March 10th, 2008

full steam ahead

I swear the planes are coming right for us

Standing in Fry's car park in Vegas is scarey because the planes really are coming right for us - coming in to land they feel like they're ten foot overhead though sbisson promises a couple of hundred. also scarey; the video slot machine facade - can't work out if you can actually gamble on it but I think you can - and the idiot on 65 north who thinks the cruise control on his Ford means he can take both hands off the wheel. the usual Fry's experience with none of the cameras I wanted to try charged up, but a salesman who was on the ball enough to dig out returned units that have batteries in and to find the Casio EX-V8 everyone else said was out of stock. 8mp 7x zoom and not too dissimilar from the one I dropped, so we shall see how it does on our trip up to the bay area.

We had a lovely day with Pixie yesterday once we worked out that the Ritz Carlton in Henderson is actually on Lake Las Vegas. this is even more ludicrously fake than the strip and more noticeably for being in the desert. beautiful view across the lake to the strip and we had breakfast by the lake, then had a high score on shopping at the Primm outlets, a delicious dinner at Shibuya (tempura crab legs much easier to manage and butter ponzu dipping sauce is yum, as is scallop sashimi in mango mint sauce and sea bass steamed with black tapioca and pop rocks on the mangos sashimi and apricot miso and plum creme brulee; everyone at Shibuya is so sweet and it was lovely to share one of our favourite places with Pixie. we got to introduce her to Cirque du Soleil at O as well, which was as stunning as ever. We went to the early show which doesn't have an interval; worth knowing for next time. thanks to serendipity for putting us both in the same place for the day ;)

So I scored yummy pastries from Bouchon, sbisson scored coffee from Bean and leaf and we're driving straight line roads out into the desert, watching the snow on Mount Charleston and the distant snow of the Sierras and the folded colours of the nearer mountains advancing on us like monstrous fins.
full steam ahead

Lowest point of our journey; I use my fifth hand

190 feet below sea level, to be precise... death valley today was much more like expectations with temperatures up around 84 and a deep blue sky; in brighter light the greens and pinks of Artists Palette are more intense (look right at the bottom of the second dip in the road for a view up a canyon to coloured rocks). golden canyon glows, zabriskie point flows away in folds of rock to the salt flats of badwater. from one angle a chunk of basalt beside the road looks like a head and shoulders. there are yellow flowers almost everywhere and a few purple and white, but heading out past Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells and the dunes the valley is carpeted in yellow. the dunes are carved in ramparts below the steep curves. beyond Stovepipe Wells we turn up a teeth-rattling gravel track to Mosaic Canyon. after a calf-wrenching uphill gravel path the canyon narrows so you're single file and walking on smooth polished marble. at first I thought the park service has reinforced the walls but it's natural aggregate of rock and marble, studded with colour. the marble is smooth and curved and at one point the easiest way to go up a steep slide was to turn sideways and brace with my back and feet; ah, Simon said, your fifth hand.
The road out to Lone Pine is dramatic; a climb to 5;000 feet from sea level, a long sweeping drop down to the bottom again into a salt pan than runs like a river, passing sand dunes blown into one corner and striped strata of rock - then up again in another set of hairpins, passing joshua trees silhouetted against the sunset and dust on the track that hangs in the air long after a vehicle has rattled along it, and looping round to a vista that lays out the whole valley from dunes to salt to peaks. The road keeps on climbing into the dusk and then down to the freeway and although we thought we might push on to Bishop, the lights and motels and restaurants in Lone Pine drew us in. Excellent dinner at the Merry go Round; steak and lamb and quite delicious green beans and a very drinkable local Mohave Red ale. And now for a little late night writing and then for Mono Lake in the morning...
full steam ahead

Someone put mountains there in the night

Woke up, looked out of the window, saw a mountain; knew it had to be there, we drove down it but we hadn't actually seen it. and then we walked out and saw the Sierras on the other side of the road, striped with snow and cresting at Mount Whitney, the 'highest mountain in the lower 48th'. cinnamon buns from one cafe, latte from another and next time we come there will be a trail up to the arch that you can see mount Whitney through.