View outside my hotel in Kingman.
On Saturday I woke up in Kingman, Arizona and packed up. Outside was a minor mountain that still had some amazing rock layers in it. What we see as rock today, for the most part, was laid down as sediment in some ancient sea, possibly for over a billion years. The layers are differentiated depending on what was the dominant variety of sediment. They compressed into rock over time, then were thrust up when the continental plates pushed together, and are often at angles. And there it was, right in front of me. I went searching for a breakfast spot and found another local restaurant that served a fantastic morning feast. Then it was on the road to the Hoover Dam and Nevada. The view from the road was again spectacular, and I kept wishing for more pullovers. Finally, I pulled over on the shoulder a couple of places and took pictures. I went over one hill and lost my breath. There, in front of me, were formations that looked just like the Grand Canyon. I realized later that it was, since the canyon continues past the dam that is built within it. There was a great pullover before getting to the dam, and I got a great view of not only the local mountains, but off in the distance the snow covered peaks of the Sierra Nevadas in California.
View on road from Kingman to Hoover Dam.
Back view of Hoover Dam.
The drive to the dam was a winding road, passing a huge transformer station, and then I was at the dam. It didn’t seem to be as big as it is portrayed in the movies. Later it was explained to me that because of the scale of the canyon it is built in, it seems to shrink a bit. Drove over the dam, stopped and got some shots, then drove back over it so I could go over the high bridge that was highway 93, on the way to Vegas.
Prison at Jean.
I love playing Fallout, and got the idea for a post-apocalyptic series set in the desert from playing New Vegas. And here ahead of me was the homeland of that game, Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert. Coming into Vegas I could see the large tower that dominated the game. Of course Vegas was much larger than in the video game, but that tower made me feel like I was in it. Soon I was on Interstate 15 heading for California, and most of the iconic locations of the game. First, I stopped at Jean, which has its own large casino resort in real life. I took pictures of the prison, in the game, hoping they wouldn’t think I was taking too much interest in it.
Pioneer Salon in Goodsprings.
Iconic Nuka Cola.
The road to Goodsprings runs from Jean and under the interstate. Mojave Desert to both sides, mostly scrub with some scattered Joshua Trees. The town itself was similar to the game, though you couldn’t see the Las Vegas tower from there. The Pioneer Saloon and connected restaurant were just about empty, and it was a little early for lunch, so I headed out to Sandy Valley. Like most of the valleys in the deserts I had seen so far it was a flat plate surrounded by mountains. I drove up the road that I was sure was the same one the giant wasps had attacked me on. Sandy Valley was nothing to write home about, some houses, some trailers, some industrial parks, and a lot of flat sand valley, from which I am sure the name comes. I headed back to Goodsprings for lunch, and now the place was hopping. Motorcycles, antique cars, lots of people. I came into the restaurant after the lunch rush, and there was a shotgun wedding going on in the courtyard in the back. I met Johnny Utah, a transplant who had come to check the town out because of the game and stayed. They had a bottle of Nuka Cola on display, but none for sale, and they were out of Brahma burgers. Something about the radiation levels being too low to support the big bovines. They did have Sunset Sarsaparilla though, and I had a couple of mugs with my lunch. Johnny gave me some tips on places to visit, and off I went.
I stopped at Primm, which indeed had the roller coaster around the much bigger Buffalo Bill’s Casino. Primm was much larger than in the game, and actually had a monorail that ran through the town to move people from casinos to outlet stores and back. Primm was right across the border from California, so off I went into another state, adding it to my list of visited places in America. To both sides stretched the Mojave, stark and desolate, though definitely not lifeless. In places there were large groups of Joshua trees, and backdropping everything were the mountains.
Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert.
World War 1 Memorial in the Mojave Natural Preserve.
I got off the interstate at the Nipton off-ramp, and I could see the tiny village ten miles ahead across the desert. As always, I was amazed at how far I could see. Clear air and the lack of trees made it impossible to hide. I drove down to Nipton, which has a bed and breakfast and a small general store. I was tempted to get a room and spend the night. It would have been cool to sit outside my room and look into the desert at night. It was still early, only 2 PM local time, so I passed on that idea. I continued down the interstate into Cali, pulling off at a gas station that was at the edge of the Mojave National Preserve. Note to travelers. Don’t always believe what the locals tell you. The woman at the station told me there was nothing down that road. I went down it anyway, and into one of the largest Joshua tree forests in the desert. I walked a bit through the Mojave, not far, just enough to get an impression of the place. I heard some bird calls (I guess) at times, but saw nothing moving. It was cold, so I think most of the reptilians were dormant, while the mammals were waiting for night. I noted this was desert you could hide in, since the Joshua trees were, if not growing as thickly together as trees in a temperate forest, still in thick enough clumps that thirty or forty yards in would provide considerable cover.
It was still only 4:30, but I was getting tired, and thought a nap might be a good idea, so I head up to Vegas. I had to drive around a bit, since my GPS wasn’t cooperating with finding a hotel. Finally stopped at a Hilton Garden Inn, and paid three times what I had for my room in Kingman. But, then again, I didn’t have to worry about vermin coming out of the walls in this hotel. After a nap I found a place to eat, then headed down to the strip. I had no intention of doing anything there, I just wanted to see the place. It was the tackiness of Disney World magnified a thousand times. Everything was lit with flashing neon, even McDonalds and CVS. There were people everywhere, walking the streets or taking the tram (another monorail type thing. Not sure how far it ran, but I saw it in several places). There was a fake pyramid with a very bad fake Sphinx in front. A building that looked like a fake New York City skyline. A fake Eifel Tower. I’m sure everyone had seen the pictures, many have probably been there. But being there to see it beat the hell out of pictures. I went the length of the strip, then doubled back to see it again, before heading back to my hotel to sleep the sleep of the dead. I had seen the Hoover Dam and the lower Grand Canyon, visited a lot of the iconic places in the game, had experienced another desert, and had thoroughly enjoyed the day. Tomorrow was my last day in the West. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I was sure me and my GPS could find something.