There are several reasons why Death Valley will be remembered. Although, it ought to be for its wonder and beauty, on this trip at least, we will be remembering for other reasons.
It all starts on October 22, 2016. We have spent another night at a Casa Walmart in Bakersfield, CA. We know where we need to go, only, the GPS does not recognize anything we put in for Death Valley. We settle for Lone Pine and hope for the best. As we got closer to Lone Pine, we found our sign, and we veered off into Death Valley.
We know this is a desert…but it is the end of October…and we have been freezing in several places. Anyway, I am rambling, here’s our Death Valley tale, and we’re sticking to it!
Saturday, October 22, 10:00 A.M.: Leave Bakersfield, CA, heading to Death Valley. No GPS address.
Saturday, along the way:
Saturday, 5:30 P.M.: Arrive in Death Valley. Take touristy photos in front of sign. 5:59 P.M. Stop at Father Crowley vista point for more touristy pictures. All is well.
Saturday, 6:15 P.M.: Decide to camp on the other side of the park. We need to go down, through the valley, and then back up the other side. All is still well.
Saturday, 7:15 P.M.: Destination Stovepipe Wells campground, 28 miles. It should be cooling off soon, right? All is going to go hell in a hand-basket soon.
Saturday 7:40 P.M.: The temperature is rising. We have the A/C off. We think we can, we think we can. Radiator decided we could not.
Pull over. Fortunately, we are carrying our own water supply…do you think all that extra weight had anything to do with this problem? Naw.
Add water. Wait. Temp down, elevation rising. Can she make a 9% grade…up?
We passed a private campground a few miles back. Panamint Springs it is. Time for a U-turn.
Saturday, 8:00 P.M.: Register for site at Panamint Springs Resort. (are you kidding me, they call this a resort???)
Saturday, 8:20 P.M.: Resident mechanic, trouble-shooting over-heating issue.
One of the things about camping is the good people you meet along the way. James was visiting Dave and Nancy, a couple of sites over. Dave and Nancy are heading South, to Quartzite, AZ, and James came for a get together of the Panamintvalley.com group. (yes that’s a real thing!) He had just the right socket that was necessary for removing the radiator. The Captain patched the hole with 2-part marine epoxy, let it dry, and put it back together. They also had local knowledge of the best place to get parts and other resources that we might need.
Did I mention that we were in Death Valley? In the middle of no-place. And I mean no electricity…they made their own with on-site generators. No cell service. The “resort” used a satellite phone, and the little bit of wifi they put out might open an email…if 200 others, weren’t trying to do the same thing. It looked as though we would have to wait until Monday to get out and find the parts we needed. There was running water (piped in) from nearby Darwin Camp, so we did have showers and a good nights sleep.
Sunday, October 23, 9:00 A.M.: Pressure test. Can we drive her out of here? Will we need to make other arrangements to get a new radiator at the the nearest town with an Auto Zone? Ridgecrest is 65 miles away. Dave and Nancy, were heading out, and were stopping at the only place around that received cell service…a small pull-out off of Panamint Valley Road (Minnietta Road.) So we followed them to cell service and called Auto Zone, and amazingly, they had the right radiator for an ’04 Safari Van, on the shelf. Thanks Dave and Nancy! We really appreciate you both!
Sunday, 1:30 P.M.: On the road again…
Yeah, I’m not too sure about that.
Sunday, 3:30 P.M.: Auto Zone: New radiator. Sears: New socket set. Since we didn’t have any temperature issues, during our 65 mile drive, we decided to take it with us to our camping site for the night. It is October 23rd…that would be our anniversary!
Sunday 6:30 P.M.: Arrive at Trona Pinnacles. We hit some rain on the way, but this is Death Valley…its a desert, right? Are we really going to get stuck by a train in the middle of no-place?
Monday, October 24, 2016, O’dark-thirty (6:00 A.M.): It rained all night. We got little sleep. All we could think about was the flash-flood signs we had seen on the way in. As soon as it was light, we hit the road running!
Monday, 9:30 A.M.: Breakfast at Kristy’s, in Ridgecrest, then heading South on CA 395. Joshua Tree National Park, is our destination today. Radiator holding up fine.
Monday, 1:20 P.M.: Pass NextEra Energy Kramer Junction Solar site. Turn left at Kramer Junction onto CA 58. Van stalls. Radiator is fine, still holding and outside temp is in the 60’s. Seems like a fuel issue, turn around and go back to Kramer Junction, which is literally a Pilot gas station and not much more. We stop. She won’t start. We call a tow truck. Nearest town for service is Barstow, CA, 35 miles East. That would be an expensive tow bill, thank you Allstate for paying some of it! Geez Louise!
Monday, 2:40 P.M.: Tow truck arrives.
Monday, 3:35 P.M.: Arrive at Barstow Tire & Brake. They can’t check her out until the morning, but we can stay in the Short, Short Trailer, in their parking lot. “It’s safe,” they said! Overnight tale would be a whole other rabbit trail of a story. Suffice to say, we made it out alive…with little sleep.
Monday, 4:00 P.M.: Unload Harley, take a little ride…to the Ford dealership…just to see what they have…really!
Monday, 10:00 P.M.: Remember, we are just looking. Drive new F250 4×4 pick-up truck back to the Short, Short Trailer. Try to get some sleep already.
All that money, and we don’t even get a temporary tag? California issues a sticker for the front window, which is a one way ticket to your destination to get tag and title.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 9:00 A.M.: Auto Zone opens, return radiator. Yep, we never installed it, it was still sealed in the box. Eat breakfast, get out of Barstow, CA.
We need some rest, Joshua Tree National Park, we are headed your way. Thanks for sharing our adventure with us.