We were about to start making our way to the land where the desert meets endless red sandstone formations; the part of the road trip that I had been eagerly waiting for! When someone thinks of Nevada, usually the first thing that comes to mind is Las Vegas. But one of Nevada's greatest gems lies beyond the flashy lights and slot machines.
The Valley of Fire, formed as sand dunes shifted around and then petrified into red sandstones during the time dinosaurs roamed the earth. As you watch the sun set the stones on 'fire', you can't believe you are witnessing something so magical.
The park is arranged so that once you enter you can drive down its one main road, looping around the entire Valley, and have the freedom to veer off, park, and explore wherever you please. We spent the entire day climbing up and down the massive rocks and trying to take in this mythical place that surrounded us. There might have been a moment when I rolled around in the sand for a bit, trying to reenact Lana Del Rey's 'Ride' music video (watch it if you haven't, its incredible and was filmed here). Okay, so maybe I didn't. But what I did do, as the plant lover inside me yearned to make an appearance, is try to place a part of a broken cactus back together again, getting its thousand of minuscule thorns stuck inside my fingers. Yep. The hike back to our car was really fun, but half an hour later I had succeeded in removing all thorns, which later I discovered I haven't (the little guy is still in my thumb, a souvenir from the Valley).
After running around like monkeys all day we were looking forward to relaxing in our tent. To our dismay, the campsites were full and we had to force ourselves to make the drive to Las Vegas. Sorry fellow readers, there is nothing much more to write about Vegas, and thats not because "everything that happens in Vegas, stays there", but because it was just a pit stop on our way to California.
You know that feeling the night before Christmas or your birthday when you can't sleep because of all the excitement that's built up inside you? Well, that was me on our way to Death Valley National Park in California. Don't let the name deceive you by any means. Yes, it might be a desert, a sand dune, or a salt flat. It might change elevations faster than you can say abracadabra and has the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth. But this to me, is one of the most magnificent and indescribable places in the U.S. Unfortunately, we would not be able to enjoy it this time around.
As we drove in to the park, admiring the rows and rows of yellow wild flowers which bloom only every ten years in the desert, Marco started to feel sick to his stomach. Thinking maybe he had too much of our usual morning coffee, we ignored it and carried on, making our way towards the campsite. After changing elevations from 5000 above sea level, to 3000, to sea level, and 100 below sea level, we finally made it to the campground. In excitement to explore, I set up the tent by myself and let Marco compose himself in the car. After 10 minutes of setting up the tent, I go over to check how he was doing and find out he has puked a couple of times and looks as pale as a ghost. In a panic and with absolutely no cell reception to my rescue, I start driving around the park (just 3,000 square miles big) like a mad woman trying to find a room in one of their three lodges. Booking a last minute room in the park seemed impossible, so with the help of my dad in Texas, and the one bar of cell service I could get, we booked a motel in Beatty, Nevada right outside the park. The worst place you could ever be when you have food poisoning is probably Death Valley. With its hot temperatures and winding curves, Marco held up like a champ. Although he did manage to leave a lot of digested food for the desert animals. Driving to Beatty, I couldn't help but smirk to myself thinking of the times before our trip when Marco teased that I would definitely be the first one to get sick on our year adventure. Looks like he was wrong.
When we finally arrived two hours later, I left Marco in the motel to rest and headed out to grab some medicine. What a strange town Beatty, Nevada is. There is one little grocery market, which is located in an RV park, and a sad little casino with a stuffed rattlesnake at its entrance to welcome you in. That pretty much sums up the town. Oh, I almost forgot. There is also a Denny's restaurant located INSIDE the depths of the casino, which we had the pleasure of enjoying once Marco had regained his health. It was a place where dreams go to die, and our sweet waitress who recommended I get sour cream with my omelet, looked like a recovering meth addict (or could still be one). The silver lining was the opportunity to find out that there was a high wind advisory in Death Valley beginning tomorrow morning, with wind gusts of 60mph. We knew that one camping experience under those circumstances was enough, so we decided to change our route and revisit the park a week later. The next morning, we couldn't wait to leave. We packed our things and started to make our way to Northern California.