Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Death Valley Rain

After visiting the Grand Canyon, we had one more night in Sedona, AZ before heading further north and west. We intended to leave Thursday morning and visit Hoover Dam along our way to Las Vegas, NV. We ended up leaving later than we'd have liked, however, in part due to my insistence on stopping at one more pottery house (Kacina House) before leaving town. I guess it was worth it, I bought a few more things there. We also stopped for sandwiches that we'd take as our lunch from a shop called Sedona Memories. Those sandwiches, however, won't be our best memories of Sedona. They were just too huge. We each had a few bites of ours and ended up throwing most of it away just because we couldn't eat it--and it wasn't all that good to begin with.

But with all our (my) delaying, it was getting dark by the time we reached Hoover Dam so we didn't really see much. But the drive towards it from the Arizona side is just beautiful. On the other hand, traffic there isn't any fun--though it should improve by the time the new bridge opens up. We drove over the dam and onwards towards Las Vegas, which wasn't far.

Friday for jumu'ah we went to the Omar Haikal Academy, which had been recommended to me by someone who used to live there. Afterwards we went back to Hoover Dam to see it properly, and were there nearly until dusk. From there we went back towards Vegas and continued on towards a small town called Pahrump, NV.

The plan for Saturday was to visit Death Valley National Park, but we wanted to stay somewhere closer to the park than Las Vegas, and we actually had a hard time finding a hotel. But we stayed at a fairly decent place in Pahrump, and for the first time on our trip took part in the complimentary breakfast. (No pork served this time.)

On Saturday we drove up to Death Valley, and through it. One of the first places I was able to take off that new winter coat I'd bought. It was chilly in Death Valley (after all, it was December) but not like the other places we'd been. While I definitely preferred the Grand Canyon, Death Valley was certainly an interesting place to see. The mountains jut out of the landscape at crazy angles--you can see the lines of the different types of rocks, but it's all turned to an angle. And the colors were just shocking. And then there were sand dunes right in the middle--just weird, and alienesque. The colors and scale of the Grand Canyon, just the sheer immensity of it, keeps it at the top of my list.

On our way out of Death Valley we encountered some heavy fog, and even rain. But then we had a decision to make--after Death Valley, where to go? We had originally planned to travel north, towards Bishop, CA, but they were getting pretty heavy snow, so we took a turn south, went around towards Bakersfield, and then up north towards Sacramento. We actually stopped for dinner in Fresno, CA, but wanted to get as far north as we could, so made it 3 more hours to Sacramento, where we stopped for the night.

I've got to say, I saw some parts of California that day that I had never imagined could exist--the weirdest looking cultivated hills, for example, and driving for miles and miles in rainy deserts. It was strange. But thereafter everything was pretty much as expected. So Saturday night we stayed in Sacramento, CA, and Sunday went north from there. More to come...

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