USA Western Road Trip Part 5: The Hottest Day of Our Lives

In 2011, my girlfriend, my mate and I completed an incredible road trip around the western USA – this is our story.

In my previous four blogs I have written of the travels of myself, my girlfriend and my mate in a 2011 Chevy Cruze from Los Angeles to San Francisco up Pacific Coast Highway One and then inland to Yosemite National Park. On the night of August 25th we were camping in Bear Country, wary of the 100 plus bear incidents that had occurred at our campsite alone so far this year…

Sadly we never saw any bears but on the plus side we didn’t get attacked by any bears either. So mixed feelings leaving Upper Pines campsite, really. The place was stunning, though. We never planned where we would be staying until a day or so beforehand or, more often than not, on the day itself. This added to the sense of adventure and gave us the freedom to be flexible in case something went wrong. Amazingly, so far, nothing had gone wrong…

For the first time all road trip, I didn’t drive and instead my girlfriend Jodie took over the wheel. We stopped at Curry Village again for presents from the gift shop, including some cracking little bear-shaped Yosemite salt and pepper shakers for my new flat back in Edinburgh. We stopped again to do some filming. Throughout the trip we had been not just taking photos but also videos to put together in an epic highlights package at the end, which I will upload to a blog once it’s finished. This was a tradition that began last year when I travelled down the east coast and also occurs because at the summer camp we all worked at I produced camp’s videos. It’s tradition to film a ridiculous introduction to each video so we thought it suitable mental to film my mate Martin screaming “welcome to the videooooo” at the top of a mountain in Yosemite. Maybe the heat had finally got to us by this point…


It takes a long time to drive out of Yosemite as you end up driving back the way you came into Yosemite Village and then all the way across it, which made up for a combination of heat, our ambitious itinerary and lack of serious footwear not allowing us to hike any of it. We therefore took the opportunity to stop at any mindblowing vistas, which were in more than sufficient supply. One such stop was at Olmsted Point, which is a photo opportunity if ever I saw one. It has amazing views of the famous Half Dome, where we could see people far in the distance on top of it, a feat that looked ridiculous if not impossible from where we were standing. Apparently it takes days if not weeks to get to the top and in the winter all but the primary routes are completely snowed off. I’m not apologetic for all these superlatives – if you’ve never been to Yosemite, it really does have to be seen to be believed.


Once out of Yosemite National Park the landscape started to change subtly but surely. The next time we stopped we were in the middle of nowhere – probably the most desolate place I’d ever been at that point. We were just heading downhill from 9000 feet in Yosemite to a dusty epic landscape at 3000 feet at the start of Death Valley. Again, the place just felt unreal.



As we properly descended into Death Valley, the temperature properly rocketed. We waited all day for the in-car LCD to top 99° farenheit and then all of a sudden, mid-afternoon, it shot up to 109°F, the hottest temperature I’d ever experienced. Yet. Incredibly, whilst 109°F registered on the display, there were spots of rain on the windscreen – quite surreal. The rain passed as soon as it arrived, however, and the temperature slowly increased further to 112°F. It’s a crazy feeling to drive through a desert knowing you’ve never been hotter in your life. We had been sure to fill up some milk jugs we had with water. Without them, we’d have been royally screwed but it’s hard to put into words how hot (not warm, hot) that water was. If you ran a hot tap in our house now I guarantee it would take a good few seconds to get as hot as the water we drank that day, just because the jugs a had been sitting in the back seat of the Cruze. We kept them in the shade, covered up, everything. You just can’t escape that kind of heat and boy were we thankful we had liquids at all.


Later in the day one of us glanced at the dashboard and saw the temperature was increasing even further and we started taking a photo of the display every time it went up. Unbelievably, it got to 119°F in the evening. Believe me, that’s hot. We got out and I decided I was athletic enough to go for a short run in the desert. I don’t think I have ever sweated that much in my life. At one point I put my hand down on the back seat in a sticky puddle of goo, only to realise it used to be a cheese sandwich. That was when we realised keeping food in the car wasn’t a great idea at those kind of temperatures. We also stopped at a sign that said we had reached sea level, yet there was no water to be seen for the miles and miles you could see in every direction. That was a great opportunity to film a hilarious video of us skimming stones. By now the heat had definitely gotten to us!


But the heat wasn’t done with us yet. As we got even lower, the temperature did the unthinkable and went up further still. It peaked at a mind-blowing 123°F which amazed us all. I know a lot of people from camp who travelled to some hot places around America this summer and no one came close to that kind of temperature. Martin had lived in Singapore for a year and never experienced anything like that. 123°! And we still had nowhere to stay that night…


In my next blog, it’s the Grand Canyon!


5 thoughts on “USA Western Road Trip Part 5: The Hottest Day of Our Lives

  1. What an amazing experience and thanks for sharing with us Jon. You were dressed for the occasion (beach shorts etc) but no sea!! Would love to see the video.

  2. Yes the video will be a fitting finale in the end post! Feel like I have been on the road trip with you, love the cliffhanger each post…

  3. Pingback: 14 Travel Resolutions for 2014 | Places and Races

  4. Pingback: USA Western Road Trip Part 4: Welcome To Bear Country | Whaddup JP

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