Christmas Road Trip Day 4: Day trip to Death Valley National Park
It was an early and cold start that Tuesday morning in Las Vegas, NV. So cold that you could see your breath; thank goodness for coffee and all its wonderful benefits!
We had to get a move on early because there were 164 miles between us and our next adventure: Death Valley National Park. We recruited all of Seth’s family to join us for this exciting day tip and our van ‘Beasty’ was finally getting to live out her dream of becoming a tour bus. Yes this big girl is able to strap in 15 passengers and we loaded her up with 14 people and 1 furry dog! We were at our max capacity with one excited driver who had his walkie talkie in hand ready to be the tour guide for the day!
As soon as everyone buckled in and our tires rolled out of the driveway, I felt a wave of worry hit me. I thought to myself, “what am I doing jumping in a VERY loud van on only day 4 out of 9 days on the road? All of this noise and over stimulation could possibly be a disaster for me (since my body is highly sensitive).” As an only child I grew up in a VERY quiet house and still at times it is difficult for me to just jump into all the commotion that comes with a large, loud family.
But I was in it! No turning back now! All I had to do was remember to take deep breaths along this trip and accept this experience for all its wildness.
Just two hours west of one desert lies a whole new protected desert in California called, Death Valley.
This park is unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It is completely barren with barely any vegetation, no birds flying in the air, and miles and miles of flat open land.
It felt a bit uncomfortable standing with nothing surrounding you for miles, but at the same time it was pretty cool knowing that my two feet were standing in the lowest and driest place in the continental United States! I could not imagine seeing this park (even though it really is a driving park) at any other time of the year besides winter because it gets incredibly hot there.This park actually holds the record for highest recorded temperature on the planet of 134 degrees Fahrenheit!
At Badwater Basin, the geographers put a sign on the mountain wall saying ‘Sea Level’ to visual put in perspective what 282 feet below the ocean’s surface looks like. Looking up at that marker and then out into the openness of the salt flats was another beautiful reminder of how enormous this world is and we are minuscule compared to it.
Walking through the carved out path on the salt flats at this famous spot, gave me the perspective of the world through an ants point of view. I felt tiny as I looked out on the hundreds and hundreds of vastly open miles of land with towering mountains scaling in the distance.
This park is perfect for those who have limited mobility because you mainly see it all by car (there isn’t too much hiking here). There is nearly 1,000 miles of paved and dirt roads for you to choose from. They can take you either down low to the salt flats or wind up the canyons reaching sand dunes and rolling mountain tops.
We had the best time taking random roads that we weren’t sure where they would lead us to. By letting go of controlled planning and consciously deciding to wander down any path that called to us was very exciting! Since we had no expectations, we were able to recognize beautiful moments like discovering ‘A Palette of Color’ which looked like an artist claimed the mountain as their canvas or that the kids loved to free hike!
You could not help but smile when the van would park and the double doors would fly open because the kids would burst through the doors filled to the brim with excitement! Seeing them run freely through the sand dunes searching for hidden jewels was a beautiful thing to witness.
No matter what your age is or if you are human or animal, their is a longing inside us all to be wild and free!
Spending the day with all of Seth’s family: nephews, nieces, mom and ex wife was absolutely wonderful! Being together, crowded in one car did get loud at times and was overwhelming, but fun. There were so many stories that were shared and a constant stream of laughter that was always flowing through the van! We are blessed to own Beasty who was capable of transporting us all on this adventure and helped make our bond as a family stronger.
On the outside Beasty does not look flashy or exciting, but her metal frame contains a magically energy that always transforms people. Once you get in the van and experience her energy, she changes you, not just the way you feel about vans, but the way you view life. She washes away fear, limitations, and guards and somehow always brings out the child within you who wants to play. She has a way with bringing her passengers closer together as she delivers wonderful memories that will last a lifetime!
I took away from this trip several things. One, this adventure showed me the true definition of what ohana means (family in Hawaiian). In Hawaii, you do not have to have the same blood to be family and Seth’s family has shown me that by accepting me as part of their own. They have let me slide right in, and join their large loving family which I am very grateful for.
This trip also showed me that my parents are not the only ones in this world who got divorced and are able to still get along. It was truly wonderful to have Seth’s ex wife join us on this adventure. Seeing her jump right in with the crew and being welcomed with kisses on the cheek and warm embraces was a beautiful thing to see.
People may think we were crazy to have so many people together in one van, but to us this is our normal. We love to create memories with friends and family and to show others that anything is possible! Exes can still get along, blind children can adventure, and disabled adults can still enjoy life to their fullest potential. All you have to do is tear down those walls of fear you have built with your own two hands and watch the magic that transcends in front of your eyes.