Thursday 7th July (345 miles)
A quick visit to the Fish Camp General Store for beer (Blue Moon) and supplies and to Wawona for fuel before heading back down into the valley and up the other side to pick up Highway 120 again and up the Tioga Pass road. Amazing views at every turn, snow at the roadside despite temperatures in the 20s, and Tenaya Lake at the foot of a mini Yosemite Valley. Most amazing though was the view back to Half Dome and Glacier Point from the other side.
The road levelled off at Toulomne Meadows at 9,000 feet or so. What a spectacular place. Finally, the Sat Nav read 9,980 feet as we exited Yosemite National Park. Ben started his science experiment by sealing an empty plastic bottle. On the bendy, steep but thankfully wide descent to Mono Lake and Hwy 395 South I discovered the extent of the problem with our brakes. They work, but when pressed hard or at speed they shake the car to hell. I decided to get them fixed in Vegas and we pressed on South past Mammoth Lakes, stopping for a McDonald's in Bishop. Driving South East with the Sierra Nevada mountains on the right, storm ahead and more mountains on the left before picking up Highway 190 East into Death Valley.
The long descent, ascent and final descent into Death Valley is another spectacular drive through desolate but strangely beautiful landscape. I was getting a bit nervous as we were low on fuel, especially after the first place we tried was sold out. Thankfully, I was able to fill up at Stovepipe Wells, where the attendant said you never get used to the heat, which was 45C at the time! We also met a crazy Dutch family in the same car as us but pulling a trailer and having the same brake problems. He only had half a tank of gas, his consumption was twice mine and he was headed to Vegas, 130 miles away, and he asked me if he should fill up!
After registering -240 ft on the Sat Nav, and checking Ben's plastic bottle experiment (it was totally crushed), we finally reached Furnace Creek Ranch, where the kids hit the pool and we hit the Laundry. That's living alright! A good steak, local Badwater Beer and a good night's sleep was all I had energy for after a 345 mile drive down from Yosemite and a massive change of scenery.
Furnace Creek Ranch was better than I expected, like an upmarket hotel, with good air conditioning to cope with the 45 degree heat. The waiter we had was a kind of Jim Carrey with a serial killer mixed in.