Moments, in words and photos, of our ~7000 mile, 11 day trip across the USA and back in a 1965 MGB roadster.
The series begins here, posted originally 8/6/13
Short on Time? Just visit the photos.
Thanks! And, comments are always appreciated
Approximate route covering the first 8 days
Sunday Aug. 20th, 1967 830 miles (1,336 km) over 16.5 hours.
Near Turuck Lake, Rt 132, (Yosemite Blvd.) California to 4 miles west of Evanston, Wyoming
Note: The Yosemite Park portion shown below is further north than our actual more direct route to the Mono Lake area.
Sunday Morning. Tom was in his sleeping bag just outside the car, while I managed the available space inside, wrapped in blankets, this time with the soothing sound of the Tuolumne River coursing gently down from the central Sierra Nevada mountains, not far away.
On the banks of the Tuolumne River, west of Yosemite National Park
We slept fairly well for 6 hours, but were starting to drag a bit more with each passing day as the MGB had taken us 4,446 miles already. Saturated with impressive scenery; our constant need for more film; and primarily a time-frame to reach Utah before dark influenced our decision to stop, and turn around minutes before coming into Yosemite Valley on Big Oak Flat Road. In Retrospect, this was unfortunate, as the grandeur of this valley is unparalleled anywhere. It was practical, but arguably the worst decision of the trip.
Returning to, and traversing the park on Tioga Road, was, however, incredible in itself; driving amongst tall, beautiful redwood groves, stunning lakes reflecting rock formations of the Sierra, and lush meadows.
Redwood grove in Yosemite National Park
Ellery Lake, off Tioga Road, Yosemite
Possibly near Tuolumne Meadow Rest Stop
The vistas were like scenes out of a painting. Snow appeared on many of the highest peaks, contrasting to the granite faces of others, and the clear blue lakes. With the late morning temperature in the upper 70’s the open MG provided the perfect platform for taking in this incredible place. After eating breakfast at the pretty Toulumne Meadow rest area, we filled the tank with 11 US gal. ($4.55) plus oil, 100 miles from today’s start.
Near the highest point in the park, Tioga Pass, ~9,500 feet (895 m) just prior to changing in shorts and T-shirts
The highest surrounding peaks were over 12,000 ft.; (3,660 m), and finding a snow patch, we couldn’t resist a snowball fight here in late August! The air was cool and fresh, but the sun was hot!
Summertime fun in the High Sierra’s, California
The road down from Tioga Pass, descends about 2,700 feet on the “not for the faint-hearted” northern slope. Known historically as Great Sierra Wagon Road, it ends at Rt. 395, just south of Lee Vining, California.
Tioga Pass Rd. is right there, that sloping horizontal line. Oh yeah! There are several cars just barely visible in the original slide.
At US 395, with the Owens Valley to the south, we soon turned east on CA Rt. 120 toward Nevada. Just 10 miles along this desolate but wonderful “driving” road, we detoured a mile or two to the shore of Mono Lake. This is not a place you’re likely to find many visitors. Think: NONE. Once described by Mark Twain as a “lifeless, treeless, hideous desert… the loneliest place on earth.” (Wikipedia), This is not a tourist stop. The primitive road brought us to within a few hundred feet of this large ( ~11 miles across,) “dead,” saline soda lake, land-locked for nearly a million years. But was it dead? Just ask the millions of annoying “Alkali Flies” that cover the edges; and in the uncanny still air, beneath the deceptive, alkaline water, is a thriving life-colony of tiny brine shrimp, just part of an alien environment. We did not spread out a blanket and turn on Music-Radio WABC here. But migratory birds love it.
Desolate Mono Lake, California, looking Northwest
A few minutes was enough at this hot, alien place. Note our trusty (it better be, here!) MG in the distance – center
It would be 40 more miles to US 6, along Rt. 120; a roller coaster like ride for a stretch as it traversed fairly deep gullies, one after another, every few hundred feet. Primarily, it coursed along dry basins stretched between 7,000 and 8,000 foot peaks, to over 11,000 (3350 m.)
Rt. 120, heading toward the White Mountains, on the Nevada/California border
The view of the road, the arid terrain, the 13,000+ ft, mountains (4000 m) of the high White Mountains bordering Nevada, was palatable….except maybe to Tom, who was …tired! The town of Benson Station is to the right; Mt Montgomery to the left center, Mt. Dubois right center.
Compare this “terrain” view to the previous photo. “A” is our location above, “B” is Boundary Mountain, NV. Montgomery and Dubois are labeled. (Google Maps)
We crossed into Nevada on Rt. 6, with hope fading on reaching The Great Salt Flats in Utah before dark. Fascinating at first, then a bit boring for its desolation, we would drive nearly 240 miles through the High Desert of Nevada, to Ely; one relatively colorless mountain range after another, mile after mile, with only two small towns with any services. This is cited as one of the “Loneliest roads in America,” and we would see few other cars. It was about 5:45 PDT when we reached Ely, and stopped for food and gas; and another 120 miles NNE to Utah via US 93, and then onto Rt. 40 East, where several large casinos huddled on the Nevada side of the state line.
Not far into Utah, Tom pulled over and we walked out on the dried, caked, white salt, which went on for as far as we could see, which was not very far in the darkness. It would be late evening by the time we approached Salt Lake City.
Some miles before that, we considered finding a place to stay on or near the Great Salt Lake, but there were no signs; local people at a root beer stand couldn’t help; and we had no information with us on possible “interesting” accommodations. Eating at another drive-in later, just before it closed, we decided to push on, passing through the city and onto Interstate 80. Leaving the lights behind as the new super-highway climbed north-eastward into the night, we stopped at a truck stop just across the Wyoming state line. It was 2 AM (MDT) with 5,275 miles (8,489 km) on the MG’s odometer.
See Day 9 here: http://wp.me/p37YEI-T0 Wyoming, to Pikes Peak, to Kansas:
7 thoughts on “The Great American Road-Trip – Day 8”
Beautiful photos and interesting story. Your writing is getting more descriptive too, painting the scenes with words. Very nice!
Thanks. It’s been an interesting project, finding myself immersed in the adventure as if it were today. So much of what we take for granted today, did not exist then. The quest for “interesting accommodations” near Salt Lake, would have been a lot different with a smartphone. Decisions about timing may have been more accurate with a GPS, But, with that said, the way it WAS is a wonderful and Huge part of the story. M
Bet you are glad your faithful MG didn’t break down at Mono Lake – desolate is the right word! I love the Mark Twain quote too. There are some incredibly lonely roads in America, but I can just imagine how it must have felt driving along the roads you describe here. I felt the loneliness in your description! The expanse of the terrain never fails to amaze me. Yosemite of course is one of my favourite places in the world to visit, and loved how you slept by the river like that! Another really enjoyable and descriptive post M, I’m enjoying this journey very much 🙂
Thanks, Sherri.I had the
to visit Yosemite again some years later with my wife, that time seeing the awesome valley, and falls, and onto more desolation in Death Valley. It’s all pretty amazing. M
That it is 🙂
Terrific photos! I am jealous about Your road trip! 🙂
I love driving and the feeling to be free. What car You are driving – MG? Seems gorgeous. I was very interested in Your Yosemite photos. Yosemite is the place where we have been twice – sigh – once more someday!
I feel the same about Yosemite, as we have been there twice, but only scratched the surface. It deserves at least a couple of days. The MGB made this trip special, now out of production since the 1980’s the model car is still a driver’s dream, as restorations are plentiful. In my next post on the trip (dated today,) I touch on the magical feeling of the road, especially at night. Thanks for your comment. M