The road to Hell… well, the hottest place on Earth

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I left Yosemite with great reluctance. It is a fantastic place, exceptionally beautiful and I was incredibly lucky to get snowfall on my brief visit. My next port of call and where I write this from is the hottest place on Earth, Death Valley. My journey here, though, proved difficult, to say the least. I was happily driving along when I saw a sign in the road – Road to Death Valley closed ahead due to flooding. What the sign omitted was two precious words – Follow Detour. So I asked my sat nav for an alternative route. it showed me one – 512 miles. I was only 50 miles away.
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Now, I have had issues with my Sat Nav. While staying in Yosemite, I typed in Glacier Point, one of the major attractions. Didn’t exist. When I was coming here, I asked it for Stovepipe Wells, which has been here since 1850. That didn’t exist either. So I looked to my trusty Sygic App on my phone which showed both these places. But back to my non-existent detour.
I could not see a detour from where I was. The sign looked suspiciously old, too, so I decided to forge ahead. I drove for another hour and saw another sign. Still I forged on. Now, even I will concede that this was incredibly stupid but at the time, neither sat nav could show me an alternative to a 512 mile detour. So, my logic went like this:
1. The road is closed;
2. I hired a 4×4;
3. I’ll go cross country when I get to the bit that was flooded.
Now, this is actually what happened. I got to a blocked road. I looked on my Sygic app and found an off-road trail and followed it until I rejoined the highway later. Result!

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Well, yes but that’s in hindsight. What happened at the time was this:
I had plenty of fuel but for how long, I wondered?
The off-road had some very bumpy moments. I very quickly found myself in a wilderness with no visible sign of civilisation in sight. Even though I could see on the sat nav that I was not far from a road, it’s still a closed road and I couldn’t see it.
In two hours it would be pitch back. If I drove for another hour and had to turn around again – I’d rented a car not a hovercraft, after all and what if the flood was still active? – I’d be driving off-road for over an hour in the dark.
At one point, an almighty thump came from the back of the car. I stopped, took a look, saw nothing, got back in. Now, to get out of this car you have to completely stop it and remove the key. So, having got back in,  I turned the engine on, released the brake and put it into drive. Oh, how merrily the wheels did spin and so still I stayed! I think I swore. I began to wonder why the car, so capable up until now, had decided it no longer wanted to play at being a big ruff-n-tuff outdoorsman.

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And then I realised it had dropped out of Sports mode and back into normal drive mode. I pressed the button, rocked the car backwards then forwards and we were away. ‘Momentum is your friend,’ I repeated for the next 20 minutes. I rejoined the road. For thirty miles I zoomed along free as a bird and then hit the part that had been flooded. The road was broken and buckled like scrunched up paper. I went into Sports mode again and got through.
Eventually, I found Stovepipe Wells even though the sat nav tried to send me up the wrong road. It was just dark by the time I arrived. I had left Yosemite at 9.30am and arrived at Stovepipe Wells at 6.30pm exhausted.

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Now here’s the thing. I can’t, or won’t, drive that road again. But all the shots after that one of the tree were taken on this journey. If you’ve ever seen the film Koyaanisqatsi, you’ll recognise some of these landscapes. For me, they are thrilling (the landscapes, I mean) but I’ll repeat again a point I made in an earlier post on PCH1. No photograph can do these vistas justice. They are on a scale impossible to capture on film. They stretch as far as one can see and appear to have no end. A strip of film cannot capture their grandeur. Once again, this is a place you must come and see for yourself.

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On that note, I’ve just extended my stay here in Stovepipe Wells. I leave on Sunday for three nights in Vegas. Then home.

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Take a look at more of my work at www.billblack.co.uk