We stayed four nights in Lake Isabella because we had to wait for the tyres to be delivered. The KOA site there was, at first glance, a very sad and barren site, but we knew there would be hot showers and on closer inspection there was a bar! (Woo Hoo!)
We then realised that the trees on the site were just coming in to leaf and in a couple of weeks the place would look much more inviting. The decoration about the place was quite quirky, with various old fashioned kitchen equipment and cowboy boots nailed to the fences and there was, yet again, an excellent outdoors cooking facility. We couldn’t drive anywhere until we had the new tyres, so we spent a couple of days lazing around, cleaning out Camel and fixing stuff. We even ordered a pizza in the bar, which was a massive 16 inches across and fed us both for lunch and dinner.
We had an interesting chat with the guy behind the bar, who was also in charge of cooking, answering the phone, serving in the shop and booking people in. It turned out that the area used to survive on mining a range of minerals, including uranium ore, but when that ended it became a retirement community. He said that nowadays a lot of the relatives of the retirees live there, mainly because property was so cheap. He is married with a young child and, due to him having ADHD and his wife being dyslexic, he is very worried about his child’s prospects at school and was wondering about homeschooling. I suggested that he might give the schools a chance first and then step in if it all goes pear-shaped.
On the Monday, we finally got Camel’s new boots, at a cost a bit less than it would have been in the UK. The tyre place thoughtfully provide some old cinema seats so you can sit back and watch the show. After a pretty short time the new tyres were on and we were ready to drive around the lake. In Lake Isabella town there was sign telling people what to do in case the dam ruptured. When I looked it up on Wikipedia, it turned out that the dam was inadequate to support the reservoir and that the Corp of Engineers would only allow the lake to be kept at a maximum of sixty per cent full.
As we drove around, it was painfully obvious that the lake was nowhere near that full. It was a very pretty drive, but nothing like the town’s webpage would have you believe.
When we headed to the bar after supper that evening (ironically to shelter from the threatened rain) the locals told us that they had been experiencing a very long drought, that the snows had not come that winter and so they were really in need of some rain.
On top of that, upstream from the lake water was being extracted for irrigation.
Despite the drought, it was a real pleasure to get out of the desert for a bit and to rest our eyes on some greenery. The wind was also a bit feisty and Tim, finally, got a chance to fly his kite.
On Tuesday we said goodbye to Lake Isabella and headed off to Las Vegas, via Death Valley (it seemed apt, as we had been to Hell in Norway). The hundred and fifty miles to the park took us through some beautiful scenery.
We decided that we needed a break from desert camping, so it seemed logical to make this particular park experience a day trip. It was spectacular as we entered the park via two five thousand foot high ridges and then plunged down to the lowest point on the continent.
We reached nearly two hundred feet below sea level, not quite the two hundred and fiftyish below at the lowest point, but it sure had our ears popping.
At first the scenery was much like the rest of the Mojave desert we had experienced, but as we reached the middle the terrain was brutal, virtually devoid of any vegetation, although there had been rain recently, which had washed out several roads and there were flowers blooming in even the most desiccated areas.
The winds were blasting away so strongly I had to struggle to open my door and you could see clouds of dust thickening the air.
We were pleased to see this orange Discovery two and we ended up following a British Defender, complete with right hand drive and British number plate.
We had to find out their story, so we followed them into a rest area (yeh, I know, it was a bit stalkerish) and met two friendly Americans who had bought the vehicle from a fellow American who had imported it.
As it was over twenty five years old, they could use it, as vehicles over that age do not have to conform to current USA emission standards. They had driven over a hundred thousand miles over the last few years in the car and were very well set up for wild camping, especially with their pop up roof tent, a very rare sight in the USA.
The beauty of the park was undeniable, but after driving through it for several hours, I was more than happy to leave, as it all became too much. We could have stayed at the one hotel in the park at Furnace Creek
which looked quite inviting, but at $600 or so a night, a bit steep.
The road to Las Vegas was long and straight and almost as harsh as Death Valley. I was a little surprised to see this sign
as well as this one.
For once, the warning signs about blown dust became a reality,
but,luckily for us, only over a fairly short stretch of road. We stopped for diesel near an Airforce base and were amused to hear revile sounded at four thirty in the afternoon, not a bad knocking off time for the troops. We had decided to stay in Las Vegas, as it was not a weekend and so the hotel rooms were relatively cheap. I managed to book a couple of nights at the Palace Station Casino for under a hundred dollars. It’s a barn of a place, just off the strip with nice little rooms that all border on one of their several swimming pools.
The slot machines in the casino go on for ever and there are numerous ways to lose your money, from baccarat to pontoon to one sad roulette table to (even) bingo (although Tim tells me it is unlikely they will say things like ‘two fat ladies, eighty eight’). They do the usual thing here of providing free drinks if you gamble, provided by women in short, skimpy outfits. I was a little shocked at the advanced age of some of said ladies and the dresses looked awful on them. I then looked at the average age of the punters and thought they probably liked the waitresses, even so…..
I did a very brave thing while I was in Las Vegas… I went to get my hair cut. The little salon in the hotel only charged thirty dollars for a cut, so I thought I would give it a go. The hairdresser was lovely (and she did a good job!) and we ended up having a long chat. She told me the story of her dad. He was conscripted to fight in world war two at a very young age and did not want to go so he shot himself in the foot to get out of it. The authorities were not fooled (no surprise there, then as he managed to hit the bit between his toes where it would do the least damage) and they just waited until he got out of hospital and conscripted him anyway. He was only about twenty but he left a pregnant wife behind him. While he was in the UK, he met a lovely land girl in a pub, fell in love and married her. She ended up pregnant but he was scared about having to fight, so he left her and stowed away on a war bride ship back to the USA (apparently having a great time bonking everything in sight, apart from the sailors and the ship’s cat)(or so he claimed). When he got back to the states he ended up in prison for either going AWOL or accidentally causing his uncle to plunge to his death during a fight, depending on who you listened to in the family. (It seems that this guy had a very loose grasp of the truth.) In the meantime, the poor girl in the UK was expecting to come to the USA as a war bride and wrote several times to his mother’s address. It was his bad luck that his first wife was staying there, so she wrote to the English wife to tell her to give up on the louse. Unbelievably, the first wife stayed with him, although it looks like he not only committed bigamy with someone else but was conducting an affair with another woman while his wife was at church. She finally found out and dumped the rat, after giving him a chance to mend his ways, give up the other woman and become a good Christian. (Fat Chance!) My hairdresser knew about her half brother as her mother always got them to remember him in their prayers from a very early age. The boy that was born to the English wife finally found out about his American father when he applied for his first passport and then all the story came out, including the fact that he was adopted by the man he thought was his natural father. He eventually managed to track down his half sisters and they now see each other regularly. He even brought his mother over to meet the rest of the family! Ratbag father married his bit on the side and was with her for many years, but he eventually died miserably in a care home, totally neglected by his wife. It seems that his karma finally caught up with him. I was really glad that the hairdresser was so slow in cutting my hair, as I was desperate to hear the end of the story.
On Thursday we went out to buy Tim some cowboy boots, (as he finds them very comfortable and they last for ages) (no, he didn’t buy a hat to match, nor one of those cool coats that the gun slingers used to wear).
We managed to find the same place we went to several years back when we were last in Vegas with our kids and friends Pat and Dave and Tim managed to pick up a very nice plain dark brown pair. I liked this tee shirt
In the evening we decided we would walk to the Strip to have a bite of supper and a drink, as it was very close to our (economy) hotel. Of course it WAS very close to us, but there is no way to get across the railway on foot. We ended up walking along a very seedy road, wishing we had caught a taxi to get us across the bridges. We didn’t get mugged and we passed an interesting couple of places
although I can’t say I was the least bit tempted to go and watch the ‘Puppetry of the Penis’. Yuck!
We finally found a crossing and there we were, right in the heart of the strip. It was flashy and busy and really not our ‘cup of tea’. We mistakenly thought the food and drink would be cheap, so we went into the Venetian, admiring the canals and mock Italian styling.
We finally found a place called The Public House that was nothing like a British pub. When my mum heard that we were staying in Las Vegas she warned me that we should not spend all our money on gambling, not that we ever gamble. You don’t need to do that to get broke; a small ‘hard’ cider and a small white wine cost $25, two and a half times as much as in our hotel! Blow that, we thought, so we caught a taxi and went back to the Irish bar in our hotel, where Tim supped contentedly on pretty good Guinness. The taxi driver was very interesting too; she was originally from Ethiopia and had moved to the States seventeen years ago. As we passed the Trump Hotel, I asked her what she thought of Trump and she said he was mean. No votes for him there, then.