We forgot to mention Death Valley when we did our California post as we grouped it in with the more deserty Nevada but we looked it up and it is actually in California. Death Valley holds the record for the hottest recorded temperature on Earth which was given to us in Fahrenheit which was no use to us. Come on America, can’t we all get along and use Celsius? Anyway, it is so hot there that our camper van’s rental company wouldn’t insure or provide road side assistance if we entered it, but it was a good shortcut to Las Vegas from where we were so we weighed up our options and went anyway. When we got to the welcome centre we were told that the day was forecast for extreme heat so we were not supposed to leave the car at all. The anxiety of not being covered by insurance coupled with the rather drab landscape and extreme heat prompted us to push through to the other side as quickly as possible. It was uphill for what seemed like forever but the chunky gas guzzling beast of a van was up to the task and we made it onwards Nevada!
Rhyolite (A ghost town)
Due to the boom and bust of the big gold rush in the “Wild West” there are a lot of derelict towns that are completely abandoned and now lie in the middle of nowhere. One of these towns actually sits right on the border of California and Nevada where you come out of Death Valley and therefore gets an abundance of tourists. A Belgian artist called Albert Szukalski decided to use the space to display some of his unique sculptures inspired by the free spirit of the desert. It was really cool to see all the buildings that date back almost one hundred years even though they are all in ruins. It was also interesting that all that was left of a town that numbered in the thousands of people with hospitals and infrastructure such as electric lights and piped water has been whittled down to only a few buildings. Apparently a lot of the buildings were salvaged for building materials for nearby towns.
Heading down the desolate highway towards the fabulous Las Vegas we started to see some rather interesting stops by the side of the road. The one that caught our attention the most was the Alien Travel Centre which popped up because we were very close to Area 51. What caught our attention more was the fact that they group in brothels with hot sauce, pictures and souvenirs. We did stop there and get some stubby holders and mugs but passed on the chance to get bottles of hot sauce “signed” by the ladies in the brothel, tempting though as it may have been. The views of snow capped mountains hemming in the desert environment cleansed our minds after leaving.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? The only thing interesting that happened was the roller coasters. We also won $2 which won us $10 which won us $20 which we spent on food. We wanted to see Penn and Teller but they were off so we were recommended to see the “German David Copperfield”. It was OK I suppose. Vegas is a little overrated in our books.
Sean has a bit of an obsession with big power plants having read all about them obsessively when he was a kid. Therefore he was a bit over excited to get a tour of the Hoover Dam. It did turn out to be one amazing feat of engineering. Here are some of the more interesting facts:
- The engineers predicted that the amount of concrete used in the Hoover Dam would take 125 years to dry to they engineered a huge network of pipes that run through the concrete that carried water from a gigantic cooling plant. This allowed them to set the concrete in the 5 years it took to construct.
- Over a hundred people died during the building process.
- The giant diversion tunnels that cleared water from the construction site so they could build the dam took about half the total time of the project.
- Sean would go on but it is quite late and we need to get on with the post so we can sleep. Also it is just a dam.
Route 66 has been broken up, diverted and bypassed since the old days and it doesn’t really exist in a single segment anymore. Little segments still exist however, and we stumbled upon one on the way to the Grand Canyon. We also bought some breakfast cereal in that town and suddenly made the connection that the breakfast cereal that we had just got was called “Kix” and we were on route 66.
Next Stop: Arizona (and hopefully more)