Thursday, December 2, 2010

Death Valley & Mad Greek Cafe

On Black Friday, SP and I got up early. But we didn't get up early to go shopping. We got up early to drive the 2-3 hours west to Death Valley National Park. It's a long drive north on 95 to Beatty and then turning left to get to the park. It gets pretty isolated up that way.

There's long stretches of road. The kinds of long stretches where you don't think you'll ever get to 'the end' and then somehow, you do, and you round a corner or crest a hill and face another seemingly endless stretch of road with brown mountains on the horizon and brown desert speckled with cacti on either side of the road. The roads make you feel a bit lonely, and it all makes you realize just how tiny you are, little specks on this planet, dwarfed by nature and its might. The roads make you feel isolated, and that makes you rejoice internally when you see another car, a sign of life, that you're not all alone.

Yes, driving through beautiful and sometimes foreboding nature makes me introspective and happy and wistful and thankful and calm. I love the sense of being away from the 'real' world with all its bad news and cell phones and texting and tweeting and all the connectedness. It's nice to feel unconnected.On our drive to Death Valley, we stopped at Rhyolite Ghost Town. One hundred years ago, Rhyolite was the largest town in southern Nevada with 10,000 people. Now there's just ruins of several buildings, including a school, bank, and casino.Our first stop was the visitors center. Parts of Death Valley were mined for borax and the above photo is of the double wagons that hauled the borax from the mines. The wagons were pulled by a 20 mule team.Our next stop was atop Dante's View - 5,000 feet above the valley. It was very, very windy and very, very cold! But the view was spectacular. You can see the salt flats in the valley. After Dante's View, we went to Zabriskie Point. You walk up a very steep hill and there is a breath-taking view of the badlands. The photo does not do the amazing view justice. Zabriskie Point and the badlands is my favorite place in the park.Next up was Artists Drive. It's a scenic loop drive and the colors are stunning - hues of pink and green. Then we headed over to Badwater Basin.There's a 'Sea Level' sign on the mountain. It's so tiny in the photo, so I put an arrow pointing to it! That's how far below sea level it is.Look at the salt. It kind of makes me think of slush when the snow starts to melt and it gets all dirty!!! But it is white and it leaves a fine white dust on your shoes:Even salt flats have potholes!It's beautiful and stretches on across the valley. I think I read that the salt stretches for 40 miles and is 5 miles wide.Death Valley is HUGE. It might seem like we only stopped at 4 or 5 places, but it's 35 miles from Rhyolite to the visitors center, 23 miles between Zabriskie Point & Dante's View, and after Badwater & the salt flats, it took us a bit over an hour to drive the 55+ miles south and out of the park at the southern entrance/exit. HUGE. Almost 3,000 square miles. 1.5 times larger than Delaware. (I found those size tidbits online!) Lots of driving. Also, I waited in the car while SP did a few mini, 20-25 minutes hikes to see other areas of interest. I'm sad that I can't do the hikes and see everything because of my stupid health and the wheelchair, but I refuse to have SP miss out on seeing some great stuff just because I can't do it.

Death Valley can be seen in one long day, but if you really want to experience it, you should spend 2 days, staying at the inn or camping in the park.

After exiting the park, we drove another hour south to Baker, CA to have dinner at Mad Greek Cafe. I first heard of Mad Greek Cafe when I watched an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. In Spring 2008, SP and I drove from Las Vegas to Primm (so he could ride a roller coaster) and then to Mad Greek Cafe. We enjoyed our meal that time, so we decided to head back.Some of these photos are from our 2008 trip. It's a little... crazy eclectic inside!You order at a counter and then take a seat and they bring you your food. It's not just Greek food. There's burgers and burritos and milkshakes and gelato in addition to some Greek food and Greek desserts.SP ordered kebabs. The was a chicken, a lamb, and a beef kebab served with rice, pita, and there was gyro meat under the kebabs. He said they were just OK. Not as flavorful as last time and a bit dried out. He also got a Greek salad:I got some spanakopita:It was very, very disappointing. It wasn't phyllo dough - it was puff pastry. To me, the whole point is the phyllo dough. I can make puff pastry delights at home, but I never really want to mess with phyllo. I'm sure that last time, the spanakopita was phyllo. I also ordered a gyro:It was huge and tasty enough for a gyro. The meat was a bit tangier/spicier than I am used to, but it was good. The pita was very good. And the tzatziki sauce was terrific - I could have eaten it by the spoonful:There were cucumber chunks and dill and I didn't detect much, if any, garlic. Yay! I was confused by the rice, though. I've never had a gyro served with rice before - ?

The iced tea was very tasty - it had a fruity taste and we both really liked it.

Overall, we were disappointed. It just wasn't as tasty as we remembered. We definitely would not go out of our way again to visit Mad Greek Cafe.


  1. Anyone who has ever been to Greece will smile knowingly whenever the topic of Greek food is brought up. There is nothing like Greek food anywhere else in the world. Full of fresh vegetables, unencumbered by spices that hide the flavor of the ingredients, and filled with beef and lamb dishes that will tempt any palate, there is something in Greek cuisine that will tempt anyone.
    You can only find these delicious foods in a Westchester (greek) restaurant.

  2. That is so disappointing about the spanakopita. It's just not right made without phyllo dough.