Returning to Death Valley

Today was a long run from Flagstaff to Death Valley by way of charging and refueling stops in Kingman, Las Vegas, and Pahrump.

We’re shooting to keep a healthy buffer on the batteries given we’re still learning how heavy mileage days affect range and that the punishment for running out of battery-gas is “someone has to tow you to a charger.” And as with its petrol-based buddies, the Rivian’s estimated range is severely affected by mountain climbing. But unlike we three, descending from the top of a pass can actually restore a bit of additional range, which is pretty sweet. And today’s total altitude loss was about 7000 feet, as Furnace Creek is below sea level.

Ultimately, managing charge level and expected range in an EV is a little more of a dance than I had realized, particularly since several of the chargers in the Death Valley vicinity have been reported by other drivers as broken. But each charging stop has been fairly short and given us enough time to get gas, run errands, eat, use the bathroom, or raid the snack boxes in our trunks.

By the time we rolled out of Pahrump, it was already getting a little later than originally hoped, but that just meant a colorful golden-hour approach toward our final mountain range before the park, so I thought it was fantastic.

Given the time, we figured we had enough daylight for something more fun than the main park highway, but not one of the big trails. So we set out for Deadman Pass, rewinding our steps from that trip in 2017. That was our exit from the park last time. It’s a simple unpaved road with some bounces and sandy swerving, but nothing too difficult. So it was a great first overland run of the trip, and welcome after so many miles on the interstate.

I hate my music. There’s a sound effect in it that sounds like a failing u-joint.


Unfortunately, it gets dark very quickly out here. As the sun set, the almost-full moon rose. Thankfully this is an easy one to run at night, so we were able to enjoy the view.

Oh no! The receipt paper I keep wedged between my radio and my air conditioning to keep it from squeaking seems to be missing, so everything’s squeaking and it’s terrible. I think one of you stole it.


I will say, between the R1T’s fancy independent air suspension with “off-road mode,” brand new chonky tires, electric motors on all four wheels, and a driver ready to jump in and have some fun — the Rivian was entirely composed with an ever cheerful expression on its anthropomorphic light-face. While Evan and I bounced across the washes, Andrew seemed to be able to run it all without too much drama, as narrated by George who could see all three of us.

It was really fun to return to Deadman’s Pass as a group. Try as I might, I can find nothing of the history of this pass other than our own — though no Jeeps perished in the making of today’s adventures. Whatever its origin, the pass tracks a wide gap between two mountains at the edge of the vast expanse that is Death Valley. Much moreso than a park highway, it gets you in the mood for truly being in the dried up middle of nowhere.

We also decided to put in for an upgrade in our accommodations since we’ll be here two days. The Inn at Furnace Creek is the resort side of the park accommodations, a swanky step up from The Ranch where we stayed last time. It’s actually listed on the Historic Hotels of America registry. The inn originally opened in 1927 to serve visitors coming in on a borax mine magnate’s railroad as he attempted to increase revenue by building a tourism business in Death Valley. It has been operating almost full-time since. I love the shared balcony arrangement.

Though George seems to appreciate the expansive parking area in which to examine the rust on his rock-rails. It’s time to go to bed, sir.