(Mile – 2,079)
After a days drive from San Francisco we made a late arrival into Mariposa Ca, a tiny “wild west cowboy” kinda town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Mariposa consists of what appears to be a single main street and a local sheriff (we think it’s that guy out of the village people) who patrols the town on horseback, complete with a Stetson and a silver sheriffs star pinned to his shirt.
The whole point of this stop was to be in close proximity to Yosemite National Park, and although the Yosemite landscape was as beautiful as we expected, we couldn’t wait to get out of there due to the ridiculous number of fellow visitors. This reminded us of our policy to “Only travel off peak… when possible”.
We lasted for a few more hours before heading off the beaten path to hike to the base of “El Capitan” and then we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in a quiet secluded part of the Merced River.
The next day we took a long drive through the less populated parts of the park on our way to Mono Lake with its stunning Tufa towers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tufa. This area is a nesting habitat for over two million annual migratory birds and the fading sunlight on the tufa towers made the whole place look like one of Roger Deans tripped out album covers.
Ever since I first heard of Death Valley as a kid I have always wanted to go there, so we stocked up with cold water, filled up “Vlad the Impala” with gas and headed off into the heat. The only way to describe it is that it feels like you are standing in front of a giant hairdryer set to its highest setting; the desert is literally breathtaking and certainly unforgettable.
At 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in the USA, we hit a temperature high of 113ºf (45ºc). The odometer display does not lie.
We were also lucky enough to be there during the insanity that is the “Badwater race”. Recognized globally as “the world’s toughest foot race,” it covers 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, and in some years the temperatures have reached up to 130F (55c). Accompanying the runners were huge dust devils in the desert basin as well as an ariel acrobatic display laid on by two U.S.A.F. jet fighters
On route to our next destination we dropped in to Las Vegas to witness the madness, glitter and lights. Twenty two years ago, Lura and I first visited this city for one night only to attempt to make our fortune on the nickel slots. Much has changed since then.
As we were in Vegas we couldn’t resist a show, and as I am vehemently opposed to Celine Dion or any form of musical theatre we decided to splurge on Cirque Du Soleil. We have had the good fortune to catch a number of Cirque shows before and every one is without doubt worth every penny. Although Mystere is the oldest of their running shows it was still absolutely amazing, and if you ever get the chance to see them please take our advice and GO!
Two nights in Sin City were enough for us and the next day we left Vegas and headed out across the Mojave Desert on the remains of Route 66 to Flagstaff, Arizona.
We obviously kept an eye out for alien activity on the way but apart from some tumbleweed, a few trailers and some otherworldly mullet hairdo’s we only got photographic evidence of one grounded U.F.O.
“The truth is out there”