Eastbound Day 3 – 336 miles – Lee Vining to Stove Pipe WellsMonday, 28 March 1994
Once again things don’t exactly go as planned. We’ll just scoot south through Death Vallley and end up, late in the day, at Las Vegas, was the initial proposition. But then we heard about Bodie and decided to make a short backtrack to this ghost town.
It was worth the delay, Bodie has neither been prettied up nor stripped bare. A rollicking 19th century mining town with breweries, bars and brothels, this contender for the title of baddest town in the west finally ground to a halt in the 1930s. Today it’s a wonderful mess of dilapidated buildings, rusting machinery and scattered vehicles ranging from wagons to sleds to old cars. Everything has that Marie Celeste air, as if the last inhabitants downed tool and walked off the town one day, never to return.
Back in Lee Vining we visited Lake Mono and climbed a volcano crater so it was into the afternoon before we set off south for Death Valley. We paused for a sandwich in Bishop, got some advice from a friendly local about an alternative route into the valley, but then light started to run out on us and it was dusk as we approached Death Valley, dark night before we’d actually entered it. And when we got to Stove Pipe Wells there was no room at the inn. Booking earlier in the day wouldn’t have done us any good as they’d been booked out for weeks. Don’t bother continuing on to Furnace Creek we were advised, they’re full too. And stopping in Beatty, outside the park, which we had thought about as it got darker, would have done us no good, it was full too.
We must have looked a little lost as they offered us rollaway beds in the auditorium, at $15 a bed, which we accepted gratefully. Otherwise Stove Pipe Wells didn’t endear itself. I hope dinner there will be the lousiest meal of the trip, I hate to think there’s worse ahead. Hopefully breakfast the next morning will be the worst in that category too! And the Stove Pipe Wells gas station should be a contender for most disorganised and time consuming fill up of the trip.