Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week is: “DRY.” Themes inspire others to share thoughts and/or images of common subjects.
Above: Death Valley National Monument, California, as we visited few years back. Specifically Rt. 190, descending east into Panamint Valley. Hot, desolate, foreboding, inhospitable, and … DRY AS A BONE!
Break down here, and you better have a lot of water!
Towns and features in this vicinity: Lone Pine, Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek, Badwater Basin, Funeral Mountains; and below, on the western side…, lonely Zabriski Point.
Badwater Basin, in Death Valley is the lowest point in the continental USA, 282 ft (86m) below sea-level Incredibly, it is only 88 miles (142 km) from the highest point (Mt. Whitney, 14,505 ft (4421 km!) Below is a Google Map of the southwestern USA connecting these points with a line, and a picture of Mt. Whitney from Lone Pine, about 15 miles away. All these photos were taken on the same day as we traveled ESE generally along this line–>
Below, Mt. Whitney from Lone Pine, California
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We took these images some years ago while on our first West Coast Vacation
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.
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Approximate route of Day 5, 420 miles, about 12 hours
Thursday, Aug. 17, 1967 – Las Vegas to Los Angeles via Hoover Dam
Waking up around 8:00 in North Las Vegas, Nevada, the small motel gave us our first good night’s sleep since leaving New Jersey. Outside, the temperatures would be well over 100 today and after driving past Fremont Street and the strip again, we headed out on Rt 95/93 towards the Hoover Dam area, some 40 miles to the south-east.
Our well appreciated $8.00 motel in North Las Vegas
Hoover Dam (formerly Boulder Dam) was our destination, but a few miles before, we took a detour to a campground and swimming area on Lake Mead, the largest reservoir (by volume) in the United States, created about 32 years earlier when the dam was constructed on the Colorado River. It was refreshing to spend an hour there, our pace a bit more leisurely today.
Boulder Beach on Lake Mead – a moment to rest, swim and cool off
The world’s 7th largest kw capacity dam was not far, easy to find as high tension wires seemed to converge on that one point and dive into the base of the massive concrete structure. Spot parking allowed for rock climbing and pictures. (Historical Note: Today, (2013,) it is ranked number 60 in capacity – ref. Wikipedia)
Rt. 93 switch-backs down and over the dam to Arizona, with Lake Mead beyond
Note the transmission lines taking power out of the generators below
Walking across the dam afforded great views, but the best part was the many water fountains from which we drank plenty in the searing heat. (Historical Note: Narrow, twisty and fun Rt.93 was replaced in 2010 by a new through route, over a new bypass bridge.)
Not keen on waiting in one of several hot and sweaty tour lines, we hastened back to the hot and sweaty car, retreating towards Interstate 15, about 30 miles west, towards Los Angeles. The super-highway connects Las Vegas with Southern California for several hundred miles through the barren, alien Mojave Desert.
Still in Nevada, the Mojave Desert is sand, dry shrubs, Joshua trees and intense heat
The MGB, with about 25,000 miles on the odometer, had been running very well up to now, but this stretch would put it to the test. With a black-pavement road temperature well over 115 F (46.6 C,) the car’s water temperature was hugging the boiling point. Every slight rise would tax it to its limits, with down slopes giving a few degrees relief. It was a tense, tedious, and extremely hot several hour stretch in mid-afternoon, with over-heated cars all along the shoulders and rest areas. The admirable, little car persevered, as did Tom and I. At the California line, we dared not stop the engine after pulling over to savor the milestone. Both Tom and I were cooked by now, our canteens low and we gave-in to putting the top on for shade. (To increase open space in the car proper – behind the seats – we had been storing the normally folding top and frame in the trunk.)
The sign was like a checkered flag, as…we had arrived. California, here we are, 2:15 PM, PDT, about 3400 miles in 4 1/2 days.
At the small desert town of Baker, California, we spotted a soda machine in what appeared as an abandoned service station. It was not. Out of nowhere, a dusty, sort of ghostly-like older man, was …just there, by the old pumps, kinda shimmering in the heat! We did not need gas, and did not linger. Just got our cold sodas and…left. We do not have pictures! Baker’s average daytime high at this time of year is 110 F (43.3 C) and it’s all time record is 124 F (46 C) making this one of the hottest places on earth.
140 miles from Las Vegas, is Barstow, where we would meet Rt. 66 again, merging as part of I. 15. It is the first of any sizable towns along our desert route, but still an hour or so till the San Bernardino Mountains – and eventually, Interstate 10.
The sign (right, below) tells it, and about 35 miles later, we were in Los Angeles
We arrived into “The City of Angels” at 6:20 PM, 3645 trip miles, with the still relentless, but smog-paled sun, glaring right down in our faces as the freeway pierced the city. The L.A. City Hall Building was familiar to us as the iconic symbol of the popular TV police-series, Dragnet.
Soon we would meet and be welcomed with wonderful hospitality by two of Tom’s uncles, and their families in Van Nuys. After dinner and introducing us to lemon and orange trees by their backyard patio, Cousin Fred (and I believe his sister, and one of the uncles) would take us for a most impressive late evening tour of Hollywood, Century City and other highlights. It would be 1 or 2 AM before sleep, we the grateful guests in their home for the night.
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Approximate route of Day 4, 385 miles, about 19 hours
Wednesday, Aug. 16th, 1967, before dawn at Imperial Point, North (East) Rim, Grand Canyon.
With flashlights, Tom and I drowsily but carefully walked down a path to near the edge of the canyon and would witness the indescribable vista brightening before us. Outcroppings, gorges and trees stretched thousands of feet below, with views out over the distant Colorado River and eastern plateaus. Perched on separate ledges, with virtually no sounds except an occasional hawk, we leisurely watched the changing colors as the warming sun began to rise.
Sunrise from Imperial Point Lookout, Grand Canyon
The two or three hours we would spend there was a re-generation of our spirits and energy, and a long contemplative break from the nearly non-stop driving of the past few days. In the ensuing reflective down time, Tom and I would write to our girlfriends and families back home.
The MGB started at 2015 miles into the trip. Time would allow a few more sights in the park, including Angel’s Window with it’s awesome views across the canyon to the south, and those at the iconic North Rim Lodge.
Angel’s Window (note people on top,) with Humphries Peak near Flagstaff, about 56 miles south.
The South Rim is about 12 miles distant in this photo. (Historical note: There were fewer people and fewer handrails then, allowing considerably more access; like myself here, onto the outcroppings.)
By 1:00 PM, we filled the tank with $3.00 of gas, (more expensive here than elsewhere, so far,) and headed north on Arizona Rt. 67, back to Jacob Lake and US 89 Alt. towards Utah. The clear, cool fresh air of the 8000 ft. elevation was giving way to the intense heat of the lower desert terrain, spawning some impressive thunderstorms, but offering only brief relief.
On US 89 Alt., northern Arizona, the 10 minute downpour would not give much relief from the heat, especially after we put the top up
Kanab, Utah, about three miles north of the Arizona state line, would be the first town of any respectable size we’d seen since Flagstaff, over 200 road miles back – and where we would have a good lunch at a cowboy/family-style restaurant called “Trails End.” We were now headed towards Zion National Park, initially fascinated by “Checkerboard Mesa,” a massive geological scouring just inside the eastern entrance. Exploring along Utah’s Rt. 9 in the park would capture the attention of our cameras for miles, winding past colorful buttes, monoliths, mesas, canyons and arches; and the awe inspiring Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel, bored right through the side of a towering mountain cliff. Over a mile in length, we paused midway at one of it’s large open rock “windows” for a view and pictures of Pine Creek Canyon below. Regrettably, our schedule did not afford much time for more than a perfunctory glance at this intensly beautiful region, vowing only to come back again some day.
The western entrance to Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel, a masterpiece of 1920’s engineering.
The switchbacks into Pine Creek Canyon, as seen from one of several cliff-side windows
At about 5:30 PM MDT, Tom took the wheel for the first time today just after leaving Zion. As we drove along Rt. 9 towards the neat town of Hurricane, Utah, the mountains behind provided a world-class scenic experience, particularly for me as I had reversed the seat-back again, now relaxing contently with an open air, rear-view panorama. (Historical note: The population of Hurricane was under 1400 at this time, but estimated at 14,000 by 2011!)
Along Rt. 9 in Utah, SW of Zion National Park – a quick jaunt off the side of the road for this first image; and as seen from my reversed passenger-seat perspective
Just after St. George, we got on Interstate 15, passing back into NW Arizona back in the desert, and then into Nevada at about sunset. The anticipation was heightened as we drew ever closer to Las Vegas with the top still down and hearing radio temperature reports of 105 F (40.6C) and now seeing lightning ahead reflecting surreally off the mountain ridges around us. There are no speed limits out here, but we maintained an “easy” 70 mph as we first started seeing the tiny glow of the city far ahead.
The legendary, hot night-time town of Las Vegas with it’s energy and excitement, bright lights, entertainment, casinos and fun soaked reveler’s frolicking contrasted diametrically with the surrounding desolation of the silent night desert. It was hard to hold the enthusiasm at bay while approaching. But we did – by checking into a small roadside motel for $8 a few miles outside the center city, giving us the opportunity to clean-up, and even do some wash….and finally drive on to busy Fremont Street, enthralled in the festive; and in one case enduring the playful antics of several young women in a passing car, one tossing a milk shake in our direction before they laughingly sped off.
Fremont Street, Las Vegas – about 11:00 PM
The “Strip” and Sands marquee with Dean Martin headlining
Sahara with The Smothers Brothers, Vicki Carr, Pat Paulsen
For a few short hours, I would be feeling the magical allure of the clubs, the draw of the casinos, the magnetism of the “singing” slots – feeling joy at the ringing bells and falling coins, which in the US was legal only here in Nevada. My first experience at casino gambling was good, up $20.00 before giving it all back; but Tom may have been a little less excited than I, as his luck was akin to his gambling legality – NIL, he being a few critical months younger than I and subject to an occasional escort back to the street. Regardless, by the early morning hours, we were ready for a long night of rest, actually in a motel, ending the day 385 miles further, and, 3300 miles into our trip.