can see that the elevation of the original road sits ABOVE the roof of our Jeep.

Entering the grounds of Scotty’s Castle. We had the whole place to ourselves. All furniture and antiquities have been be removed due to the lack of proper control of heating, air conditioning and humidity controls. They are being stored at a secret location in Southern California.

Another view of Scotty’s Castle, looking over the never-completed swimming pool. Click here for some more history of Scotty’s Castle.

We took another trip with our friend, Texas Bob, to the Eureka Dunes, located at the extreme north end of Death Valley National Park, and accessible by driving 50 miles of washboard road. Most people are familiar with the sand dunes near Stove Pipe Wells; the Eureka Dunes dwarf these. Their scale is incredible; very few people ever visit them.

Another view of the a portion of the Eureka Dunes. In the picture above, note the people standing on top of a dune, in the distance.

Dee Dee and Texas Bob walking the Eureka Dunes.

Our plan after leaving the Eureka Dunes was to keep going and take the pass over to Big Pine and Highway 395. However, it started snowing hard at about 7,000 feet, and we still had to gain another 1,500 feet to cross the 8,500 foot pass. We opted to abort and turn around…good thing, as we never would have made it. There was a blizzard in the Owens Valley that closed Highway 395.

Still another trip with our Friend Texas Bob was back up Warm Springs Road to the Geologists Cabin, located about 20 miles from the West Side Road, 4WD all the way, in some places serious 4WD. This pic was taken inside the abandoned White Point Mine.  You can learn more about this particular mine by clicking here.

On the way back to the Geologist Cabin…

Dee Dee and Texas Bob at the Geologist’s Cabin, located in Butte Valley. Striped Butte can be seen in the background. The rock cabin is one of the more famous overnight backcountry hostels in the Park. People treat it with great respect and most leave it better than they found it.

Texas Bob inside the Geologist’s Cabin. For more information about this place, click here.

Exploring a portion of Butte Valley, about 25 miles from the nearest paved road. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but those are some steep, gnarly hills in the background.

After we left Butte Valley, we headed back to the West Side Road and decided to drive about 50 miles out of our way to visit the Crowbar and have a beer. I had been here before, several times, and it’s worth the trip. This day, however, it was closed…

And so another chapter of our Blog draws to a close. We leave you with this great image of two fellas we encountered on Warm Springs Road. We were driving along slowly, and they seemed to be following us…

Las Vegas, Legends and Whiskey Lickers

Panorama of our companion RV's, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park

Panorama of our companion RV’s, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park.

Our last exciting chapter left us still in the depths of Death Valley National Park, known to many at ‘The Magical Place.’  Gary whipped up a great Walmart Special turkey breast in his convection microwave (it was remarkably good) and Dee Dee made smashed potatoes (originals from our garden), gravy, peas (also from our garden) and a salad.  Wahoo.  I brought the wine and the Bloody Mary’s and the screwdrivers and the string cheese.  The weather cooperated and the afternoon was delightful; we ate outdoors on a picnic table, next to a roaring fire.  Lots-o-fun.

Gary, Bob and Dee Dee - Thanksgiving dinner in Death Valley

Gary, Bob and Dee Dee – Thanksgiving dinner in Death Valley.

Ricing bikes, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park

Ricing bikes, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park.

Our very friendly waitress at diner in Beatty, Nevada

Maria, our very friendly waitress at a diner in Beatty, Nevada.

Waiter and bus-boy at diner in Beatty

Jim, the waiter and bus-boy at a diner in Beatty, Nevada.

Cook in the diner where we had a terrific lunch, Beatty, Nevada

Miguel, the cook in the diner where we had a terrific lunch, Beatty, Nevada.

We took a day trip up to Beatty, Nevada, where we (once again) raided the Beatty Nut and Candy Company, and then had a really fine lunch at the little diner where we had eaten several times before.  I should qualify this by saying that at one time it WAS a really good Mexican restaurant, then changed hands and went all to hell, then, about 4 years ago, a new family took it over and it is now back to being beyond good – and they still serve good Mexican food.  Remarkable.  Great cook, great service.  Highly recommend; it’s located at the ‘Y’ headed south on Highway 95, just on the edge of town (sorta across from the newer RV park.)

Mr. Roadrunner, near Furnace Creek, Death Valley

Mr. Roadrunner, near Furnace Creek, Death Valley.  Friendly dude with almost no fear of humans…wonder why?

Furnace Creek Post Office, Death Valley National Park

Furnace Creek Post Office, Death Valley National Park.

Warning signs marking big-ass drop off, near Rhyolyte, Nevada (just outside of Death Valley National Park)

Warning signs marking big-ass drop off, near Rhyolyte, Nevada (just outside of Death Valley National Park.)

Old bank building, Rhyolyte, Nevada

Façade of old bank building, Rhyolyte, Nevada.

The Bob and Rudolf's brother, Beatty Nut and Candy Company, Beatty, Nevada

The Bob and Rudolf’s brother, Ned, Beatty Nut and Candy Company, Beatty, Nevada

We also stopped at Rhyolyte, a defunct mining town that was home to over 8,000 people in the early part of the 20th century.  It pretty much closed down after the 1908-1910 financial crash.  It had several banks, a Union Hall, train station, churches, assy offices, many restaurants and the requisite number of bustling brothels.  It’s also home to a very intact ‘bottle house’ that has been successfully restored after being ravaged by mindless vandals over the years.  The first time I visited it (the bottle house) was in 1969, in the middle of winter, on a road trip with 2 hippie buddies (Jim Barnaby and Jim Warren) from Ellensburg, WA to Tempe, AZ, and back in my 1964-push-button-shifting-transmission-4-door Dodge – investigating ASU as a possible graduate school (ended up going there.)  Anyhow, in 1969 one could walk right up to it and it was is fine condition; today, it’s surrounded by a very high fence.

Dee Dee getting blown away at Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley National Park

Dee Dee getting blown away at Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley National Park. To get a sense of scale, it’s almost a mile to the other side.  One very big hole.

Road leading up to Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley

Road leading up to Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley.

Spent another day driving up to Ubehebe Crater, near the north end of Death Valley, not too far from Mesquite Springs Campground.  There were an amazing number of people there – the parking lot on the west side was totally full of cars, surprising since it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and most people had pretty much headed for home.  One reason might be that Scotty’s Castle (which is just a few miles away) was completely closed due to the October floods, so perhaps people just diverted there.

The Bob, Gary and Dee Dee, with the Giant Cow, Armagosa, Nevada

The Bob, Gary and Dee Dee, with the Giant Cow, Armagosa, Nevada.  Some people have commented that the Giant Cow was ‘photo-bombing’ the picture.  Not true.  He was asked to join us.

On Monday, November 30, after spending two delightful weeks in Death Valley, we headed up the long grade through Furnace Creek Wash – Highway 190 – and made our way to Sam’s Town in Las Vegas, after making that usual obligatory stop at the Area 51 Alien Gas Station on Highway 95.

Michael, from Red Rock RV Washers, who did a terrific job washing our RV

Michael, from Red Rock RV Washers, who did a terrific job washing our RV.  A very cool, hardworking humble guy (his one flaw was that he did not like Russell Wilson…we pressed him as to why and he said he thought he was ‘overly humble.’  Hmmmm…

Michael, from Red Rock RV Washers, pressure washing our roof

Michael, from Red Rock RV Washers, pressure washing our roof.

Gary and his Giant Margarita, Mexican restaurant in Sam's Town Casino, Las Vegas

Gary and his Giant Margarita, Mexican restaurant in Sam’s Town Casino, Las Vegas.

Jocelyn and Alex, our friendly servers at Panda Express, in Sam's Town Casino, Las Vegas

Jocelyn and Alex, our friendly servers at Panda Express, in Sam’s Town Casino, Las Vegas

So, as I type this missive, we are just wrapping up a week’s stay here at Sam’s.  We really like this place and have stayed here at least 5 times in the past (we have also stayed at Main Street Station, near Fremont Street and in North Las Vegas – both areas we now avoid like the plague.  Dangerous, dirty, crime-ridden and to be avoided.)

Frank Sinatra impersonator at 'Legends' show, Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas

Frank Sinatra impersonator at ‘Legends’ show, Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas.  We felt ripped off (see accompanying text as to why…)

Very tall man, evening show at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville in Las Vegas

Very tall man, evening show at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville in Las Vegas.

Adrian, dancer at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Las Vegas

Adrian, dancer at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Las Vegas.

The Bob and his new friend, Adrian, the Margaritaville Girl, at Jimmy Buffet's

The Bob and his new friend, Adrian, the Margaritaville Girl, at Jimmy Buffet’s.

Gary and show performer, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Las Vegas Strip

Gary and show performer, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Las Vegas Strip.

Mark, our super-nice bus driver, Sam's Town shuttle to The Strip

Mark, our super-nice bus driver, Sam’s Town shuttle to The Strip.

Todd, our Sam's Town shuttle driver...very experienced and a lot friendlier that he looks

Todd, our Sam’s Town shuttle driver…very experienced and a lot friendlier that he looks.

Security guard, Harrahs Casino, Las Vegas

Security guard, Harrah’s Casino, Las Vegas.

Sam’s Town: it’s been fun – cheap drinks, a multiplex theatre complex, great buffet, many good restaurants and free shuttle to both The Strip and Fremont Street.  We had one both disappointing and yet exceptional evening:  We bought tickets months ago to a show called “Legends”, at the Flamingo Hotel on The Strip , an evening  that features impersonators of performing ‘Legends.’  We had front row seats – pretty cool except the chairs were like the kind you would find at a crappy buffet restaurant.  The performances were just OK, (Michael Jackson, Madona, Taylor Swift (gag) and Frank Sinatra (yea).)  What was not cool was that they also advertised Elvis and Celine Dion – both no-shows.  We also paid for a dinner as part of the ticket…but they neglected to tell us the restaurant was closed that day – even though we called to check a few days in advance and were told it was open.  No refund was offered (we did not even bother asking we were so pissed-off.)  So, the evening semi-sucked – we have actually been to a few free cabaret shows that have been better.  Not a total loss, but a big disappointment.  (I went online and gave them a scathing review…check it out at – assuming they have the guts to post it.)  One thing worth mentioning is that we have seen several other big-ticket shows over the years and have always been treated like royalty.  No more Flamingo for us.

HOWEVER, after the disappointing show, that same evening we decided to go to our most favorite place in Las Vegas, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.  WOW!  DOUBLE WOW!  It was the best time we have EVER had there – by far (and we must have been there at least 4-5 times previously.)  We had the best table in the house – really – and were right in the middle of the evening show.  AMAZING!  The performers were friendly and spent time talking with us – especially Adrian, the beautiful lady who comes down the slide and drops into the giant blender (right next to our table).  She was incredibly gracious and so humble; must have spent about 5 minutes chatting with us (as she toweled off.)  The drinks were good and quite potent.  Dinner was acceptable.

So, a crappy event was balanced with an amazing one.  See, good things can happen to good people.

Dee Dee and The Bob, at Boulder/Hoover Dam; Lake Mead and 'bath tub ring' in the back ground.

Dee Dee and The Bob, at Boulder/Hoover Dam; Lake Mead and ‘bath tub ring’ in the back ground.

Tillman Bridge, near Boulder/Hoover Dam

Tillman Bridge at sunset, near Boulder/Hoover Dam.

Late afternoon light, Boulder/Hoover Dam

Late afternoon light, Boulder/Hoover Dam.

Four Korean tourists, from LA, we met at Bould/Hoover Dam. Talk about FRIENDLY!

Four Korean tourists, from LA, we met at Boulder/Hoover Dam. Talk about FRIENDLY!  I offered to take their picture with their camera, and then I said ‘My turn.’  They were so honored that I was interested in them.  What a nice group.

Friendly Harley trike guy, Boulder/Hoover dam; he must have had at least $75,000 tied up in the custom-built Road King conversion. Magnificent machine

Joe, the Friendly Harley trike guy, Boulder/Hoover dam; he must have had at least $75,000 tied up in the custom-built Road King conversion. Magnificent machine.  He told me he lives in Henderson, NV, and rides out to the dam 2-3 times a week.  He was very quiet and unassuming.  Very nice man – he was at least 75 years old.

Garty and our waitress, TC, restaurant in Boulder City, Nevada

Garty and our waitress, TC, at a restaurant in Boulder City, Nevada.  She was somewhat skeptical of my picture-taking motives at first, but once she saw my charming personality, quickly succumbed.

Restroom door, in back of restaurant, Boulder City, Nevada

Restroom door, in back of restaurant, Boulder City, Nevada.

We did a few other things while in the Las Vegas area: drove down to Lake Mead to take Charlie swimming, had lunch in Boulder City at a place we have enjoyed several times previously, drove across Boulder Dam, met some interesting people, found a new and very cool RV park (amazing and right on the lake.)

Dee Dee, The Bob, 'Photo Bomber's', Gary and Debbie, Harrah's, Las Vegas

Dee Dee, The Bob, ‘Photo Bomber’s’, Gary and Debbie, Harrah’s, Las Vegas.

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada.  We never, ever tire of this funny, funky, delightful place.  There is one of everything here.

The Bob with Fremont Street characters, Las Vegas

The Bob with Fremont Street Gunslingers, Las Vegas.

"My Girls', Fremont Steet, Las Vegas. I had my picture taken with them a couple of years ago. Cuties!

“My Girls’, Fremont Steet, Las Vegas. I had my picture taken with them a couple of years ago. Cuties!  (And this one was free…)

Dee Dee at one of our most favorite bars in Las Vegas, on Fremont Street. Very potent pours.

Dee Dee at one of our most favorite bars in Las Vegas, on Fremont Street. Very potent pours.

Last drink of the day, boarding the bus near Fremont Street for Sam's Town

Last drink of the day, boarding the bus near Fremont Street for Sam’s Town.  Too much tequila.

We spent a fun evening at Fremont Street, a place we never tire of visiting.  Stopped at the Whiskey Licker Bar – a favorite of ours – and got the usual super-cheep, super-strength drinks.  We tried to get on the new ZIP line that runs the 6-block length of Fremont, but the wait was over 5 hours, so (regretfully) we had to pass.  Next time we will either try to get our tickets on-line or buy them sooner.  If you are interested, as of this date they are $40 for the 90 second – or so – ride, but worth it (at least in our opinion).

You will note that in this edition of the blog there are lots of pictures of interesting people we had the pleasure of meeting during this leg of the trip.  All of the shots were done with my iPhone; all I did was say to them, “Can I take your picture?”  I was never turned town.  Some asked “Why me?” My explanation was always “Souvenir of our trip; I like your looks.”  All were flattered and very gracious.

Anyhow, enough words for now.  Gotta go as the 2-for-1 Happy Hour is starting at The Waterfall in Sam’s…can’t be late – it only lasts for 2 hours with no limit on drinks!

Still In The Magical Place…

Badwater Shadows

Our shadows, at Badwater.

Badwater Flats

Salt flats, Badwater, 255 feet below sea level.

Weird Camper at Furnace Creek

We are thinking about upgrading to a new RV. This is a distinct possibility.

Marshall Dylan Sleeping

Marshall Dylan, the Sun Magnate.

So, one of the problems with blogging while travelling is having to deal with crappy connections to the Inner-Net.  I sit here at the Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley.  It’s the Day-After-Thanksgiving Day and I am thankful for being here with Dee Dee and our crazy friend, Gary (whose back has gone out – he is really suffering, poor guy.)  What I am not thankful for is the fact that every man, woman and child in the western United States is emailing, texting, browsing on their phones, most using Verizon.  Access to the Inner-Net is non-existent…the Personal Hot Spot on  my iPhone has puked…  And, the camp ground here is packed with Thanksgiving visitors.

OK, enough whining!

The Pointers at Bad Water

Holy Crap! Is that Superman??!!

I actually started writing this chapter two days ago, but suffered a brain-fart, probably due to that Bloody Mary I decided was an important element of the creative writing process.  Maybe I can become a vegan and live solely on BM’s?  Or not.

Telegraph Canyon Flowers

Delicate flowers in Telegraph Canyon

Outside Cottonwood Rocks

On the way to Cottonwood Canyon.


The REAL Farabee, owner of Farabee’s Jeep Rentals. A very cool guy.

I have posted a few more photos of our Farabee jeep-rental travels; Titus Canyon (this was our 3rd trip through…that’s enough for a long while), Cottonwood Canyon (out of Stove Pipe Wells) and up Telegraph Canyon (near the Mesquite Dunes).   Lots of fun…but made for a loooong day.  I think everyone had a good time.  BTW, John, Gary told me I had to mention your name in this post…so I did.)

Titus Canyon Back View

Looking east towards, Beatty, Nevada, from the top of Titus Canyon Road

Inside Titus Canyon

Inside Titus Canyon, entering The Narrows.

Coming out of Cottonwood

On the road to Cottonwood Canyon, outside of Stove Pipe Wells.

Gary Climbing Wall

Gary, risking his life wall climbing, a sport of which he has little knowledge. At this point, he had gone up about 100 feet.

Raven at Stove Pipe

Heckle, the raven, helping us eat lunch at Stove Pipe Wells. Jeckle, his brother, is just out of the picture.

We continue to delight in the wonders of Death Valley, sometimes travelling around, sometimes just sit’n and think’n.  Except for Gary, who is always moving, moving, moving – we keep telling him his is now RETIRED and to lighten up.  I think he is trying…but it’s a slow process for him.  He keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure.  We encourage him to relax, but our advice falls on deaf ears.

FC Hotel Martini

Martini’s on the veranda, Furnace Creek Inn. Miss Welch, our friendly waitress could not be convinced to give us more than two olives…a small request for a $12 drink.

Ranger Alan

Alan, an NPS Ranger, lead us on a very informative and interesting tour of the Furnace Creek in. This guy was a font of knowledge.

FC Hotel Pool

View of the spring-fed pool at the Furnace Creek Inn. Rooms here rent for about $350 – $450 per night. Believe it or not, summer is their busy time.

Last Sunday, we ventured over to Pahrump (sometimes pronounced ‘Pa-Dump’) where we blew in for shopping at their Super Walmart – mainly to buy ice and vodka for our Bloody Mary’s.  I swear that this is the store where all those Inner-Net Walmart photographs come from!  It was a visual wonderland.  Gas in Pahrump was $2/gallon for regular, so we were happy about that.

Dee Dee and Gary by Fire

Gary and Dee Dee at Furnace Creek – while in Death Valley we had a fire pretty much every night. We hauled in a lot of wood.

Cooking Foil Dinners

Cooking Dee Dee’s favorite – foil dinners on the fire.

I have enjoyed playing crappy golf at the Furnace Creek Golf Course.  The course is good…I am not.  Both times I have played I have been by myself, which is sorta fun.  I have seen the occasional other hacker out there, but not many.  No coyotes, either…which is unusual.  Maybe they all headed up to Pahrump to visit their relatives for Thanksgiving.

Tourists at Father Crowley Point

Tourists at Father Crowley Point, on the western edge of Death Valley National Park

Jet at Father Crowley Point

Your tax dollars at work, entering a canyon near Father Crowley Point. Death Valley NP.


Photographyer at Father Crowley Point

Waiting for the jets, Father Crowley Point,

Lars at Father Crowley Point

This a Lars, an incredible bicycle guy we met at Father Crowley Point. He has just peddled up the hill – a steep one. He cooked the hamburger he was eating over his little stove, in the parking lot. A very neat guy.

Gary at Father Crowley Point

Gary and his new tourist friends, at Father Crowley Point, Death Valley.

On Tuesday (November 24th) we headed up over Towne’s Pass, across the Panamint Valley, up the other side towards the Owens Valley.  It was a beautiful drive.  We stopped off at Father Crowley Point, which has one of the more spectacular views of the Panamint Valley.  Lots of tourists…just like us, I guess.  While we were there, the United States Government (‘your tax dollars at work’) treated us to an  absolutely spectacular air show.  The mountainous terrain here is a training ground for fighter pilots.  A couple of jets came blasting up the canyon in front of us, at a very low altitude, several times.  On their last pass they exited the canyon right in front of us and climbed straight up doing spins and wing-overs, and flying upside down.  Wow!  The noise literally shook your rib cage.  We had the feeling the show was just for us…and I bet it was.  What a thrill.


Dee Dee Victoria and Gary

Dee Dee, Victoria and Gary at the Panamint Valley Restaurant; Victoria is one of the owners.

On the way back from Fr. Crowley Point we stopped off at the Panamint Springs Diner for a beer and lunch.  Still the great place we remember from our past 3-4 visits there.  Panamint Springs Resort is in Death Valley National Park, but it’s an ‘island’ of private land, family owned.  There is the restaurant, an RV park and a gas station ($5.50 for regular, but it’s the only gas for about 100 miles in either direction, so they sorta gotcha.).

As we departed Panamint Springs, the wind really started to howl.  It was blowing so hard across the Panamint Valley that visibility dropped to zero and the road was almost impossible to see.  The cross-winds were at least 60 MPH, and we were worried that the blowing sand and pebbles were going to pit the paint on the car.  (Not the case, fortunately.)   Once we started ascending Towne’s Pass again, the wind seemed to abate, but by the time we got back to Furnace Creek it was still blowing like Hell.  Tents flying through the air.  People running around trying to find all of their stuff that had taken flight.  We had packed up pretty good before we left, but even so, a lot of our stuff was scattered around.  We managed to find all of it…some was 3 campsites over.

FC Thermometer

Nice and warm.

The high winds lasted until about 4 the next morning and pretty much cleared out about 50% of the campground.  We don’t know where they all went at 10 PM, but we assume either Pahrump or Las Vegas motels/hotels as all the lodging here was pretty full.  And once again, we had to pull in our slide-outs as it was blowing so hard.  Charlie and Marshall Dylan were pretty freaked out by all the noise.

We had a nice visit with our good friend, Shellye, who is a Ranger here in the Park.  She is the one who hired us back in 2010 when we worked as Campground Hosts in Stove Pipe Wells.  Shellye is a real hoot and fun to be around…and extremely knowledgeable about Death Valley.  We always  look forward to these visits with her.

FC Bar Popcorn

Another not-wasted day at the Furnace Creek bar. Love those ‘Stellas.’

So, there ya go, folks.  A lot less words than last time.  Enjoy the pictures.  We are here for a few more daze, then off to Sam’s Town in Las Vegas for a week.  One of our favorite spots.  But all that is the next chapter…

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!




Back To The Magical Place

We’re off!

Welcome to the first installment the blog chronicling our travels this winter season.  If all goes as expected (and it usually never does…) we hope to post something about every 10 days or so, but that largely depends on where we are and the Wi-Fi connection situation.  Most of the time, the Wi-Fi where we stay sucks, or is non-existent.  Usually not a big problem as I can use the personal hotspot on my iPhone…but then I have to have some sort of signal from Verizon, usually ‘3 dots’ or more.

I post the blog text and photographs using some really elegant blog software known as WordPress.  (You will see their logo at the very bottom of all the posts.)  My usual process is to write the text in Microsoft Word, edit, spell-check, then upload it to a WordPress ‘storage’ area.  Next, I use Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit all the photographs that you see.  I usually start with a 300-400, then cull that down to about 75-100, then cull again to get it to about 25-50, give or take.  Before I upload those images, I watermark them with a copyright, then export them into Adobe Photoshop for some post-processing (color and contrast correction, some other ‘tweaking and then file compression), and finally upload them into WordPress ‘storage’ as well.  Finally, I put it all together into a chapter, ‘tweak it a bit more, and, finally, post it.  Posting it means that an announcement hits Facebook and, for those of you have email subscriptions, the installment is delivered to your email box.

All of this usually takes anywhere from 8-16 hours.  But that’s OK…’cuz I love you guys…

Oh, and just one more thing…

Those of you who know me (and for those of you who don’t…) most of what I write here is somewhat the truth.  Some of it is truth as I see it.  And the rest of it is pretty much BS.  Hay, it’s my blog.

OK, no more things.

It took us about 6 easy weeks to prepare for this trip; Dee Dee is very organized and makes lots of lists.  So, getting ready to depart is pretty stress-free.  Usually.  In general, we have to shut the house down for the winter.  This includes arming our very extensive security system, which we can monitor from our iPhones; we can view our place using several security cameras around the property.  We also have a neighbor kid who keeps an eye on things (he is heavily armed…), as well as a few others who stop by on random occasions.

Taco, Charlie's itinerant litter-mate, is watching our place while we travel far and wide this year. He's a nice, gentle boy, who does not take crap from anyone, as you can clearly see.

Taco, Charlie’s itinerant litter-mate, is watching our place while we travel far and wide this year. He’s a nice, gentle boy, who does not take crap from anyone, as you can clearly see.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, my phone rang.  It was the great people at the Animal Rescue Shelter in Amargosa, California.  This was the place where we got (rescued) Charlie back in 2010, when he was about 4 years old.  Anyhow, it turns out that Charlie had another brother who had led a pretty tough life.  He had been in and out of shelters (jail) and homes for the past 5 years.  Lots of street fights.  He had finally ended up in back in Amargosa.  Anyhow, the Shelter people needed a place to foster care him for a short time while they tried to find him a new home.  Could we please take him for a while?

I explained that we were getting ready to hit the road a while and, regretfully, could not do it.  Well, it turns out that “Taco” (that’s his name) is a pretty good independent watch dog and could survive pretty much on his own at our place.  Not a bad idea as it would certainly complement our security system.  All he needed was a blanket to sleep on, and some food and water.

So, we agreed.  They stuck him on a plane and shipped him up to us.  After a tearful, bark-ridden reunion with Charlie, and a property orientation (guided by Charlie), we departed, leaving Taco in charge of things.  It was a reassuring feeling knowing we had a constant canine presence.  The Shelter people agreed to come and get him after a few months, so the whole deal worked out for everyone involved.

After a few days delay getting all this done, once again we were off…after we found Charlie, who decided that running deer through our woods was more exciting than leaving with us…

Grain Towers

Grain towers, Arlington RV Park, Arlington, Oregon

Marina Water

Marina on the Columbia River, Arlington, Oregon

Day One of our travels ended after about a 225 mile drive to Arlington, Oregon, a little town on the Columbia River. We stayed at tiny RV park run by the City of Arlington.  It only had about 10 spots, and shared the area with a grain storage facility.  Also, and this was pretty cool, it had its set of train tracks, with its very own freight train that ran back-and-forth about every 15 minutes, sounding a whistle at a near-by intersection.  Wahoo!  A great way to nod off to no-sleep.  Anyhow, we had driven by this place for years and had always wanted to stop (at least I did.) So we did.  Once.

Next stop was Caldwell (near Boise), Idaho, where we stopped at the Country Corners RV Park, a place we stayed a couple of years ago.  New owners, very friendly and very accommodating.

Still trucking along, our next stop was supposed to be Arco, Idaho, where we were going to spend some time at Craters of the Moon.  Well, that got kyboshed when we ran into heavy snow on the way there.  We chickened out and discontinued this route.  We swung “The Boat” around and headed back down to the freeway (still Highway 84) and high-tailed it for Fort Hall, Idaho (near Blackfoot.)

Fence and sky, at the Shoshone/Bannock RV Park in Fort Hall, Idaho.

Fence and sky, at the Shoshone/Bannock RV Park in Fort Hall, Idaho.

The RV park were we stayed is on the Shoshone/Bannock Reservation, adjacent to a casino (slots only) and a pretty good size hotel…all of this seemingly in the middle of almost nowhere.  The RV park as good one – clean, quiet and empty.  When we pulled in it was still snowing pretty good, but it abated pretty quickly after that.

Craters Bush

Craters of the Moon, Idaho.

Craters Bushes

Craters of the Moon, Idaho.

Craters Lava

Craters of the Moon, Idaho.

Crates Vertical Lava

Craters of the Moon, Idaho.

Arco, Idaho. Every graduating class since about 1920 has painted their 'year' on this mountain above the town. Or, as the locals told us, the numbers mark the high water level...

Arco, Idaho. Every graduating class since about 1920 has painted their ‘year’ on this mountain above the town. Or, as the locals told us, the numbers indicate the high water level…

Arco Motel

Motel in Arco, Idaho.

We spent the next 6 days there, the first of which we drove about 60 miles back up to Arco, ID, gateway to Craters of the Moon National Monument.  This is a very cool, visually rich, environment.  And cold, very cold.  We spent some time in the Visitors Center, and then walked the single trail that was open, as they were in the process of closing most of the place up for the winter.  We also took a look at the campground – a good one, but older and designed mainly for tent campers.

Craters of the Moon is a place worthy of more time visiting and we would definitely go back again…when it’s a tad warmer.

Shut softly

Seen in a restaurant in Blackfoot, Idaho.

Here comes 'Da Judge...

Here comes ‘Da Judge…

The Girls

The Girls, Sami and Shea. Charlie’s Best Buddies.

Group in Front of Mexican Rest

What a great time we had with these guys – Nick, Jennifer and The Girls – Shea and Sami. Such wonderful hosts!

Shea and Glasses

Girls and Charlie

Charlie with his best buddies.

The rest of our time in the area was spent up in Blackfoot, where we visited Dee Dee’s niece, Jennifer, her husband, Nick (here comes da Judge…) and their two delightful girls, Sami and Shea.  Charlie loves these kids and they love him right back.  Anyhow, they put up with our several visits and showed us a great time.  Terrific folks and easy to be around.  Bob and Nick played a round at the Blackfoot Golf Course (had to wait for the frost to melt off the greens).  Dee Dee and Charlie entertained The Girls.  Lots of fun.

November 9 found us in Wells, Nevada.  Cold, snowy, but with clear roads all the way from Fort Hall.  Not much in Wells to speak of.  The folks at the Angel Lake RV Park were very friendly and helpful.  We used their showers instead of ours and were impressed.  Eternal hot water and great pressure.

RV at Ely

Ely, Nevada, at a KOA 3 miles south of town. They had to snowplow our spot so we could get into it.

Dee Dee and Charlie in Snow, Ely

Charley in Snow

Ely Snow and Tank

Next day we made the relatively short drive (175 miles) down Highway 93 to Ely, Nevada.  The day before they had over 14” of snow and the roads were still somewhat clogged.  We stayed at a KOA about 3 miles south of town.  The road in was a bit of a challenge, but we made it in OK.  The maintenance guy had to go ahead of us to snowplow spot clear.

Winning in Ely

Bob and Wine in Ely

The lady in the KOA office told us about a local casino that would pick you up in a shuttle, and their restaurant supposedly (and it really did) had a great prime rib dinner, so we decided to go for it.  They picked us up in a stretch LIMO and were super nice.  Dinner was really pretty good (for casino food) and, because of this, I decided that I needed to contribute $75 to their Gamblers Relief Fund.  Interestingly there are only two “live” blackjack tables in the entire town of Ely; all the rest of the casinos are entirely slots.  Something to do with Nevada and Federal gaming laws.  The upside of this downside was that we won ‘BIG’ on a slot machine.

Heating Lights

Our ‘Rube Goldberg’ heating system to keep our propane regulators from freezing up while we endured the 3-degree cold in Ely, Nevada. It worked great.

We stayed in Ely for 2 days, waiting for the road going West, Highway 6, to clear of snow.  The first night there the temperature dropped to 3 degrees.  It was so cold that our propane regulators froze up, so we had no gas heat.  We had to depend on the two 1500 watt electric heaters we carry, which could barely keep up.  The next morning we drove into town and picked up another (third) heater, as well as some 60 watt light bulbs that we rigged up to warm the 2 gas regulators and keep them from freezing up.  That night, we had a heat wave – it got clear up to 6 degrees!  Everything worked like a charm.  We had wonderful gas heat again.

After our 2 days in Ely, we headed down Highway 6 – a magnificent, scenic drive.  And lonely.  I swear, and no BS, that we saw less than 10 cars over the 150 miles that we drove on this road.  And no services…hell, there was almost nothing but scenery.  Delightful.

Beatty RV Park

Mike, our delightful, friendly host at the Beatty RV Park ('Always $25 A Night').

Mike, our delightful, friendly host at the Beatty RV Park (‘Always $25 A Night’).

Having Beers in Beatty

In Beatty, Nevada…we are finally WARM.

We finally hit Tonopah (a town that you want to pass through as quickly as possible), where we connected up with Highway 95, that took us through Goldfield (a really cool old mining town…Neil Miller would go ape in this place; it’s a visual smorgasbord.)  From there it was just a  short 65 mile jaunt down the hill to Beatty, Nevada, where we stayed at one of our favorite places, the Beatty RV Park…”always $25 per nite,” and it really has been for years.  We have stopped there at least 5 times before and always enjoyed the hospitality of our kind host, Mike.

Saltwater Candy

Red Candy

Dee Dee with Larry Zabel....who, coincidentally, we met at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company.

Dee Dee with Larry Zabel….who, coincidentally, we met at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company.

Dee Dee and Bird

Dee Dee and her temporary pet bird, seeing just as it was flying away, in Beatty, Nevada.

Angels Landing

Angel’s Ladies Whore House, almost right across Highway 95 from the Beatty RV Park.

We spent a couple of days in Beatty where we visited their great candy store (at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company); we stocked up on sugar and “Really Good” beef jerky.  We had a beer and local bar where we encountered their local bar dog, a not-so-friendly-critter…had some junk yard stuff in him.  While we were still there sucking down $3.50 Miller Lites, some guy came by and gave Dee Dee a bird; I guess he did not want it anymore and figured that she did.  Anyhow, the bird sat on her should for a minute or so, and before we even had time to give it a name, it flew away.  Must have been the cat scent he detected on Dee Dee.  Oh well, we stifled our grief and moved on.

Broad Death Valley View from Daylight

View of Death Valley, from Hell’s Gate.

Death Valley view from Daylight

Ridge view, from Hell’s Gate, Death Valley.

Phil, the Campground Host at Stove Pipe Wells (where we were hosts in late 2010). Neat guy.

Phil, the Campground Host at Stove Pipe Wells (where we were hosts in late 2010). Neat guy.

While based in Beatty, we drove over Daylight Pass, into Death Valley – a “Magical Place,” if you allow it to be; we estimated that this was at least our 20th visit, starting in about 1976 – we love it!  We headed out to Stove Pipe Wells, where we were Campground Hosts for 3 months in late 2010.  Here we ran into Phil, the current host and a really cool guy.  Mello, laid back and friendly…a perfect combination of traits for this job.  We had a great visit and he comp’ed us a couple of camping nights (“Professional Courtesy” among present and former Stove Pipe hosts.)

So, we returned to Beatty and the next morning (it’s now Saturday, November 14th) and headed for Stove Pipe (quite a thrill going over and down Daylight Pass in an RV) where we dry-camped for 2 days.  Very quiet (as usual), and it almost emptied out on Sunday.  (The previous 4 days were more crowded than usual as this was when about 10,000 members of the “Death Valley 49’ers” convene each year…fortunately mainly in the Furnace Creek area, about 35 miles away.)

While at Stove Pipe dry camping, we decided to see if we could go for 2 days without running our generator.  We made it about a day and a half, and then the inverter managed to suck enough juice out of our 4 big-ass house batteries and all the AC (meaning the refrigerator and TV) shut down…right in the middle of the ‘Chick-Flick’ movie we were watching.  So, we woos’d out and fired the sucker up, for about an hour, to recharge the batteries.

One good/bad thing about our RV is that it has a full-size residential refrigerator; good if you are tethered to 50 amp power in an RV park, but not-so-good when you are dry camping.  We do have a 100 watt solar panel our roof which usually provides enough juice to allow the batteries (powering the inverter) to keep up with the refer, but if the sun is not shining – which it was not at this time – the batteries drain more quickly.

Not that running our generator is a big deal, it was just a matter of ‘pride.’  Anyhow all of this was important to us, but probably not you…

Charlie in Desert

Charlie in the desert, Stove Pipe Wells, Death Valley.


Charile’s Coyote Buddy, in the desert at Stove Pipe Wells, Death Valley.

Sunset, Panamint Range, near Stove Pipe Wells.

Sunset, Panamint Range, near Stove Pipe Wells.

Day One at Stove Pipe was magnificent.  Day Two was not so good, sorta.  The day started off with Dee Dee taking Charlie out into the desert for his morning constitutional.  So, he pees, and then, you know.  Then, he USUALLY just sticks with Dee Dee and they walk back together.  But this time he makes a trotting bee-line back to the RV and waits by the door.  Then, about 30 seconds later this big-ass coyote heads out across the same stretch of desert from whence Charlie has just crossed.  Charlie proved, once again that he has great critter sense.  Conflict avoided.

Next, starting in the afternoon, we has sustained 40 – 50 MPH winds, and the usual accompanying dust; this lasted for the next 36 hours, which a bit unusual, and the wind usually comes in fast and leave fast, the entire event lasting only an hour or 2.  It was blowing so hard that night that, about midnight, we had to get up and pull in the slides.  Not a big deal, really, just a minor annoyance.  But, the animals were kind of freaked out by all the noise.

Two RVs Furnace Creek

In the Furnace Creek Campground. Us on the left, Gary on the right. Twins.

On Monday, November 16th, we bid goodbye to our new friend, Phil, and headed off to Furnace Creek, where we would be for the next 2 weeks.  Here we met our crazy friend, Gary, and his even crazier brother, John.  We have been enjoying the relative quiet (almost all of the 10,000 ‘49’ers have departed).  We also made our ritual first-day trip to the Furnace Creek bar and had a few beers.  What fun!

Zabriskie Mud Hills

Hills at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley.

Manley Beacon

Manly Beacon, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley.

Gary and Dee Dee

Gary and Dee Dee at Zabriskie Point, in Death Valley. Manly Beacon in the left background.

Dee Dee and John and Gary

Dee Dee, John and Gary, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley.

Dee Dee and Charlie

Charlie and Dee Dee, Dante’s View, Death Valley.

So far, we have spent some time showing Gary and John a few of the more popular ‘tourist’ sights (Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Bad Water, Artist’s Drive, etc.)  We also drove up Highway 190, out of the park to check out Slab City, a possible dry-camping place.  Turns out it has great access and is pretty large-RV friendly.  Might be a place to stop and hang out at some point.  Tomorrow we head out to see some more subtle places in the Valley; we have all chipped in to rent a jeep and intend to do a lot of off-roading.

Whew!  That’s enough (actually, waaaay more than enough) for now.  Hope you enjoyed the prose and the pics.  The next installment should show up in about 2 weeks.

Over n’ out for now – we are off  to spend more time in this Magical Place…