OK, I left Part 1 at the point where we had woken up at the Grand Canyon, with our fresh water tank frozen and the outside temperature well below zero. Clearly, it was time to go.
We checked the traffic report as a couple of Arizona highways had been completely closed during the snow storm and discovered that our route was open--full of snow and ice and they weren't recommending driving on it, but open none-the-less. We figured we were up for the challenge having successfully driven around the snowy roads in the Village with no problem (also with no Mrs. Dash, but at sub-zero temperatures, we weren't going to be deterred by facts.)
So before hooking up, we decide we should empty the black and grey tanks. Alan hooks it all up but discovers that the grey tank valve has broken--probably due to the extreme cold. We had no choice but to head out with our frozen and half-full tanks.
We pulled out cautiously and caution became our word of the day all the way down the mountain. Oddly, the mountain road turned out to be the best plowed section of the trip. When we hit the Highway, it was a mess of ice, sand and salt. It was a long day of driving, being so cautious and all. We stopped at one point for gas during which we were mortified to see that our grey water tank had thawed enough to begin dripping all over the place. All of a sudden we were "those people" -- you know, the ones with some mysterious liquid flowing from their trailer, splashing on your windshield. I comfort myself with the knowledge that if it had been the black water tank we wouldn't have driven at all. But since it was just soapy grey water, we let it drip and kept on the route.
We decided to stop at the Kingman, Arizona, KOA for the night. Sadly, this was New Year's Eve. But we were so tired from digging out of the snow and from the stress of driving on the icy road, that we didn't even last until midnight. Can't say I recommend stopping here, although if you are tired it works just fine.
The next day we took off for Death Valley National Park which is way more beautiful and interesting than it sounds. Just a wonderful place to wander around (given the right time of year--and this was) as you aren't required to stay on hiking trails. You can just head into the hills all by yourself. It is surprisingly easy to find your way out as there are almost no trees and you can see for miles. Hopefully the pictures will give you some idea (right mouse click on the title above) of the stark beauty you can find out there.
Unfortunately, the starkness continues into your camping options: There is only one campground with hook-ups and it only has a dozen or so spots, Stovepipe Wells. If you have solar panels (which we didn't on the Mrs. Dash) then you are in good shape. But if you need electricity, then I'm afraid Stovepipe is your only option. And it's not a pretty camping spot, very utilitarian but with nice showers across the street at the Inn.
Also a challenge in Death Valley is fresh food and affordable gasoline. So bring plenty of both before driving in. There are some restaurant options and a small general store at Furnace Creek, but it will be some time before you can bite into a crisp apple unless you've brought it yourself.
We had three nights in Death Valley and can't wait to go back. (Alan rigged up the broken grey valve to get it flowing into the on-pitch sewer so that made me feel much better, and our fresh tank had thawed so we had water flowing inside again.) On day two one of the highways into the valley was shut due to a snow storm and we were able to watch the snow fill up the Panamint Mountains -- quite lovely.
We had planned for one night at Bolsa Chica State Park on our way home but with our wonky grey water valve, we decided to just return Mrs. Dash the day we drove out of Death Valley.
Quite an experience that first trip! I am so glad we did it--it really reaffirmed our desire to be out doing it full time. I would have never thought we would last with two terriers (20 and 30 pounds respectively) in a 19' trailer in snow storms, but it was delightful (well, except for the morning when we thought the door was frozen shut.)
The countdown is on! Check out the green clock on the left!