Day 7: Saturday
Needles, California. Wet heat in the desert.
Going to do this one a little different. At Motel 6 in Needles, California, where it’s 116 degrees and almost 7 at night. Checked the forecast for the Mojave National Preserve tomorrow, and it’s only supposed to get up to 99, so no big deal there, but Needles must be the lesser hell, if Death Valley is the greater. Nice drive from Flagstaff, and it was kind of funny when we got hit with a shower. Almost everyone on the road acted like they were in the middle of a hurricane. To me it was like a light shower in Florida, and I had to laugh at the signs that warned of water on the road.
The Mexican Hat at Mexican Hat.
The most disturbing thing was entering California. I entered it twice before, once on I-15 from Nevada in February, the second time just this week when going into Death Valley. This time, on I-40, I saw signs for vehicle inspection ahead, and for all vehicles to stop, on the flippen interstate. A guy wearing a vest asked me if I was from Texas (I had Texas plates on the rental). Then he asked where I was coming from before waving me through. So, if he hadn’t been satisfied with my answers would they have searched my car? It was like entering a foreign country, and not a state of this country. I heard it was an agricultural inspection, but I have to think they could use it for anything. Suspicious vehicle traveling on the US Interstate system, let’s go ahead and tear apart everything you have in the car to make sure. I’m wondering how long it will be until this region is truly an independent country. But I’m safe in my hotel room with the air conditioner going. There are some seedy looking characters hanging around outside, so I’m wasn’t sure how secure I really was. Wished I was back in Florida, where I would have access to a gun.
Endless road through the desert.
Another thing for those interested. The railroads are alive and well out here. I saw a bunch of very long trains outside of Winslow, one sitting there on the double track while another passed on the single track section. I later passed that train while I was on I-40 and it was over two miles long. I saw several more while on the interstate and while in the Petrified Forest National Park. And all the way to Needles, many with flatcars stacked with two truck trailers each. Not sure what they were about, but obviously a lot of stuff is moving both ways across Arizona.
Petrified logs in the Petrified Forest National Park.
After getting up in Winslow and heading to Denny’s, I let my GPS lead me to the Park. It recommended I get off in Holbrook and take the back-route, US Highway 180, to the park. If you want to see the petrified forest first, that’s the way to go. If the Painted Desert is the target, there is another entrance off I-40 further east. I took the backroad, and was soon in the park, snapping pictures of all the petrified logs. There were a lot of businesses in the area selling petrified wood, indicating that the forest covers more land than that protected by the park. If the park wasn’t there I’m sure the logs would all be gone in a couple of more generations. I stopped in the road at one point to take pictures since there were no pullovers, and really no traffic at that point. A Ranger came over the hill and put on his lights, pulling up to me and asking that I don’t stop in the road. I told him there were no pullovers, and he said there would be some ahead, and recommended that I pull over on the side if I want to shoot. He looked at the low shoulder and stated that maybe here wasn’t the best place, but any place with grass would be good. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any of this fabled grass shoulder the entire way, so I shot pictures on the move. There were some pullovers later, including some spectacular parking areas by groups of logs.
The beauty of the Painted Desert.
And then I started to get into the painted desert, what I had been looking for the day before. I found that the places I had seen on the reservation were indeed part of the desert, and almost the entire park was part of it. But the really fantastic views were ahead. I took as many pictures as I could of the colorful formations that give the desert its name. And pictures of the vegetation around the desert, since I would be writing about this area. The temperature when I first got to the park at 11 AM was 78 degrees. By 1 PM when I left it was up to 90.
Lava field at Sunset Crater National Monument.
Next was Sunset Crater outside of Flagstaff. I had put the name into my GPS earlier and nothing came back. But when I entered it right outside of Flagstaff, I got a hit. I drove to the entrance to the National Monument and used my annual park pass to get in. That was a great investment. $80, and I had gotten into seven National Parks and a Monument for no other charge, saving at least $120 overall. And I can use it to get into other parks until it expires in July of 2018. I thought I would be able to look into the craters of the volcanoes that had erupted here in about 1000 AD. That’s what I saw on Google Maps. Unfortunately, the craters were on the tops of compact mountains that you weren’t allowed to hike on, like I really could. Still, there were lava flows to see and some of the mountains were definitely made of cinders. And I was able to get some good looks at the vegetation around Flagstaff, the starting point of the series. It was mostly pines, I think the same Ponderosa variety that I saw in Utah. Forests of this continued for forty miles to the west of Flagstaff, after which point desert began to take over. And then there are the forests of juniper trees running up and down hills, very bizarre and places that will have to appear in the books. The desert grew more like the Mojave as I approached and passed through Kingman, and the temperature started to rise, until it was 107 degrees at Kingman. And it kept going up, until it hit 116 degrees just before the California border. As I stated earlier about the inspection that stopped all traffic, it appears that California has passed into the realm of hell, so why not hellish temps.
Forest around Flagstaff.
As soon as I got into my room, I searched the net and found that the Mojave, my last target, would be a mere 99 degrees the next day. One last thing. When I was out getting something to eat, I saw a young woman with a service dog. A Husky. I know these dogs don’t do well in North Florida. I asked her and her boyfriend about it, and they said, yes, the dog spent almost all of his time in air-conditioning, only going out to bathroom in the yard or when transferring from the car to house or other place. I wish him well, and hope nothing happens where that animal is forced to endure the desert heat for any appreciable amount of time.
Day 8: Sunday
Terrible’s Store, Gas Station and Casino in Searchlight.
I survived my night in Needles, and in fact slept through my alarm, waking a half an hour later than expected. The town, like a lot in this region, is a vegetational oases in the desert, with stands of palms and juniper. Hotter than hell, though. I had breakfast at one of the two high class establishments in Needles, McDonalds, the other choice being Jack In The Box. Then it was down I-40 until I could turn off onto US 95. Now here is where the stopping of cars on the interstate into California showed how useless a tactic that was. I drove into Nevada on this back highway and there were no car checks at all. The first town I got to was Cal-Nev-Ari, a tiny hamlet, the one I had proposed to stay at when first planning the trip before finding Bonnie Springs Ranch. Another oasis of palms and Junipers. Then up the road to Searchlight, another small town, and one in the game Fallout New Vegas. From there I turned onto Nipton Road and was soon in California again, and again with no check.
Trading Post in Nipton, California, in at the edge of the Mojave National Preserve.
Last trip I had stopped in Nipton to take pictures and didn’t go in the store. This time I did, bought some memorabilia, and talked with the store owner and an older gentleman about science fiction (after I had passed them some cards). The owner was partial to Michael Moorcock and Edgar Rice Burroughs, while the visitor had read Asimov, Poul Anderson and many others, including the entire Perry Rodan series. Then it was onto I-15 heading into California, and again, no traffic stops (really California, you need to stop leaving the backdoor open). I drove to the Cima Rd exit into the Mojave National Preserve. I stopped at the Shell station there and bought a few things, then was astounded when I was asked for ten cents for the bag I asked for.
Infamous Chollo, or Jumping Cactus, an escapee from hell. Only saw this one in the Mojave, and I’m hoping it doesn’t do well in that area.
Down Cima road, which I had travelled part of the way the last time, again stopping at the World War I memorial cross. Saw a Chollo Cactus, also known as the Jumping Cactus, since their barbed parts seem to jump on people. Evil stuff, and I’m glad I didn’t touch one on the last trip when I first saw them. A good principle to live with is to not touch anything until you know what it is and what it will do. Took pictures of the Joshua Tree forest, which was just as spectacular in summer as in winter. And into the Preserve the temps were between 95-98, with the low humidity it was actually comfortable. Got to the end of Cima Road without ever seeing Cima, a small village of 21 people that’s supposed to be out here somewhere. Then got on the road back to Nipton Road, then onto I-15 back into Nevada.
Joshua Trees and rocks in the Mojave.
I had booked a room at Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino, a place I had wanted to stay at for at least a night, as it had been in Fallout and I had cleared it out several times in the game. I got off at the interchange, then got confused at the light, thinking straight ahead would take me to the hotel. Instead, I was on the onramp to 15, with nowhere to go but forward. And I could see that the traffic on the other side, going back into California, was bumper to bumper and moving slowly. It was that way the entire twelve miles to the next exit, and since I didn’t want to sit in it, I kept on going into Las Vegas and got a room at the Hilton Garden Inn on Las Vegas Blvd. I had stayed there before, and though it was a bit pricey, it was very comfortable. Unfortunately, I never sleep well before a flight. Not from any anxiety over flying, since I love that part of the trip. No, it’s the hassle of the airport, of getting from place to place on time, and going through the indignity of TSA. And I had received a call at 6:30, waking me early, to remind me that I had a doctor’s appointment the next morning.
Up next, final thoughts and what I learned.