Whatís the lowest place on the continent? Answer: Badwater Basin, Death Valley, CA. 282 feet below sea level. Got a tee shirt that confirms it. January, towed the trailer to Death Valley National Park. High summer it is so hot there they close it down, and, do the same for much of southern Arizona. Then, just too hot. Donít exactly know why Death Valley landed on my bucket list. Iím not a passionate rock and rubble lover. OK, so the glaciers came, and then they left. Donít study rifts. Got over my horny toad infatuation in í52. No air conditioner. January seemed right. Also wanted to see Quartzsite, AZ, and, oh yes, another place I heard much about, Las Vegas. Yeah, Las Vegas. Everyone needs a little decadence in life, right? My bucket list for January was set.
For Nancy, not so much. She had visions of blinding January snowstorms on I-40. Blinding snowstorms? After revealing our route would take us to the warm south, down to Tucson and to Phoenix, where her three old friends had moved, she came around. We were westbound 12 January, packed with Bertolli dinners, water, a few beers, propane
, ice chest, solar
panels, DVDís, Gaviscon, and Ben. I did not de-winterize. No sink was deemed needed. Instead, kept 5 gallon jug of water on the floor of the necessary room. What joy, packed and pulling out of the driveway that morning, taking the scenic southern route from the Duke City to Death Valley.
Our first stop for the night was Sagebrush Mobil Home Park, 7 PM, off I-10, Willcox, AZ. Earlier had passed up a few suspiciously Purgatorial RV spots. Sagebrush was friendly, spotless, heated restrooms, coffee and TV in the lounge, $15 no hookups. This clearly a refuge for wintering old snowbirds and, though very far from Death Valley, an easy drive to Tombstone.
The next day, after visiting people in Tucson we found Tucson Mountain State Park, $20 with electricity, water. Beautiful place, where our spot was across the street from Ron of Ontario, whoíd been touring with his Escape
17 since November. The campground is called Gilbert Ray Campground and is south of Saguaro National Park (west). Highly recommend.
Finally, Quartzsite, AZ, 19 miles from California. The trailer-manís place to congregate, itís the BLM field of your bad dreams, a grizzled party plate for random, haphazard free-life camping. Quartzsite town has acres of tables filled with silly yard sale junk. Browsed until I spotted a rusty 10 inch cast iron fry pan, but for thirty bucks? All the concessionaires look like Gabby Hayes. The BLM acreage south of I-10 I thought is a great place to circle the wagons, light
a big bonfire to keep the snakes away and hope the Calvary gets there soon. What do a hundred WalMart parking lots jammed together look like a hundred years after all life on the planet had ceased? No need to ask. See Quartzsite. On the other, north side of I-10 a few miles from the junk tables was the High Jolly 14 day BLM. It looked acceptable. You park anywhere. The price, free, was appropriate. Back in town had lunch at the funky Grubstake Restaurant with neighbor-back-home Charlie, who winters in the area. The fried clams and fish and chips were good. A couple hours later, so was the Gaviscon.
That cold night watched a 2 hr DVD movie in the trailer. Next morning inverter display showed 12.7 v. At Parker I pulled into a Pilot because something in my head said check the tires
. Down to 30+ pounds. We had been averaging 13.5 mpg. Air cost me 8 quarters. Past Lake Havasu
glimpsed a 21 passing us, later stopped at the Railroad Pass Casino for supper, won fifteen bucks. We overnighted there.
Charlie had said when in Las Vegas the Circus Circus casino had nice RV parking. Itís free with no hookups, but $50/night with full. Towing through this city for the first time can be a trial because you want to stop and park nearly everywhere but you canít. We drove in total awe towing the length of the Las Vegas main drag, then came back, gawked more, and parked at Circus Circus beside a Montana. Or was it the Bismarck? Dehitched, drove over to the casino garage and inside for lunch, wandered about, bought a Las Vegas Tee shirt, lost fifteen bucks, but did not stay. I simply must come back and see more here next time. Gassed up now, and on to Pahrump.
Best advice before final leg into Death Valley is top off the tank. On Belle Vista Avenue a few miles west of Pahrump it was $1.79. In mid-valley, gas at Furnace
Creek Ranch was $3.41/gallon. I should mention every amenity at Furnace
Creek Ranch is expensive. An unheated shower room is 5 bucks. By 4 PM the nice Furnace
Creek Campground was already filled. Plenty of room for us across the street (at bare bones) Sunset Campground. $6/night with senior pass. Restrooms unheated, Spartan, clean.
Sunset was the perfect place to try out my 100 watt portable solar panel
kit. Decided to slide the heavy panels up onto the trailer roof. Had to stand on the tongue frame. Outdoor 4x6í carpet with the rubber backing protected gel coat, made the push less difficult. Solar
panels worked just fine despite not much sunshine. Must say I enjoyed touring up and down the valley, taking washboard roads to hidden canyons and driving 4-wheel-drive-only places. On one I noticed the car 400 yards behind me beeping and flashing so I stopped. My tailgate hadnít been securely shut and the ice chest flew out, got laid open in the road. Lesson learned. After that, locking tailgate shut every time.
Total trip miles, 2,394. Towing, 2,177 miles. Base towing average, 13.9 mpg. Stopped for gas eight times. I used cruise control constantly, towing usually at 61-64 mph. Coming home to New Mexico on I-40, the northern route, yes, thatís right, we got hit with a blinding snowstorm.