Mojave Desert and Death Valley

Raam in Death Valley

I don't know what it is, but I love the desert. Endless roads, warm air (115°F), wind (it's hard to tell but in the picture above the wind is blowing 30+ mph), flat land that seems to go on forever, and of course, very few people.

Crossing the the border between Nevada and California, a desert mirage looked like a giant lake. A few minutes later, I spent about an hour covering 10 miles of I-15 due to a truck that turned over going through Mountain Pass. I entered the Mojave Desert from the North through Cima, CA. The US Post Office for Cima looked more like a shack in the middle of the desert until I saw the original Post Office:

US Post Office for Cima, CA

I tried driving up a dirt road, but turned around half way when I realized there was a chance I could get stuck (I had a Toyota Camry). So much for my sense of adventure.

Driving on I-40 the views were incredible (and so was the heat).

Before entering Death Valley, I thought of filling my gas tank. I decided to skip it when I saw the gas price was 4.91. Later, in Shoshone, CA, I ended up buying gas for 5.39 a gal. The sun was setting fast (and the smoke from the forest fires didn't help) and I wanted to get through Death Valley before the sunset.

The mountains and roadside were more barren than ever going through Death Valley. I read signs that said to be aware of the extreme heat and along a particular stretch of road there were "radiator water tanks" every few miles. I was passing through around 7PM and it was still 115 degrees, so I can't imagine how hot it must have been during the day.

Barren Death Valley

I was only half-way through Death Valley when it got dark. A big section of route 190 was through the mountain with roads that curved left and right a thousand times. Many of the corners had no guard rails and whenever I dared to take my eyes off the road and look down, all I could see was pitch black. It was definitely nerve racking going around each corner not being sure if there was a big rock lying in the middle of the road (plenty of signs warned me of that possibility). I saw dozens of snakes crossing the road during the night, but decided not to get a closer look and risk being stung in the middle of no where.

As I exited Death Valley and approached 395, I could see the mountains to the West glowing orange. I quickly realized they were forest fires and pulled over to take some pictures (timer, 30 sec exposure, the roof of the car, and the camera strap for balance). After taking the pictures I drove South on 395 and ended up going through all the smoke from the forest fires. Driving on the highway at 75 MPH in 110 degree weather, white ash started falling like snow. Animals that were running to escape the fire were on the left and right side of the highway. As I approached them, they would look up at me; their blue, gray, and green eyes shining through the thick smoke. It was very surreal.

Forest Fires

Total miles driven: ~580

2008-06-22 Travel Map

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  1. When I took that picture I knew it would be your favorite. 😀

    I just wished it didn’t have the Visitor Center or Shoshone Museum signs on it — it would have looked more authentic.