Vegas to LA: Rose Bowl Road Trip
Columbus, Ohio (my hometown) is crazy for the Ohio State Buckeyes. There could be amazing events going on in the world (Cancer cured! France changes its name to Greece! A 50 foot koala is discovered!) and the local, leading news would still be some Buckeye-related feature. Even though I think its a bit over the top, I love the community that comes with this fandom. You can be just about anywhere in the world and if you see someone wearing OSU gear, just yell "O-H!" And you'll get a resounding "I-O" in reply. Try it - its for real.
Anyway, the Buckeyes went to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this year & we decided to tag along. Airfare to LA was stupid so we flew into Las Vegas instead and got ourselves a ROAD TRIP!
Here are the highlights:
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK: Death Valley is just two hours from Las Vegas, so we were excited to explore this national park for the first time. Death Valley is the largest park outside of Alaska, so you could easily spend a few days here. We checked out the Badwater Basin, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes & Artist's Palette during our short afternoon/evening. Badwater Basin must be visited early in the morning to best enjoy, otherwise you'll have gobs of tourists checking out the lowest point in the United States with you. The Sand Dunes will transport you into a Star Wars movie - filming actually took place here. And Artist's Palette is stunning at sunset, when the skies and the rocks will turn pink & purple. One of my favorite parts of Death Valley was departing after the sun set and having the night sky appear. Death Valley is a Dark Sky area, meaning that there is little light pollution and on clear nights all you will see are stars. We stopped for a few minutes for some gazing & got to hear the howls of critters near by. I was smitten & decided I need to return for a camping adventure soon.
THE REST OF THE ROAD TRIP: The drive between Death Valley to Pasadena is desolate, but pretty. You'll see Joshua Trees, solar farms, an airplane boneyard& miles and miles of red rocks. On the way back from Pasadena, we went a southern route which ran adjacent to Route 66 and the Mojave National Preserve. The highlight on this route was Seven Magic Mountains. This art installation reminded me of the Marfa Prada...something unexpected & cool in the middle of nowhere. This time, artist Ugo Rondinone stacked colorful rock towers about 20 minutes outside of Vegas. Definitely worth a stop to stretch your legs and see all of the crazy Instagram poses happening.
PASADENA: If your team ever makes it to the Rose Bowl, its worth a visit. Pasadena is a cute town that probably hates all of the nutty activity that comes with the game & the parade on New Year's Day. I've heard the parade is a shit show, with people aggressively protecting their square of the sidewalk in order to see everything. I kept thinking about the parade scene from Animal House for some reason. When I learned that you could visit the parade floats the day after (and without some of chaos), I knew that was for me. The floats go for blocks, maybe miles & being able to see them up close allows you to really appreciate what goes into making them. Flowers, hay, nuts, oranges, grapefruit and more covered giant floats, creating whimsical squirrels, astronauts, penguins. I loved it!
VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK: Our last major stop on our road trip was Valley of Fire State Park. We wanted to do a bit more hiking & I kept reading about these rock formations that rivaled The Wave in Arizona. Valley of Fire is a fairly small park and its most popular trails are on the shorter side. We did the Mouse's Tank, White Domes & Fire Wave trails over a long afternoon. Mouse's Tank is about a mile RT and is a worthwhile stop to view the hundreds of petroglyphs along the trail. White Domes is also about a mile loop, with cool slot canyons and a mega vista near the end. No wonder quite a few movies have been filmed there (Beastmaster!). And the trail that is all over the interwebs is Fire Wave. Its best seen at sunrise or sunset when the streaks in the rocks really pop. My pictures don't do the scenery justice - you just have to go and see it for yourself!
One final note and a bit of a soapbox/plea here. Our trip occurred during a government shutdown so I was so grateful that we were even able to enter Death Valley. There were all kinds of news stories about the national parks being open, but many services were not available. Visitors' centers & bathrooms were closed; rangers were not available. Bottom line, the idea was behave yourself & don't use mother nature as your garbage dump. Luckily most people adhered to this in Death Valley. Sadly, Seven Magic Mountains was another story. I try to carry some kind of bag with me to pick up random trash along the way. "Leave it better than you found it" was my motto for 2018 & I think I'll be carrying it into 2019 too. Thanks for helping with this one, friends! xo
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Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Rita V and the Hashtag 59 Team