Out of California and Back on the Road

Zabreski Point in Death Valley (Yes, Charlie, it is hot.)


I’ll be posting more frequently with updates and photos now that we are on the move again. (I’ll note that since the last post was Part I about Cabot’s Pueblo, I’ll be back for one final entry about my new favorite person and place once I get photos uploaded from the camera.)

After a final soak in the hot pools at Sam’s in Desert Hot Springs we spent a week with Chris’ parents, who graciously hosted all six of us while we had some minor work done on the RV. It was great to spend time with family before we head away from the West Coast for a while, and also nice to experience some snow. The dogs and kids loved running around and playing outside, although Charlie was not thrilled with the sensation of snow getting under his gloves. After his initial outrage, he grudgingly accepted the fact that snow is wet and cold and sometimes uncomfortable. I did have to explain this; it’s been a while.

Fun in the snow in Big Bear (that’s a frozen golf course pond, not Big Bear Lake).


From Big Bear Lake we headed north to Barstow and visited Calico, a former silver mining boom town. It’s definitely touristy – and by the looks of the giant parking lots it must get crowded – but there weren’t many other people around when we arrived at 10am on a weekday. It was a fun experience to walk around the town, inside some of the historic buildings, and up into the hills around the old mines with panoramic views of the valley and distant mountains.

Unfortunately they could fit between the bars
The train ride at Calico was short but interesting. You can see how the town’s name was inspired by colorful calico skirts.


The town from above

Next stop was Death Valley National Park. I fell in love with Death Valley when I visited for the first time a couple years ago and was excited to return with Chris and the kids. Due to logistics with the dogs we only stayed one night. For the most part pets are restricted to the campgrounds and main roads inside National Parks. This hasn’t been a problem when we can leave the dogs crated inside the RV with a/c for a few hours, but we didn’t have electrical hookups in Death Valley and the temperature got up to 90 degrees.

Hikers at Zabreski Point
Campground at Furnace Creek – only a few sites have hookups, but the surroundings are gorgeous and it is next to the Visitor Center.

We made the most of our time: visiting the major accessible sites, joining a Ranger talk, earning junior ranger badges, and enjoying the sunset and stars. We walked the dogs in the open land around the campground, where the texture of the earth was similar to the snow we’d just experienced, with a thin brittle crust and soft powdery dirt underneath. The expansive views and the silence were remarkable.

With Ranger Amber after her talk at the Mesquite Dunes
The Mesquite Dunes (Yes, Rita, it is hot.)
Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the US. That is salt covering the ground, and snow on the Panamint Mountain Range. Fun fact: Mount Whitney, the tallest point in the lower 48, is less than 100 miles away.


When our weather-spoiled SoCal kids complained about the heat (of course this was after the snow was too cold) I pointed out, several times, that when I was in Death Valley in June it got up to 122 degrees. But we moved on, out of California and into Nevada, with our first stop being Beatty just outside the National Park. I took the kids to a really cool outdoor sculpture museum and adjacent ghost town, and the dogs got to enjoy off leash romps in the desert hills across the street from our RV park.

Road school at Rhyolite Ghost Town
The penguin with the miner in this sculpture represents how out of place the Belgian artist, Fred Bervoets, felt in the desert.
Goldwell Open Air Museum, with Ghost Rider by Albert Szukalski
The docent at Goldwell hand makes Native American flutes out of traditional wood and out of PVC pipes. He played beautifully, and showed the kids how the flutes work and how to play scales.


Now we are in Las Vegas for a few days before heading into southern Utah. There are some great parks and natural landscapes in the area to explore, but I’m also looking forward to showing the kids the spectacle of The Strip for the first time. Charlie thinks he knows what a buffet is. He has no idea.

Walking the dogs above Beatty, NV

2 Comments Add yours

  1. John Lyons says:

    Michelle we love these posts. We feel like we are taking the kids on a tour of the US through your eyes. Thanks for sharing. Cant wait until you hit the east coast.


    1. MichelleNeale says:

      Thanks so much, John! It’s nice to think of you all following along 🙂 Will be great to see you in the summer!


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