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2018-3-1 | Chevy New Roads Magazine

Star Struck

Our writer takes a Tahoe on a search for gorgeous night skies in Death Valley and beyond.

Living in Los Angeles, I missed out on the thrill of the first total solar eclipse to cross the United States since 1979. I was too far south of its coast-to-coast path to see much of the action. But it left me yearning to commune with the stellar majesty of the night sky, which is equally elusive in LA. The city is full of stars, but not the ones I’m after. That’s why I’m behind the wheel of a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe, driving away from the setting sun on Highway 190, about to cross the threshold into Death Valley National Park. This desolate desert landscape that straddles California and Nevada is my first of three stops on a Southwestern road trip where daytime itineraries will be an afterthought, and nighttime plays a starring role.

2WD/4WD

AVAILABLE CHEVROLET MYLINK

AVAILABLE
WI-FI

AVAILABLE HANDS-FREE LIFTGATE

TORQUE

Day one

Death Valley: Beyond the Oasis, a Starry Desert | 268 miles from LA

Death Valley, site of the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded at the earth’s surface (134 degrees Fahrenheit, in 1913), is best avoided in summer. But in the cooler months it is well worth a visit, whether to traverse the rippling Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, to cross Badwater Basin (the lowest point in North America) off your bucket list, or, in my case, to go stargazing. The National Park Service went to great lengths to reduce outdoor lighting in the region, which earned Death Valley a designation by the International Dark-Sky Association as the largest International Dark Sky Park.

In the Tahoe with its mighty EcoTec3 V8, I confidently cruise down the highway and past the unpaved turnoff that winds its way to Twenty Mule Team Canyon, named for the means by which early 20th-century prospectors transported ore out of the region. I pass Zabriskie Point, where I make out the silhouettes of several stragglers taking in a panoramic view of undulating rock formations and flat salt plains, just before the sky fades to black. Four miles up the road, I pull into The Ranch at Death Valley, my Western-themed accommodations for the night.

The Ranch features a spring-fed swimming pool, tennis courts, a playground, two restaurants, a bar, and an 18-hole golf course. It’s part of a date palm–filled compound called The Oasis at Death Valley, which includes Fiddlers’ Campground and the upscale Inn at Death Valley—a AAA-rated Four Diamond resort. Unless you’re game to set up a tent in the wilderness, The Oasis is the place in the otherwise desolate Valley where you’re most likely to put down stakes.

After sating my hunger with a pulled pork sandwich, I drive a couple miles up 190 to Harmony Borax Works. It was here in the 1880s that pioneer William Tell Coleman employed 40 men and twenty-mule teams to excavate, process, and haul borax to the railroad depot in Mojave. Tonight, there isn’t another soul in sight, save for a lone coyote stalking in the moonlight. I luxuriate in the peace and quiet of the Tahoe’s comfortable cabin, then crawl to a stop, kill the lights, step out, and lean back on the vehicle, gazing up. At first, I use a stargazing app to locate Gemini, Pisces, and Taurus. Then I put my phone back into my pocket, where it belongs. I’m on the hunt for Capella, the eye of the constellation Auriga the Charioteer. I learned from the daily flyer the park serv­ice distributes that Capella would be sparkling low in the northeast. Capella is actually two stars, 16 times as large across as the sun and nearly as bright as Vega. From the bowl of the Big Dipper, I shift my gaze eastward. And there it is, inducing a type of quietude in me that I’ve never experienced before. The brightest yellow star in the sky, 42 light-years away.

Day two

Las Vegas: An Off-Strip Night Crawl, Writ in Vintage Neon | 124 miles from Death Valley

The next stop on my stargazing tour is Flagstaff, Ariz., the world’s first International Dark Sky Place. But the route leads directly through Las Vegas, so I figure why not stop in the City of Lights for a night?

Lucky for me, the Tahoe is as much at home in the city as it is in the desert, so I feel comfortable cruising down the strip surrounded by luxury sedans and limos. My evening begins at Carson Kitchen, a retro-​industrial comfort-food eatery that proudly runs counter to everything you imagine a Vegas hot spot to be. Tucked into the corner of a renovated midcentury modern hotel, Carson Kitchen is intimate and welcoming, with less than a hundred seats (patio included) and no item on the menu over 20 bucks.

The open-plan kitchen is humming as I take a seat at the bar. I scan the menu of updated American staples before settling on the Secret Sunday Chicken sandwich, then look over my shoulder to check out the space. A sign on the back wall reads KEEP CALM AND KERRY ON, a reference to the late celebrity chef Kerry Simon, who single­handedly reinvented the Vegas dining scene in 2002. After being diagnosed with multiple system atrophy in 2013, Simon opened Carson Kitchen, instantly establishing the Fremont East District as a neighborhood on the rise.

After Death Valley, I thank my lucky stars for these intimate glimpses at the universe.

After dinner, I get back in the Tahoe and drive up South Las Vegas Boulevard to one of the most underappreciated attractions in town: the Neon Museum, which offers a unique opportunity to learn about the city’s history. Out on the Strip, neon is gradually giving way to more efficient LEDs, but here you can appreciate the artistry of signage from the 1930s to the present day. As our tour group wends its way through the “Neon Boneyard,” one particular sign grabs my eye: the Stardust Hotel and Casino. A relic from the 1950s craze for all things atomic, the sign adorned a popular spot for viewing above-ground bomb tests. “The designers would never admit it,” my tour guide explains, “but the look of the sign is based on atomic fallout. All that beautiful stardust coming down.”

Day three

Flagstaff: Telescopic Views Atop Mars Hill | 249 miles from Las Vegas

The moon is so big that I feel like I’m about to land on it. When I step away from the telescope, I take another look. The bright full moon is farther away now, ringed by a halo caused by the refraction of reflected sunlight through ice crystals. I’m on the grounds of Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory, on a mesa known as Mars Hill, slowly making my way from one telescope to the next.

In front of the Rotunda Museum, where visitors are taking in a lecture on stars and galaxies, I step up to a 16-inch Newtonian telescope through which I get my first-ever look at the rings of Saturn. Another telescope reveals the gold and periwinkle double-star Albireo, which faintly appears to the naked eye as one star.

After Death Valley, I thank my lucky stars for these intimate glimpses at the universe. My Lowell experience serves to enhance what anyone can enjoy if left only to their own devices. In fact, that’s how the docent who’s guiding me through the galaxy, Pat Benson, wound up here in the first place. “I was in the Air Force and I worked on fighters all over the world,” says Benson, a retired IT professional who volunteers here every Friday night. “I’d lie on the wings of airplanes, look up at the night sky, and ask myself, ‘Gee, I wonder what that is?’”

Getting back in the Tahoe, I check the route back into town on the available GPS navigation system before making my way back down the mesa into downtown Flagstaff. It’s my third visit to this gem of a town, nestled in the Coconino Forest 80 miles south of the Grand Canyon, where cowboys, campers, hippies, and students from Northern Arizona University seamlessly inter­mingle. It’s easy to eat well in Flagstaff, but I’ve still never tried a tiny pizza joint located south of the train tracks that’s known for its wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. While eating a pizza margherita, I read about the moon on my phone. Turns out the Algonquins referred to it as the Beaver Moon because “this was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs.”

After a cup of house-made gelato, I drive out to Buffalo Park, in the northeastern part of town. I feel as happily alone out here as I did in Death Valley. But I’m also feeling the chill. Back in LA, I’d probably be wearing a light sweater right now. But here in Flagstaff, I could use some warm fur. At this final stop, the sky’s too cloudy to make out a single star, but the desire to go looking for one is reason enough to stay outside.

 

STORY: LAURENCE LOWE/PHOTOGRAPHY: JIM WRIGHT/MAP ILLUSTRATION: MAX MAJOROS/ADDITIONAL IMAGE SUPPORT: EMILIE DRD/EYEEM/PRODUCED:A+ PRODUCTIONS

The Details Matter

2018 TAHOE

ENGINE

5.3L EcoTec3 V8

HORSEPOWER

355 hp

SEATING FOR

Up to 9 (8 standard)

WHEELBASE

116 inches

MPG

16 city/23 highway (best in class for a V8)

BONUS FEATURES

Chevrolet MyLink 8-inch diagonal display, trailering capabilities up to 8,500 lbs., power-​folding seats

Back to New Roads

*The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price excludes destination freight charge, tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment. Click here to see all Chevrolet vehicles' destination freight charges.

  • MyLink functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Requires a compatible mobile device, active OnStar service and data plan. 4G LTE service available in select markets. Visit onstar.com for coverage map, details and system limitations. Data plan provided by AT&T.

  • MyLink functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices. Map coverage available in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.

  • With 2WD and 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 engine. Based on GM Large SUV segment. EPA-​estimated MPG city/highway: Tahoe 2WD 16/23, 4WD 16/22. 

  • Requires available Max Trailering Package. Before you buy a vehicle or use it for trailering, carefully review the Trailering section of the Owner’s Manual. The weight of passengers, cargo and options or accessories may reduce the amount you can tow.

  • The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price excludes destination freight charge, tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment. Click here to see all Chevrolet vehicles' destination freight charges.

  • EPA estimated with 3.6L V6 engine.

  • EPA estimated with 3.6L V6 engine.

  • Cargo and load capacity limited by weight and distribution.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc. Siri, iPhone and iTunes are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Always use seat belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See the Owner's Manual for more information.

     

  • The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price excludes destination freight charge, tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment. Click here to see all Chevrolet vehicles' destination freight charges.

  • Does not detect people or items. Always check rear seat before exiting.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google, and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android (TM) 5.0 Lollipop or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

  • Service varies with conditions and location. Requires active service plan and paid AT&T Data plan. See onstar.com for details and limitations.

  • Always use seat belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See your vehicle Owner’s Manual for more information.

  • EPA-estimated MPG city/highway: Sonic Sedan with 6-speed manual transmission 27/38; with 6-speed automatic transmission 26/34; Sonic Hatchback with 6-speed manual transmission 26/35; with 6-speed automatic transmission 26/34.

  • Certain features require a SiriusXM subscription and the Chevrolet Connected Access plan. See siriusxm.com and onstar.com for details and limitations.

  • Do not use summer-only tires in winter conditions, as it would adversely affect vehicle safety, performance and durability. Use only GM-approved tire and wheel combinations. Unapproved combinations may change the vehicle’s performance characteristics. For important tire and wheel information, go to my.chevrolet.com/learnAbout/chevrolettires or see your dealer.

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google, and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android(TM) 5.0 Lollipop or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

     

  • Standard on Extended Cab and 2WD Crew Cab Short Box models.

  • Standard on 2WD Crew Cab Long Box and 4WD Crew Cab models.

  • Available on Extended Cab models

  • Available on Crew Cab models

  • Read the vehicle owner's manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Equipment from independent suppliers is not covered by the GM New Vehicle Limited Warranty. GM is not responsible for the safety or quality of independent supplier alterations.

  • Premier shown seats seven. Standard on L, LS. Available on LT.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • The system wirelessly charges one mobile device. Some devices require an adaptor or back cover. To check for phone or other device compatibility, visit my.chevrolet.com/learn for details.

  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Park Assist and Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert. Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Requires AWD and 3.6L engine. Before you buy a vehicle or use it for trailering, carefully review the Trailering section of the Owner’s Manual. The weight of passengers, cargo and options or accessories may reduce the amount you can tow.

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • To avoid the risk of injury, never use Recovery Hooks to tow a vehicle. For more information, see the Recovery Hooks section of your Owner's Manual.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

     

  •  

    Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • To avoid the risk of injury, never use Recovery Hooks to tow a vehicle. For more information, see the Recovery Hooks section of your Owner's Manual.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Go to my.chevrolet.com/learnAbout/bluetooth to find out which phones are compatible with the vehicle. Full Bluetooth feature functionality varies by device, model and software version.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc. Siri, iPhone and Apple Music are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android™ 5.0 or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Premier shown seats seven. Standard on L, LS. Available on LT.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Includes Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, IntelliBeam automatic high beams on/off, Following Distance Indicator.  Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • The system wirelessly charges one compatible mobile device. Some devices require an adaptor or back cover. To check for phone or other device compatibility, visit my.chevrolet.com/learn for details.

  • EPA-estimated 259-mile EV range. Your actual range may vary based on several factors including temperature, terrain, and driving technique.

  • Available on select Apple and Android devices. Service availability, features and functionality vary by vehicle, device and the plan you are enrolled in. User terms apply. Device data connection required. See onstar.com for details and limitations.

  • Read your vehicle Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Always use safety belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See the Owner’s Manual for more information. 

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices. Map Coverage available in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Requires available 3.6L engine and Trailering Package. Before you buy a vehicle or use it for trailering, carefully review the Trailering section of the Owner’s Manual. The weight of passengers, cargo and options or accessories may reduce the amount you can tow

  • Requires available 3.6L engine and Trailering Package. Before you buy a vehicle or use it for trailering, carefully review the Trailering section of the Owner’s Manual. The weight of passengers, cargo and options or accessories may reduce the amount you can tow

  • Requires available 3.6L engine and Trailering Package. Before you buy a vehicle or use it for trailering, carefully review the Trailering section of the Owner’s Manual. The weight of passengers, cargo and options or accessories may reduce the amount you can tow.

  • Chevy Safety Assist: Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Braking, Following Distance Indicator and IntelliBeam. Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc. Siri, iPhone and Apple Music are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android 5.0 or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android, Android Auto, Google, Google Play and other marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Always use safety belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See the Owner’s Manual for more information.  

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android 5.0 or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc. Siri, iPhone and Apple Music are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Always use seat belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See your vehicle Owner’s Manual for more information.

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Standard on Extended Cab and 2WD Crew Cab Short Box models.

  • Standard on 2WD Crew Cab Long Box and 4WD Crew Cab models.

  • Available on Extended Cab models.

  • Available on Crew Cab models.

  • Equipment from independent suppliers is not covered by the GM New Vehicle Limited Warranty. GM is not responsible for the safety or quality of independent supplier alterations.

  • Always use seat belts and child restraints.  Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint.  See the Owner's Manual for more information.

  • Read the vehicles Owner's Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment 3 System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price excludes destination freight charge, tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment. Click here to see all Chevrolet vehicles' destination freight charges.

  • Includes Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, IntelliBeam, and Following Distance Indicator. Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay, iPhone, Siri and Apple Music are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and a compatible AndroidTM smartphone. Data plan rates apply. You can check which smartphones are compatible at g.co/androidauto/requirements. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google, and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and a compatible Android™ smartphone. Data plan rates apply. You can check which smartphones are compatible at g.co/androidauto/requirements. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

  • The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price excludes destination freight charge, tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment. Click here to see all Chevrolet vehicles' destination freight charges.