Nights in the desert, at least Death Valley, can have temperatures of 100 degrees or more; we slept comfortably in what seemed to be 60 degrees. We get to Scotty’s Castle at 8a and they don’t open until 9a. There is a friendly older couple that offered to share a map of the castle’s surroundings with us. We were delighted, but then remembered over paying for our site last night and knocked on the door to talk to the ranger. She told us we could drive all the way back down to Furnace Creek. We told her to consider it a donation.
We walk up the short road to the car stable and then down around the house and up the hill. It would be a great place to live, but not somewhere I would want to clean – for free. Tours of the inside don’t start for another hour and we have dogs in the car so we leave. It seems two minutes later we are crossing the border into Nevada and the gas light comes on. There is a sign ahead letting us know there isn’t a gas station in front of us for another 68 miles, but back down Death Valley it would only be 44 miles. I would rather chance running out of gas in the direction we wanted to go instead of backtracking.
We make it through two mountain passes playing leapfrog with semi-trucks; I didn’t want to slow down if I didn’t have to so that momentum would carry us further. We make it to Big Pine and get 16.5 gallons of gas. Apparently our red zone carries 3 gallons, but that’s not something I want to try to risk again. Lesson learned – when somewhere offers you more expensive gas it’s worth it to fill your tank, not just get a few gallons. They know you’re going to need it.
We celebrate our successful arrival with our first order of gas station nachos with jalapenos, olives, sauerkraut, and banana peppers. We get some Dramamine for Piggy and head back to White Mountain Rd to see some Bristlecone pine trees – the oldest on Earth. The Cerenia the vet prescribed hadn’t helped her car sickness and 25mg of Dramamine didn’t help either. She’s getting better at being in the car on smooth flat roads, but bumpy and windy ones, our favorite, are still tough. Part of White Mountain Rd is still closed for the season so we weren’t able to find Methuselah this time, but are still able to hike around.
We head back into Big Pine to wash the car and Sparky has fun grumbling at the water as it hits the windows while listening to the Making Christmas song from Nightmare Before Christmas – the original Disney version. Driving through Bishop I notice a Bakkery, Erick Schat’s Bakkery, to be exact. I love carbs and love to eat; we pull over. We walk in and I take a picture to share with my readers. In the picture is a sign that says I can’t. An employee tells us it’s because someone tried to steal their cookie in the shape of a fish idea.
There are deli counters full of delectables, shelves stacked with cakes, and carts with breads, cookies, and jam. And this is just one side of the store. On the other side is where they bake the bread, slice it fresh for you, and have the day old discount bread for us. We get bread with mushrooms and focaccia and then get in line to buy a veggie sandwich – avocado, tomato, gouda, etc. on wheat bread with a pickle spear.
We debate skiing in Mammoth as we pass the ski lifts, but then we see the advertised hotel room prices – $98-$900 a night before taxes and quickly change our minds. A sign must’ve caught my eye and we detour to Panum Crater near Mono Lake. We unknowingly park near the dirt road instead of driving down it to the parking lot. This gives the dogs time to do their business and since we are the only ones there we let the dogs off their leashes. Piggy was fine with staying on the path, but we had to put Sparky back on his leash after he scaled the steep rocky edge.
In the middle of Mono Lake is Black Point, a volcano that erupted underwater and surfaces more as the water level drops. I would think this would be something to enjoy, it being unusual and all, but the locals tear it up and sprinkle it on the roads in winter to provide traction on the slippery surface. After Mono Lake we drive through Lee Vining before we realize we missed the turn for the Tioga Pass Mobil gas station restaurant, closed for the season, apparently a must eat place.
As we head north it seems all campsites are closed. It’s a good thing we had planned on showers tonight – campfire smoke only goes so far as a perfume, and are willing to pay for a hotel in Bridgeport. I didn’t realize we were willing to pay $85 though. Luckily we have a military discount and other places were charging $126. Next time we will drive to Twin Lakes Campgrounds 10 miles away in mid-May when they open and sleep there for $20 and then use their coin-operated showers.
We walk across the street to the Bridgeport Inn and after looking at their menu decide to take a look around. They have historic looking rooms, a fancy lobby, and a friendly bartender that was hoping to win the lottery – aren’t we all? We head across the street to Rhino’s bar with more budget/vegetable friendly options. We order jalapeño poppers, fried jalapenos and onions, and a veggie pizza. Caleb gets an Alaskan Amber beer on the house and we head back to the room to clean ourselves and our exploded applesauce.
I always appreciate showers more after going a few days without; washing all the sweat, dirt and odd smells away. We had made applesauce at home for the trip and with the elevation changes and no room in the Tupperware we were left with applesauce all over everything inside the cooler. After four showers, 2 people and 2 dogs, some dishwashing in the sink, and journaling we settle on the bed for an episode, or two, of Chopped. It’s a show where four chefs must use four different ingredients from a surprise basket to make three meals – appetizer, dinner, then dessert – each time with new basket items until one chef is left winning $10,000. A somewhat rude show, but that’s what I get for not reading instead.