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Hottest Place on Earth – Ever!

Anybody know where the highest temperature ever recorded on the face of our planet happens to be located?

Well, here is your first hint.  We visited this place on May 14th and 15th.  It was hot then, however, no where near the record 134 degrees Fahrenheit that was recorded there on 7/10/1913 at a place called Furnace Creek.

Honestly, this is one of those parks that we were going to just because its “on the list”.  We didn’t have any real desire to go there, however, its not too far out of the way from the route to Las Vegas, our next stop.  So, what the heck.  Lets go check it out.

Big surprise, we had a blast there.  In fact, we ended up spending two days exploring this place.  Easy to do as it is such a large park, covering 3.4 million acres,  ranking as the largest park in the lower 48.

Know the answer now?

For those who don’t yet know, the next clue is that this place receives less than two inches of rain per year.

Still wondering?

Ok, next clue is that in 2001 this place went 154 consecutive days with a high temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Alright, last (big) clue, the give-away, is that the lowest spot in North America is found here at 282 feet below sea level!  Now you’ve got it, right?

Interestingly, that lowest point sits in the shadow of Telescopic Peak at 11,049 feet above sea level.  Quite a contrast.  One of many found throughout this amazing park.

IMG_0021The vast majority of Death Valley National Park is located along the southeastern border of California.  A small section of the park is actually in Nevada’s Amargosa Desert region where we chose Longstreet Inn Casino & RV Park in Aramgosa Valley, NV as our home for three nights during our visit here.  Its only about 35 miles from the Furnace Creek Visitors Center within the park and was adequate, basically a large parking lot that could probably hold a hundred RVs.  We were one of no more than five in the place so it worked out just fine.  (And, in case you are wondering, we did not gamble at all cause we are too cheap!)

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We found this beauty standing in the parking lot at the RV Park…interesting, huh?  Area must be big into diary ranching?

 

The initial ride into the park and to the Furnace Creek Visitors Center was so beautiful.

A pleasant surprise for us.  Much more beautiful than we expected.  Huge mountains of various colors, sand dunes, salt flats, just incredible scenery.

Our discussion with a Park Ranger at the visitors center got us oriented. We chose to go as far into the park as needed to see those things that peaked our interest this first day, hoping to minimize the drive time on the second day’s visit.

The first stop (and it was not easy to drive right past some of these places) was 45 miles away.  I told you this was a big place.  It actually brought us out of the park and back into Nevada just a few miles past the small section of the park located there.

There was a small sign on the left side of NV RT 374 hinting at the entrance to Titus Canyon Road.  Not very noticeable and simply dirt, washboard dirt at that.  You see, the Ranger suggested that we might have some fun with our Jeep if we went off-road for this 27 mile one-way drive through the canyon.  High-clearence vehicles only and one-way because the canyon is so narrow at points that the Jeep barely fit through.  What a blast!

Of course, some yahoo in a (likely, a rental) car thought they could do this too.  We had a good laugh as they went flying by us (we had stopped so Siobhan could get pictures of some flowers) on their way into the canyon.  Only a short distance further, we saw them making mini-K-turns, trying to turn around as it must have finally dawned on them that they were not going to make this trip in a car!

This was our first true off-road experience in the Jeep and it was so much fun!  We got to see places that must others that come to the park just can not get to.  And we got to experience that rush of adrenaline that only occurs on epic adventures. You know, the ones that you commit to at the beginning, wonder why you did that during the adventure as you contemplate your chances of survival and then cant wait to tell all your friends about once you make it back in one piece.  Most of this ride was just a fun experience being out in the backcountry.  A portion of it, however, certainly got our hearts pumping.  The best way to describe this to you is this.  Siobhan was in the passenger seat and we were climbing one of the peaks on the route.  The edge of the road, only a foot or two from Siobhan’s side of the Jeep, had a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to the canyon floor.  I could tell Siobhan was a bit uneasy as she got really quiet and her breathing seemed to stop.  No problem for me as I was feeling very secure in the drivers seat on the inside of the turn with a nice solid rock wall climbing hundreds of feet above me.  When Siobhan let out a loud “ahhhhhhh…..”, I knew she was scared.  When she stomped her feet on the floor and literally stood up inside the Jeep, leaning completely over me trying to get to the drivers side of the Jeep, it was obvious that she was truly afraid.  Her head and shoulders were on my side of the vehicle, she wanted out of that passenger seat.  Can’t say I blame her.  There was a very long drop and from her seat, she could not even see a road.  Lots of decent size rocks to climb around or over, exciting to say the least!  Once we completed the climb and started the decent into the canyon, I got my taste of what Siobhan experienced now that I was on the exposed side of the road most of the time.  Exhilarating. (Limited pics though, both my hands were on the wheel!)

Driving through the canyon was a totally different feeling with the canyon walls stretching high above us as we could practically touch both walls right outside the Jeep windows.  ar above us as we drove through spaces just barely wide enough for us to fit through.  Really cool place.  And that was just the first stop.

The next stop was another 24 miles further down the road to Ubehebe Crater.  This hole in the ground is 600 feet deep and more than half a mile wide.  It resulted from a Maar Volcano created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the depths reached ground water causing an explosion.

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The belief is that this crater was created within the last three hundred years.  Awe-insiring view from the edge looking into this crater.  It displays a wide range of colors that hopefully you will be able to see in the pics. And check out the info on the last slide regarding dehydration.  Interesting that we found it in the bathroom at the closed Grapevine Ranger Station, the one located nearest Scotty’s Castle which is closed due to a mud slide that occurred last year.

After 48 miles back toward our starting point of Furnace Creek, we arrived at our third stop for the day, Stovepipe Wells.  This is a very small village within the park that consists of a general store, hotel, cabins, a gas station and a saloon!

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We walked around a bit, shopped in the store for souvenirs and filled up the gas tank before continuing on our way back toward Furnace Creek and the park exit.

Then a quick stop at Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes to observe them before making our final stop of the day at Harmony Borax Works interpretative trail.  I’ll bet many of you remember the 20-mule-team covered wagons that became the symbol of borax soap many years ago.  Well, that advertising slogan was all part of the borax mining efforts here in Death Valley where, at its peak, the Harmony Borax Works employed 40 men who produced three tons of borax daily.  Additionally, back in the day, Death Valley was mined for all kinds of ores including gold, silver, antimony, copper, lead, zinc, and tungsten.  This all started in 1883 and essentially ended around 1915 although some limited mining operations continued through 1994 when Death Valley was established as a national park.

Day two in the park started with a trip back to the Furnace Creek area where you turn onto Badwater Road for the 17 mile drive to the lowest spot in North America, Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level.  Yeah, this is the spot where that 134 degree temp was recorded.  The sun beats down on the white/silvery salt basin all day and the mountains surrounding the basin hold in the heat so it gets steamy quickly.  We walked out quite a ways before reaching our limit and heading back to the Jeep.  On the way, we could see a sign painted on a rock overlooking the parking area indicating where sea level is…pretty interesting perspective.  Maybe you can spot this in one of the following pics.

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On the drive back toward Furnace Creek, we stopped for a short and easy hike to the Natural Bridge.  Only one mile round trip and relatively flat but hot!  Fun to get out into the canyon and stretch our legs after lots of sitting while driving around.

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Next was a drive through a one-way loop named Artists Palette, named for the amazing colors in the various layers of rock formations.  And another hike into another canyon but we are just going to show you pics rather than trying to describe it….

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Our final stop was at Zabriskie Point.  This spot may present the most spectacular view in the entire park and its only a short walk up a paved path.  The view includes Badwater Basin and its surrounding mountains.  Incredible colors that change as the sun slowly moves across the sky.  What a show!

This park was such a pleasant surprise.  So glad we went and had the time to return for a second day.  We are guessing that they won’t all turn out this way but we are more likely to make the effort to see the next park that is “just on the list” after such a wonderful experience here.

ttyl,

K&S

 

Family Visit

Our eldest niece (22 years old), Jennifer, lives in Scottsdale, AZ.  We had made plans with her a couple of weeks earlier and tonight was the night we were scheduled to meet for dinner.  Jenn is working on her Masters degree while interning so she is really busy. And we had not seen her since summer of 2016 so we were really looking forward to it.

We rolled into Tempe mid-afternoon, set up camp in the Apache RV Resort in downtown and got ready for dinner out (yeah!) with Jenn and one of her friends, Cheyenne.  We met at Claim Jumpers in Tempe, a new place for all of us.  It has an interesting and welcoming ambience with friendly people and good food.  We got a chance to catch up with Jenn, enjoyed meeting her friend Cheyenne and shared a few good laughs!

Great visit.  But, Siobhan really wanted to see Jenn’s apartment so we made arrangements to meet her there in the morning before we moved on to our next destination.  Beautiful place.  Since we were close, we checked out the arts district in “Old Scottsdale” too.  Here’s some pics…

Ttyl,

K&S

Nature’s Health Check

We went for a hike one day while at Hot Springs National Park, one of the summit trails that leads from the Gulpha Gorge campground to the Observation Tower atop Hot Springs Mountain.  We’d spent too many days in Red Bay by this time so we decided to make our hike a bit more challenging by connecting a couple of trails together to add some distance and a little more climbing.  Of course, this also got us to be in a somewhat more remote location on the mountain.

It was a beautiful day, about 80 degrees and not too humid.  The wind was blowing just enough to keep the bugs at bay and the sun was able to shine through the trees in enough spots to keep us just warm enough.  The trail started with a quick climb from the creek bed to the first trail junction.  From here, we took the “path least followed” to extend the hike.  Sounded like a good idea at the time.

After about thirty minutes of hiking, we began to feel comfortable with our surroundings and I started to let my guard down just a bit.  We had been warned to alert for wildlife and from the jump I was on high alert.  However, thirty minutes into the two hour hike, I was feeling pretty comfortable.  The sun was keeping us warm and the breeze was doing its job too.  The path was two to three feet wide in most places and generally stoney too.  The trees were marked with various colors of paint spots to indicate which trail you were on.  This specific trail meandered along just below a ridge line, maybe 50 feet below the ridge with a steep drop off through the woods down to the river below on our right.

The trail alternated between open spaces and more densely wooded sections.  Just as we came out of one of those wooded sections into a clearing, the sun shining brightly on the trail, I heard leaves rustle on my left, the uphill side of the trail and then almost simultaneously noticed a sudden quick movement of a three to four foot long snake coming right at me!

I instinctively jumped back away from the high-side of the trail, not thinking about the drop-off just a foot or two away but of the snake coming toward me.

This is where Nature’s Health Check comes in.  In that moment, probably about 3 to 5 seconds, I learned that my adrenaline production is fine and my reaction time under extreme stress is still super fast.  I was outta there in a heart beat.  Oh yeah, my heart was working just fine too!

Now remember I said the trail was two to three feet wide.  Well, I was walking in the middle of the trail when this occurred so there could not have been more than a couple of feet from where I was standing to the edge of that steep drop off the other side of the trail.  When I got startled (read that as scared), I jumped back and started falling off the trail down ledge.  Good thing for me that Siohan’s reflexes are really quick too.  She was only a step or two behind me and saw what was going on.  She grabbed the shoulder strap on my Camelbak and pulled me back onto the trail and away from the snake.

I told her it was a good thing I went first so I could protect her from whatever we may encounter out there.  She smiled and said, yeah, I got you.  (Good thing for me!)

So, nature has a way of testing us and I’ve gotten all the natural physical exams I’ll need for the rest of this trip.  We’ll see.

We all have our fears.  For some, its heights.  For others, its speaking in front of large groups of people.  For me, its snakes…

ttyl

K&S

 

 

We’re off…

Our RV Adventure has begun!

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On April 1st we departed Fort Myers (a few hours later than planned, more on that in a minute) and made it to our first stop in Eustis, FL.

We recently joined a club called Boondockers Welcome which is a group of RVers that allow other RVers to park on their property free of charge for a night or two while traveling through town.  Last night was our first experience actually using the club and we are hoping that each club member IMG_7843is as gracious a host Jack.  He greeted us with a smile when we arrived, showed us to a beautiful shaded area to park the rig and allowed us to connect to his electricity so we could run our A/C.  This spot sure beats the Walmart parking lot we thought of staying in!

Also, for those of you living in the Mount Dora area, you might want to stop by Santa’s Farm to get your Christmas tree this year.  IMG_7846You see, Jack owns Santa’s Farm and sells Christmas trees during the holiday season.  If you do, please say hi to Jack for us and let him know we sent you!

Our reason for stopping here was to visit Dad who lives in Mount Dora, just one town away.  We planned to join him for dinner at the restaurant in his community at 6PM but we got a late start and didn’t get to Dad’s until 7:30.  Of course, by then we needed a different place for dinner and decided on Jeremiah’s on Highland St.  The food was great and service was good too.  Since we know a few of you plan to visit Mount Dora soon, we wanted to share this recommendation with you.  Can’t go wrong here.

About that late departure…we got out of the house and over to the RV to hook up the Jeep right on schedule.  We got the Jeep connected with no troubles but could not plug the electrical wires from the Jeep into the RV.  Oh sh**!  After nearly two hours trying to repair it, three zip ties had to suffice to hold the plug into the RV receiver.  Not ideal but it works.  We’ll get it repaired when we stop at the Tiffin factory next week but thats another story.

Thats it for now.

ttys

K&S

Maiden Voyage

We got our motorhome (MH) back on last Tuesday, brought it home to load up our gear and headed out on our maiden voyage.

This trip was about learning how this thing worked, not so much about traveling.  So, we stayed close to home, driving only 13 miles to Sanibel Island for a two-night stay at Periwinkle Park.  We had no troubles driving to and from the location and certainly did learn a lot about the MH over the two days but there is still lots more to learn.

More importantly, we had a blast!

After arriving, signing in, paying up ($55/night – ouch) and being led to our specific site, we set up camp.  This included positioning the MH “just so” between the trees and the concrete pad so as not to have the branches brushing against the side of the coach.  Then we extended the two slide-outs, deployed the auto-leveling system, hooked up the electric 50 amp service, the city water and the sewer.  All firsts for us and all accomplished with little trouble.  img_7122Ahh, success deserves a reward so we uncorked a nice bottle of champagne and relaxed for our first night in our new home on wheels.  img_7120

We brought our bikes and enjoyed a ride to the beach and around town.  Later, we met another couple who arrived in a MH that looks exactly like ours, same model, same year – what good taste they have!  They are from Massachusetts and we had a great time sharing our stories and learning from people that had more experience than we do.

img_7137We broke camp, drove back to the storage location, backed the MH into our spot and headed for home considering the trip a success.

We’ve already planned our next trip for this week.

Let us know if you have comments or questions.

Ttys,

K&S

Where To Begin?

Deciding which RV to buy is not so easy.  Trust me, we know.  More than once, we were convinced that we knew exactly which coach we wanted.  Ok, make that four times, to be exact.

First, it was a 36’ used Class-A coach at a price that was “too-good-to-be-true”.  We read all the stories about the high-pressure sales tactics of some RV dealers so we were prepared for it.  Not gonna happen to us, we were just looking.  Except it did!  On our first visit to a dealership we spent fifteen minutes talking with the salesperson about our future travel plans.  He agreed to show us a few of the coaches on his lot and within thirty minutes we had a signed contract in hand to purchase a used 36’ coach that we knew absolutely nothing about!  How the heck did that happen?  Fortunately, we included a three day for-any-reason revocation clause and got out of that deal quickly.

That experience left us feeling that a Class-A was just too big for us to drive (even though we had never driven one).  At the next dealership, we met a salesperson that had recently RVed through many of the National Parks who recommended a Class-C type RV no more than 27’ long.  That’s because many of the Parks limit RV length to 27’.  We had rented that type of RV on a recent visit to Colorado and were both comfortable driving it so we thought this is what we need.  Ahhh, but those little voices in our heads kept asking us if there would be enough space in there to spend eight months together in it.  And, we would still have to tow a car because even at 27’, its kinda too big to take to the grocery store on main street.

Next, we came across what is known as a Class-B or Class-B+ RV.  Its essentially a luxury conversion van that is easy to drive and eliminates the need for a tow vehicle since you could take it anywhere you would drive your car.  We thought, hey, we would have no problem driving this thing anywhere, even on the switchbacks in the mountains.  This is what we need!  And you can get them with either a gas or diesel engine.  But, Siobhan started wondering how we could put up with each other for eight months in such a small space.  I agreed.

Finally, we came full-circle.  We thought, wait just one minute.  We see plenty of people driving those Class A’s.  If they can do it, so can we.  We went for a test drive and had no problem driving a 34 footer.  Again, we felt confident that we landed on the right type of coach for us.

And after all that, the religious debate of gas vs diesel attacked us.  Could the gas-powered coach towing our Jeep get us through the mountain passes out west?  We bounced back and forth a number of times before we had talked to enough “experts” to decide, based on our needs, that gas-powered would do the trick.  (We wont really know, though, until we’ve actually been in the mountains for awhile.  Stay tuned for updates.)

Obviously, we’ve been around this track a few times now.  Each time, we felt like we landed on the right choice. Until, that is, the little voices in our heads had us challenging ourselves.  Are we really ready, did we make the right choice?  Well, since we actually purchased a Class-A coach this month, only time on the road will answer that question now.  We’ll keep you posted.

Let us know if you have any questions and thanks for following our story!

K&S  🚌

One Step Closer

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That took longer than we expected! No worries, though. We are now one step closer to our next adventure.

This weekend was all about taking delivery of the RV that we had yet to see. Just in case I hadn’t told you, a few weeks ago we signed the purchase order site-unseen. You see, after all the research we had done, we knew exactly what we wanted, saw it on the North Trail RV Center’s website, called to talk with a salesperson, made an offer and within an hour we had closed the deal. Of course, we had a caveat in the agreement in case the RV didn’t turn out to be as-advertised. You know, trust, but verify.

Anyway, we were very excited to see the RV in person, check it over, take it for a spin and head outta there. We couldn’t wait to get on the road for the brief trip to the RV storage facility that our RV (still working on a name – thanks for the many suggestions submitted so far) will call home for the next few months. But, hold on, not so fast….just a few things to do first…

For those of you who have purchased a house, you might have an idea of what this was like. We started with an introduction to our sales person, Kelly, who we had only spoken to on the phone a couple of times. He then introduced us to AJ, the person that was assigned to teach us all about the RV and its many systems (seriously, lots of systems to learn here, a/c, propane, hydraulics, electric, satellite, heating, automatic leveling, potable water, grey water, black water, sewage drainage and more). Going back to the buying-a-house analogy, consider this the final walkthru. We spent about two hours going through the 23 page Pre-purchase Inspection (PPI) checklist we had purchased from RVReviews.net. It’s a very thorough list of questions to assist novices like us in asking the right questions to be sure the RV is safe and completely ready to go.

AJ was great, very patient and knowledgable, answering all of our questions and providing invaluable insights along the way. When Kelly came back to check on our progress, we enlisted him to take us for a test drive where both of us got an opportunity to drive the new RV on the highway and back roads to get a real feel for it. The outcome of our very detailed inspection and test drives was a punch list of about 15 items to be repaired or adjusted before we completed the deal and headed for home. With this list compiled and the work underway, we were shuttled off (really, this place covers acres of land, largest dealer in Southwest FL with over $100MM in inventory) to do the financial stuff. Yeah, surprisingly, they actually wanted our money before they gave us the keys.

Kelly brought us over to meet Kim, the person that would handle the financial end of the deal. After the purchase contracts were reviewed, the many tax, title and registration forms signed, checks written and wire transfers completed, Kim said “Kevin & Siobhan, here are your keys, enjoy your new RV!”.

Then, the waiting. Not something that I’m good at, but, it takes time to fix these things. The punch list was being tackled by the various specialists from the dealership and they were doing a great job. It just took some time. Well, lots of time. We arrived at about 9 AM and didn’t actually drive away until 5:30 PM. Luckily, Kelly had mentioned that it could take three to six hours so Siobhan brought lunch and we made it through the day. Plenty of friendly employees to talk with in the RV parts store onsite as well as those working on our coach.

Finally, everything completed, it was time to go. Siobhan agreed to let me drive the RV while she followed in the rental car. Off to the storage facility to park this new home. Getting that lease completed turned out to be pretty simple and only took about half an hour. Once paid up, we where given a gate access code providing us with 7x24x365 access to our new toy.

We are happy to share these pictures to show you more about why we are so excited. This new home on wheels is gonna be a blast and we can’t wait to get on the road. However, our first excursion in our new RV is still at least six weeks away so we plan to share a few posts between now and then to tell you more about how we decided on this specific coach.

Please feel free to comment on this post, we would love to hear from you.

K&S