Over the holidays, my family spent three days in Death Valley. We drove down on the 23rd and left the day after Christmas. Winter is high season in Death Valley, but right around Christmas, the only tourists around were mostly non-Americans. There were moments when it honestly felt like we were the only people in the valley.
When we checked into our hotel, we were asked whether we would like to make reservations for Christmas dinner. $30 per person? Ha!
As per usual, we went Chinese-style on this trip and packed enough food to feed a clan. My parents prepared 23 soy sauce eggs (the only reason why it wasn't 24 was because one cracked in the carton), a bag of soy sauce chicken, soy sauce peanuts, and soy sauce chicken hearts. (Sensing a theme here?) On top of that, we also brought three boxes of cup of noodles, a bunch of bananas, a bag of Cuties, and two pineapples that my father cut in advance. For lunch on the go, we had a Costco-sized bag of Hawaiian buns, two packages of cheese, and two packages of cured meat.
Definitely more than enough food for our family of four as well as my father's cousin's family of three who joined us for one day.
Before my father's cousin arrived the afternoon of Chistmas Eve. we spent the morning exploring the Mesquite Sand Dunes and then Rhyolite ghost town.
From Rhyolite, we crossed into Beatty, Nevada, where we heard the gas is cheap, cheap, cheap. Which it was.
We could have eaten our Hawaiian bun sandwiches for lunch, but we decided to treat ourselves with a meal at Mel's Diner:
There aren't a lot of restaurant options in Beatty, even less that are open on Christmas Eve. Not only was Mel's Diner's open, it was also recommended by the lady at the gas station. That was good enough for me.
Mel's Diner's interior was very cheerful and covered from top to bottom with old photos depicting the history of the area:
My father ordered the steak with two eggs and hash browns ($10.50):
While my mother got the 8oz ham steak with two eggs and hash browns ($7.99):
They both chose to get wheat toast with their entrees:
Meanwhile, my sister got the two pancakes, two eggs, two bacon, and two sausage links ($8.99):
I'm a sucker for gravy, so I ordered the chicken fried steak and eggs ($9.99):
It came with hash browns and unlike my parents, I went all the way in and chose a biscuit with gravy over toast:
I don't really understand why anyone would settle with toast when there's biscuits and gravy available. So strange.
Mel's Diner is everything that you would want from an old fashioned diner. Friendly faces, affordable prices, HUGE portions, and food that warms you up from the inside out. No diets allowed.
No credit cards either.
If you haven't been to Death Valley before, you really should make the trip. It's breathtaking. There's simply no other word to describe it.
Here are three tips to maximize your Death Valley experience:
1) Escape the crowds by starting your days early.
2) Take advantage of the free ranger talks. You'll learn so very much.
3) Get gas in Nevada.
Beatty, NV 89003