Driving Death Valley. A Super Weird Experience

yucca mountain last service before area 51 poster

An old man said “Dont go there today”

Beatty was the closest town to Death Valley entrance, 121 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the last and weirdest experience I lived in my west US trip driving through deserts.

As I said before in this blog, deserts are places that always attracted me. I love getting lost in the middle of nowhere, where the silence gets very irrepressible and the temperature, with the sense of aloneness, catapults you in an timeless period. This is the reason because I decided to travel across the west US, a land where you can drive for hundreds miles without coming across anything.

I love loneliness. I love deserts. They are very peaceful places and they make me feel good. A deep and strong communication with myself arises when I am in the middle of a desert. Something I can’t explain.

So, after visiting the Arizona, Utah and New Mexico deserts I had an unforgettable appointment with the Death Valley, California, the king of the deserts in US, where the temperature is the warmest of the entire country.

I was really excited. I waited for days to go on visiting Death Valley, the largest national park south of Alaska known for extremes. It is North America’s driest and hottest spot, the temperature there is around 134 F° (56° Celsius) and the it is the lowest elevation of the Continent, 282 feet below sea level. All of that made this national park an irresistible attraction for me. I couldn’t miss that place. I wanted to go in the hell, and I really was..

Here you are what that experience meant to me.

When I left Las Vegas where I spent two days in comfort (its difficult not to find a nice Hotel in Las Vegas) with my economy rental car, I start seeing that desert around become taking shape. I drove for maybe one hundred miles and I stopped for refueling near a big poster telling me I was very close to the Area 51 (became a many modern UFO theories, do you remember this?).

yucca mountain last service before area 51 poster

After looking at this poster, I got back into my car and drove for other 80 miles in order to reach the town where there was the motel I stayed at. This little old town, a perfect location for a western movie, was Beatty. I left my baggage in the room and I went for a sandwich before starting my adventure in the Death Valley. I was in Nevada in August, and the temperature, as most of you can imagine, was really warm. So, after buying an avocado sandwich in a little market and while I was biting at it, I asked to a likeable old man where the entrance for the Valley was. The old man looked and me in a way that made me feel crazy. He opened his eyes, looked into mine and said: “Why?”, “because I want to go visiting it!” I replied. He continued: “Why do you want to go there today? It’s warm! And today little boy, it’s very hot! I wouldn’t go there absolutely”. I told him I was thankful for his advices but once He saw the determination into my eyes said: “Go straight for three miles and never turn. Come back before the dark”. I didn’t pay attention to the these last words, and I got into my car and start driving as so excited as I could.

beatty, nevada

It was 3pm. After three miles I saw the entrance to the Death Valley National Park. After a mile I was pretty shocked about the scenario I had in front of me. I proceeded into a land very different from other deserts. I never saw a desert with black rock downs and dark sandy hills that made that place looked burned. I continued driving for maybe 150 miles through this place and the impression I had was that I was driving in the hell. Pure desolation. Death Valley is dark and gloomy.

death valley sand and rocks

death valley sand and downs

death valley rocks

The colors of the land are dark colors. Stark but very suggestive. I don’t know if it was a coincidence but that day I didn’t met any car on the street. I proceeded through the Valley, because I wanted to reach Badwater, in the middle of the Death Valley. Badwater is known as the lowest in U.S.A, 282 below sea level and is very close by Furnace Creek that holds the record of the highest air temperature in the world 134°F; 56,7 C°. That day was very warm, and my car signed 125,6 °F, 52 C° as air temperature outside. I was really excited but also scared. I turn off the car and I walked on Badwater bacin for a hundred of meters, and I realized for a moment that I was in one of the most suggestive place on the hearth. I took some pictures and I got into my car, determined to go back to the little village. I felt content, maybe even, happy.


walking in badwater

After 60miles on the return way, something happened.

A strong smell got into the car and I didn’t know at first moment what it was, but my car hiccuped. After paying attention to the smell I realized that it was fuel! I can’t say exactly what my feelings were in that precise moment, but I think that concern is more appropriate. The smell of fuel got into the car through the cockpit. Since I’m not into the car issues, I realized that I was in trouble.

The car continued hiccupping. The clock signed the 5.30pm and my mind reminded me the words of the old man “come back before the dark!”.

sunset at death valley, california

death valley road in the dark

I had still almost 100miles to destination and I didn’t really know what to do. To add, when I took my mobile in order to type an emergency call it said: “no service”. Perfect! I was in one of the inhospitable place in the heart, with a car broken, with 130°F, with no one on the street and the phone was unable to call.

Ok. Relax and think! I constantly replied to myself. I was almost ready to embracing the idea to pass the night there and waiting for someone in the morning. But it was an idea I didn’t liked to much..
I had no way out apart from continuing in order to reach the village. So I turn off the conditioning in the car (despite the very hot temperature outside) and I decided to continue driving with the lowest gears.

But what about the fuel smell? I checked the fuel indicator and I wasn’t losing fuel..very strange I thought, so what was that?

The very high air temperature and the air so dry made fuel evaporate before the combustion engine burning it so it explains that the car wasn’t broken but the temperature outside really suck!

I arrived at the motel few minutes past 8pm..safe! I turn off the car and after a quick shower, I got out for a beer. I really needed it.

In the morning, the car was perfect. The highway took me back to the west coast when I spent two days relaxing in Malibu.





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