Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pahrump, NV and Death Valley tour


I have a PO Box with JB Mailroom, and they by chance happen to be located in Pahrump, NV.  This was, and is, my primary reason for stopping in this sleepy little community.  While it's the primary reason found out that there is a lot more to do within spitting distance.

This is the information for JB Mailroom, their website.  Had a box, book, and couple other packets to pick up so we arranged to meet and she gave me quite a few places to check out.  The ones I have done now are listed here.

The Winery

I arrived at this piece of heaven in the dark so couldn't see the vines containing grapes, but was informed that they are indeed there.  Will have to go back to this place as they have EXCELLENT food, but always at a price.

Had a wonderful gentleman as a waiter and even got him to crack a genuine laugh.  I settled in with my water and a glass of iced tea, then perused the menu.

Filet Au Poivre
Currently have a weak spot for great Filet Mignon.  This restaurant didn't let me down.  While it wasn't the best I've ever had (think Bern's Steakhouse), it was very very memorable.  On the menu it's listed as Filet Au Poivre and was phenomenal!  Was very tender, could cut it with a fork.  I would definitely have it again, everything on the plate was great (see photo).  This included "home made" creamed corn and scalloped potato's.  Have had better potato's but the corn was very good.  Only thing would really change is the brandy sauce, so next time might have the plain Filet.  The sauce was great, and complimented the flavor, just something I can't explain thinks would've been better without it.  Might have had to do with brandy being in there.  Ever since stopped drinking I generally avoid anything with alcohol.

Gallavanting in Death Valley

I was informed to check out Scotty's Castle, and found a couple other items on the way, though the day passed by too quick to check out everything wanted to.  Will just have to make another go of it in the nearish future.  This is the detailed map of the route.
Map of route

The temperature was high of mid 80's.  When entering the valley, coming down the mountain side, could actually feel the temperature change.  The temp gauge on the bike jumped five degrees at a certain point going down the hill.  Another thing to note is that when the sun sets, the temperature dwindles very fast.  Not a problem if was in a car, but on a bike something to be wary of.

Zabriskie Point

Toodling by on the road, not a care in the world, saw this place too late to make the turn so quickly did a u-turn and headed back.  All did was park, walk up the little hill, and marvel in mother nature.  Granted, not much lives here but it was very interesting seeing all the curves mother nature creates with erosion and the rain which this area seldom gets.  The pictures don't do this place justice.

Saw a young lady start gearing up on a mountain bike.  Struck up a quick conversation with her and come to find out she is from Europe as she had an accent. Believe it was a german accent but didn't ask.  I passed her going down the hill (she joked that's the best, and easiest part).

Texas Springs Campground

Call me naive (yes, in more ways than I care to admit), but really thought that this campground had at least a spring in it, maybe not from Texas, but a spring nonetheless.  However, none was apparent, nor didn't see any signage indicating a trail going to one.  Took a quick ride through here and it seems like a very nice campground, for the desert.  Space between each site so not sardine land, and some of the tent sites had a bush or tree to provide some type of shade.  Not much else to say about this other than wouldn't want to stay here during the summer, without AC that is.  Saw a sign saying generator use was not allowed.  Have a feeling that the generator itself would even overheat during summer.

Scotty's Castle

Main Complex
This castle was, and is, an amazing surprise, in many ways, in middle of the desert. As can be seen on my map, this is really in the middle of no place, with at least 100 miles to get here from Pahrump.  Thankfully the speed limit was 55 or 65 (can't recall) so could quite easily zip along without care in the world.  And very little traffic so could goose it now and then.

When the castle was built, it was totally self sufficient, in terms of energy and water, though food still needed to be brought in.  The "secret" to this was a spring up the hill.  Forget exact numbers, but the flow rate is at least 100 GPM (Gallons Per Minute).  The spring is about a mile away and 300 feet higher in elevation, which explains the great pressure.

1 mil gal swimming pool, and view
This allowed them to employ a Pelton Wheel to generate electricity, have piped water into house (under serious pressure), and even employ a "swamp cooler" to cool the whole house using moistened burlap bags and a large fan.  I actually find this type of thing interesting, some of the engineering behind buildings in general, specifically buildings in locations like this.  Amazingly enough, or not, is that the Pelton Wheel still works to this day, with only a tiny bit of maintenance.

Closeup of water
Am sure the castle could've been sufficient in food if used permaculture techniques, such as those found in Geoff Lawton's film, Greening the Desert (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).  Different techniques would be used of course, as well as local plants.  This idea is viable, and proven, in harsher climates.
Reeds along stream

The Castle is managed by the National Park Service, which is good and bad to some extent.  The bad is government is involved (with the builder didn't want it to be from the get go due to a multi-year court battle), and anytime involve government things just don't happen.  The good is that any fees paid for tours stay in hands of the Castle and cannot be touched by our wonderful Congress.

Pathway connecting two buildings
This castle isn't really Scotty's, as Scotty was a swindler.  Scotty was kept around because he increased the popularity of the castle immensely with his story telling.  There were quite a few famous people who spent the night at the castle.

Kitchen Sink, Italian tile
It is ironic, and funny too, in that construction of the castle was halted by the federal government (don't we "like" them) due to an incorrect privately funded survey.  After a multi-year court battle, Albert Johnson won, but by that time that Great Depression had set in and he had lost most of his wealth so couldn't finish construction.

500 Yr Old Chest, belonged to King/Queen
Mr. Johnson was steadfastly against the Park Service, and the government, from owning the castle (assuming because of the land dispute) that prior to his death a non profit was setup to administer to, and maintain, the castle grounds.  After running into money problems the non profit sold castle to the Park Service..

Crest in Organ Room
The huge automated pipe organ is a wonderful piece of art.  It was originally setup to use "scrolls", like the player piano's.  There is a special music room where this beast sits, and it seems that a piano is also playing as the organ plays, synchronized somehow.  It was amazing, beyond amazing.  The organ reminds me of the Wurlitzer went to listen to in Florida.  While it doesn't compare to a Wurlitzer, this organ was along the same lines, albeit much smaller.  Restaurant was called Roaring 20's Pizza and Pipes, a must see if in the area.

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