I had to fight with my GPS apps. I wanted to make it to LA by not going through Las Vegas. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s almost as if Vegas has paid off the GPS companies so all roads go through there–which I would not put past them. I finally managed it, though, and set off on the 13 hour drive. With over 11,000 miles logged in, I finally made the the 3,000 mile trip to the west coast.
Driving gives you sights and feels of America that flying just can’t. The first was a drive across the Salt Lake Salt Flats. At one rest stop, I saw people crunching their way into the whiteness. It was a long, straight highway across what, in the north, would look like a light snowfall with rocks sticking out. It was what I wanted to do.
The road quickly brought me to Utah and signs of why I did not want to go Vegas. Gambling everywhere. Attached to chain hotels, casinos with hotels in them, and even slot machines in the gas stations. I was in Vegas in January and found it depressing as hell. The desperation is as palatable as the stale cigarette smoke. I was there for a conference and watched this one woman hit on roulette. She hit HUGE. I sat and watched as they just kept piling chips in front of her and had to call over a pit boss to bring more chips. I thought, “good for you.” I walked past about an hour later, though, and she was still there. he had a sad and perplexed look on her face and only a few chips in front of her. Two rules in Vegas: the house ALWAYS wins eventually and you have to to know when to walk away.
I never learned those lessons so drove away, into Nevada, planning to cross the state through the northern end and southwest through the dessert. I didn’t stop much at all so am depending on the GoPro for driving pictures. 13 hours is pushing it for me.
I took Scenic 93 and then Route 6 west. Two signs I saw were “no gas for 167 miles” and “no gas for a 100 miles.” I read these as “no coffee, even bad coffee, for a long, long time.” Signs I did not see at times were speed limits. I really don’t think there were any. You pass through a few small towns but it mostly just open country with the only break up of the drives as you drive up through passes in mountains.
I did make one stop. You could see a long path through the scrub running as far as the eye could see in either direction. It is the old pony express route. I just think it’s amazing that they could get a letter from the east coast to west coast in 12 days. It was an awesome idea that needed a different breed of people–and a different breed of horses. I read that the racing thoroughbreds for fine for some of the stretches but out in the west, they needed half broken (so wild) mustangs.
My goal, after arguing with GPS, was Bishop, California. It’s a small town that sits across the border and south. It just looked interesting even from the maps. You drive between two mountain ranges. Going south, on your left, are the mountains that make up eastern California and the edge of Death Valley (I passed by two entrances). On your right are the mountains that make up the edges of a few national parks. I saw the entrance to Yosemite but it also includes Sierra National Forest and Sequoia National Forest.
After the final pass, you really get moving and start passing through cities as they get bigger and bigger making your way to LA. No pictures here after sunset. It became white knuckle driving, even on a Sunday evening. But it was a blast! I saw some beautiful views of the sunset on the last set of mountains and then it was all a race downhill and towards the coast. Everything you have heard about the LA Freeway? It’s all true.
The road twist and turned through the passes an I was able to grab a few quick shots and then it was like what I learned from the bull rider the other day: keep your eye on the shoulders of the bull (or the car in front of you) and react. I relax for a while in back of the car in front of me for a while and then jump into my chance to pass left and right. I had no idea what the speed limit was or where I was because I didn’t have time to look at maps or dash boards. I would not say it was quite “kill or be killed” but it was exhilarating powering my way through the last stretch of an 11,000 mile journey.
And then I was there, pulling off the freeway and find my hotel in Seal Beach. I’m about a mil or two from the Pacific Ocean that I’ll go to and stand in soon. I’ll make my way along the coast to San Diego to see an old friend–surprise the hell out of him actually. But this part is a wrap, from the northeast corner of the continental US in Maine to the extreme southwest and the ocean before me.
Go west, old man. I did.