Monday, September 16, 2019

Have You Visited Death Valley?

What is Death Valley?

Despite the forbidding name, Death Valley is a beautiful area of unique desert wonders. Sand dunes, salt flats, mountains, craters, and the lowest lake in North America make for some of the most spectacular and dramatic scenery in the Southwest.

The valley, protected as a national park, covers 3,000 square miles and is known for being the hottest, driest, and lowest point in North America. Roadside lookouts offer stunning panoramas, and hiking trails allow easy access to the terrain.

The main service center in the park is the centrally located Furnace Creek, with the park visitor center, as well as campgrounds, restaurants, a store, gas station, and the Furnace Creek Resort. On the west side of the park, is Panamint Springs, with a restaurant, gas station, and some limited accommodation. This is a convenient stop if you are entering the park from the west side and a good lunch option if you are visiting Father Crowley Point and Darwin Falls, the two main attractions on this side of the valley.

Driving through Death Valley National Park

Most visitors are coming from either California, entering from the west off highway 395 onto highway 190, through Panamint Springs, or from Las Vegas, where there are a couple of routing options. You can easily visit Death Valley on a Day Trip from Las Vegas. The best way to do this is to head out on highway 160 (leaving from the south end of Las Vegas) to Death Valley Junction, where the road becomes highway 190, entering the park. This road runs past the turnoff for Dante's View, Twenty Mule Canyon, and Zabriskie Point, and on to Furnace Creek with a park visitor center and some amenities.

From Furnace Creek, you can head south to Badwater, passing the pullouts for Desolation Canyon, Artist's Drive (Artist's Palette), Devil's Golf Course, and Natural Bridge. When you have visited Badwater, backtrack via Furnace Creek and beyond to the Harmony Borax Interpretive Trail, Mustard Canyon, and the Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells.

If you started early in the day and still have plenty of time, you may want to continue on. It's a little over a half-hour to Panamint Springs and another 20 minutes to Father Crowley Point. After this, you can turn around and head back to Stovepipe Wells, and beyond to Scotty's Castle Road, and head out of the park on the Daylight Pass Road (374) that leads to Beatty. Before getting to Beatty, stop at the Rhyolite ghost town to see the ruins of this old mining town and some unique art installations. From Beatty take Highway 95 back to Las Vegas.

If you have time for a second day in Death Valley, you can spend the night in the park or in Beatty. With two days, you'll be able to add on a visit to the Race Track and a few more stops for hiking and sightseeing.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Know Before you Go: Apartment Cleaning Guide

After months of waiting, it’s finally happened: you’re moving out! You’ve closed a great deal on a new place, it’s in a better neighborhood and at a better price, and you’ll never have to look at your old apartment again. That is, after you’ve cleaned it out  – which might just be the hardest part of all.

Most renters don’t pay close attention to the details of vacating their space when they first sign the lease – why would you when you’re eagerly trying to get into the place? But most leases stipulate that, before handing over your keys, you need to clean up your space (or risk kissing your security deposit goodbye). So before you say goodbye to your old place, here’s what you need to know about legally leaving it in the right hands:

Before Putting Down Another Deposit, Check Your Current Lease

This seems like common sense – if you have a lease already in place, check it before you move out. But what you need to remember is to not just check what financial repercussions are in place when you move out (if you’re breaking the lease early, prepare for a hefty fine), you also need to remember to see what additional cleaning and maintenance fees you’ll need to pay. It’s not uncommon for a landlord of a large complex to charge tenants for carpet cleaning, blinds cleaning, and in some cases, even carpet replacement after moving out. Some leases have the exact amount stipulated in the lease, others will depend on which company the landlord uses for this service.

You should also speak to your landlord to clarify “cleaning expectations.” In some cases, landlords will pay to have a cleaning company deep-clean the entire unit before a new family moves in, often at the old tenant’s expense. On the opposite side, you may be on the hook for the cleaning yourself, and if you don’t do a satisfactory job, the landlord can bring in a cleaning crew anyway – with you fitting the bill. You don’t want to spend time cleaning if your landlord has impossibly high standards, so clarify with them on what they expect.

Most important of all, talk to your landlord about how these costs are being covered. It’s better to know before you put down a deposit somewhere new that the $600 unit-cleaning fee will be pulled out of your old security deposit, meaning you’ll get $600 less back than you thought.

If You’re Cleaning Before Move-Out, Make Sure You Really Clean

Most landlords define “clean” as sparkling, brand-new, barely able to tell someone ever inhabited the unit. Which means that if you’re cleaning it yourself, you’ll need to be thorough in your cleaning – very thorough.

This goes beyond just scrubbing out the toilet and wiping off the counters. You’ll want to make sure you clean these often-forgotten areas:

Tops of cabinets & the fridge
Crown molding
Cabinet shelves & inside drawers
All parts of the toilet (including the back)
Fridge shelves & freezer
Oven (should be scraped out and self-cleaned)
Drip pans
Tile grout

All of these are important but don’t forget the basics (like the kitchen sink, your shower, or the front entryway) either.

Clean Out More Than Just Your Unit Before You Move

When packing, it’s always a good idea to start earlier rather than later for two reasons:
 1) it makes the task less annoying, and
 2) it gives you lots of time to think about your stuff. There’s no need to drag everything from your old place to your new one if you’re not going to keep it, so now is a good time to purge.

The best method to do this is “ditch or donate.” It’s simple: set aside two boxes, one marked “ditch” and the other marked “donate.” As you’re packing your stuff, ask yourself if you really want to bring it all the way to your new place – if the answer is no, decide if it’s high quality enough to donate or if it’s trash that you should ditch. You’ll be surprised to find how much stuff you’ll have in the “ditch” and “donate” boxes by the time you’re signing your new lease.

Don’t Leave Your Junk Behind

It’s easy to think, “This box is marked ‘ditch,’ so I’ll just leave it in my building’s dumpster!” But that’s not always the best method. For smaller items, this is okay, but for big furniture or tech pieces, you may get stuck with a big bill from your landlord – especially if they end up needing to call a specialized junk removal service.

Your large items likely need to go to the dump – that’s where Dolly comes in. With Dolly, you can request a pickup truck and background-checked Helpers to move your items, anytime you need it. Just request a Dolly and your Helpers will come to take your old furniture to the dump for a guaranteed price. Saves you money and saves your landlord headache – win-win!

Get Your Security Deposit Back With Easy Fixes

In addition to pulling money out of your security deposit for cleaning, your landlord will pull money out for anything out of place they happen to notice, whether that’s a scratch on the hardwood floors or a cracked outlet cover, they’ll look for opportunities to pull all the cash they can out of your deposit.

So how do you avoid this? Take care of the repairs yourself. Now, that doesn’t mean go messing with the electrical or trying to fix a known plumbing issue, it means making sure the small stuff is taken care of. Simple fixes, like filling holes in the wall and removing dents from the carpet, can save you quite a bit of money – money that you can put towards furnishing your new place.

Most important of all when moving out, remember that someone is coming to live in your place. What condition would you like your new place to be in when you move there? Try to make your old place as clean as you hope your new place will be. After all, someone’s going to have to live there now (and luckily, it won’t be you).

Thanks to Miranda Benson at for the information!