SURVIVING THE DEATH VALLEY TRIP (AND HAVING FUN)

  1. The Atomic Inn in Beatty NV
    It's a nice older motel, and we love it. Fun and retro, decent rooms, nice staff. Stovepipe Wells has gotten too pricey for us, and although I am sad not to get up and see Death Valley outside my door, it is a good compromise. I'll call the motel the weekend before we all arrive and make sure they know that different people are checking into the rooms at different times on whatever days they plan to arrive. Here's what you need to know about the Atomic Inn: And...you get what you pay for. I'm happy with clean, comfortable, great staff. Just sayin'.

  2. Telephones
    CELL PHONES (mostly) DON'T WORK IN DV. Period. There is a low cell tower at Furnace Creek that bounces off the mountains and gives a signal at some places away from Furnace Creek, but mostly cells don't work. In Beatty (or Rhyolite, the ghost town) you'll have service, And both major tourist areas (Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells) have working public pay phones, you can ask one of us old people to show you how to use them.
  3. Food
    We bring our own, and I'd say that goes for each roomful or pair of people, since in general that's how people travel. We're in a town and they have restaurants, so we'll probably go out to dinner at least one night (KC'S OUTPOST AWESOME PIZZA!), but mostly we eat buffet style, and it's way fun. And we're usually heading out the door for fun in the morning, so we won't go out to breakfast, although of course that's up to each person's individual conscience, stomach and wallet.

    Generally, we all eat out of ice chests while we're there: at the motel rooms for breakfast and dinner and packing lunches for the daytime and taking them along. We all share food for dinner, but if you want to bring goodies just for you, that's fine, just make sure not to throw them on the communal table. And the rooms at the Atomic Inn have refrigerators and microwaves, so that makes things easier.

    Suggestions: Cold meat (we bring pollo loco chicken and honeybaked ham, and often Diana brings a whole cooked turkey or leg of lamb), rolls or bread, bagels, tortillas, pita bread, crackers, cheese, trail mix, olives, raw veggies and fruit, chips, dips, salad stuff, cereal, etc. Bring a variety, it's what you'll get for 4 days. Also bring coffee and tea makings if you want that, and don't forget forks, paper towels, paper plates, bowls, cups and a real mug.

  4. Water
    Bring refillable bottles to drink while you're there, plus a gallon per person per vehicle just to have along for the ride. Whether or not it's hot, it's VERY dry, if someone breaks down you really have to drink a lot of water. And bring juice, alcohol, soda, anything else you like, just don't skimp on the water. This is the voice of experience.

  5. The Sun, It Burns
    In November it's not very hot (maybe 75-85 degrees during the hot part of the day) and we'll be in higher elevations where it's cooler a lot of the time. In April it's going to be anywhere from 85 and overcast to 107 and clear and sunny. From one day to the next, and don't think I'm kidding. April 2012: ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN DEGREES. Just sayin'.

    Having said that, I DON'T CONTROL THE WEATHER, so please don't blame me if there's a heat wave! Bring a range of clothing choices, dress in layers. My best prediction is that shorts or capris and t shirts will be perfect for daytimes no matter when we go, but I've been there in November and March when it's been so cold we wore many layers and shivered.

    Make sure you have: sunglasses, sunhat, sunblock. Even if it's not hot, you'll need them. There are no mosquitoes or bad insect life to worry about, except the deerflies in Salt Creek, and sometimes horseflies that like human flesh. If you have dry skin, bring A LOT of moisturizer/cream. If the wind is blowing, you'll have alkali dust and sand all over yourself every night when we get back.

  6. Clothing
    See above. Also bring a sweatshirt and sweat pants just in case, or a warm jacket. It could indeed be cold and windy, you just never know, and when the sun goes down it gets cold FAST. Bring comfy and warm lounging clothes for the evenings when we'll visit each others rooms or sit on the patio and talk and eat and watch movies and read and maybe play music or games or something. Bring enough clothes that if you have to wear something new every day, you have enough; sweaty clothes full of alkali are NOT something you want to put back on.

    Unless you feel like seriously hard hiking, tennis shoes with good tread will be fine. Bring sandals or light shoes for in the car and hanging out if you want, we all stop and put on sturdy shoes before going off to explore, but they're too heavy for driving around.

  7. Cars
    Often different people do different things, which means multiple vehicles going out for the day. Some activities require a 4 wheel drive, some don't. Doug and I will always have a 4x4 that we rent from Farrabee's for a couple of days, so that's an option.. Everything you do in DV you have to drive to. Whoever rides with you will chip in for gas, or if you ride with someone else throw some money at them...gas at Stovepipe Wells has suddenly gotten affordable, and it's really cheap in Beatty, so that's good. Every car that's going out will have to fill up every morning, just in case, and maybe more often than that.

    Your GPS WILL NOT BE ACCURATE in DV, we'll be going on a lot of roads that are wrong or not marked. We'll have maps, every car will have one, use them.

    If it's over 100 degrees, bring a tire pressure gauge and use it! the air in your tires will expand in the heat and if you don't let off some air, you WILL have a blowout. This is the voice of experience.

  8. Bathrooms
    Boys are indifferent, but girls (as Jenny says) just wanna have flush. A lot of the places we go will have no bathrooms, others might have chemical toilets, which may or may not be too nasty to use. Ew. Just be prepared for this if we go out on a three or four hour drive, you'll be drinking a lot of water. Trust me, I know where every flush toilet is in DV.

  9. Other stuff to bring

  10. So what will we be doing?
    DV is about 200 miles long and 150 wide. We will be 30 miles to the east, just over the NV border, and will have to drive to everything we want to do. Much of it is on paved roads, or very close to them. Some things (like the Racetrack or Titus Canyon, if it's open) are only for the 4x4s and high-clearance vehicles; other things (many of them) can be done in a regular car. Hiking is not obligatory, but is fun, and there are many not-too-hard hikes (like Mosaic Canyon) that are worth a little effort.

    Some choices: Scotty's Castle (closed til 2019!), the Racetrack (hard to get to, but a huge playa with rocks that move by themselves, honestly), many beautiful places to hike (short and long), Titus Canyon (dinosaurs, lead and tin mining towns, petroglyphs and beautiful rocks, but a 26 mile one-way hair-raising drive.) Plus lots of stuff to drive to, pull in the parking lot and look at, and amazingly beautiful and colorful scenery everywhere. And that's not half of what there is to do there, truly. Oh, and the ghost town of Rhyolite, with the old buildings, the kitties, the bottle house with the ceramic village in the yard, and the artists' colony. (the kitties grew up and found new homes, but were happy and healthy last we heard.)

    We'll be getting up each morning at a time we agree on the night before, going off and doing whatever people want, meeting back up toward dinner time, and hanging out together in the evenings and sharing adventures. This is a do-what-you-want vacation, and if what you want to do is chill at the motel and not actually go anywhere, that's fine too.

    I'll bring a bunch of guidebooks, and most of us have been there before and can describe stuff that might be done. Going off by yourself is fine, provided that people know in general where you are and when to expect you back (we can't call you if we start worrying). You can also be dropped off by people who will promise to pick you back up at a designated time, and if it's me, I'll be there.

    Bring a camera, you'll be sorry if you don't. We'll share pics afterwards. Oh, and there's great bicycling, if you can get your bike down there. Hundreds of miles.